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Philadelphia District Office Success Stories

Philadelphia District Office Success Stories

BluPath Design founder and principal Laura Blau

PHILADELPHIA - BluPath Design founder and principal Laura Blau, makes sustainable design practices the standard for her design firm. The award-winning design firm, founded at the beginning of 2003, provides architectural and interior design services with a focus on sustainability.

Blau's vision for BluPath Design is to design beautiful sustainable buildings that help her mission-driven clients and their communities thrive. Previously, as an award-winning fine arts painter and sculptor she exhibited her works in Paris, New York and Minneapolis and won numerous awards and fellowships.  An architect since 1995, her architectural work reflects her sensitivity to aesthetics.

Blau and her husband Paul Thompson, who started the business with her, experienced initial success and received the Commonwealth Design Award in 2006 for sustainable design for their own home. In 2007, BluPath won the Sub-Zero/Wolf Kitchen Design Contest and was featured in Philadelphia Magazine. Their vision and initial success allowed them to expand the business into affordable housing and other non-profit clients, growing from just the two of them to four architectural staff and a part time bookkeeper. They were able to offer benefits to qualified employees and supported continuing education for the professional staff.

When the recession struck in 2008, BluPath had just moved into a newly renovated office on Passyunk Ave., but as the recession continued to depress the building industry, they let their last loyal employee go in 2010. As the annual revenue of her business dropped from over $300,000 to $60,000 between 2008 and 2010, Blau made the bold decision to invest in specialty training in building science and sustainable design technology. To date, she is certified as a LEED BD&C, a Passive House Consultant, and Passive House Builder, a Green Globes Professional, and Building Performance Institute Building Analyst. These specialized certifications have distinguished BluPath from typical architects. This strategic change, along with other cost-saving measures, permitted BluPath to weather the storm. BluPath was awarded the 2010 Green Builder award for Best Life Cycle Addition, and has been featured in numerous publications.

In her efforts to expand her marketing reach while supporting their sustainable mission, she became involved with the Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia, and it was at one of their events in late 2011 that she became acquainted with the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). In early 2012, Blau and her husband met with a WBDC counselor to discuss business strategies to increase revenues. Following that consultation, they mapped out a plan to determine their focus and mission, increase their prospect list and clarify their financial goals for 2012. In July 2012, Blau attended the WBDC’s “Listening to Your Business” seminar to establish a three- year growth strategy that left her with, as she puts it “renewed energy, revised directions, and a plan of action!”

SBA offers entrepreneurs an entire recipe book's worth of resources," said SBA Eastern Pennsylvania Director Tony Leta. "SBA resource partners, like the Women’s Business Development Center, can assist with everything from drafting business plans to complex management principles.”

In February 2013, she took the Listening to Your Business seminar again, this time bringing her husband with her.  Blau cites the value of re-taking the course as time to get re-inspired about her business: “I leave with a clear set of goals and tools to accomplish them, and an action plan.” In early 2013, Blau returned to the WBDC for counseling to discuss a new business concept and brainstorm ways to connect with her target market.

Since 2012, BluPath has seen a steady increase in annual revenue, reaching $170,000 in 2014. In December of 2014, BluPath Design became certified as a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Blau anticipates increased business growth as a result of new business opportunities she’ll have access to as a certified WBE.

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