Sitting at the right or wrong table in an Overton High School art class, Brittany and Joseph, unbeknownst to them, began laying the foundation of “faith, patience, and adaptability” in their friendship that would later morph into a union where love and business thrive in marriage.
Brittany is a career and leadership, speaker and lead partner of Career Thrivers. Joseph is an architect and founder of Culture Architecture and Design. Together they are defining what thriving in love, marriage and business embody as they take on growing their businesses in Nashville (amid a pandemic). Their story is one of resilience, that will encourage and spur you to take your own steps towards whatever goals you have laid out this year. You can also check out Brittany’s podcast and TEDx Talk Redefining Resilience to Cultivate an Inclusive Culture for an additional boost of “you got this” motivation. The Coles story is definitely one for the entrepreneur, young married couple to visionary. Read and be inspired.
A Divine Relationship
Early on in their relationship, they were learning how to navigate their journey with patience and changes that supported one another’s success. Now, that they both have matriculated into entrepreneurship, adaptability is a new piece in their fabric of life and they are making it look flawless.
Meeting in high school, their friendship deepened in college, and it naturally evolved into a dating relationship. They continued their relationship throughout college and after both graduated in 2008. The next move was to return to Nashville and begin their work as professionals.“Brittany was fortunate that she did her internship through INROADS,” Joseph shared, who was also an INROADS participant. Brittany would later go on to receive a full-time offer from Pfizer, fresh out of school. Joseph would receive his degree and become a licensed architect (making him one of less than two percent of licensed black architects in the country).
As an INROADS participant, too, Joseph’s summer internships were more focused on business than architecture. “It’s a really tough process,” Joseph said. There aren’t a lot of licensed black architects. Less than two percent of all architects are licensed, black architects. I’m a bit of an outlier in our industry.
Where Long Distance, Grief + Purpose Meet
Brittany accepted a promotion and relocated to Chattanooga, TN in 2012 and two years later Joseph and Brittany married in Nashville. Within their first year of marriage, Brittany turned down a promotion to relocate for a marketing role in New York and Joseph received a full scholarship to go to Emory University in Atlanta; enrolled in their one-year accelerated MBA program. Newlyweds Brittany and Joseph drove between Atlanta and Chattanooga until he completed his MBA in 2016.
They made plans to relocate from Chattanooga after Joseph’s graduation, and then he started working at Gensler in their tech and start-up studio in New York. “I’m up there designing spaces for tech and start-up companies from Microsoft and their Xbox Division to Deloitte,” Joseph shares. He continues, “anything that was cool and eclectic like flowers growing from the ceiling in the conference room to a slide through the lobby. That’s what I was doing. It was a really cool experience.”
“same city, same place, without traveling to see one another”
For 6 months Brittany and Joseph flew back and forth between Chattanooga and New York as Brittany interviewed for roles. She landed another sales-to-marketing promotion to join Joseph in February of 2017 and finally, they were together in the “same city, same place, without traveling to see one another” Brittany shares. However, on the heels of Brittany moving to New York, her mother gets sick. She spends 3 months flying back and forth to Nashville until the passing of her mom in June of 2017.
Through grief, relentless relocation and challenges Joseph and Brittany were determined to make the most of their experience living in the Upper East Side of Manhattan before career changes brought them back to their hometown of Nashville in 2018.
“I love Nashville, I really do,” Joseph said. “We had a great experience in New York. We lived in Manhattan. Brittany worked across the street from Grand Central Station. I literally worked in Times Square, looking out my window at all the bright lights and the Colbert Show.” Brittany and Joseph decided it would be a great opportunity for her to accept a sales leadership position in Nashville she was tapped for despite planning to be in New York at least another year. When Joseph flew into Nashville, he had seven interviews in two days. He accepted an opportunity at a mid-size firm. His acceptance of the position allowed him to create his title, role, and responsibilities. Essentially, he carved out his own lane, and it was a role that merged business and architecture.
Our Faith Leap Into Entrepreneurship Together
For Brittany and Joseph, their leap into entrepreneurship after moving back to Nashville, came quicker than they both anticipated. Brittany’s new interim 18-month role in Nashville shortened to a 5-month role amidst an organizational structural change. If she didn’t find another position within the company, a layoff from her job would be imminent. After prayer, support from her husband, and coaching sessions, Brittany took the layoff package and bet on herself investing in and founding Career Thrivers in August 2019.
Brittany’s courage influenced her husband to do the same after his layoff due to the March 2020 tornado. The firm was affected, and there was damage to the facility. He decided to follow the advice he had given his wife. With his fears intact, he moved forward with the full emergence of his own firm Culture Architecture and Design. “Watching my wife go through that full transition of having a great job that she invested a lot in and taking that risk to bet on herself really inspired me,” Joseph said. “I wanted to become a licensed architect because I eventually wanted to have my own firm. Brittany definitely motivated me to take the risk” he shares. She definitely championed me on.”
When you are called to accomplish extraordinary tasks, God has a way of pairing you with the one chosen to travel the path alongside you. And to think, it all started in a creative space at an art table with two people in the right spot at the right time.
“The journey, in general, has really shown the importance of faith, patience, and adaptability,” Joseph said. “It seems like every turn we have something that’s unforeseen and pretty major. We have the faith and patience to work through things and adapt as needed between living in different cities on occasions, losing loved ones, losing jobs, starting businesses to pivoting businesses, striving in our businesses, and assessing. It’s definitely required an intense amount of just straight patience, adaptability, and I’d say in some cases intentionality.”
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