From beautifully decorated cakes to cupcakes to confections of all imaginings, Asia Coffee—a registered interior designer at Schmidt Associates—is just as sweet as the beautiful creations she makes. Below, we take a few minutes to get to know her.
Tell me about your background.
I was born and raised in Indy. In high school, I had a growing interest in art, so I enrolled into a special art Program at Broad Ripple High School. From there, I went to art school for a year in Chicago, where I met my future husband. I moved back to Indy and started the Interior Design program at IUPUI.
With such an interest in art, what inspires you?
I love the elements and principles of design—color, texture, composition … I also love to look at other people’s work and stay current with trends on social media.
And your family?
My husband, William, and I have four sons—David, 13; William Jr., 10; Benjamin, 3; and our newest ,Elliot. We don’t have any pets (yet). William keeps talking about getting a dog, but we haven’t taken the plunge.
How did you get into cake decorating?
Several years back, I took a few classes and really enjoyed it. The instructor asked me if I had ever thought about teaching, but I didn’t think much of it. Instead, I started doing cakes on the side for family and friends. Not long after, I decided to fill out that application to teach. Now, I teach cake decorating at several stores around Indianapolis and decorate cakes as a side business. I have an Instagram account—“mrs.coffeescakes”—if you would like to see some of my work.
Do you feel like your two worlds—interior design and cake decorating—intersect at all?
I feel like because I teach, it carries over into my interior design world when having to do Owner presentations. The crazy thing is that I am up in front of people teaching nearly every weekend, but I still get nervous doing presentations for work. I can’t figure it out!
Do you keep anything special at your desk?
I have sat on the board of IIDA (International Interior Design Association, Indiana Chapter) for four years now. When the current president took office, she took a quote from the person who nominated you about why they enjoy working with you. I keep that at my desk to remind me to keep doing my best.
And, just for fun, what is your favorite food on Mass Ave?
Ohhhh, I love The Eagle. They have a chicken sandwich that is amazing. Boneless chicken, coleslaw, and pickle. It is magnificent!
So when that sweet tooth hits or you want to see some of the latest trends in the industry, feel free to come by. Asia would love to chat with you!
Naptown is officially awake. If you have ever visited, worked in, or lived in Indianapolis, you know how much pride there is for our little/big city. Whether it be the Hoosier hospitality, the “just right” size of the downtown, or the copious amount of entertainment destinations, there is something appealing to Indy for a wide variety of people. Just check out Visit Indy’s website, and you’ll see what we mean.
We wanted to share some of our Indy love, coming from staff members who aren’t from here originally.
Originally from Springfield, Ohio
Lived in Indianapolis for 19 years
“I love several things about Indy: how easy it is to be involved and make a meaningful difference here, the wonderful -caring-energetic- creative people, how accessible everything (and everyone is), my amazing neighborhood (Meridian and Kessler), and our awesome, active, walkable downtown.”
Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana
Lived in Indianapolis for 3 months
“Lots of post-grads moving to the area and it makes for a fun time in Broad Ripple, on Mass Ave, and Fountain Square. And all of those areas are connected by bike paths. I usually call Indianapolis the “Denver of the Midwest” because of the way it’s growing and attracting so many young people.
Folks on the coasts might not understand it, but there’s just something about living in the Midwest. For example: the ‘thank you’ wave on the road simply doesn’t exist in New York City.”
Originally from Centerville, Ohio
Lived in Indianapolis for 7 years
“I love that there is always a lot going on downtown or in the neighborhoods adjacent to downtown, the walkability/bike trails, the affordability, the size of the city (Chicago is a little too big for me, but home is too small)!”
Originally from Chicago suburbs
Lived in Indianapolis for 11 years
“I love the livability. The cost of living is really low, making home ownership affordable. As a small city, we still have ample professional sports, theater, concerts, and other cultural events. And I have yet to find a city with nearly as strong of a food and beverage scene. We have tons of great, local restaurants, along with lots of local breweries and now distilleries are starting to open up.”
Originally from Kansas City, Missouri
Lived in Indianapolis for 6 years
“It’s a long list, but they all stand out compared to other cites I’ve lived in or visited. Very affordable housing, lots of parks, trails, and bicycle friendly roads, wide variety of dining options that would meet the demands of nearly any foodie, wide variety of pro and semi-pro sports in the area, low traffic for a city this size, strong push for community development/redevelopment/revival in many neighborhoods that had previously been depressed.”
Originally from Connersville, IN
Lived in Indianapolis for 7 years
“I fell in love with this city and all it has to offer while attending Butler University. Coming from a small town, I appreciate how Indy offers a completely different culture, a refreshing atmosphere, and a breadth of opportunity. With so many different types of events constantly going on and any type of restaurant/bar you could think of, I’ve yet to feel bored!”
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota
Lived in Indianapolis for almost a year (worked here for four)
“Indy is trying to create a new identity, and it is fun to see and be a part of the development.”
Originally from Connecticut
Lived in Indianapolis for 15 years
“Indy is centrally located to easily travel back east or any other direction (the Crossroads of America!); very affordable, but lots to do – arts, festivals, concerts, dining, shopping; easy commute from west side downtown. Specifically also enjoy Speedway too, lots of growth and development on our Main Street and other areas!”
Originally from Southern Virginia
Lived in Indianapolis for 1 year
“The city is very manageable and not overwhelming, there’s a lot of things to do within close travelling.”
Ben Bain, Business Development Representative, is definitely not cut out to be an undercover spy. Instead, he is an outgoing and friendly face often found traveling the state meeting new people.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and moved to Marietta, Ohio, in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. I traveled overseas extensively through high school and college with singing groups and orchestras and have always loved foreign languages, so I majored in Russian and East European Studies at Yale University. I was fascinated by the Russian language, people, and political science of the time.
With a degree in Russian, how did you land at Schmidt Associates?
After college, the most obvious route for me would have been to join the CIA or NSA. As I was driving to an interview with the CIA, I pulled over at a payphone and called to cancel. I am just too much of an open book to be able to make a career in intelligence. Instead, I started actively pursuing NBC Television for a job. The Moscow Olympics were quickly approaching, NBC was televising the games, and that would have been a dream job for me. It would have utilized two of my passions—Russia and sports! At that point in history, though, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the United States boycotted the Olympic games, and NBC didn’t even televise them. It was time for another plan. I eventually landed in radio, initially selling advertising and talking sports, and then quickly getting into management. After 17 years in broadcasting and weathering many changes in that industry, I decided to make a career change. That is when we moved to Indianapolis, and I started working for a construction management firm—even though at the time, I wasn’t sure what that actually meant! From there, I came to Schmidt Associates in 2002.
What do you do in your free time?
Growing up, my Dad instilled the love of watching sports. When I had kids, I did the same for them. I love going to games whenever I can and am a hard-core Pittsburgh sports fan. I love the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins!
I am also heavily involved with St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church. In addition to volunteering extensively with their activities, my wife, Clare, and I also work with engaged couples in marriage preparation. Other than that, I enjoy running. Recently, though, I have enjoyed spending time with my first grandson, Rowan.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Not that I can share.
Do you have anything special at your desk?
Several years ago, I was at a dinner for Marian University and performed the Heimlich Maneuver on a nun. As such, I was recognized as a Hoosier Hero at a Pacers game by Rotary International. That night, I met Paul George. I keep a picture of Paul and me at my desk. Of course, given recent events, I might have to get rid of it now.
Ben has been married to Clare for 33 years. Together, they have three grown children. Benjamin IV currently lives in Dallas. David and his wife, Caitlin, are the proud parents of Rowan and live in Jamestown, IN. Ben’s only daughter, Elizabeth, is at the University of Chicago pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry.
As you can tell, Ben is a man of many stories. If you are ever in the neighborhood and want to grab a beer, he could provide you some interesting conversation!
Milton, red stapler guy in the classic scene from the movie “Office Space”, whines on the telephone from his cluttered cubicle “if they move my desk one more time…” Milton wouldn’t last at Schmidt Associates. He probably wouldn’t have met our employment predictive analytics criteria at the outset.
As the CEO, I often remind staff and clients we don’t believe in out-of-the-box thinking, which is a really tired cliché, because Schmidt doesn’t believe in boxes. We don’t allow preconceived ideas, concepts, or notions to impact our thinking or finding solutions. That means we are responsive and nimble, proactive or reacting quickly to constantly changing conditions. If you don’t have a box holding you in, you don’t have to worry about thinking outside of it!
This summer an Inside Indiana Business Television’s Culture Matters segment reviewed the productive and unique Schmidt culture and environment. Our staff shifts from one team to another as a long-term project requires. Collaborative space is available to all teams. This builds teamwork and communication as each person is present with the entire team to make spot-on and on-the-spot collaborative decisions, eliminating meetings, endless e-mail chains, and deadly conference calls.
Our culture breeds creative, productive, cool projects for our clients on budget and on time. We’re flexible because we don’t have boxes… or set-in-stone spaces.
Walk into our lobby early on the second Monday, and you’ll hear energetic applause rocketing up the stairway from the monthly all-staff meeting. One set of applause is a rhythmic cadence – one, two, three claps. Another starts with one clap – escalating to 15 claps in unison. This isn’t a random party. Each applause set recognizes a staff member’s anniversary years at Schmidt Associates. If you’ve worked for us for three years – you get three claps!
This is our culture of including, valuing, and recognizing each member of our team. It’s more than feel good. It leads to more creative, better, and productive projects and buildings for our clients.
This summer an Inside Indiana Business Television’s Culture Matters segment reviewed the productive and unique Schmidt Associates’ culture and environment. IIB noted our mentor and Sherpa on-boarding process leads to people working for us for a long time. It’s not unusual to hear more than 20 claps in the meetings.
Our “Sherpa” process connects a new staff member with an office guide to whom the new person can turn for the most basic questions: “How do you turn on the copier? How do I reset my password? How do I present this to the client? Where’s the best place to eat in the neighborhood? ” The new hire’s Sherpa is there for her or him, providing an easy and welcoming on-boarding process.
Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, says Harvard Business Review, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. Our culture has a wonderful history of productive, lively, meaningful, and friendly smooth sailing.
Want to know more about Schmidt Associates’ culture and what makes us different? Check back in for Part 2 of the series next week.
As a child, if you had asked Sayo Adesiyakan, graduate architect at Schmidt Associates, what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have told you she wanted to be a pilot. It’s funny how growing up changes your aspirations—and helps you realize your fear of heights.
Tell me about your background.
I was born and raised in Nigeria. I completed my primary school education (what we call elementary school here in the United States) while I was in Nigeria and completed most of my three-year junior high schooling at an all-girls Catholic boarding school in a neighboring town. Our family moved to the United States and I was able to continue where I left off. Things have truly come full circle, I went to Junior High in the building that Schmidt Associates renovated into Ben Davis University.
You grew up in Nigeria? How did you land in Indiana?
My parents made a major choice to offer my siblings and I a better future by moving here. We lived in Chicago briefly before settling in Indianapolis.
What led you to architecture?
Art inspired me to pursue architecture. From there, I developed a keen interest in the built environment—to me it is a combination of art, design, critical thinking, and decision making on what ultimately impacts the lives of all users. During my college education, I began thinking about how I can use what I’ve learned to improve where I come from. I feel that when one is given a chance to be somewhere with better opportunities, it is important to bring those blessings back home, rather than leaving it behind.
My Master’s thesis focused on compartmentalization—maximizing available space, as well as unused land. This could provide homes for the many who would like to own their homes, but aren’t able to afford the usual process of having their own land and all the money to build. I was fortunate to have met a professor at Ball State who had previously gone back to Nigeria that also shared my vision. My hope is to contribute what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) to do something back home.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to cook and bake. These are things I learned from my mom. Whenever she baked when I was little, I would eat whatever was left of the batter. She encouraged me to start mixing it since I liked eating it so much. That really started my interest, and I began helping her in everything she wanted to do cake-wise. When we moved here, she supported me to take it over. Now, in addition to my architecture career, I also decorate cakes. You can see them on Instagram—Sayobakes.
Sayo and her husband, Adekola, have an interesting story. They come from the same town in Nigeria with their families knowing each other, but never met until in the United States!
Megan Scott, CPSM
You never know what you might learn in one of Schmidt Associates’ internal trainings called Schmidt Academy. The session might explore advances in technology, discuss enhancing our design presence, teach us to be nimble and efficient, or to strengthen our leadership skills. Last week, we had one called, “Project Managers Debrief – Getting Better at What We Do”. The room was packed with staff at all levels, curious to hear about our successes and challenges on a few recent projects. Being in the marketing department at Schmidt Associates, I find these ‘technical’ sessions extremely informing and love learning more about what our designers do each day.
This session featured five different project managers and their experiences on two different projects. As they talked about what made the projects most successful, or created the most challenges, something became clear to me. It seems like success revolves around communication. It was interesting to hear how all the different types of communication impacted the projects. Here’s some examples I learned:
- Internal Communication
- Having full-team discussions early in the project is critical. It’s just as important for the engineers to understand the goals, budget, and scope as it is for the architects. This helps ensure the design fully reflects the project goals and budget. You never want to design something and then hear, “we can’t afford that at all, let’s start over.”
- If younger staff are working on the project, it’s important for them to have a mentor who can help them fully understand the type of space they are designing. It’s necessary to nurture their development.
- Full-Team Communication
- Understanding who the final decision maker is with the Owner, and making sure they are at meetings where key decisions needs to be made, helps ensure the project schedule is maintained. Having to wait for the Owner’s response can take unnecessary time and create redundancies that have a lasting impact on the project.
- Knowing the Client and all the stakeholder groups well makes sure each person or group is communicated with in their preferred style. After you work on a few projects together, you develop a strong rapport and can anticipate their needs.
- Having a clear meeting agenda, and detailed post-meeting notes helps document decisions. This can become especially important as the project progresses and someone questions why something is the way it is. Being able to provide the documentation of why it is that way can help break the ice in what could become a controversial issue.
At the end of the session, the attendees helped develop a ‘Top 10’ list for making sure a project runs smoothly. A lot of the items were centered around the topic of communication. Hearing everyone ask questions and provide ideas was inspiring. It reminded me how much I personally love the commitment Schmidt Associates has made in our staff development and how our staff is eager to learn and improve.
With an extroverted personality and a smile that lights up the room, interior designer Liam Keesling is happiest building things around him—from Owner relationships to finished spaces, Liam is always in creation mode.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up in Richmond, IN and have always loved the creative process. I grew up in a household where every weekend we had a project, a renovation of some sort. Because of this, I knew growing up I wanted to be an architect, landscape designer, or a culinary chef. Unfortunately, I am terrible at math and I didn’t want to work in a restaurant. Interior Design seemed to be a great marriage of the creativity and process of creating that I craved. For me, it was the marriage of all components coming together for that final dramatic reveal.
My junior and senior year of college, I was interning for an Architecture firm three days a week. In that time, I had made great connections with other designers and manufacturer reps. All the networking landed me four job interviews that turned into four job offers. Though I had always planned on living in Chicago, it was when I had those four envelopes sitting in front of me I realized this was my chance to leave my mark. I immediately got involved in the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and have been building a network of my peers to continue to grow as a designer as the industry continues to expand. I do not see myself in Chicago anymore. This is where I am. This is where I want to stay.
What do you do in your free time?
My friends have always deemed me the King of Hobbies. I guess you could say that I am the Jack of All Trades, Master of None. My attention span is short sometimes, so I will pick up a hobby for a bit, but then move on. Consistently though, I have always loved working with my hands—gardening and building things have always been therapeutic for me. When I have something on my mind, I go and dig in the dirt to sort it out.
I also really enjoy meals and cooking for friends. I use recipes for inspiration, but create my own implementation plan. Oftentimes, I will see something growing in my garden and become inspired to create a meal around it.
Knowing your love of creating food, what is your favorite to eat out?
My guilty pleasure… I must say I do eat extremely healthy these days, but if I am going to cheat and pretend it never happened, the macaroni and cheese at The Eagle on Mass Ave is so good. I drizzle a bit of the spicy honey on top and it just takes me to my happy place. Okay, I cannot just have one. The kimchi meatloaf at Union 50 is also one of my all-time favorites. The pickled cabbage takes the flavor to a whole other level.
Where is your favorite place in the city?
I just love to walk the Cultural Trail and see all the people out. It gets me energized to see the hustle and bustle. In fact, on my way into work just today, I saw a guy in a full suit and roller skates on his way to work. I love that.
What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
Because it would be the most awkward way to break the ice with someone, I actually have webbed toes on both feet. Fun fact, celebrity Ashton Kutcher also has webbed toes—though I take the cake. Mine do not even separate.
Next time you are in need of a fresh perspective for your latest project or just want to grab some good macaroni and cheese with even better conversation, give Liam a call!
Maybe it is stating the obvious, but A/E firms (Architect/Engineer) function differently than firms comprised of only architects or only engineers. As an A/E firm ourselves, we think that a combined force of architects and engineers will function fundamentally better. And by “better”, we choose efficiency, convenience, and quality as our units of measurement. Two project staff members tell us their opinion on the benefits, to us and clients, of having architects and engineers working under one roof. We chose to talk with them specifically because they have previously worked for a single discipline firm prior to joining Schmidt Associates.
Associate, Project Manager, and Design Engineer
After you work on a few projects together, talk to them during the lunch hour, or grab a drink after work on Friday, architects and engineers get to know each other on a personal as well as a professional level. You know their communication style, strengths, and personality traits. You know more about their workloads and what other projects they are currently working on. You learn what the architect or engineer needs from you, sometimes before they even ask. Going back to efficiency, getting familiar with your project team adds up to saved time and money. And who doesn’t like saving time and money?
When you aren’t in the same office, it can feel like your team is starting all over again with strangers, with a steep learning curve each time. You may work with the same architecture or engineering team from another company a few times, but you aren’t always guaranteed a consistent group. This makes it hard to deliver a project with the same amount of proficiency as you could with a team you are already accustomed to working with.
Having architects and engineers working on the same network is a huge time saver. Eddie can sync his architectural model and Charlie can reload the changes instantly in his engineering model. If he were to be working with an outside firm, it could be a week before there was another pre-determined data transfer. This is especially critical in the final phases of a project, where a delay could cause the team to miss a deadline, or produce un-coordinated drawings, causing issues during construction, including cost increases or schedule delays.
It’s not just at the end of a project where time is saved either. Often architects are working on a project long before engineers get heavily involved, and the ability to quickly walk over and ask, “how much space will you need for your equipment?”, or “are we way out of line with our equipment budget estimate for this project?” is invaluable during the early phases of design. In a more “traditional” setting, these conversations might not happen until much later down the road, after an owner has already fallen in love with a potential design, only to learn that it’s not possible because of space or financial constraints.
Communication happens across the room, not virtually
Being able to walk right across the room to talk to the architect or engineer is the biggest benefit of your team working under one roof. If you were to ever pop in our office and see how we work, this would be apparent. We have architects working near architects and engineers working near engineers, but the only real separation from the two worlds is a 30-second walk.
We utilize an imbedded office design so key project teams, both architects and engineers, sit together. You might change desks every few months based on your project workload. This team orientation improves the quality and quantity of team communication. If an issue arises during the design process, we don’t have to wait for a call to be answered or someone to respond to our email. That type of communication can take hours or days to resolve a problem, something impossible when it comes to crunch time. The faster an issue is resolved, upfront and before construction, the better result for our clients.
If your architects and engineers aren’t under one roof, that 30-second walk to have a face-to-face conversation turns into something virtual, something less personal and instantaneous. When working through technical, complex architectural or engineering questions, having someone a few desks away is a big advantage.
The better we work together, the better result for the client. Working with an A/E firm means that you are putting your trust into a team of people who have the same office culture, increasing consistency. But as always, there are pros and cons to any situation. Your project may better be suited to have architects from X company and engineers from Y company because those two firms are experts in specific areas that can bring a benefit to your unique project.