The Verve Partnership Occupies Important Space in Its Clients’ Workplace Culture
Women-Owned Business Series
As part of March's Women in History Month, Paychex celebrates the customer journey — challenges, inspiration, and successes of women entrepreneurs — in our Client Spotlight.
Kelly Ennis works on everything inside of the outside wall, so it’s not surprising that her advice to the next generation of women entrepreneurs is to be self-aware.
In September 2009 — 16 years into a successful career as an interior designer in Los Angeles — Ennis looked inward to change her scene.
“I was constantly asking for forgiveness to do my job or worse, permission to serve my clients,” said Ennis, a Founding and Managing Principal of The Verve Partnership. “We don’t work for people; we work with them.”
The Verve Partnership is a standalone interior architecture, design, and strategy studio in Baltimore, Maryland, and they eat, sleep, and live design informed by brand and culture. Ennis didn’t even mention the word “employees” when asked how many staff work for her. She called them colleagues and then added, “We are an empowered group of women.”
Interior design is mostly a women-dominated field, said Ennis, while architecture is predominately men. However, Ennis is quick to dispel the misnomer about interior designers. “Our work overlaps what architects do, but we have the training and expertise to develop the experience inside in its entirety.”
And the interiors are all around Charm City: in orthopedic technology facilities, public garages, universities, and even in the headquarters of a construction outfit in Philadelphia. The Verve Partnership handles spaces from 5,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet, but it all starts with a simple conversation.
“We ask them who they are, what they do, and why they matter” Ennis said. “Then we conduct surveys, dive into data, and make sure the end result meets the end-user’s desired experience. We understand where they work, how they work, and what motivates them. It’s all about building trust and relationships. We conceptualize spaces where people can create a community inside.”
Since March of 2020 until recently, however, there was no inside. The COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home, and for people such as Ennis and her colleagues at The Verve Partnership, there was no demand to be inside other businesses’ space to improve it.
“The pandemic was our biggest challenge, especially since most of our projects are corporate/commercial,” Ennis said. “We had to really focus on managing cashflow, but we also took the time to bolster our social media presence. We survived.”
One thing Ennis was truly optimistic about, however, was the path to recovery. She was emphatic, in fact, when talking about people returning to the workplace.
“People spend more than half their lives at work, so they should come to a space that feels good, makes them feel good,” she said. “We’re ready. We’re ready to help them create the space that is about their culture, and culture lends itself to performance.”
Ennis talks enthusiastically about space as a tool, describing furniture, pens, and even real estate under that umbrella. Her energy is undeniable, and it’s not surprising that those themes are rolled into the company brand. “Verve” means energy, enthusiasm, and in its archaic root, she explained, means “talent.”
When she started in 1993 after earning a degree in interior architecture from Maryland Institute College of Art (known locally as MICA), Ennis said she was lucky to have women role models to provide experience, guidance, and “enough space to let me fail and the knowledge of when to pull me in.”
Ennis carries that responsibility forward, acknowledging that although she considers herself talented, she knows other people who are more talented.
“And I’m OK with that,” said Ennis, demonstrating her self-awareness. “In fact, a lot of them work here.”
Despite the energy and enthusiasm, Ennis said some of the most important advice she could offer entrepreneurial women is the exact opposite of go, go, go.
“Work with intention, slow down, and learn as much as you can,” she said. “I actually quit that go, go, go job because I was tired. I had a wealth of knowledge and some money, but I definitely should have taken more time.”
In a moment of self-awareness, in spaces she knows better than anyone — her mind and her heart — Kelly Ennis let her verve guide the way.
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