Who she is: President and founder, Synergy Design & Consulting
What she does: Helps stressed out homeowners navigate the home remodeling and renovation process.
Why she does it: “In previous jobs in the real estate industry I saw firsthand how tough it was for homeowners to remodel their homes,” Mina says. “They simply didn’t have the experience or expertise to know the right questions to ask, which designers and contractors to hire, and what a reasonable budget and timeline should be.”
Peel an onion: And there’s more. Mina also inspires women with the compelling story of her childhood upbringing. “My mother was a bit of a hippie and when I was about 3 decided she wanted to make her living driving an 18-wheeler,” Mina explains. “Tragically, she died when I was 9, though, so I went to live with my grandmother in Springfield, VA. There are lots of good stories about what happened before, during, and after that, but I am now honored to be a caregiver to the woman who raised me. At 91, she continues to keep me on my toes.”
PROVIDING SYNERGY IN THE REMODELING WORLD
By Hope Katz Gibbs
Because it’s never easy for a novice to navigate the home remodeling and renovation process, Northern Virginia entrepreneur Mina Fies has developed a company to choreograph all aspects of the project — from concept to completion.
Her Reston VA-based firm, Synergy Design & Consulting, acts as a liaison between the designer and construction team.
“In previous jobs in the real estate industry I saw firsthand how tough it was for homeowners to remodel their homes,” Mina says. “They simply didn’t have the experience or expertise to know the right questions to ask, which designers and contractors to hire, and what a reasonable budget and timeline should be.”
So in 2008, Mina and her husband Mark — who has decades of experience in retail sales and operations management — created a company to remedy that problem.
“Our first goal is to educate consumers,” Mina explains. “We are passionate about helping both homeowners and contractors approach their renovation projects to achieve maximum efficiency and customer satisfaction.”
They also act as advocates for their clients. “This is a process that begins by thoroughly vetting the contractors we work with,” she says. “Our advocacy continues through construction. We manage the project so our clients don’t have to.”
Mina and Mark also feel strongly about treating those contractors and designers with respect. “We build partnerships with companies that are great at what they do; from general contractors to the subs that lay tile and install cabinets. When we find a firm that has standards that are as high as ours are, we stick with them. In the end, we help them grow their businesses — while building a quality product for our customers. Everybody wins.”
To Mina, the key is to be a valuable resource for everyone involved in the remodeling industry. “We continually strive to stay ahead of trends and serve both the design and construction industry with the tools they need to be successful,” she insists.
A little history
Having worked in the real estate, sales, and design industry since 1994, Mina has the experience to back up her goals and ambition.
Her focus on customer service and education started even earlier however when she took the position of human resources assistant at Systems Planning and Analysis right out of high school in 1988. From there she transitioned into the insurance industry and eventually into sales as a loan officer for Paradigm Mortgage Services until 1996. Once she was recruited by CarMax in 1998, she worked there as a regional sales trainer, sales manager and business office manager until 2005. That’s also where she met her husband Mark.
By 2006, Mina decided it was time to work independently and ventured into the real estate business working for Long & Foster. As a Realtor, she loved helping her clients find their perfect new home and had the responsibility for the design and selection for home sales in a new residential development through 2008.
The year before starting her firm, she gained additional design and sales experience working for Premier Basement and Design in McLean, VA. Her duties included contract negotiation and coordination of the design and bid process, quality control adherence, and maintaining customer service between homeowners and sub-contractors.
The importance of giving back
“All of the experiences of my career so far have taught me one thing,” Mina says today. “You need to dig in to whatever you are doing, give it your all, and learn something new each day.”
The real goal for her life, career and new business, she says, is to make a difference — in the lives of her clients, and the community where she works and lives.
“We continuously look for ways to give back for all the blessings we have experienced,” she says, noting that her own personal life has been an adventure.
“My mom was a free spirit who went to Woodstock with some high school friends including one who would later become my dad whom I never met,” she shares. “She was a strong woman who raised me on her own and for the first few years of my life tried desperately to find out what she wanted to do with her own life. We traveled throughout California (where I was born) and even lived in Washington state in a hippie commune for a short time.”
Eventually, Mina’s mom decided she wanted to be a long-haul truck driver and traveled back and forth between the east and west coast in an 18-wheeler. “She was good at it, too, but when she was working, she’d leave me with other trucker families across the country,” Mina says, admitting it wasn’t always the safest environment for a young girl.
But when she was about 9 her mom met the love of her life. “His name was Charlie and he lived in Missouri,” Mina shares. “We went to live with him and his mom while my mother went on her final trip as a trucker.”
Life changing events
During that last trip, Mina’s mom died in an auto accident.
Mina came to Virginia to live with her grandmother in Springfield. “I moved into my mom’s old room, slept on her old bed, and went to the same schools that she did. It was a little strange, but it was good to have a home and family around me.”
Given the adventure that was the first decade of her life, Mina assures that there are plenty of stories to share about her life in the following decades. If fact, she is hoping to find a way to share her lessons learned through speaking engagements.
For now, she simply says: “My grandmother was a savior who had tremendous patience and warmth. She handled my teen years in a way that made me feel safe, yet free. And despite some wrong turns, she was always my champion. At 91, she’s still my biggest advocate.”
Mina turns 40 this year, a milestone that she says is giving her the opportunity to reflect on all that she has experienced and learned.
“Sure,” she admits, “I sometimes wish my childhood had been different. But then I wouldn’t be me. And in the next 40 years, I’m hoping that I can take all the wisdom I fought hard to learn and share a message of inspiration with as many people as possible.”
The first step along that path, she says, is to build her business and help more homeowners fix up their homes in a way that is easy, fun, and organized.
“One of my favorite adages is ‘Home is where the heart is,’” Mina says. “I truly believe that, and that’s the basis of Synergy Design & Consulting. After Mark and I build up our firm in Northern Virginia, DC and Maryland, we hope to take our services to other cities. The one thing I know is that when you put your mind to something, anything is possible.”