We had the good fortune of connecting with MaDonna Collingwood and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MaDonna, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
After completing six years as a traditional student at a university and receiving a Master’s degree in Interior Architecture I started to look at the amount of student loan debt that I was in, and the roles/jobs I was able to obtain after graduation. While examining my own educational path and reflecting on where it got me and how I got there I started to understand how I could have gotten there in a more efficient way. A lot of my superiors at architecture firms did not have degrees, but learned from experience working in various interior industries such as flooring, windows, lighting, etc. I finished school at the top of my class and maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout all six years including graduate school. I understood and mastered all of the technical skills that I needed to become a well renowned architect. I was great at CAD, SketchUp, Photoshop, 3D modeling and rendering. I also had in depth knowledge and had completed research on WELL, LEED, Occupants well being, space planning and function, and much more. The only thing that was holding me back was that I didn’t have experience. It became frustrating to me that I took the traditional path and did everything right (as I had been brought up to believe was the right way) but I didn’t have experience, so I was viewed as underqualified for “entry level” positions but overqualified for others because of my proficient skills.
In creating Studio Institute Denver I started by thinking “If I could go back, knowing what I know now, what path would I have taken” and I built a trade school based on obtaining skills, knowledge, and experience without going into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. I created a curriculum and program that teaches students in construction management how to research building codes, how to read and create floor plans, and how to use industry standard software. I eliminated all of the classes that I was forced to take during 6 years of University that I never used in the real world such as drawing, art history, and psychology. I created a smaller 6 month program that includes an internship and real world projects and experience so that other people who want to be come Interior Designers and Construction Supervisors can get their foot in the door and start their career without going in to lifelong debt. All of my students finish their 6 month program with a professionally tailored resume, and portfolio showcasing skills and real projects that they have worked on. I set them up with internships and entry level positions to start their careers and provide them with certificates proving that they have trained up to 60 hours on software programs such as Adobe and CAD.
My thought process behind starting my own business was to examine the path that I took to become a career architect, and help others get to that same position in much less time by spending less money. I don’t believe that others need to struggle or go through the same hardships I went through to get to my position. I am passionate about helping others get to the top, I believe that there is more than enough room for all of us in an ever growing industry like construction in Denver.
What should our readers know about your business?
The tuition difference, schedule, and skills taught at Studio Institute Denver really is what sets it apart from other trade schools and accelerated interior design programs in the area. At $4300 for a 6 month program Studio Institute is currently the least expensive accelerated program in Colorado for Interior Design or Construction Management.
I teach computer skills such as Adobe Photoshop, CAD, SketchUp, and Portfolio 3 days per week on campus in person. I meet with students as a group and one on one to walk them through tutorials on floor plan creation, 3D modeling, and personal branding. Online classes include industry fundamentals, estimation, and building codes. Students at Studio Institute Denver learn everything they need to be confident starting a career in the industry through a hybrid flexible schedule that is not offered at any other local college or trade school.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have recently been spending a lot of time in the Wash Park area of Denver since that is where Studio Institute Denver is located. Our on campus classes take place in the Alchemy building at 66 S Logan St. We are very close to the business district and central Denver, but also within minutes of the Wash Park area and Cherry Creek. I have been exploring the different rentals available at Washington Park such as paddle boards and pedal bikes. I have also been visiting the Sunday market on South Pearl St, and the many vintage/thrift stores on South Broadway.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
EJ Mastel my marketing guru. My advisors at Colorado State University for helping me achieve my Masters Degree in Interior Architecture.