We had the good fortune of connecting with Ann Cox and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ann, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I think from a young age I knew deep down I would someday own my own business, even though I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I have always been driven and self-motivated. When I was 15, I had to have an intense spinal surgery that kept me out of school for a semester. After finishing a semester’s worth of work in about 3 weeks, I begged my mom to be home schooled. I knew that if I could balance school with other things, like a job, I would be so much happier. She found a home school program that allowed me to work on my own, which, as a single mom, allowed her to work full time as she supported my brother and I. I remember being so thrilled that she was giving me a chance to prove I could do it! I homeschooled for 3 hours in the morning and then worked at Quicksilver in the mall in the afternoon, before picking my brother up from school. I loved the independence, creating my own schedule, and overseeing what I wanted to do. Coming from a family of makers and artists, I’ve always been engaged with the arts and been drawn towards creative fields. After college, I ended up working for West Elm as their Lead Stylist. Working for West Elm was rewarding, but I knew I wanted to branch out, work with new materials, and have access to more than just their catalog of furniture. While working for them, I started doing outside consultations for friends and family that wanted more than the “West Elm look”. It didn’t take long to realize that working for myself was what I really wanted to be doing. I knew that once I made my mind up, this is what I was going to do, and I’d never look back. Jumping into my own business was an easy decision for me because I have always taken risks in life. I like to give myself a year to try something new or make a large change, and if it doesn’t work out after that, at least I know I gave it a shot. A year is such a short moment in time that it is almost always worth giving it a chance. I then try to reflect and take an honest look at what I am doing and try not to let my biases take over. Don’t get me wrong, the first year of business was stressful, I had no idea what I was doing. I never had anyone teach me “this is how you run a business.” I firmly believe I cannot be great at everything, so getting my dream team of experts together was very important to me. The first thing I did was get a CPA, Lawyer and settled on what design software I was going to use to keep everything organized. Setting myself up with a great business foundation helped me feel more secure about what I was starting. The first few years of business I figured out what processes work for me and what do not. I was not afraid to try new things and switch something up if it was not working. I knew that if I wanted this to be a long-term career that I needed to be flexible. This May will mark 5 years of doing what I love. 2020 has taught me a lot, as I am sure it has for many others. I don’t think anyone was ready for this year but, even with all the uncertainty, I have no regrets on the choices I have made to get where I am today. The thought process behind starting my own business comes from a deep sense of being connected with what I love: color, shape, texture, and environment. I love the sense of freedom that running my own business gives me. It is rewarding that I can share my passion, knowing that I am curating spaces for people and families to enjoy, helping them create new memories. Even though it isn’t always sunshine and flowers, the rainy days are just as rewarding as the sunny ones.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I love curating environments! I want my clients to feel transported to another space and immediately feel at ease in their home. While I can design for all styles, I shine when I can play with color. I love to add unexpected pieces in spaces; a funky table or lamp, maybe an interesting piece of art or unexpected color palette. It has been a long, nearly five year, journey to get where I am today, but I honestly I have so much more to learn and room to grow. I think my constant flexibility and positive attitude has helped me keep going. It is very rewarding running a business, but it is still a job and everyday is not always fun. I have learned that I need to be patient and not take everything personally. At the beginning it was so hard to not take things personally. It was hard to separate the business from the person. Over time, I learned how to interact with clients, trades people, and projects through the lens of a job. I pour my heart and soul into every project, making it very personal to me, but sometimes things go wrong, we cannot be perfect all the time. It’s hard, but important, to always navigate issues in a productive way and address things as an objective business owner. One thing I want people to associate with my story or brand at this point is professionalism, but also equity. As designers we, rightly, are always focused on the happiness and wellbeing of our clients, but it is important to put that same positive energy towards your professional team. I see my delivery guys, wood workers, upholsters, painters and vendors as my team. If they are not happy, neither am I. I have surrounded myself with a special community of people and I know that without them, my scary ideas would never come to life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Are we counting COVID rules? Before the pandemic I would have loved to go to whatever the new bar or restaurant is, but things are so different now! I love kayaking, and because I live in Florida, I get to do it year-round. I love taking my kayaks to different places around Florida and discover some of the hidden gems we have hiding around here. I love to travel to some of the smaller towns and admire their homes and architecture from the water. I love being able to show visitors the parts of Florida that rarely get talked about. Even beyond the beaches, there are so many unexpectedly beautiful places to explore. A dinner party would definitely be on the list! We love to host, so I would invite my closest friends over and celebrate your arrival! Ryan, my partner, is an amazing cook – so there is always tons of food. I enjoy making tablescapes and charcututerie boards, so I would have it decked out with some sort of theme for the evening. We would all share stories, have drinks and snacks, then would set up our huge blow-up movie screen in the backyard, watch a movie and relax!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Absolutely! I owe so much of my success to the amazing people around me. Number 1 must be, without question, 100% my Mother. She is such an incredible woman who showed me what female business ownership can look like. She is a fabulous interior designer and traditional artist. I grew up watching her work. She always allowed me to make mistakes growing up, which I think helped me hone my decision-making skills in ways that would later shape how I run my business. She always encouraged me to do what I love. Number 2 is my Brother. My brother is fearless and, from a young age, has always known what he wanted to do. Music was always part of his life, and he created a career for himself in that industry. There was never another option. Seeing his determination gave me hope. Number 3: My Partner and Friends. Without the support of my boyfriend and friends I would not have the strength and daily confidence boosters I need to move forward. The late-night wine hang outs on my porch were crucial to get through the hard days. My closest friends are my support group, and I love them so much!
Photography: Ashlee Hamon Photography