Erica Spayd, AIA, Launches AIA Newark & Suburban Masterminds

March 14, 2023

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Erica Spayd, AIA, Launches AIA Newark & Suburban Masterminds

As I write this, I have five days remaining at my employed job before I head off into the world of architecture firm ownership. After more than a decade working in corporate roles overseeing the design and construction of retail stores, I have decided to make the leap to entrepreneurship. Over the past few weeks, as I have been sharing this news with colleagues and coworkers, I have been asked innumerable times if I am scared. 


My honest answer is, “No.”


“How is it possible to feel so confident/comfortable/calm in venturing to do something that is so new for you?”


“I feel really prepared because I’ve been learning a lot from my mastermind group.”


“Mastermind group? What’s that?”


I joined my first mastermind group in August 2020. I was feeling very isolated during this fairly early stage of the pandemic, and I had heard about this mastermind group concept through the EntreArchitect Community, a Facebook group with thousands of architect members from all over the globe. The EntreArchitect Network offers mastermind groups as part of their paid membership, and I had long been intrigued by this concept. So, when they opened enrollment for a group in the summer of 2020, I jumped at the opportunity to join.


What I found was a group of architects and allied members dedicated to the profession and supporting each other. I found an abundance mindset and a generosity of time and of spirit. I found a wide range of different experiences within different specialties and geographies, all centered around architecture. 


So naturally, when, about fifteen months later and still navigating the pandemic, the AIA Newark and Suburban Architects Board of Trustees was brainstorming ways to engage the membership amidst this lingering isolation, I suggested we offer mastermind groups to our membership as a way to foster deeper connection in our section. I talked about how my groups (I was in two at this point) had offered me so much inspiration, camaraderie, and support through my involvement, and that it would be great to offer this type of program to our members.


Of course, this prompted the question – what is a mastermind group? 


 AIA Newark and Suburban Mastermind meetup L-R Don London, Jonathan Terrero, Donald Chin, Christy DiBartolo, Bill Brown, and Benjamin Horten


A mastermind group is a peer mentoring group designed to bring minds together collectively and collaboratively to help each other solve problems and achieve success. Different from a traditional mentorship, everyone in the group is a mentor and mentee at the same time, as well as an observer of others’ challenges. These groups tend to act as accountability partners, akin to one’s own board of directors for how they work. And mastermind groups are equally as impactful for young professionals trying to establish their footing on their career path as they are for elder professionals who have so much experience about which they can share. Everyone contributes, and everyone receives.


Upon sharing this, the AIANS Board was eager to launch the program. We put together an info session, a few email blasts, and an intake questionnaire, and in March 2022, we launched our first three groups. Our groups consist of 4-10 members and meet either weekly or biweekly to share wins and challenges, and have discussions about career growth and the future of the profession. Participation is free for AIANS members. We have a facilitator for each group who sends reminders and makes sure that everyone gets a chance to speak. The facilitator is not responsible for prepping materials — it’s up to the group members to bring challenges to share, wins to celebrate, and topics for discussion. Some groups prefer to have more central themes or topics to discuss each week, while others let the conversation flow more organically. It’s up to all group members to bring and share their ideas. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our mastermind members, and are aiming to launch more groups this year.



And that brings me back to where I started this article – I am days away from officially launching my own architecture practice. I have received countless nuggets of wisdom over the past few years from my mastermind groups. I have gotten lawyer and accountant recommendations, received advice on business entity formation, heard feedback on logo and website design, and about a million other things that have gone into establishing my practice. It’s possible that I would have taken this leap without a mastermind, but I don’t think it’s possible that I’d feel this prepared. I’m forever grateful to all of the folks I’ve met through my mastermind groups, and I hope that other architects – whether employed, sole practitioners, or leaders of large firms – will consider joining.




Erica Spayd, AIA, is the President of Prose Architecture, P.C.

AIANS members can learn more about the Mastermind program here and register to join here (AIANS log-in required).

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