Hollie Sanchez, licensed architect and owner of Studio S Architekts, wears several hats. Passionate about her industry and her work, Sanchez is also devoted to her role as wife, and guards her time with her children. This balancing act has not always been easy, yet, as you’ll read, Sanchez’s decisions have always been centered around her family, while quickly growing her architecture firm.
A Boerne native, Sanchez grew up just north of town near Sisterdale. Her father recently retired from the Army, and her mother working locally on Main Street, Sanchez and her twin sister were heavily involved with their education early on. “I was very devoted to my schooling and was #11 in our class and was into athletics also. My sister and I did a lot of science fair things that actually took us all over the country. It started this engineering mindset in me and I also found that I loved art as well.“
After graduation in 1998, Sanchez headed straight for Texas A&M. “I started at A&M as a Computer Science major. The last week of the semester I had to do an errand at the Architecture building – it changed my major that minute – I saw this combination of math and art and I was in love. Math is big in architecture, and my love for art was meshed perfectly with architecture. I changed my major quickly and am so happy I did so. You rarely find a creative person and a math person – they’re two different sides of the brain and that’s rare to find, but I had found my calling.”
After finishing her undergrad studies in 2003, and while working toward her Master’s in Architecture, Sanchez was teaching undergrad classes when her life changed yet again. She explains, “This guy Gary was a senior in the freshman level class. That makes me laugh now, but he was so cocky and such a frat boy, but looking back, he flirted with me the whole time. We had just finished a semester and he texted me. I happened to be working and with some liquid courage, he asked me out. He flipped the script and went from this cocky guy to this very genuine and nice person. Long story short – we eloped in 2006 and are married today.”
The new Sanchez family quickly moved to Dallas after graduating, where Hollie joined RTKL, a large architectural firm. She then moved to the BECK Group, where she worked alongside Gary, who was working as a contractor and project manager. “We absolutely loved that time. We were young, doing well, enjoying the nightlife and excitement of Dallas, and we were just working like crazy. Then our family grew, and things had to change.”
Noa was born in 2008, soon followed by Logan in 2011. “Balancing kids and work is not easy. Noa was in daycare so much and I didn’t want him to come home from school and have me at work, but money was tight. We realized that if we wanted to go out socially, we’d be leaving them again. So we didn’t. I hated my frustrations at trying to be everywhere at the same time.”
Seeking more support, Hollie and the kids came back to Boerne. Gary remained in Dallas for a period as he was quite successful and hadn’t lined up work locally quite yet. She continues, “I was able to work with Israel Pena at Authentic Custom Homes when we moved back. I brought the babies while Gary looked for work. It was beyond stressful and was a hard year. My health suffered from the stress, and I was hustling to find work. Marsh and Associates eventually took me on, and the work was welcomed. I worked hourly to free me up to be with the kids more. Architecture is a male dominated industry and I’d run into things like that occasionally. I was able to work hourly and that helped me so much but it was so hard to be a mom AND an architect. Going to doctor’s appointments was tough, the Christmas pageant, etc – it was very hard on me as I continued to try to be everything for everyone.”
With Gary finally moving home, Sanchez knew that she wanted more kids, but also knew how hard the balancing act would be. She explains, “I always knew that if I wanted more kids, I’d start my own company. Gary had always been very receptive to me about starting my own company. He had always told me I didn’t have to work and could focus on being Mom if I wanted, and I don’t think he really expected me to do it. But, sure enough, in 2013 I started Studio S Architekts.”
With 2 young children, a new business, and her twin sister living down the street so that they could help one another, the Sanchez family welcomed Bowen in 2014, and Charlotte in 2016. Around this time, Gary launched his own business which Hollie explains “He’s unbelievably successful with it and I am beyond proud of him.”
Operating her own business out of the home with what Hollie describes “simply a leap of faith”, work began to trickle in. “A lot of people found me from church. I’ve grown up here so I knew so many people that would help refer people to me and I leveraged those relationship the best I could. There was no big “break” – I’d occasionally hook into a good contractor that would send me work, but it’s been straight up hustle.
Early on, Sanchez took the work thankfully. “Those first couple of years I was doing everything from small kitchen remodels to smaller houses. I had maybe 10 projects a year. It was a grind.” However, as she began to establish her name, more work followed. She continues, “Now I’ve got a staff of 4 women that work with me. We are up to about 35-40 projects a year from the smaller projects to $1m+ residential homes to boutique commercial work. We earn the name of quality from our clients and I’m forever proud of that.”
However, while Sanchez worked tirelessly to build her reputation, she was reminded that setbacks can happen at any time. “We had a great commercial job in downtown San Antonio. It was a great opportunity for us to grow, and we were proud to have the job. The developer, however, undermined us again and again as just a bunch of housewives and that we were in over our head. He just was so negative about us to the owner, and refused to trust us. It was a major gut check for me because we didn’t do anything wrong, but they pulled the whole job from us. From there, I was not only angry, I was determined like never before. I decided that I wanted to show people what we have done and the quality of work that we produced and I knew that I had to step up my marketing and the picture that I paint for people in the public. I hated being undermined like that and knew that I wouldn’t let it happen again.”
Hollie ferociously attacked her entire corporate image, investing substantially into her website, digital presence, advertising and virtually all other forms of branding. The results have spoken for themselves. She explains “It’s been tremendous – we have several clients now that have found us that might not otherwise have done so. I’d say that we’ve doubled our interest and people are FINDING us rather than having to FIND us, if that makes sense. The size of our projects have gotten bigger as well and that’s a good indicator for what we’re doing. When COVID happened, we all worked from home. I even got more work done with Zoom calls…and we started the season with a lot of smaller things but finished 2020 with lots and lots of houses. Commercial work has picked up a lot now. We have 10 houses under construction right now, and 5 we’ve designed and an untold number we’re working on currently. We probably get 5 new ones a week”, Sanchez says with a proud smile.
While the quality of her work is vital to her, Hollie also explains that her passion for her designs is key. She continues, “With residential architecture, I’m not designing to just quickly get a house built. We get into the client’s patterns of life, their activities, and who they are. If they want an office, we will ask them ‘ is it because you have people visit you, or do you want one off the kitchen where you’re cooking and dealing with your kids?’ I love finding out about people and then creating this very practical piece that functions with their lives – it has to function, which is the mathematics side, but has to flow and be beautiful, which is my art side.”
As her business continues to grow, Sanchez remains grateful for her own family as well as her extended family, and for Kendall County’s support. “The majority of my first 3 years of clients were people who had known me since I was a little girl. That small town feel is crucial. When we got back to Boerne we joined First Baptist Church and that became our social circle. The word of mouth that spread from that has been crucial for us. We moved away for so long and you don’t realize how nice this area is, how unique it is, how much of a storybook place it is. I’m so lucky that my kids get to grow up in that, and enjoy the community, and are making those same relationships. The kids they’re playing with today are the ones they’ll be doing business with in the future. Same as their Mother did.”
Hollie and Gary continue to push their business endeavors to new heights, while remaining focused on their family and keeping the children prioritized amid a growing to-do list and demanding clients. However, they seem to be doing it right. She finishes, “I’m so blessed to be doing what I’m doing. My family is here, the support is here, we’re all so close, and it’s wonderful. My sister is a successful interior decorator and I’ve even been able to work with her on projects. It’s been wonderful to have everyone close by, and I love seeing my kids grow up with their cousins as she has 3 kids the same ages as mine. I literally wouldn’t have it any other way.”