Business Knowledge Paired with Stellar Design Wins Clients and Awards for Atlanta Architect
Monica Fenderson loves the design side of architecture, which she practiced in several private firms early in her career. But she wanted to start her own firm, so she took a part-time job as a construction manager for Gwinnett County and put her shingle out as MOSA Design Studios.
“My 11 years at Gwinnett was one of the best jobs ever,” she said. “I learned the full process of what I do, from zoning to permitting to the fire Marshall allowing your building to open. It was a wholistic experience.”
The arrangement allowed Fenderson time to do small projects with MOSA while working towards her industry certification. In 2009 she became the 237th registered Black female architect in the U.S., and in 2015 she launched MOSA Architects. She soon sought help from consultant Benny StaRomana of the Gwinnett office of the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
“Monica had developed extensive experience and knowledge in construction permitting and licensing, which, while demand exists, limited her income potential and her desire to design buildings,” said StaRamona. “We discussed developing a plan to help her maximize her income and professional opportunities as a full-service architectural firm.”
Fenderson attended the SBDC’s StartSmart® program in 2016, and StaRamona provided strategic planning guidance to help her develop a manageable growth path. They worked together on her marketing, sales and financial management and government procurement certifications for women- and minority-owned small businesses.
From 2016 to the end of 2021, sales revenues at MOSA Architects grew tenfold. Employees grew to five full-time and five independent contractors and into a professional office suite. MOSA earned WBENC certification, expanding its contract opportunities, and is a short-listed vendor for several major private and state-owned organizations.
“Architects are not generally businesspeople,” Fenderson said. “They’re more driven by design and how to win projects. But how does this help our bottom line? Benny taught me strategy. He showed me the advantages of being business-minded first, and then artsy.”
MOSA received the Gwinnett Chamber’s 2021 SBA Minority-Owned & Women-Owned Award and the SAY IT LOUD Georgia People’s Choice Award in 2020 and was a finalist in the 2017 Atlanta Business League’s Business of the Year.
“Monica was able to launch her firm on her project management skills alone, but a good architect wants to create things,” StaRamona said. “After she earned enough revenues to feel good about being a business owner, she focused on the creative. In a manner of speaking, she’s built her business block by block.”