A One-on-One Interview with Modern House Numbers Co-Founder, Brandy McLain


Brandy McLain is the owner and founder of Modern House Numbers, a thriving e-commerce enterprise providing architectural quality addressing products for residential and commercial customers. Started in 2008 with her husband Rick McLain, Modern House Numbers was born of a desire to empower people to add style and value to their environment, wherever they live. The Modern House Numbers catalog is an intentional selection of numbers, letters, plaques, signs, and decals in iconic fonts and finishes that will look fantastic anywhere they are installed. Trained as architects, Brandy & Rick pour their passion for design and craft into every number they make. Their knowledge and industry expertise is a significant asset to their customers and clients. Modern House Numbers is the trusted source for homeowners, builders, architects, developers, and real estate agents for handcrafted addressing products proudly handcrafted in the USA.

Q: How did the idea for Modern House Numbers come about?

BM: We discovered the inspiration and motivation to start Modern House Numbers during the renovation of our first home.

 After finishing re-landscaping our front yard of our 1950’s home we knew we wanted to add large modern address numbers as a final touch. To our surprise, we couldn’t find anything we liked. With our background in architecture and construction, we went about making our own. After we put them up, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers began knocking on our door asking us where we purchased our matching set of address, mailbox, and curb numbers. We quickly realized that we were not the only homeowners searching for stylish address numbers. We jumped at the chance to be able to help people add beautiful, modern details to their own projects.

Q: How has your experience and education influenced your company values?
While in architecture school, I heard the quote by Pritzker Prize-winning, Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, “start how you want to finish” and it’s always resonated with me. It became my mantra when we started our business. I use this statement frequently, and especially when I’m considering any change, like adding a new product line, modifying an established process, or hiring a new staff member. It reminds us to stay true to our core values of excellence.

One thing that I do without fail, every day, is to foster strong relationships. I’ve worked in environments where I didn’t feel valued, and I wanted the culture at Modern House Numbers to feel different. From our vendors to our staff, I am always working to encourage open communication to build and earn trust. Over time, these efforts have resulted in meaningful, long-term connections with innumerable benefits. We could not have achieved this level of success or longevity without all the individuals that make up our Modern House Numbers community. We don’t take anyone for granted.

Q: What is your leadership philosophy?
I believe wholeheartedly in the value of collaboration. In our 15 years, we’ve grown from 2 to 30 staff members. I’m very intentional about hiring folks who fit well within our existing culture of mutual respect. We have a multi-generational staff with a wide range of talents and experience. 

They have diverse talents and interests and share our enthusiasm for customer care and the craftsmanship of our products. We have fostered a supportive and mentoring working environment where learning and leading is encouraged. We believe the more diverse our team, the better the ideas and solutions that emerge. 

From the start, we have avoided titles and hierarchy. Every voice and idea is important. We always encourage questions and suggestions. It’s how we’ve continued to grow and consistently improve. Our annual staff retreat generates an incredible list of ideas, opportunities, and solutions far beyond what we could come up with on our own.

We’re fiercely loyal to our team, vendors, and to our customers. We wouldn’t change a thing about our values, our business model, or our culture.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced since starting your business?
For entrepreneurs, each day brings new challenges and opportunities. This is part of the fun of owning your own business. One of the biggest struggles we’ve faced was making the decision to remain open and operational at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. We agonized over finding the best way to keep our team safe and healthy while also taking good care of our customers. 

During the pandemic, closing temporarily or shifting our staff to working virtually were not viable options for us. Our team came up with solutions to successfully work in shifts, complete certain tasks from home, and schedule food and supply deliveries to older staff who were most at risk. It was a very challenging time. We’re happy that our strategy and precautions worked. We were able to balance all the demands of safety and customer care during this time. 

Q: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting your business?
BM: Creating a work environment that fosters mutual respect, positive relationships and establishing a precedent for long term employees has been a focus of mine from the start. In the current market, it is hard to hire dedicated, hardworking, and loyal employees. It’s also a huge investment to train new employees with the skills needed to effectively do their jobs. It's always been a top priority to devote a lot of time and effort into finding the right people. Once I find them, I pour as much into those employees as possible to arm them with the skills necessary to do their jobs independently. Once established, team members are encouraged to modify how they complete tasks in ways that work for them individually.

I think one of the reasons we don’t have much turnover at Modern House numbers is because I’m committed to treating others the way I want to be treated. I’m flexible with staff schedules (around drop-off/pickups for staff members with children and class schedules for students), allow remote work, flexible vacation time, and hold positions for staff members who need to take time off due to illness. Additionally, I challenge staff to develop professionally and align work tasks with each employee’s strengths and interests. Lastly, I collaborate with staff when making business decisions, both large and small. It’s important for me that team members feel valued and invested in the success and growth of the company. Having ownership in what they do and how the company changes is vital to keeping long-term employees.

Q: What does a day in the life of Brandy look like?
BM: One of the great things about managing the daily operations at Modern House Numbers is that no two days at the office are alike. This means a lot of multitasking, which keeps things interesting! Each day has a mix of design work, troubleshooting, coordinating with vendors, and working closely with our team to execute all of the various tasks required to fill orders. To keep myself productive and efficient, I have to be very organized. We have a daily schedule where our operational teams have specific tasks assigned to support our weekly production schedule. Paramount to each day is taking great care of our customers; that means a lot of email, proofs and phone calls, and being hyper-focused on quality control.

Another day-to-day focus is balancing family and work obligations. Running a business and being a mother of three kids under the age of eleven is complicated. There is always someone that needs something or something that needs to be done. This is not an easy task and the way I approach it changes on a daily basis! Each week I try to set goals that I can accomplish in and out of the office. Some days will have more work obligations and others more family time. I thrive when I’m volunteering on a school field trip, coaching youth soccer or Rhine stoning dance costumes. As a leader/ mother I strive to be a role model to younger staff and to my children on how to balance all the things you love.

Q: What motivates you?
BM: After all these years, I am still motivated by the joy and satisfaction of knowing that we’re a part of helping people love their homes and improve their neighborhoods and communities. We often work one-on-one with residential customers, helping them pick just the right house numbers for their homes. We also work closely with our commercial customers to create custom monuments and wayfinding signage. It’s a great feeling to be able to connect with our customers on a daily basis. Most customers are shocked when I call them, and they find out I am the owner! 

Q: What is your favorite Modern House Number product?
My favorite Modern House Number product is our Austin house lowercase letters. They are modern, thin and sleek. There is nothing else out there on the marketplace. Make sure you check them out! I love it when customers use them to spell out their address numbers or for kid room signage.

Q: What is one word of advice you can offer to young women who want to reach your level of success?
My biggest piece of advice to someone starting a new business is to believe in yourself and get your idea to the starting line as quickly as possible. If you’ve done your homework, don’t get hung up on what might or might not happen, and don’t let others talk you out of your idea. This will delay you from getting started. Once you launch, you’ll adapt, refine, adjust, and move forward. This is the nature of entrepreneurship and growth. Spending too much time worrying about all the possible outcomes before you’ve begun will delay your dream. Launching is the hardest part.

Q: Can you tell our audience one of the most memorable moments of your career?
Purchasing a commercial building to hold our studio was a monumental day in my entrepreneur career. We had been working from our kitchen and my husband’s office for six years. Moving, designing, and constructing our own 3500 square foot office building seemed unreal at first. In fact, when we purchased the building, we decided to rent half of the space to another small business thinking that someday we might need a bigger space. To my amazement, within a year we took over the whole building. 

Moving into our own space allowed us to expand our team, purchase materials in bulk and create weekly/daily routines that helped us to grow faster than we had ever imagined. It’s still fun driving up every day and admiring how far we have come in fifteen years.

Q: At the start of your career, what do you wish you had known? 
Don’t listen to nay-sayers, do what you think is right and you will succeed! When we started Modern House Numbers, everyone we knew pretty much thought we were crazy to think we could turn such a small idea into a real business. Fifteen years later we have a 3500 square foot building and have almost thirty employees strong. 

This same methodology applies to your business’ reviews. At first, I was devastated by a negative review or comment. - but overtime I learned to go with my gut because it is the best judge of what's right or wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit when I make a mistake, but I’m also not afraid to stick up for what I feel is right, if I know my team isn’t at fault.

Q: Which woman inspires you and why? 

BM: I have always admired and respected Ray Eames, a mid-century modern furniture designer, for her ability to design beautiful modern products that are functional, timeless, and affordable. Ray and her husband Charles Eames designed simple and modern practical everyday objects such as chairs, shelves, and children’s toys. They used a very small pallet of affordable, readily available materials consisting of plywood, leather, and metal connectors. In fact, most of the materials they used were left in their raw state. If they wanted to accent something they used a minimal splash of a primary paint color. To form their designs, they used creative, affordable construction methods such as steam to create subtle bends and curves in rigid plywood. Their products not only stood out for their design, but they were affordable and could easily be mass produced. Simplicity can be seen in every step of the way Ray worked from design concept to manufacturing. I aspire to apply a similar practice to our small business.

Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you? 
Inspired by a close friend’s father who was an architect, I was passionate about pursuing a career in Architecture. After high school, I was accepted into the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture and Planning. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. After graduation, I was honored to work for a local Planning and Consulting firm doing urban planning and design for nine years. I left my job in urban planning to jump full time into the development of Modern House Numbers, which my husband and I had started while both working full time. My true goal has always been to be an entrepreneur and I am lucky I married an Architect who had a similar passion.

Five Things About Brandy McLain 

1. What's your favorite family tradition?
Our family gathers once a year to bake Christmas cookies with all the generations. We made traditional Italian recipes passed down from my great grandmother who immigrated to the United States from Italy as a young child. While cooking, the older generations share stories of our heritage. It's a very special day for all. 

2. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
I love being outside gardening or improving our exterior landscape. I grew up spending most all my time outdoors and it still brings me joy to this day.

3. What TV shows did you watch when you were a kid?
I loved watching MacGyver! I was fascinated how he solved problems magically with commonly found items and always defeated the bad guy in the nick of time.

4. Do you read reviews, or just go with your gut?
I am a data driven person, so I almost always read reviews before making a purchase. I often look at both extremes – 1- and 5-star reviews. I feel this gives me a variety of things to consider before making a purchase. 

5. What’s your big passion?
Good design, from everyday simple kitchen objects to exquisite Modern art. In my opinion, there is no reason that simplicity shouldn’t be considered in designing products, it adds to the pleasure in looking at or using an object


Tania Luna, She Has Built Multiple ..

Tania Luna, She Has Built Multiple Companies,..

TANIA LUNA is an entrepreneur, psychology researcher, and author of LEAD TOGETHER: Stop ..

She Stands as an Influential Force ..

She Stands as an Influential Force That Guide..

Q: Can you share some insights into how fixation beauty has managed to stand out in the ..