Business horizon looks ‘busy and prosperous’ to head of Henderson landscape design firm

Cecilia Schafler, founder and president of Lage Design, poses in front of the company offices in Henderson Thursday, April 15, 2021. Lage Design is a landscape architecture firm that provides commercial, transportation, education and recreation design to clients in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah.

As Southern Nevada continues to struggle in the grip of an ongoing drought, water officials have asked the state Legislature to consider banning ornamental grass.

Such a move would create a lot of business for landscape architects such as Cecilia Schafler, president of Lage Design Inc., a downtown Henderson-based firm that has served the community for 14 years.

Schafler has 23 years of experience in the field and serves as an adjunct instructor at the UNLV School of Architecture.

We caught up with her to see how her small business has been affected by the pandemic, find out how she feels about the idea of banning nonfunctional turf, and get a feel for what it’s like to be a foster mom for bees.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your business?

The pandemic has actually enhanced our way of working and capacity to get things done. We all now have the ability and flexibility to work from home. We use just about every platform out there to communicate and stay connected with each other, clients, consultants, etc. However, I think we are all looking forward to being back together in the office.

Do you collaborate and partner with other companies locally?

Absolutely. We typically are a part of larger design teams, which requires a great deal of interaction and collaboration with clients, architects, engineers and contractors.

What are your thoughts on the legislative bill being considered that would ban ornamental grass?

For the most part, my colleagues and I believe that our profession inherently strives to fulfill the intent of the proposed legislative bill.

On every project that involves turf areas, we work diligently to help ensure that those areas are functional and are watered using the latest irrigation technology for efficiency and conservation. When nonfunctional turf areas are requested, we respond with creative and aesthetically pleasing solutions in lieu of turf that not only save water but save on maintenance costs as well.

What do you see happening in the industry over the next six months?

We are already seeing projects that were put on hold due to COVID-19 moving forward now. The next six to 12 months look busy and prosperous.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

I have had the pleasure of working for and with Jack Zunino, a true leader and innovator in our profession. I am so grateful for everything he has taught me and his mentorship over the years. He has always said, “Everyone in an office is responsible for marketing. We should always be marketing.” I have found this to be so true in many ways. Whenever I realize I do not have business cards with me, I am reminded of this wisdom.

Is there some business decision you’d like to have back and do differently?

As painful as some business decisions have been, I would not retract any of the decisions I have made or do things differently. Every failure and mistake has helped my team and I to learn and grow.

What has been your most exciting professional project to date?

This is like having to pick your favorite child. Every project has its individual nuances and exciting qualities. Having the freedom to stretch and try new things is what I find to be the most exciting in a project.

What do you do after work or on weekends?

I enjoy spending time with family, working in my yard and tending to my beehive.

A friend got me interested in bees and beekeeping. As landscape architects, we consider ourselves stewards of the environment. With the decline of bees and other pollinators so significant today, it is important that we recognize and protect their roles in our world. I am simply fostering this hive.

The hive is like a single organism and has a definite personality. I have learned so much and it is has been an incredible and rewarding experience.

They really don’t even need me. I am a novice beekeeper and have learned mostly by simple trial and error. They are self-regulating and great housekeepers. My job is to make sure they have everything they need, watch out for potential predators and invaders, and let them do their thing. I rarely wear the beekeeper gear anymore and have not yet been stung.

Describe your management style. How did you refine your management approach?

I take everything head on and I do not tiptoe around things. I am very much a work in progress, always learning and striving to find better ways to communicate and connect.

Whom do you admire?

I so admire my parents. They came to this country from Cuba with only three sets of clothes and what turned out to be worthless college degrees here. But they figured it out and lived the American dream. They taught me the value of hard work and education, and they showed me what character and integrity really mean.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve is not being able to find the right parking spot in a parking lot. My Type A personality will not allow me to settle for anything less than the perfect parking spot, and I will drive around and around until I get it.


This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.