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Schott design firm builds office clients through real estate connections

November 10, 2008
Jenny Schott Androne has left her mark on many of the most notable office buildings and parks in Indianapolis.

From Chase Tower downtown to Keystone at the Crossing on the northeast side, the number of properties in her portfolio totals more than 120, or 8 million square feet of space.

The president and founder of Schott Design Inc., one of the city's largest interior design firms, has amassed a diverse array of clients largely by marketing to building managers and landlords, as well as leasing agents and tenants. Schott provides makeovers for the space of existing tenants and fresh motifs for new ones.

Her more recent clients include local law firm Bose McKinney & Evans LLP; the local office of Springfield, Mo.-based accounting firm BKD LLP; and Carmel-based Bridgestone Firestone Diversified Products LLC.

Bridgestone Firestone last year took 166,500 square feet in Duke Realty Corp.'s Parkwood West development at the northwest corner of Meridian and 96th streets. Schott Design has a contract with Duke, giving it access to 30 of the developer's buildings.

And the six buildings in Keystone at the Crossing have yielded at least 100 projects for Schott Design since becoming the landlord's designer roughly 2-1/2 years ago.

John Robinson of Meridian Real Estate recommended the firm after he became the exclusive leasing agent for the office park. He and Androne had partnered on several projects in the past.

"We've grown our businesses side by side and she's never let me down," Robinson said. "It's pretty neat to see her go from a one-man shop to really the gold standard for space planning and design."

Androne founded the company in 1997 and since has grown it to 14 employees, including 10 designers. It's ranked as the third-biggest interior design firm in the area, according to IBJ statistics.

Androne declined to divulge revenue figures but said her business has enjoyed an average of 30-percent annual growth since its inception.

The Indianapolis native earned a degree in interior design from Butler University in 1987 and went to work at the downtown Lamson & Condon Architecture & Interior Design firm. She spent 10 years there before deciding to branch out on her own.

Working a lot of hours, Androne concluded that she might as well be logging the time for herself rather than someone else. With encouragement from her husband Phil, an investment broker at JPMorgan Chase, she took the plunge and has not regretted it.

"I have never once looked back and said that was the wrong decision," Androne said.

Making connections

Armed with contacts she made at her former job, she quickly snagged the contract to do interior work at National City Center. The 624,464-square-foot office building is the fifth-largest downtown.

The construction of One and Two River Crossing, two buildings totaling 210,000 square feet northeast of the Fashion Mall, provided her next opportunity. The new construction kept Androne plenty busy designing the interior space — enough to hire her first employee in 1999.

Establishing relationships led Androne to more office complexes. She added the city's largest office building, Chase Tower, to the portfolio about four years ago, following continual calls to Jeff Reynolds, the building's general manager.

About the same time, Androne moved operations out of her home and into space at Park 100 near West 71st Street and Zionsville Road.

Meanwhile, she added designers and crafted a business model in which they are split into teams led by two studio directors — Briana Dunkin and April McClurg. Giving them more responsibility enables Androne to take better care of clients and spend more time in the evening with her 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

But the sour economy has tempered the workload. Sensing a slowdown, Androne early this year let go four employees, including two designers.

A tenant that had once planned to expand 25,000 square feet now might scale back to 10,000 square feet, Androne said. On the other hand, firms that are downsizing need her services, too.

Green designs

To be competitive in the downturn, Androne has become more creative in the pricing and timing of jobs. Completing projects cheaper and faster is essential to remaining competitive.

She's begun marketing the company more, too. Registered with the state as a female business owner, Androne recently joined the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She also is a member of Indy CREW (Indianapolis Commercial Real Estate Women) and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Schott became LEED-accredited in October. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program administered by the USGBC that certifies projects based on their "greenness." Architects, designers and others in the construction industry can become accredited to work on those types of projects.

Her first LEED project currently is under review: the interior of engineering firm Woolpert Inc.'s Indianapolis office in Duke's Woodland Corporate Park along Interstate 465 north of West 71st Street.

Androne is encouraging all her designers ultimately to become LEED-accredited. She also is spreading the word to property owners and building managers, in hopes they'll adopt green building.

Although Schott Design does not have contracts with managers of some downtown buildings such as Capital Center North and South, it is still hired independently by tenants.

One of those is the law firm of Locke Reynolds LLP, which is renovating space in Capital Center. The firm will move to the top five floors of the south tower in January once the work is finished.

"Our main reason for engaging [Schott] is that we needed a firm with law firm experience," said Dave Roberson, Locke Reynolds' facilities director, referring to Schott's work it did recently with Bose McKinney. The firm moved to Chase Tower in early September.

Landing those types of large projects may bring Schott Design more notoriety. But perhaps her biggest asset is her father, Bob Schott. He joined the firm following retirement in 2001 from the manufacturing management and personnel recruiting fields. He handles the financials, as well as serving as a mentor.

"I enjoy working for a professional, top-quality manager," he proudly said of his daughter. "I believe she would have been successful in any career she would have chosen."
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