Meet Jill Akins, founder of Van Auken Akins Architects LLC
What is Van Auken Akins Architects?
I founded the firm in May 1992 with a vision to design inspiring environments. The single-employee firm, committed to providing outstanding service to clients, quickly grew its client base and staff, typically adding one employee each year. Our services include architectural design and planning, interior design and construction management.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I wanted to be an architect from the time I was five years old. My father was an architect and became a contractor later in his career. He owned his own businesses, and I thought he was the coolest person I had ever met. I still do!
I never really thought about owning my own business until my husband and I started our family. I realized then that last minute out of town travel and raising children wasn’t the best combination. While being an entrepreneur requires much more work than working for someone else, it offered me the flexibility to see our children more and not miss any of the important moments of their lives.
Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
My first client was one of my dad’s close friends. We worked together on a number of projects for about 10 years. He taught me a great deal about customer service and business.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
I think Cleveland is stronger now than it has ever been. These are very exciting times. There’s a real buzz and excitement throughout downtown that’s contagious. Cleveland is accessible, easy to navigate, people are friendly, and there are many opportunities to network and meet people who need your services.
What advice would you give to someone starting a company here?
Get involved in the city’s rebirth -- open your office downtown.
What inspires you?
People inspire me -- my family and friends, as well as those I work for and those whom I work with. My staff continues to inspire me on a daily basis. They challenge me to learn and to continue to seek success.
What’s next for you and your company?
As we complete our 20th year of business, we remain committed to providing quality work and exceptional service to our clients. To do this, we are exploring new project types to diversify our expertise and embracing new, innovative technology to help us work better, smarter and faster. Most importantly, we will remain true to the solid business ethics on which VAA was founded: professionalism, integrity and commitment to excellence.
We look forward to continued growth and new opportunities!