When Michael Santora, BSA ’05, turned 26, he gave himself an unusual birthday present: He quit his job at M. Moser Associates, a Manhattan-based design firm where he had been the youngest director in company history, and started his own business—a goal he had been striving toward since he was 12 years old.
To be one’s own boss is a common aspiration, but even as a boy Santora took that ambition a few steps further. Growing up in Stamford, Conn., he was inspired by an urge to shape city life when he sketched out a plan to build his own vertically integrated real estate, architecture and engineering conglomerate. And today it’s that vertical integration that makes his Manhattan-based Crown Architecture and Consulting, Inc., unique.
“Most firms focus on a niche,” Santora says. “But we feel we can become more efficient by not having to interact with other consultants, thus making us faster and more cost effective to the client.”
Today, Crown is a multimillion-dollar company with an eclectic portfolio of restaurants, residences, commercial buildings, schools, and medical clinics. The firm has expanded into development and expediting, and Santora notes proudly, “We have outgrown our office four times.”
The firm is looking to expand further, Santora says, and he hopes that will mean hiring graduates from his alma mater. To that end, he has been working to create co-op opportunities for Wentworth students at Crown and at other New York City firms. Well-aware of the educational value of co-ops—he did three with the New York firm Attick & Nystrom Architects while an undergraduate—he also admits that the effort is “a little selfish. I really support Wentworth’s educational style. In general, they produce much more realworld- ready students.” Santora has also created an endowment fund to provide scholarships for future Wentworth architecture students—a way, he says, to show his gratitude for the financial aid that helped him take that big birthday risk. Without the scholarships he received and the education they paid for, he says, “I wouldn’t have been able to start my own business at 26.” —Amy Crawford