Episode 454

Creating an Intrapreneurial Firm with Dena Prastos

Jackie SageFeb 2, 2023

As Founder and CEO of Indigo River, Dena Prastos, AIA, is the first “waterfront architect,” trailblazing a new category in the industry. Indigo River is a women-owned transdisciplinary design firm focused on progressive waterfront architecture, resiliency,  and climate adaptation. A leading authority in New York Harbor and beyond, the firm specializes in climate adaptation through waterfront solutions that seamlessly transcend boundaries – guiding and executing projects from ideation through final construction and operations. 

Waterfront architect, civil engineer, futurist, climate adaptation expert, entrepreneur, and create original, Dena is driven to transform the built world at the water's edge. With transdisciplinary and progressive views, she is fueled by the overlapping of design, technology, and nature. 

Dena is a licensed architect with a graduate degree in civil engineering. Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, she deeply appreciates nature and humankind's ability to design, build, and create infrastructure in some of the world's harshest conditions. Dena is an experienced leader of innovative leading projects around the world, directing infrastructure construction, marine engineering, and the design of waterfront architecture. This experience has given her the tools to navigate the firm's diverse client work with her unique vision and competency in construction, engineering, and waterfront architecture. 

As a one-stop shop for solutions at the water’s edge, Indigo River works on notable projects around New York Harbor including East Side Coastal Resiliency in Manhattan, Robert De Niro's Wildflower Studios in Astoria, River Ring in Williamsburg, and the  Harlem River Greenway in East Harlem.  

Before starting Indigo River, Dena worked at DCAK MSA Architecture and Engineering as the Director of Project  Management and Business Development, McLaren Engineering Group as a senior project manager, and at The Conti Group.  Dena earned her Bachelor of Architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), where she subsequently completed a  graduate degree in Civil Engineering. At NJIT, she was a Division 1 soccer player. After gaining valuable experience in the industry, she went to Harvard Business School’s “Leading Professional Service Firms” Executive Education program.  

She serves on the National Council of Architectural Registration Board’s (NCARB) Future Collaborative. In 2021, she joined the AIA Resilience and adaptation Advisory Group, and in 2022 she was asked to join AIA’s YAF Summit 30: Mission 2130;  the Summit seeks to respond to critical issues present in the profession, namely, to address challenges the architecture profession will face in the next century, focusing on architecture, society, and our planet. She also serves on her local Planning  Board in historic Grand View-on-Hudson, New York. 

In this episode we will discuss:

  • Intrapreneurialism in practice what that means and how to cultivate it 
  • Why defining a new niche and category of architecture has been so important and successful for the firm
  • How multiple service offerings within their niche act as paid-for marketing

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Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.


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