Women across Canada are kicking butt in the workforce, all while maintaining their cool and doing the things in life they enjoy. “Motivation Monday: How she does it” is a news series where we profile notable women working in various fields to find out how they juggle work-life, balance. For this installment, we chatted with Natasha Penzo - Co-Founder of Urban Blueprint, a real estate development and construction company.
You launched Urban Blueprint in 2014, can you tell me a bit about how you started?
I launched Urban Blueprint with my brother Luca. We’re a design and build company so we specialize in design, project management, interior design and urban redevelopment. Our father is a real estate developer and our mother is a real estate agent, so construction and real estate is definitely in our blood. I was completing my MBA and Luca was finishing a construction management program at George Brown College, and we started developing this business plan together. We kind of always knew that we would do something together, it just took us a little while to get there.
A lot of people think of launching a business, but they don’t actually do it! What gave you and your brother the confidence to go forward with your idea?
Our parents are huge supporters and such an integral part of our confidence. They always encouraged us throughout our life to take risks and were super supportive. Also, I think - a lot of entrepreneurs would agree with me - that you just grind it out, and you do what you have to do to make it work. Failure is just not an option. I think the only way to really build confidence is by trying.
Can you describe what you do in your position as founder of Urban Blueprint?
Everything (laughs)! Since our business is only three years old we wear a lot of hats. I oversee all of our interior design finishes, marketing strategy and sales, but as the owner of the business I’m involved with every aspect of it.
So what does a typical day look like for you starting from the moment you wake up?
Pretty much every day, I wake up early around 5:30 or 6 am, because that’s when our 11-month-old Jack gets up. My husband and I usually spend time playing with him and we feed him breakfast. I also love to go to the gym if I have the time, but that doesn’t always happen. I really value that time in the morning with our son, because often times I get home just on time to put him to bed. I typically walk our job sites first thing in the morning where I meet various project managers to discuss scheduling and any coordination. Then, I’ll usually head to the office for a bit. I usually eat lunch on the fly cause I’m in various meetings with suppliers. I make a conscious effort to not look at emails during the day. Instead, I write down what my top three priorities throughout the day are and checking emails isn’t usually one of them. I try to get home for 6 pm to feed our son and spend some quality time with my husband, and then I’m usually back on my computer in the evening because I hate to go to bed with a full inbox. So I’ll draft emails to send out in the morning.
Can you think of any challenges you've faced as a business owner either professional or personal?
I think when you start a business there are always going to be a lot of questioning. You’re new and you have to prove yourself, especially in a service orientated business. Credibility is everything and your work speaks for itself. In our business, the projects that we complete are our showpieces. The more projects we do, the more we get our name out there, and the more credibility we have. So at the beginning, it’s challenging to figure out your processes.
So was it a bit of a slow start securing clients and contracts?
I would say it took a good year to really build up our client base, but at the year mark, we started to really feel like we were getting great opportunities and projects.
Was there ever a time where you guys thought maybe this isn’t going to work?
No. That was never really an option. We just kept moving forward. We grew up on job sites so there wasn’t really ever a time where we thought it wouldn’t work.
How do you juggle work-life, balance?
The concept of balance and trying to find balance when you’re a business owner and even more so a mother, I think doesn’t really exist. There are certain days where my business or maybe a deal that I’m working on has to take priority, and that’s where I’m needed at that specific time. But if that’s the case, then that weekend I might not make social plans because I want to spend time with my family. So the scale is going to tip one way one time and another way another time. So if I’m where I’m most needed at a certain time, I’m happy.
Do you have any tricks that have helped you juggle work-life, balance?
Like I mentioned I try to write down what my top three priorities are for the day. Just to make sure my top level items are being addressed. I also try to recharge once week. I just unplug on like a Saturday afternoon and I don’t look at my phone or social media.
You mentioned that you like to workout, are there any other ways you like to unwind?
I love to travel! I find that that’s where I’m the most relaxed and it’s also a great way to gather inspiration, being in such a design orientated role. Cooking is also another way I like to unwind. I wish I had more time to do it.
Urban Blueprint project.
Choose one: wine or cocktails? Why?
Definitely wine! I just love cooking and pairing wines.
And what is the best advice you have ever received?
My mom and dad have always told me that passion is the key to success and that you need a work ethic to go with that passion. What drives success is being super passionate about what you do. So that would be the advice: Find your passion and have a work ethic to match.
How would you define success?
For me success is happiness and ultimately I’m happiest when I feel fulfilled professionally and personally. So If I end the day happy and I feel fulfilled in my role at Urban Blueprint, and as a wife and a mom, that for me is success.
Is there anything else that you’re working on at the moment?
On a philanthropic level, I’m involved in a charitable organization called Girls E-Mentorship (GEM) that supports young women who are graduating high school. They basically do programming with professional women who are well into their career and you work one-on-one with girls who are graduating high school to provide mentorship.
Do you know someone we should feature in this segment? Send an email to [email protected]