Session 02: Entrepreneurship & Management

Date: November 1st, 2019
Location: Outrage, 1722 14thSt NW, Washington DC 20009
Led by: Rebecca Soja & Amanda Lewkowicz

Downloads: Session 02 PDF

The second CKLDP session took every opportunity to lean into its title, Entrepreneurship & Management. Through a hyper-local lens, the session centered on the successes of local business leaders in DC and dissected the entrepreneurial mindset needed to succeed when starting a business. Insightful discussion of hard-earned do’s and don’ts in business management provided key takeaways for management strategies that are applicable generally across the profession. The session came full circle by hosting the event in a locally and women-owned retail and co-working space, and provided lunch from a locally sourced, sustainable restaurant. Every aspect of the event told a close-to-home story of entrepreneurial success, and highlighted the diversity of ways to bring some entrepreneurial spirit into the scholars’ professional lives.

The session kicked off with a presentation from Devin Zitelman, who spoke to his experience growing DC’s status as a tech hub with a focus on equity and inclusivity for underserved populations with #WeDC. The tagline “#WeDC” grew as a shorthand for “We the People of DC” and encapsulates the inclusive and democratic spirit of the organization. Partially due to the work of #WeDC, Washington DC has become a hub for business incubators and strategic opportunities that support diversity and inclusion. D.C. is currently ranked as the #1 US city for entrepreneurial talent, and is #1 of 100 “resilient cities.” Between Devin’s own entrepreneurial talent, and the greater talent within the DC area, Devin’s presentation emphasized the value of the entrepreneurial spirit and the outsized impact it can have on the trajectory of a city’s future.

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Devin Zitelman then moderated a panel of five local architects, who each created a non-traditional path to career success. Gregory Kearley and Clair Marie Wholean both shared stories of creating sibling companies, where one funds the other, to finance their dream businesses. Warren Weixler spoke about putting everything on the line and betting on success to get his office started. After stepping into motherhood, Marcy Giannunzio went out on her own in order to find the flexibility she craved. The unspoken similarities in their experiences painted a picture of successful architectural entrepreneurs who are decisive risk takers, persistent, and deeply passionate about their work. For those looking for advice to takeaway, the mantras of the day were Plan More, Just Do It, and Chill Out. (Clair Marie, Marcy – borrowed from Nike, and Theresa Sheils)


Theresa Sheils, the self proclaimed “Focused Juggler”, opened up about what it takes to manage people, projects, and finances in a large office. Initially cajoled into a managerial role, she had plenty of valuable lessons to share from her ups and downs along the way. When it came to daily management skills, the art of delegation, resisting the urge to micromanage, and taking time to develop others were topics of key interest. She examined the cliché that architects are generally bad negotiators, and encouraged valuing our work product like businessmen. Theresa was quick to emphasize that when running a business, the client, the team, and books need attending to every day. One person doesn’t need to take charge of all three – find business partners and leverage their strengths! After all, successful management relies on a foundation of teamwork and trust.

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After a short break the scholars reconvened to work through uncomfortable management scenarios – generously provided by Theresa’s own professional life lessons. Everyone had their own experiences to bring to the table while debating the best solutions to the problems at hand. With the help of Theresa’s guidance, the groups quickly realized that cut-and-dry solutions are hard to come by – instead solutions should be based on the specific team, consultant and client dynamics. The manager’s role is to make a decision that will benefit the team or project as a whole and to provide guidance to keep everyone on the same page.

Kevin J. Bush, Chief Resilience Office for the Government of D.C, rounded out the session with a lecture on Resilience and Leadership. His presentation was split into four major sections: the story of his own career path that led him to focus on resilience, how and why D.C. has created a resilience strategy, the implementation strategy for “Resilient D.C.”, and finally the critical value of architects and designers buying into the plan’s implementation. Kevin describes resiliency as a city’s ability to maintain essential functions when it is threatened by both acute shocks and chronic stress. The strategy breaks own into 4 main goals: Inclusive Growth, Climate Action, Smarter DC and Safe and Healthy Washingtonians. Hearing Kevin explain D.C.’s path to resiliency gave everyone a much greater understanding of individual roles to be played when undertaking such an enormous task. Beyond resiliency, it was enlightening to learn how Kevin is navigating this important leadership role and contributing to D.C.’s entrepreneurial spirit.

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