Chris Payson admits that if he had been able to foresee how bad the housing economy would get, he might have delayed launching West Chester Design/Build. But there was no crystal ball available, and when the crash came to the Philadelphia market in the fall of 2008, his company was a going concern.

His perseverance impresses, given that a few customers in his pipeline—including those in vulnerable corporate jobs or heavily invested in the stock market—let him know that they couldn’t move forward on projects. "They were in shock and canceled everything," Payson says.

However, staying the course proved to be one of his biggest blessings because, he says, "it made us appreciate everything that came our way and to work harder." He maintained long hours on the job and carved out time to network heavily while, on the financial side, he was extremely careful about where he channeled marketing and advertising dollars.

Payson believes that customers appreciate the "youthfulness, vibrancy, and energy" that members of his staff, averaging ages 28 to 30, bring to projects in terms of modern ideas and designs. "That's how word has spread so quickly about us," says the 32-year-old company owner, who was only 25 when he started his company.  


  • West Chester Design/Build does most work in-house rather than hiring subcontractors. By doing so, Payson feels it promotes client happiness by minimizing scheduling and quality and communication issues.
  • The company’s sales goal is $3 million in the next year or so—an objective that Payson believes the business will achieve, in part by doubling its marketing efforts. Along those lines, the firm plans to pump more money into online advertising, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Payson says he wants to “be on the front line" of those who go online to search for kitchen renovations.