Dallas-based small-business owner Brittany Cobb is a rare find. A journalist by trade, she first cut her teeth as a lifestyle reporter and editor, working for publications like The Dallas Morning News, DailyCandy, Forbes, and Lucky magazine. In 2009, Brittany decided to cultivate her passion for flea market finds and curated a variety of vendors for a one-time holiday shopping event in Dallas. The show became a local success, and after six consecutive years of growth, she turned her knack for curating vintage and artisanal products into a full-time profession, expanding the coveted concept to additional cities across the U.S.
As the founder of Flea Style, Brittany oversees a team of five employees and supports artistic and small-business communities by curating a one-of-a-kind experience for local shoppers. Here, we take a tour of the Flea Style office and chat with Brittany about making the switch from editorial to events, how she styles funky flea market finds in her 9-to-5 space, and what’s next for her budding business on a mission to support fellow “movers and makers.”
Name: Brittany Cobb
Current job/company: Founder, Flea Style
Education: BA in journalism from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas)
What was your first job out of school and how did you land it?
When I graduated from SMU, I was a lifestyle writer for The Dallas Morning News. I covered everything from fashion boutique openings to new home design lines and High Point Market. I worked my tail off to get that job. I was an intern for two years while in school before they offered me the job while still a senior in college. I took night classes to graduate a semester early so I could secure the position over somebody else already in the job market.
How did Flea Style come about?
After a few years at the newspaper, I moved to New York to explore a freelance writing career. About a year into my NYC stint, former lifestyle e-newsletter DailyCandy asked me to move back to Texas and take over their Dallas editor role. While at that job, I met so many cool creatives and decided to put together a small holiday market to support them and make some extra Christmas money. The event was a big success, and it slowly became my full-time job as it continued to gain steam.
What important lessons did you learn in your editorial roles that have transitioned into owning your own business?
My journalism experience is my biggest asset as a business owner. First and foremost, my writing skills are used daily between pitching panelists, crafting web content, writing blog stories, drafting social media posts, and conversing with lawyers about trademarks or contract needs. I also learned the power of the press and how to work with publicists to get messaging out to the public. One of the major reasons our shows are successful is because we bring thousands and thousands of shoppers through the door. Between my media relationships and publicity know-how, we’re able to do that. You can’t buy that kind of thing. I was a market editor so my eye is another key player in Flea Style. As a journalist, I was constantly pulling product, carefully putting items together to create a curated story, and looking for the next trends or things that the average eye might not see. That’s also key job responsibility of mine at Flea Style—compiling the perfect panelist group or curating goods for our shows specific to the season, city, current economic mood, etc.
Did you start off by yourself? Or did you bring on help immediately?
I was a lone ranger for years and years. I hired my first Flea Style employee last year and only brought on additional help and made them all full-time employees this year.
You are now launching Flea Style Summit. Can you tell us a little more about this endeavor? How did you realize it was the next step in evolving your brand?
Our shows are always in the spring and fall, typically the best weather months in the South. As we’ve grown and brought full-time employees on board, we needed something in the summer and winter months to fill the gaps and keep us busy and connected with our vendors, shoppers, and followers. I wanted to do something that gave back to the creative community. I thought a conference that put successful small-business owners and our amazing artisan roster on stage was an authentic and fun way to further our mission year-round.
What should attendees expect? Can anyone attend the Flea Style Summit or is it geared toward a specific audience?
We are completely open to anyone interested in an inspiring, educational, and creative day. However, I would say that creatives, bloggers, and small-business owners would highly benefit from our summit.
Follow a passion that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. In order to be successful—financially or personally—a business requires your heart, soul, and countless hours of dedication and stress.
Our mission is to further connect and inspire the creative community through the authentic relationships we’ve built with successful small-business owners over the past seven years. Expect an inspiring day jam-packed with panels, creative workshops, and more. Our panelists range from interior designers and calligraphers to online shopkeepers, retail titans, and travel bloggers. Startup failure stories, photography filter tips, trademarking advice, and brand partnership strategy are just a few topics we’ll explore. Attendees will leave inspired, but more importantly, they’ll walk away armed with the often times elusive information it really takes to catapult a career goal to the next level. We have so much fun in store, too: happy hours, aura portraits and readings, a retail shop brimming with our stylish panelists’ products…It’s going to be a blast!
What’s next for Flea Style?
We have so much planned! In a couple of weeks we launch our online store, which will offer goods from our vendors and my personal flea market treks around the clock. It will start out small, but we plan to really expand it over the next year to include hundreds of our vendors—both currently in our shows and those interested but unable to join us due to their schedules and locations. We’re already working on our winter summit for early 2017, as well as our next city show location, which we will announce this fall.
What advice would you give other women wanting to start their own businesses?
Follow a passion that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. In order to be successful—financially or personally—a business requires your heart, soul, and countless hours of dedication and stress. You won’t mind putting in the work if you are deeply passionate about the mission.
Where did you start when decorating the office?
When I leased our new office, we doubled square footage and had two weeks to make the move. I needed affordable items…and fast! For the corporate stuff and things I needed multiples of—desks, desk chairs, table lamps—I shopped online. Our white Parsons desks were less than $150 each from Overstock. I also scored our conference room’s mahogany coat rack and groovy black leather and chrome head chairs from the site. Our cool white leather desk chairs, brass and acrylic lamps, and conference room rug are from Target. I bought the gorgeous white driftwood pendant from Pottery Barn Teen and our conference table from West Elm. Our entry console is from IKEA, the shelving system above it is from Home Depot, and the floor mirrors are from Crate & Barrel. (They moonlight as dressing room mirrors at our shows.) Nearly everything else is either from our events, vendors, a local estate sale, or flea markets. I really aimed to outfit the rest of the space with handmade, vintage, and one-of-a-kind items from budding businesses.
What was the biggest splurge?
Our lounge’s teal American Leather Inc. sofa, my 1960s campaign desk, or the blush Beni Ourain rug from my trip to Marrakech last spring.
How would you describe your style?
Bohemian. Layered. Authentic. Global. Eclectic. Affordable. Funky. I love spaces that effortlessly blend a mix of eras, styles, colors, patterns, and textures. I would hope when someone visits our space, they are instantly comfortable, but also intrigued by our decor choices and interested in learning the story behind the pieces.
The fun thing about not matching interiors too much is that there’s almost always room for anything you love.
What are some of your favorite places to shop for decor?
In Dallas, I adore vintage shops like Scout Design, White Elephant, and Lula B’s. I’ve also started shopping Instagram accounts such as ShopFleaMarketFab, MMVintage59, and ShopVintageDallas.
How long did it take before you felt the space was “done”?
It will never feel that way! That’s the beauty of eclectic spaces. There’s always room to fold in another funky find, especially since I’m always surrounded by cool loot. Our art wall, for example, welcomes a new friend nearly every month. Our vendors are always sending us treats to add and we love it! We hope to cover the entire office in these sentimental—and totally stylish—treasures over time. That’s the fun thing about not matching interiors too much: there’s almost always room for anything you love.
Do you have a favorite piece?
I adore our art wall’s Wild Standard flag scored from our vendor Manready Mercantile. It says: “Start from nothing. Create something with purpose. Fight your way through it all. Stay true and earn your stripes.” Those words not only resonate with me, but inspire me every day when I walk in the door. It also sets the tone for what we’re all about when people visit our office.
What is your work-life balance like? Do you think such a thing even exists when running your own business?
Yes, I think it can exist if you don’t eat, breath, and sleep your business. But I do, so it’s a daily struggle for me. Plus, I have two very little children so I’m always juggling “work life” and “mom life.” I’m the best at either job when I fully dedicate my time to the one in front of me. So from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (unless I need to take a little one to the doctor or swim lesson), I’m in full Flea Style mode. Any other minute of the day I’m mommy and wife, unless the littles are in bed, and then I’m usually back on email, social media, or mapping out my week.
Best moment of your career so far?
We’ve had some pretty huge milestones and celebratory moments over the past six months: expanding to Houston, launching Flea Style Summit, building an e-commerce site (coming in two weeks)…But honestly, taking my employees from contract labor to full-time status has been a career highlight. They are my backbone and I’m so happy to give them job security and proof that we’re pouring a solid foundation for Flea Style to flourish.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
From a business standpoint, I’d say keep dreaming big, always follow your gut, say “yes” and figure it out later, and take risks (especially big ones) while you’re young and not strapped with too much responsibility. Don’t overworry about money: If you work hard and for something you love it will come. Worrying too much about the immediate dollar can really keep your business from growing. Sweat out some short-term financial pain for long term gain. From a personal standpoint, I’d say to not put off marriage and kids (those things were important to me). The older you get and more successful or complicated your business gets, the harder it is to fit in the time for starting a family or being able to really focus on it. I’m fortunate that I knew that at a young age and it happened for me, but I think this is something not really talked about. I have so many successful friends in their mid-30s that are now fretting over the fact that they have a great career but nobody to share it with.
Brittany Cobb is The Everygirl…
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Drew Barrymore over queso, taco salad, and several margaritas on the rocks—with salt.
An African safari. After that, a month-long tour throughout Italy.
Perfect Sunday in Dallas?
Brunch on a patio with my family over mimosas and brisket breakfast tacos, lounging by our pool, or perusing the Dallas Museum of Art or Nasher Sculpture Center as a family. Then the kids would nap and I’d get to finally tackle my magazine stack. Dinner at home and then a movie with my husband over a big bowl of buttery popcorn.
Lemondrop martinis,”The Bachelor,” sunbathing…I have many guilty pleasures. They’re the only way to stay sane with my company and two toddlers.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s so cliche, but my parents were big on following your dreams and your gut. I never thought I couldn’t start my own business or succeed because of their encouragement. It was also instilled in me at a really young age to trust my intuition, and that has served me well—from romantic relationships to new hires. Regarding my business, my husband constantly tells me to think of the “ROI” (return on investment) and that it takes spending money and sometimes losing money to grow your company. For a long time I thought more short-term or financially safe. Over the past year I’ve made some smart investments with my company, like adding employees and new platforms, that my younger self would have been afraid to do. The cool thing is that in doing this, I’ve been able to support more small businesses and makers than I ever imagined!