What is your full name, title, and business name?
Noah Mabry & Singleton Hicks, Principle, FOREGROUNDstudio llc.
Follow FOREGROUND studio on social: Facebook | Instagram

Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
We are skilled artisans who transform any space into one that is artful, modern, and inspired. At Foreground we reject the cookie cutter design approach that is so common in the landscapes we see today. We take advantage of the specific conditions of a site to create a place that is enticing and welcoming. We believe the landscape should act as extension of the architecture it surrounds, enhancing the lives of those who experience the space. We are able to translate our clients’ ideas and wishes into a landscape that that they will be able to enjoy and appreciate for years to come.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Singleton and I graduated from OSU with our degrees in Landscape Architecture and plans to work in a firm as entry-level designers. However, we graduated at the great recession. While working together in a 9 to 5 cubicle job, we would work on design competitions and any small side projects we could get. Eventually, we decided that if this was the type of work we wanted to do we would have to forge our own path.

What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
When we were talking to a potential client, which turned into a fantastic project, they told us we were the only designer who understood their style. Everyone else recommended traditional landscaping, but we understood the mid-century modern look that would compliment the architecture of their home.

Noah Mabry moved to Columbus from Mansfield to attend OSU, the only school in Ohio that offered a Landscape Architecture degree.

What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Owning a business was never part of either of our life plans. We just wanted to be designers. Owning our own business was the way we could translate that desire into real-world results. We spend every day working with plants, stone, concrete and dirt to create spaces for people to connect with each other and nature.

What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
It means everything. The diversity of homes, clients, and architecture allow us the freedom to create. We are living in a period of time of rapid expansion of the city, which means that our hard work and creativity can be recognized by the growing population.

Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
I grew up in Mansfield and moved to Columbus as OSU was the only school in Ohio that offered a Landscape Architecture degree. Singleton is a Columbus native that grew up in Clintonville. Both us of us decided to stay in Columbus because of the appreciation for and growing community of art, design, and architecture.

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Do you want to always work? You have to be ok with always working. There is no work/life separation and own your own business. It is not a job.

What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
What cash flow and P&L’s are.

What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
Are our clients happy.

Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I sugar coat problems so that people don’t get upset.

Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
People get into business for two reasons, either they love doing something or they want to make money and they only focus on one of those things. You have to care about both things and balance them.

Singleton Hicks started his company with Noah during the great recession.

What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
The biggest mistake was doing work before getting a solid commitment or payment, and we are sure it has cost us thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
Ipad Pros. Being able to draw, edit, print, and export to other devices and software have made us exponentially more efficient.

When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
Singleton and I used to work with each client, and on every project together. We got to the point where it was obvious we had to not only divide our time but also hire support staff to fulfill all of our commitments.

What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
We started advertising on Houzz before other competitors in the Columbus area.

What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
Two different times we tried to collaborate with larger corporations to expand into new markets, however, it turned out they just wanted us to do marketing for them.

What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Trade shows and online marketing.

What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
We are expanding into commercial and other large-scale projects like rooftop pool patios and multifamily complexes. The fact that Columbus is rapidly expanding and construction is booming are offering up opportunities to create really unique large-scale outdoor spaces.

What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Historically online marketing has had a Big ROI for us. Competitors in our industry haven’t realized how important being online is.

Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? 
Our accountant, Brian T. Frankart, CPA. Not only does he understand finance, but also helps us with long-term goals.

Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
There are a couple of entrepreneurs in tangentially related fields, who have similar experiences. We relate well with other design professionals because client issues are often very similar.

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
We anticipate growing along with our city. While residential projects will continue to be our primary focus, multi-family and commercial projects will make up a larger of our portfolio.

What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
Andrea Cochran has influenced our modern design aesthetic. Her commitment to landscape as art, and use of clean lines and natural materials is something we aspire to.

If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Two Dollar Radio, a local Indie Book Publisher/Cafe/Bar on Parsons Ave.

FOREGROUND focuses on Modern Landscape Design.