Alumni Chats with Wayne Chang: Meet Beth Nenniger and Laura Austin, directors of BuildDirect Design Center

In this series, E Co-op Coordinator and BET 300 instructor Wayne Chang catches up with alumni from our undergraduate programs who are now running their startups full-time.


Beth and LauraI would like to introduce you to Beth Nenniger and Laura Austin, co-founders of DraftingSPACE, a DIY home design platform that was acquired earlier this year by online home improvement retailer BuildDirect.

Beth and Laura now lead the development of the BuildDirect Design Center in a new Waterloo office, continuing their mission to empower every homeowner to be their own designer.

Beth and Laura studied architecture together at the University of Waterloo, and in their final co-op term decided to work on their own ideas through the Conrad Centre's Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) program and BET 300: Foundations of Venture Creation

They are the recipients of a Velocity Fund Finals award of $25,000, and a joint fellowship from Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and Canada Youth Business Fellowship (CYBF)

Since their graduation in 2013, Beth and Laura have frequently shared their entrepreneurial adventures with E Co-op and BET 300 students as invited speakers. 

What are you working on these days? 

Beth: We're working on improving our bathroom designer to offer more shapes, more products, and more unique styles.

Laura: We're also building out our new office in Waterloo and growing the team (currently hiring software developers!) 

What was memorable for you at UWaterloo that impacted your later entrepreneurial perspectives? 

Beth: Wow, that's a tough question. Talking to Larry Smith. He is incredibly smart and talented. He won't sugar-coat his advice to you either. Also, the group activities in BET 300—they taught us a lot and helped us form lasting friendships with other entrepreneurs. 

Laura: The amazing support and network for budding entrepreneurs. The BET 300 course, E Co-op, the Velocity program (Garage & Residence)— joining all of these during our final co-op term of undergrad really kick-started our entrepreneurial journey.

What would you like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs at UWaterloo? 

Beth: Surround yourself with people who are as crazy as you are.

For every person that has a crazy big idea, there are a hundred people who will tell you why it will never work. When you do find others who are working towards a future with new ideas that are as big and crazy as yours, make friends with them — they will be your inspiration and crutch when you feel like you are up against the impossible. 

Laura: Listen to customer feedback. Learn to fail fast and iterate often. Don't be discouraged by this; its part of the design process to create an amazing product.


Don't miss our next Alumni Chat with Wayne Chang, featuring Ian Tao of Sesame

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