Delta High grad-turned-entrepreneur solves problems with design
Arthur Baranovskiy, who credits YouTube and Pasco’s Delta High School for propelling him into technical drawing, is building a successful business offering drafting and related services to Tri-City businesses.
Baranovskiy, 24, isn’t shy about touting AYB Drafting, which offers drafting and design services, including technical drawings, blueprints for high-end custom homes and mechanical shop work. The Ricland-based business has six employees.
Chances are, he said, “you’re going to be an awesome client of AYB Drafting, you just don’t know it yet.”
Baranovskiy grew his startup in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and has found continued success ever since.
“We really do solve people’s problems,” he said. “You can’t get this permitted? We’re going to solve that for you. This machine’s broken? We’re going to solve that for you. A lot of problems can be solved with our technical skills.”
This includes unique challenges such as replacing one-of-a-kind parts, often designed to meet very specific needs.
“For industry, it was often a custom part designed by ‘Bob’ 60 years ago. There’s no company, there’s no blueprints. So, we take the part and reverse engineer it and give them drawings to make a brand new one with modern materials and methods,” Baranovskiy said.
Baranovskiy said hiring AYB is an economical move for companies that need occasional design work.
“For an engineering company, they don’t have to hire designers if they have us. Hiring a designer is expensive, you have to keep them busy,” he said. “Most engineers are overworked or there’s nothing to do. So we’re overflow work.”
Baranovskiy is a Tri-City success story. He built his business harnessing technical skills learned from YouTube by enrolling at Delta High School, the region’s only STEM-focused secondary school.
Delta led to an internship at Meier Architecture & Engineering, which led to a degree in electrical engineering from Washington State University Tri-Cities. That led to a job at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
At 22, he became an adjunct professor at Columbia Basin College.
Baranovskiy praised the skills he learned at Delta for helping him land a job at PNNL before he’d even received his bachelor’s degree.
“Delta gave me professional skills like interviewing, eye contact,” he said. “As technical individuals, most of us are not terribly socially aware, and Delta helps correct that before you even reach your technical degree.”
He had decided to leave a master’s degree program and his job at PNNL to focus solely on growing AYB Drafting when the pandemic hit. He’d taken home just $2 for the month in February 2020, which might make most entrepreneurs rethink their decision.
But Baranovskiy dug in and began wearing out his shoe leather in what he called “door-to-door marketing.”
“It’s just me looking into people who could potentially use my services and going out and meeting them. I researched every manufacturing, construction and HVAC company within a 50-mile radius of the Tri-Cities,” he said. “People liked seeing someone young, with energy, chasing work.”
The work he does is wide-ranging, often under the umbrella “blueprints,” but that goes far beyond homes and buildings.
“Design is the foundation of all engineering and construction,” he said. “People don’t realize that everything they look at was first modeled by a designer, like my company.”
He doesn’t just draw things planned for the future; his team also provides value by drawing what’s already there.
“We do a lot of ‘as-builts’ to create a blueprint of what exists today,” he said.
This is helpful if a company intends to build onto an existing structure.
“For something like a slaughterhouse that’s been operating for 80 years, their initial plans aren’t recognizable with today’s builders because every 10 years someone kept adding onto it,” he said. “So, we say, ‘As of today, here’s the most updated plan of what’s here.’ It includes every outlet, every bathroom, everything.” This makes it easier for proper permitting before future construction can begin.”
Slaughterhouses, oil refineries, steel mills and even Amazon Web Services have all become clients.
AYB Drafting currently manages 21 ongoing projects for about a dozen clients.
“AYB Drafting is fantastic,” said Jack Gourley, president of Kennewick’s G6 Engineering. “Their support helped us better serve our valued clients.”
One of AYB’s largest projects to date was for Amazon, now a repeat client, which first hired it for a 1,200-hour project with a six-week deadline.
“The data centers we work on are local, and it’s very convenient for them that the boots on the ground have the highest security and design clearances,” Baranovskiy said.
Success wasn’t instantaneous.
“A year ago, it was a very hard time. Everything was a failure, everything was rejection, until about November.”
Baranovskiy turned that around by hiring students he taught at CBC in classes like 3-D modeling and design.
He landed the position following an inquiry about how to find the best graduates of the school’s two-year drafting and design program. CBC happened to also need a 3-D modeling teacher, and soon he added college professor to his resume, which allowed him to mine his own classroom for the best and brightest talent.
“I can’t not teach because I don’t know who to hire. I’m always looking for additional talent because if I teach them for 10 weeks, I get paid to see someone’s work ethic and how they perform under stress,” he said.
Amazon saw the value in his teaching skills when it hired AYB Drafting to lead a design course for its engineers.
“Drafting is very neglected in four-year degree programs,” he said. “In the industry, you learn drawing from one person, who learned it from another, so you get a broken telephone of bad habits. When we do our drawings, we hit the reset button and teach the right way to draft.”
Baranovskiy is quick to promote the CBC program as a standalone program, not a precursor to a bachelor’s degree.
He said students can begin working in the field immediately upon graduation. To encourage interest in the local program, AYB Drafting is offering three scholarships to any drafting and design student at CBC, each valued at $1,500. “The bottom line is, come work for me, I need good designers,” he said.
While most entrepreneurs might not prioritize a scholarship program just a year after their company was barely turning a profit, it came as no surprise to the executive director for the Washington State STEM Education Foundation, Deb Bowen, who has known Baranovskiy since he was 16.
“I first met Arthur during his sophomore year at Delta High, and upon graduation, he quickly became one of our most reliable volunteers, taking part in many program events. He easily engaged students with his knowledge of drafting and engineering software, demonstrating self-taught skills,” Bowen said.
She cheered his recent acceptance into Harvard Business School’s Certificate of Management Excellence Program. “When I told her I want to make it into Fortune 500 before I’m 30, she said, ‘No, Fortune 100,’ ” he said.
Bowen is one of several mentors and family members he credits with support and encouragement to chase his dreams. “I see my future not as an engineer or designer, but as a manager or CEO,” Baranovskiy said. “Whether AYB is sold, bought out, or I leave AYB, I would like to continue having executive level positions in companies.”
As he strives to make Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List of entrepreneurs, the Tri-Cities entrepreneur has quickly made a name for himself in the design community and with clients.
“When people would see me as a 21-year-old, no one would take me seriously,” he said.
While he jokes that glasses and facial hair have helped, he finds his experience increased his confidence to promote his company’s offerings. “I am more assertive and I don’t let clients push me around. I stand up for my interests,” he said.
No project is considered off-limits for the scrappy AYB team, “If a client says, ‘Have you ever done this?’ We’ll say, ‘Honestly, we haven’t, but if you give us a week, we’ll be able to start your project on this day, and we’re going to spend all of next week training.’ ”