A theory known as the Law of Attraction may sound like new age noise – that is, until you’ve met Megan Hogan, owner of The Annex Collaborative Studio.
This creative, inspiring workplace, located in Virginia Beach’s ViBe District, is a product of the energy, hustle, and nurturing spirit she’s poured into it since first laying her eyes on it. The once unfinished, unseemly 1,500 square foot space is now unrecognizable.
Today? It is an Instagram-worthy haven, that’s sparkly clean, neutral but with a personality, and always photo-ready. Despite mostly catering to creative entrepreneurs, it’s somewhere even a mortgage lender or very serious business person would feel confident bringing in a client or getting comfortable with their laptop.
What It’s All About
Not quite a “coworking” space, it’s more of a boutique shared office that hosts regular events, workshops, meet-ups, book clubs – you name it.
In Megan’s words, “Most creative entrepreneurs work from home and need a flex space that’s also professional where they can meet with clients and look like they take their business seriously – [because the good ones do]. It’s a great gathering space for events and to meet other creatives in a more natural way of networking.”
The Annex is comprised of a large Studio Space brimming with natural light, a comfortable sitting area, a more private Meeting Room (also great for video production), and 6 convertible desk units available for rent, by application, on a 6-month contract basis.
“We don’t have memberships, but we do have tenants. The goal was for people to feel at home, not nervous about their stuff. So, this is their office space that they have access to 7-days a week, parking at any time, and the flexibility to have visitors whenever they’d like,” Megan explains.
How It All Came to Be
The idea to open such a collaborative studio came to her in what she describes as “a Julia Roberts Eat, Pray, Love moment”.
As a military wife, this is the Hogan’s second time living in Virginia Beach. With a background in retail and hospitality, she spent her previous years working all the time and living away from the Oceanfront area.
Given the second chance at being here, she knew they wanted to be closer to the beach, work differently, and make more meaningful connections.
So, she started showing up to networking events and asking people what they needed help with under the broad umbrella of marketing. She even started helping people pro bono. Once she’d been able to really define her signature services, having a space to do them in became the thing that was missing.
“I didn’t feel like I could charge for premium services and be sitting in a Starbucks near the trash can. Some people can, but I just couldn’t,” Megan recalls.
She then met her now landlord at a local ViBe District meeting, who happened to be looking for a tenant that wanted to renovate and rent the nearby space.
Immediately after learning of it, Megan decided she wanted to be that tenant.
But – it wasn’t without first convincing her husband that investing in her future business was a much better investment than buying a new car.
With willing sacrifice and ample hard-earned savings, plans for opening The Annex were soon in motion.
“This location is everything. It really couldn’t be more perfect – I have a 4-minute commute, I mesh well with the nearby business owners, and I get to support them. I just really love the ViBe – I rarely even have a need to leave the area!”, Megan smiles.
The Dècor & Atmosphere
Much of what sets The Annex apart is the feeling you get when you first walk in. It has an air of possibility, community, and creativity.
Most days, you’ll have the pleasure of being greeted and welcomed in by Megan herself, who seems to effortlessly turn everything into an experience.
The well-lit, open room is outfitted with locally made furniture like real wood tables, a pegboard, an iconic moss “Grow Together” sign, artwork by Werrell Woodworks (a previous Spotlight), and a high-low mix of a leather Pottery Barn loveseat with blue fabric chairs from Walmart.
Everything has been thoughtfully designed, mindful of both form and function. A large coffee table that’s actually two benches and can be moved about if needed, for example, and a wood console table smartly covers two mini fridges and a movable cart stocked with all the kitchen items an event host could need.
One item Megan feels particularly fond of are the large dry erase bookshelves that quickly catch your eyeline. Each one is custom made from Walmart shelves, Ikea wheels, and white shower boards from Lowe’s that were rubbed with car wax to create the dry erase usability. On the opposite side, tasteful shower curtains cover the exposed bookshelves, to give her tenants’ belongings some privacy.
Not surprisingly, The Annex tends to attract the same type of positively infectious creative entrepreneurs, much like Megan herself.
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
When asked what her proudest moment has been so far, Megan is quick to point to the two 2018 CoVaBiz Best of Business (BOB) award plaques perfectly displayed on the nearby pegboard.
The Annex was also recently awarded a city grant for the forthcoming painting of a large mural. Megan is proud that through such a detailed financial process, she can report that there are no other loans or investors involved.
“We’re doing this all on our own with real money!”, Megan laughs.
When it comes to obstacles, however, Megan shares the challenges of finding your voice and differentiators.
“You want to say yes to everybody, yet still stay true to your voice and meet a real demand. My aim has been to take things slowly and ensure I keep the big vision in mind”, Megan explains.
She continues, “And overcoming the fear of “being seen”. I’m finally ready to let the internet know I exist, delegate tasks, and ask for help from part-time staff when I need it.”
Advice for Other Aspiring Business Owners
In offering advice to other aspiring business owners, Megan says, “Having a launch team is the key to everything! Have proof for your concept and honest peers who are willing to test it and give you feedback. Don’t just expect that everyone will buy into it.”
Megan and her own launch team were able to really squirrel away, putting in a lot of the work ahead of time and create some great momentum.
“You need money to fund your plan. Expect that everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much. Then, you just show up and make it work. Step up and take yourself seriously. Other people won’t if you don’t,” Megan asserts.
Five years down the road, Megan hopes to still be in the space she’s in, but as a military wife, you learn to take things as they come.
In the short-term, “I’m looking forward to operating on routines, rhythms, systems, and habits. I plan to continue sharing ideas with creatives and curating events, as examples of how the studio can be used. I’m just excited to see how it grows and get back to offering my services and leading some of my own workshops”, Megan adds.
How to Experience the Annex
Contact her to reserve a space, host an event, or apply as a tenant at firstname.lastname@example.org.