Announcing CVG’s 2018 Architecture Business Plan Competition Winner: JAMB Collective!

Founding JAMBers. Left to Right: Desmond Johnson, AIA NCARB NOMA; Christian N. Jordan, AIA; Katie Miller Johnson, AIA, LEED AP; Abigail R. Brown, AIA, LEED AP BD+C; Michael Anglin, AIA, LEED AP; Jared Edgar McKnight, Assoc AIA

Founding JAMBers. Left to Right: Desmond Johnson, AIA NCARB NOMA; Christian N. Jordan, AIA; Katie Miller Johnson, AIA, LEED AP; Abigail R. Brown, AIA, LEED AP BD+C; Michael Anglin, AIA, LEED AP; Jared Edgar McKnight, Assoc AIA


The JAMB Collective business plan creates opportunity for small firms to “stay small, act big, and do good.”

The JAMB Collective model is a decentralized membership network of small firm architects and resource providers. Members will have access to collaboration opportunities (think several small firms join forces to land a big project) and support services (administrative, marketing, legal, accounting). A portion of membership dues will go towards social impact ventures in the form of underwriting pro-bono work, project grants, sponsorships, etc.

Jurors applauded this plan for its big-picture thinking and potential to change the game for small firm architects. They commented:  

"JAMB Collective's innovative concept for a subscription-based practice network is an idea that has the potential to change the profession for small firm architects throughout the US and beyond."  -Mark LePage

"JAMB’s proposal democratizes access to networks and resources that have, historically, limited the reach of individuals and smaller practices. And, although the concept is embryonic, a model that allows small teams new modalities to practice on a global scale is really interesting. This is precisely the kind of ambition and innovation we should be rewarding and cultivating in our profession.” - Eric Reinholdt

"The JAMB Collective is spurring an exciting dialogue on the future of small firm practice models in the a/e/c industry." - Amanda Welu

CVG asked members of JAMB Collective to summarize their business plan through a brief Q and A:

1. Describe the basics of JAMB's business plan in a few sentences.

JAMB Collective leverages decentralization and technology through a membership business model for small to medium sized architecture firms in an effort to provide access to resources typically brought in-house by larger firms. The revenue generated by the membership model will allow JAMB to provide access to those resources to the JAMB member firms. JAMB will also be responsible for offering grants to member firms for social impact projects (offsetting fees for pro bono work, sponsoring a local community project, etc.).

2. What is the Mission Statement?

At its core, JAMB exists to develop successful collaborative networks while providing a substantial revenue for undertaking social impact initiatives. We connect, support, and open new doors, giving small firms a chance to stay small, act big, and do good. 

3. How will the membership model work? As a curious potential member, what would I receive in return for my membership dues?

Each JAMB member firm will have access to, for a monthly fee, services such as: legal consultation, accounting advice, marketing professionals, and business development advisors, to name a few. The membership also allows firms to view a national database of other member firms’ qualifications and portfolios in an effort to provide the opportunity for collaboration on projects that would otherwise be difficult for a small firm to pursue and even land.

4. What is your team's history together? How did you come up with this vision?

JAMB was created as the brainchild of six diverse strangers, all working in the architectural space, who were brought together by the AIA’s Practice Innovation Lab in October 2017. The Practice Innovation Lab was a think tank/summit that challenged 10 teams of 6 to explore and cultivate innovative business models for the future practice of architecture. Although the six of us applied as individuals to the Lab from all across the country, once we began working as a team, the collaborative energy and unfiltered creativity led to the design of a business model that ultimately earned the “People’s Choice Award” at the culmination of the Practice Innovation Lab. This collective momentum continued well beyond the Lab, as the six of us returned to our various regions of the country and began the process of realizing JAMB’s vision.

Christian [of Philadelphia] is the team lead and brings a wealth of knowledge and guidance to the team.  He, along with Mike [of Tucson], are principal and owner, respectively, of smaller firms and were, therefore, able to draw on that experience to help inform the challenges and opportunities that smaller firms face. On the opposite end of the table, Desmond [of Atlanta] and Jared [of Philadelphia], both work for larger firms and are able to provide a contrasting perspective.  Abi [of Washington, D.C.] brings her advocacy expertise and energy as the Community Director of the Young Architects Forum, and Katie [of Detroit] has an impressive track record of creating start-ups within her business and design backgrounds. It is through these varied experiences and diverse backgrounds that JAMB’s vision was born.

5. What problem does this business plan solve?

According to the AIA’s 2016 Firm Survey Report, 5% of US architecture firms have more than 50 employees.  Those firms account for 51.3% of all architectural billings. This membership model gives small firms the opportunity to compete with large firms through strategic sharing of staff, supplying local market expertise, and access to dedicated administrative (marketing, legal, accounting) personnel.

We realize that there are advantages to remaining a small to medium size architectural firm (client contact, project involvement, personalized culture…) but there’s also tremendous expertise and service provided by those smaller firms from which larger projects may never benefit simply because the qualifications of those firms are often times limiting in the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process.

6. What is your biggest challenge? How are you dealing with it?

Perhaps not getting ahead of ourselves. We are all very excited by the prospects of JAMB, and eager to continue the momentum we have started, but we also take this very seriously and want to be sure that we begin to implement JAMB in a way that is both organized and sustainable. The scalability, the offerings and the impact of JAMB are sublime. To that end, we want to get firms signed up for early adoption and start putting the ideas to work.

7. How can interested parties learn more?

Visit our website and send us a note – we’d love to have your firm be part of the #JAMBsessions!

CVG would like to thank all contributors to this year’s Architecture Business Plan Competition, specifically our jurors; Mark LePage (EntreArchitect), Eric Reinholdt (30x40 Design Workshop), Mac Walcott (Walcott Adams Verneuille Architects), and Amanda Welu (DELV) and competition semi-finalists; Balanced Architecture, Rogue Architecture, The Kezlo Group, and Three Dot Design.

Join us in celebrating this year’s winner and meet other small firm architects at the CVG/EntreArchitect Waterfront Reception at the 2018 AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City on June 21st. Attendees do not need to be registered for the conference to attend our reception. We hope to see you there!