Architectural and engineering companies headed by minority owners are, well, a minority. They are mostly small and don’t have the networking base that larger, more established companies do. Pedro Castro (’92, MS Arch.), owner of Magellan Architects in Redmond and an immigrant from Brazil, has taken a lead in mentoring minority-owners of Puget Sound-area architecture and engineering companies.
“I met my personal goal, to run a successful office, and now I want to give back,” says Castro, who works with the state’s Department of Enterprise Services to collaborate with and coach minority-owned architectural and engineering businesses.
He finds talented architects who are working for large firms and want to start their own companies, but don’t necessarily have the business knowledge they need. And he was recognized for his work in 2017, when the Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council named him Supplier of the Year, an award given to certified minority business enterprises that “excelled in their commitment to leadership excellence in business performance, inclusive performance, and minority business development.”
Castro’s work starts in his own office, where architects and support staff come from a variety of backgrounds, and about half of the 27 employees are women. Part of the reason is that the company was “flexible from the beginning, being a true start-up” when he opened it in 2000, Castro says. His wife was a part-time worker while raising their three children, and so he was open to hiring women who were doing the same thing. He has continued with flexible scheduling for any worker who needs it—a bonus when it came to working around the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Now he calls himself “Chief Explorer Officer,” rather than the traditional CEO, and is concentrating on starting new offices and coaching new owners in the western United States and Brazil.
The son of an architect in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Castro had his own humble beginnings. He began doing internships with architectural companies from his first year of architecture school at Bennett University in Rio. By his fourth year, he had opened his own design/build firm doing smaller projects and hiring students to do the drafting. His office was downstairs from his grandparents’ home in a triplex. He didn’t have a phone because, in Brazil, it takes six months to a year to get a line and it’s expensive. So his retired grandparents acted as his secretaries, answering their phone for him.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1987, Castro came to the United States to learn English and further his education. He was taking English as a Second Language classes at a community college near San Jose, California, when he met Julianna Case (’89, ’92 MA English), who later became his wife. Her grandparents, parents, and four brothers are all Cougar alumni, and at one time her picture was featured on a WSU brochure.
“I expressed a desire to go to graduate school, and so she suggested WSU,” Castro remembers. “We packed everything into a Ford Fiesta and moved to Pullman. We lived a simple life in a tiny apartment, living on Coke and pizza while she earned her master’s in English and I earned mine in architecture.”
The couple eventually settled in Case’s hometown of Redmond, where Castro began working with Lee Architectural Group, then the larger MulvannyG2 Architects, now MG2. He opened his own full-service architectural company in 2000.
Today, he hosts meetings of the Architects and Engineers Agency in his Redmond office, belongs to the Northwest Minority Council, and is a member of One Redmond, the city’s Chamber of Commerce and economic development enterprise.
Why Magellan? “I didn’t want my own name on the business, that ego thing,” Castro says. So, he made a play on his middle name (his full name is Pedro Azevedo de Magalhaes Castro) and chose the name of the famous Portuguese explorer. He keeps an antique telephone in his office to remind himself of his start in his grandparents’ triplex—and makes time to go exploring.
A longtime motorcycle enthusiast, Castro enjoys planning long rides. He recently rode from Tijuana through Baja California with his sons, Lucas and Peter, a videographer who documented the adventure in a YouTube series. Castro’s latest motorcycle trip—from Rio de Janeiro through Patagonia—was thwarted due to the pandemic. But, in 2008, he rode some 6,000 miles roundtrip from Redmond to Alaska and, in 2013, he rode from Redmond to Rio.
That same year, Magellan was named one of the fastest-growing minority-owned businesses in Washington by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The firm opened an office in California in 2011, another in Dallas, Texas, in 2017, and another in Rio De Janeiro in 2019. Castro is actively looking for more.
When architects join what he calls “the Magellan family,” the home office handles billing and other chores “architects hate.” They share personnel and marketing to minimize the “hire and fire” cycle that can happen with market fluctuations. Castro is co-owner of the new offices, and principals buy shares so that they can eventually become full owners.
“I’m transitioning to the roles of coach and consultant,” says Castro, noting he’ll help open as many new offices as he can. “If good people have good mentorship, it minimizes failures.”