Author Archives: Crewbaltimorepr

Sponsor Spotlight: Budova Engineering

1. Why did you join CREWBaltimore? What makes CREWBaltimore different?

I joined CREW Baltimore because I felt an immediate connection to its community. Members went out of their way to welcome me and encourage me to get involved. Plus, the programming and networking opportunities are excellent.

2. How long have you been a CREWBaltimore member / member company?

I have been a member for four years.

3. In 2-3 sentences, what do you want CREWBaltimore members to know about your company?

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” Budova’s mission is to smash that notion – that things should continue as is even if the process isn’t working or doesn’t make sense – while making sure buildings get built better and operate smarter.

3. Which CREWBaltimore event have you most enjoyed in the past year and why?

Oh, that’s a tough one. There are many to choose from. Honestly, I enjoyed them all because I genuinely look forward to seeing and spending time with the other members. If I had to pick one, I would say our iconic Women of Influence event. The room was packed, the energy was palpable, and the panelists and moderator knocked it out of the park.

5. Best weekend activity in Baltimore?

My current answer would have to be hiking. My family has gone hiking pretty much every week since March. That takes us outside of the Baltimore area, but that is how we have been spending our weekends recently.

6. What are the benefits of women supporting women in the CRE industry?

There is nothing better! It is crucial for us to support one another now more than ever. We are on the cusp of change. I don’t believe we have turned the corner yet, but it is on the horizon. It is our duty to continue to fight for each other. This shouldn’t be confined to a particular industry, though. Women need to support women. Period.

7. Best book or article you’ve read that had you fired up to take on the day/week/year at work?

I recently read Between the World and Me and White Fragility back to back. Saying I was fired up isn’t the right expression. But a compassionate spark that always lives within me was reignited. Both books made me ponder things, made me more mindful, and made me want to do better.

8. Which CREWBaltimore event are you most excited about this year [2021]?

We have the most exciting programming planned for 2021! Our theme is going to be “Reinventing & Reinvesting in Baltimore,” and we’re going to have a Neighborhood Series with an event each quarter that focuses on a different area of Baltimore. This is something people are not going to want to miss.

9. Tell us about a project, program or initiative that your company will be working on in 2020. [2021]

Budova is working with Whiting-Turner, SmithGroup, and ECS [among others] on the incredible Health and Life Sciences Building at Anne Arundel Community College. It is a 175,000 SF, three-story project with over 40 labs, a greenhouse, and both academic and student spaces. It is projected to be complete in August of 2021. The school’s tagline for it is that they “are busy building a bright future” for their students, and Budova loves being a part of that.

Kat Sabo
Budova Engineering

Conversations over Coffee

Going into 2020, CREWBaltimore had a full program lineup that included Construction Tour Happy Hours, Beacon Awards, Luncheons, and various volunteer events. When the pandemic began to take effect, the chapter knew their previously full schedule was going to have some big changes.

When faced with the challenges of rescheduled and canceled events, CREWBaltimore found a way to take advantage of the new normal by pivoting their event structure from in person to virtual. Starting in March, CREWBaltimore has been conducting weekly “Conversations Over Coffee” for members to attend over Zoom, allowing different members and guest speakers to discuss a variety of topics, which allowed the chapter as a whole to stay connected.

Over the course of the past few months, members have been invited to join webinars that cover topics ranging from leasing trends, commercial cleaning, building operations, financial impact, interior design, and much more. Each panel, hosted by CREWBaltimore President, Kristen Schrader, included members that had the opportunity to discuss the different effects COVID-19 has had in their respective industries.

With these calls, members are able to attend more “events” in the past few months than they would throughout the entire year. It gives members the opportunity to meet other members they might not have had the chance to meet at the in-person events. Although CREWBaltimore has been greatly affected by COVID-19, the Conversations Over Coffee has been a silver lining and allows the chapter as a whole to still be together while apart.

Please visit the CREWBaltimore Youtube channel to view recordings of all Conversations Over Coffee we’ve had so far!

Feds, Meds & Eds | Post Event Recap

On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, CREWBaltimore hosted a virtual panel discussion on Feds, Meds, and Eds. The panelists that were featured were Steve Ramaley of Miles & Stockbridge and a member of their Government Practice, Emily Perl, Associate Vice President of Goucher College, and Adam Kleeman a partner at Cohn Reznick currently focusing on the Cannabis Industry.

Steve Ramaley led the discussion specifically regarding how COVID has changed the trajectory of Congress and Government in general. As Congress is poised to introduce another stimulus package, other safeguards and changes were made to the FLEX and CARES Act including audits on those that took assistance. That said, Government Contractors in general have not been affected as much as other industries. Government spending is up, current funding is being repurposed, and contractors are typically not defaulting on leases. There are a number of programs designed to help government contractors, including section 3610 of the CARES Act that allows for the government to continue to pay contractors employees even if they aren’t doing anything to maintain a “ready to go” status. However, those funds do come with red tape that means many contractors will not qualify. Overall GSA commercial real estate is a bright spot for landlords as these types of offices likely will not convert to a work from home model.

 As far as the state of Higher Education, Emily Perl described it in one word. Chaos. As the second main source of income for most institutions is room and board, there is a real concern on the loss of income due to campuses choosing to go virtual for the near future. Institutions are being forced to balance their financial health versus the physical health of their students and staff. For those considering a hybrid in-person/virtual model, many institutions are considering changing their academic calendar – removing previously scheduled breaks and holidays in order to end the semester at Thanksgiving. Doing this would eliminate the risk of students traveling around the country just to return a week later. While COVID-19 is having a huge financial impact on higher education, small, private institutions are at the most risk. The threat to enrollment is not totally to blame on COVID-19, as there has been a declining rate of (students?) 18 years going to college in the past few years. For the time being, most capital projects are on hold, but the long-term outlook for higher education is still positive.

As it relates to Meds, the Cannabis industry has gained enormous momentum over the past several years and entered many metropolitan markets. However, many Cannabis growers have run into road blocks as their business may be legal locally, but not federally thus creating challenges for leasing and banking. For example, Cannabis growers cannot enter into a lease with a landlord that has debt on their books. As a result, the industry has shifted towards Cannabis REITS of mostly larger growth facilities, resulting in sale/leasebacks becoming a popular way to acquire their needed space. Overall, COVID-19 has not slowed the momentum of the Cannabis business and in fact has bolstered it. Arguments are being made to ease restrictions on the industry by legalizing it federally and thereby giving the government the opportunity to tax it during these difficult economic times. 

Overall, the Feds/Meds/Eds industry dynamics are shifting as a result of COVID-19 and an ever-changing cultural view of the world. While Eds appears to sustain the worst of effects of the pandemic overall, the outlook stays positive as the need for higher education will not disappear, just change. Feds has seen little impact to their industry to date, however as more measures and safeguards are put into place the resilience of some contractors could come into question. Cannabis shocked the Meds world a decade ago, but it is becoming more accepted the main stream medical community. If federal restrictions were eased, there could be an opportunity for both Feds and Meds to gain financially, but to date that remains to be seen.

Sponsor Spotlight: Simpli

Why did you join CREWBaltimore? What makes CREWBaltimore different?

I joined CREWBaltimore specifically because it is different from other CRE organizations. Today CREW offers me the same benefit it did when I first joined – relationships with authentic, smart, intentional, caring women that support, mentor and influence me in ways that extend beyond business.  When I started my company 25+ years ago, concierge services weren’t prevalent in commercial real estate and today workplace experience is a new and evolving industry without a playbook.  Surrounding myself with CREW friends and taking advantage of on-trend CREW resources taught me the ins and outs of CRE; negotiation skills; resiliency and perseverance and has helped me be successful in my company, industry, career and personal life for which I am grateful.    

How long have you been a CREWBaltimore member / member company?

Possibly 20 years…

In 2-3 sentences, what do you want CREWBaltimore members to know about your company?

Simpli, evolved from Charm City Concierge, enhances the workplace through onsite and virtual platforms that blend concierge services, experience management and technology).

We amplify building amenities, create memorable experiences, increase tenant well-being, and build lasting relationships for our partners.

We serve more than 45 million square feet of space that ranges from commercial office buildings to mixed-use properties, private corporations and corporate campuses.

Which CREWBaltimore event have you most enjoyed in the past year and why?

It has been an unusual year with employees abruptly working remotely and I think CREW Baltimore did a wonderful job of proactively pivoting to virtually engage members with valuable content and meaningful connections.  I’ve most enjoyed the Conversations Over Coffee weekly programming where I am able to virtually learn, connect and grow with friends even though we are all now working from home.

Best weekend activity in Baltimore?

I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, however, my office is located on Fort Avenue near Fort McHenry.  Many of my employees live downtown and frequently get this question from their clients.  Here are a few genuine answers – picking up charcuterie supplies from DiPasquales Italian Market to have a picnic at Fort McHenry near the water; walking the Baltimore Waterfront Promenade from Canton to Harbor East; shopping the local boutiques in Fells Point; reading a book in Patterson Park; going to the farmers market under 83; playing tennis or doing yoga in Latrobe Park in Locust Point and then getting coffee at Koba Café. 

What the benefits of women supporting women in the CRE industry?

Not many women are leaders in commercial real estate or technology. I’ve worked hard to overcome challenges in both of these areas–creating opportunities for myself and for new female leaders while bringing wellness, experiences and balance into workplaces. I’ve developed an all-female workplace where women are empowered to lead and evolve the company–resulting in exponential growth, innovation, and partnerships.

Best book or article you’ve read that had you fired up to take on the day/week/year at work?

I am passionate about mindfulness, wellbeing, culture and leadership and these things have anchored me in these crazy times.  I love reading books, however, now podcasts have become my daily “goto” for inspiration and motivation.  I am a big fan of Jeff Weiner, (former) CEO of Linkedin.  Two recent podcasts I’ve enjoyed featuring Jeff that have helped me mindfully lead and grow my Company are:  “Leading with Compassion” — Oprah Supersoul Conversation and “Transformational Moments and Learnings from Jeff Weiner” with Reid Hoffman.   

Some takeaways for me were:  Prioritize mindfulness, gratefulness, and balance in your career. Be intentional, genuine and joyful about your work. Weave this into how you show up, communicate, lead, manage, service and deliver. This mindset will encourage you to be authentic in the workplace – and ultimately create a holistic workplace culture that supports your growth as a person and professional.

Which CREWBaltimore event are you most excited about this year?

Although it has passed for 2020, I personally enjoy the Women of Influence event and hearing inspiring women leaders share their vision, personal stories of leadership and growth as well as advocacy for their teams, clients and women in CRE.

Tell us about a project, program or initiative that your company will be working on in 2020.

We have expanded our virtual programs during the global pandemic to provide an array of resources, services, unique experiences and events accessible for tenants and their families in office and remotely. Prioritizing our tenants’ health and well-being by offering an increased level of wellness content including  workshops, healthy meal delivery options, fitness series and mindfulness sessions. We have elevated tenant connections with our own technology mobile platform to ensure tenants and employees are informed on their building safety protocols, community happenings, and can access all of our services and perks all with the goal of keeping our tenants and  connected, productive and happy.

Christina Urquhart
President & CEO

Sponsor Spotlight: My Cleaning Service


Why did you join CREWBaltimore? What makes CREWBaltimore different?

I joined CREW to learn about the Commercial Real Estate Industry, make new contacts and cultivate my professional development.

How long have you been a CREWBaltimore member / member company?

My mother, Lisa Bands, had been a member of CREWBaltimore for many years before I joined My Cleaning Service, and for a while we were both members. I personally have been a member since 2011, and I am looking forward to celebrating 10 years with the chapter next year!

What do you want CREWBaltimore members to know about your company?

My Cleaning Service provides contract janitorial, post-construction cleaning and now COVID-19 disinfection services. We are working hard to be the premier resource to our clients, and the community as a whole by regularly communicating relevant information and rapidly responding to anyone’s disinfection needs.

Which CREWBaltimore event have you most enjoyed in the past year and why?

I have to say that even though this Stay-At-Home situation was unexpected, I feel that the weekly programming of the Conversations Over Coffee and Happy Hours have been a fantastic way to stay connected to the Chapter. Not only do I learn something on every call, but it is a great way to maintain a presence without being physically around others in the CRE Industry.

Best weekend activity in Baltimore?

Everyone knows I love to travel, so it’s rare that I am home on the weekends. When I am in Charm City, it is so amazing to see the vibrancy of the city on the weekends with festivals and a beautiful promenade around the water to walk during the day.  

What are the benefits of women supporting women in the CRE industry?

I think we have come a long way from the days of women stepping on each other to get ahead, but there is still more work to do. As a united front, we earn respect and gain strength within the entire CRE Industry to close the wage gap and land senior positions. I personally have made some friendships through CREW that will last a lifetime. There is some common bond we all have, understanding similar social, career, and family pressures that enables us to empathize with one another.

Best book or article you’ve read that had you fired up to take on the day/week/year at work?

I am an Audible junkie! I love listening to business books while I travel, workout, or even drive. Most recently I really enjoyed the OZ Principle, which discusses accountability. When you start applying the practices suggested in the book, it is amazing how your productivity and work performance skyrocket! My team does a weekly exercise based on this book, which only takes about 10 minutes, and it is producing phenomenal results! I highly recommend it.

Which CREWBaltimore event are you most excited about this year?

Hopefully the Beacon Awards! I am on the committee, and we have worked very hard to plan an incredible event this year. I am obsessed with the 1920’s theme, and it is always a fun night! 

Tell us about a project, program or initiative that your company will be working on in 2020.

In any company the key to success is effective communication. This year we are focusing on training and continuing education for our team, as well as, streamlining technological advances for communicating. Whether it is through video or face-to face, it is important to continue meeting with each other through weekly meetings, attending courses, events, and expanding upon our client-communication software. What makes us unique is our family-style company that offers 50 years of personal relationships and expertise, now coupled with the leveraging of modern technology. With so many decades of experience, and different generations working together, learning and communication is of the utmost importance.

Sponsor Spotlight: Omega Fire & Life Safety





Why did you join CREWBaltimore? What makes CREWBaltimore different?

Upon starting our company, we researched local networking groups that would give us access to our desired customer base and allow for professional skill development. From the first event when I was welcomed by Karen Pelton and Brenda Bodian, I knew CREWBaltimore equaled professional networking with a personal touch.

How long have you been a CREWBaltimore member / member company?

7.5 years

What do you want CREWBaltimore members to know about your company?

Omega Fire & Life Safety designs, inspects, monitors, and services scalable fire alarm, IP camera, card access, area of refuge (AOR), and security systems. Our company provides solutions during the design and install stages that encompass the long-term goal of simplifying the daily lives of building owners, property managers, facilities teams, and their tenants.

Which CREWBaltimore event have you most enjoyed in the past year and why?

The luncheon panels are always a favorite of mine. The sincerity and knowledge of the panelists and the moderators comes through every time and I always leave with new insight that helps  in both my professional and personal development.

Best weekend activity in Baltimore?

I use my weekends to get outdoors – I head to area ski slopes in the winter with my snowboard and hiking spots the rest of the year. And, of course, eating steamed crabs when possible!

What are the benefits of women supporting women in the CRE industry?

To me, the benefit is that we are learning to focus on and support the development of the attributes which individuals actually have direct control over. Being aware of inequities makes me look at how a person approaches his or her education, career choices, and professional networking.  Attributes such as drive, planning, sincerity, and ethics speak volumes about a person.

I often say you can be purple with green polka dots and a tail; it does not matter as long as you approach each interaction purposefully and ethically – that is an opportunity every single person has at his or her fingertips each day.

Best book or article you’ve read that had you fired up to take on the day/week/year at work?

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.

Which CREWBaltimore event are you most excited about this year?

The Beacon Awards on November 13th at the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Tell us about a project, program or initiative that your company will be working on in 2020.

Omega Fire & Life Safety is overhauling both its internal systems and the website to give customers multiple methods to connect with us to request a service call or inspection, share fire alarm and security system monitoring updates, access inspection reports and service tickets, pay invoices, and see the progress of fire alarm, security, IP camera, and card access system installs and renovation projects. We have a variety of customers with a mix of preferences from old-school phone calls to mobile alerts; our continued goal is to simplify interactions and get to the solutions more quickly. This is a benefit for anyone involved in the interaction.

Member Spotlight: Susie Kelly

Susie Kelly, Property Manager, Grander Capital Partners, LLC

Susie Kelly, Property Manager, Grander Capital Partners, LLC manages two Class A downtown assets in Baltimore City. She oversees the operation day to day, as well as the financial asset management for both buildings.

How long have you been a CREW Member?
2 Years

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to join CREWBaltimore? Was there someone who influenced you to join?
My manager at the time encouraged me to join and get involved. I was in a new position and was looking for ways to grow in my career while simultaneously connect with industry leaders. I joined the Membership Committee, which was the perfect place to start with CREWBaltimore. I was connected with both new and senior members, while having the opportunity to recruit more talent for our organization.

List any CREWBaltimore positions held or committees you have been a part of:
Membership Committee & Director of Membership for CREWBaltimore Board – Present

In your experience, what makes CREW unique from other organizations?
CREWBaltimore does an exceptional job of combining both network opportunities and career development, while most organizations focus on one or the other. This organization celebrates women in all stages of their careers by fostering mentoring opportunities, business to business partnerships, and engaging industry trailblazers to speak at our events.

How does CREWBaltimore support your career or leadership skills?
CREWBaltimore has encouraged me to take on leadership and career growth that I may not have thought I was ready for. When asked to be the Director of Membership, I was intimidated by the role. But with the support of our 2020 Leadership (and a lot of “You can do this!” conversations), I am so appreciative of the opportunity and truly look forward helping our chapter membership grow.

What do you think makes a good mentor and have you established any mentoring relationships through CREW?
In my opinion, a good mentor is someone who inspires you on a global, local, and personal level. Whether it be encouraging career dreams and aspirations, or motivating you to grow in your day to day activities, a good mentor pushes progress while cultivating individual growth. I have been very fortunate to have met amazing mentors through CREW guiding me with different perspectives.

Provide a fun fact about yourself.
For my 30th birthday, my husband flew me to LA to see my idol Ellen Degeneres. I love how Ellen brings positivity and laughter into everything she does.

What is your guilty pleasure (TV show, sweet treat, etc.)?
My guilty pleasure is definitely the show “The Office”. I am obsessed and have rewatched it atleast 10 times and can recite any line.

What would be the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?
If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is travel. The first three places I would go would be: Azores, Morocco, & Australia.

Student Scholarship Recipient: Megan Welch!


Each year, the CREWBaltimore Chapter selects one student amongst many applicants as the recipient of the CREW Baltimore Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to a strong female student who is pursuing a career in commercial real estate while also enhancing their education.

We are delighted to announce this year’s recipient, Megan Welch! Megan is a student at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Edward St. John Real Estate Program. We had a chance to connect with Megan and learn more about her past achievements and her hopes for the future in her Real Estate career.

After graduating Cum Laude from the University of Denver with a focus in Business Administration: Hospitality Management and International Business, Megan began her career working with Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Megan had many major achievements with Kimpton. She was a strong asset to their team, and facilitated the opening of 22 hotels in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. After four successful years with the company, Megan realized that although she loved the industry, she was ready to transition back to a student role and continue her education in real estate.

At the Carey Business School, Megan is working to receive her Master of Science in Real Estate Development and Infrastructure, and is set to graduate in August of 2020. Megan is interested in diving deeper into the development world, noting that development touches so many areas aside from construction which makes it attractive to her. Being one of nine females in the class, the only non-international female, and a member of the Real Estate Club, Megan is also working on a team for a local case study competition.

Megan is looking forward to attending one of our events in the coming months, and is eager to learn more about the opportunities CREWBaltimore has available to women in our area. Megan has a bright future ahead of her in the CRE World, and we couldn’t be happier to award her this year’s student scholarship!

Sponsor Spotlight: Absolute Services Industries


Why did you join CREWBaltimore? What makes CREWBaltimore different ?

 I was looking to establish an expansion network to my contacts.

I attended a couple of luncheons and was pleasantly greeted by board members each time.  It was also good that I only knew about 25% of the room attendees each luncheon.  The diversity of the group, the friendliness of the board and the opportunity to network with professionals I hadn’t met is why I joined.


How long have you been a CREWBaltimore member / member company?

I have been a member and sponsor for about 8 years now.


In 2-3 sentences, what do you want CREWBaltimore members to know about your company?

Absolute (MDOT (MBE/WBE) #13-222 & Baltimore City (MBE/WBE) #17-374062), provides commercial janitorial service throughout the tri-state area. We are happy to “earn your trust” with project services such as stone honing, floor restoration, carpet maintenance as well as construction/vacancy cleans. 


Which CREWBaltimore event have you most enjoyed in the past year and why?

National Federation for the Blind construction tour. It was nice to see a great company grow its message.


Best weekend activity in Baltimore?

Live music at Mecu.


What the benefits of women supporting women in the CRE industry?

There are more female property managers in our market. Female service providers can be quite the resourceful teammate.  We get each other.


Best book or article you’ve read that had you fired up to take on the day/week/year at work?

Becoming, Michelle Obama.


Which CREWBaltimore event are you most excited about this year?

The holiday party, it is always nice to take a moment to show thanks and appreciation.


Tell us about a project, program or initiative that your company will be working on in 2020.

During COVID-19, we have hired teachers, food industry servers as well as other furloughed employees to support our disinfection projects.



Women of Influence | Navigating the Climb

CREWBaltimore 2020 Women Business Owners

On January 21st, CREWBaltimore hosted the Women of Influence luncheon featuring Shina Parker, CEO & Founder of Integrity Title & Escrow, Karen Singer, Esq., Principal at KMS Partners, Colleen Vacelet, President of Intreegue Design, and moderated by Theresa Tsamoutalis, President & Principal of Allsafe Elevator Inspections. Topics of discussion ranged from juggling the work/home balance to why these women decided to strike out on their own.

To understand why these women are so exceptional, it helps to understand the demographics of the workforce and CRE in particular. The numbers of women and men first starting out in the workforce at the beginning of their careers are fairly equal, 75% are men and 74% are women. By mid-career, men outpace women in managerial roles 47% to 40%. By late-career those numbers are even higher, with 57% of men occupying managerial jobs and only 41% of women in the same position. Women represent 35% of the workforce in the US and only occupy 9% of the C-Suite positions. In commercial real estate specifically, there is a 23.3% pay gap in starting salaries between men and women. So how did these women navigate the industry to become leaders?

Their reasons for striking out on their own came from very different places. As a landscape architect, Vacelet found that she had hit the pay ceiling but worked diligently to gain experience and knowledge. That hard work eventually paid off and enabled her to start her own company and acquire her previous employer. When Parker was told to “know her place” after she was responsible for bringing in more than half of her previous employer’s business, she knew she had no other option than to start her own company. Twenty-one years later, she now owns the number one women-owned minority title company in the State of Maryland. Singer found herself in a different situation when corporate restructuring resulted in her being laid off with no plan B. Over the next several months she continued to network before starting her own firm working with developers in the market.

So how did they succeed in an industry that is statistically challenging for women? For Singer, she believes luck doesn’t just happen. Her advice is to put yourself out in the universe and lay the foundation of who you want to associate with. Continue to ask for feedback and take the time to listen. Vacelet believes the most important part to success is having a clear vision. Success isn’t what you want to be, it’s who you want to be. For Parker, success is the result of how you use the opportunities you have.

Closing words of advice from the panel were: Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Ask for feedback and listen; be teachable. Be a mentor, don’t overlook the associate or the assistant. After decades of progress, the demographics of the industry look the same. Push for diversity wherever possible.