Designed for Success: A Look at 25 Years

Brenner Design (BDI) is excited and proud to celebrate our 25th year in business this month. As we continue to move forward to our next milestones, we’d like to take this opportunity to look back, reflect and celebrate the hard work, serendipity and accomplishments of this woman-owned business.

[View a visual timeline of important milestones over the last 25 years.]

BDI Herstory

Brenner Design was founded in 1992 by Diana Brenner when the company she was working for suddenly closed. (That firm announced on a Monday afternoon that it was closing the following Friday.) Looking at two options, either accepting a job and moving to Cleveland, or starting her own company in Indianapolis, Diana decided to take a leap of faith. She had three days to find office space, hire a staff and find clients.

Luckily, a former client engaged her to finish their project. With commitments of $60,000 in contracts, along with $500 in cash and $1,500 in equipment, she became a business owner. She knew how to design the work and manage the staff, but the looming question remained: could she bring in more contracts?

At the same time she started her company, she was finishing her thesis semester in Architecture at Ball State. Diana was also the mother of young sons (then two and six years of age), so her plate was full to say the least! Fortunately Diana’s husband, Lew, was extremely supportive of her ambitious goals for herself and their family. Not realizing that most new companies cannot get loans from banks, she naively approached a banker for whom she she had done design work and received one of many lucky breaks: the banker approved a credit line of $15,000 to buy new computer equipment.

The company moved into office/warehouse space on the northeast side of Indianapolis that belonged to an out-of-town developer. The firm traded space planning services for rent for the first three months. The offices there were broken into twice, and all the firm’s computers were stolen. After the first break-in, the firm added better locks and alarms. For the second break-in, the thieves cut a hole in the demising wall and entered from tenant space next door. Their general liability insurance was cancelled.

Despite those losses, BDI booked $370,000 in gross revenues with three employees in its first year. Twenty-five years later, Brenner Design has booked up to $3,700,000 in annual revenue and has had up to 15 employees. BDI has ranked as the 13th largest architectural firm, the 8th largest interior design firm and ranks in the top ten furniture dealers. Brenner Design is the largest 100% woman-owned architectural firm in Indiana and also does work nationally.

Brenner Design’s award-winning portfolio includes projects in ten project types, including Corporate, Financial, Government, Healthcare, Higher Education, Historic Preservation, Hospitality, Law, Residential ,and Restaurant & Retail.

BDI By the Numbers

BDI set a goal of obtaining one design award per year and articles written by or about, one article per year. 

1000+  Design Projects
250+  Customers
40+  Design Awards
30+  Speaking Engagements
25+  Articles written about
15+  Professional Achievement/Recognition Awards
12+  Articles authored
3   Board assignments
2   Commissions served
1   Book Published
1   AIA Handbook Article
1   Video Feature Appearance

Contributing author of one book Significant Interiors – 2008, contributing author published in the AIA Architect’s handbook – 2006, featured in one video, Voices of Practice – 2001.


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