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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 26, 2021 2 weeks ago

Design firm focuses on always becoming better

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Emily Moss Concepts and Designs handles new construction design and remodeling.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Emily Moss' first career was an elementary school teacher, which she did for seven years.

But she studied architecture in college before switching to teaching. And after having children, she stayed home and started helping her husband’s business, Anna Maria Island-based custom homebuilder Moss Builders. “I was helping his clients all the time,” she says. “I loved that process.”

Through Moss Builders, Moss, 36, was frequently on job sites with clients. She says, “One client was like: ‘I’m going to build this house, just to sell it for somebody. I don’t want to be involved. Can you do it?’” So Moss took over the design. The house ended up being in the local tour of homes of noted properties, and the project led to more requests for help. Then in 2017, Moss had to make a decision. Was this a hobby, or should she start a business? She chose the entrepreneurial path.

Today, as owner and principal designer of the firm she founded, Emily Moss Concepts and Designs, Moss leads a team of four employees. The firm has an office in Manatee County’s Holmes Beach, on Anna Maria Island, and is currently working on about 20 projects, primarily new construction design but also remodeling. The company grew revenue 42% in 2020 over 2019, Moss says, declining to disclose specific revenue figures. 

Courtesy. Emily Moss Concepts and Designs, with an office in Holmes Beach, primarily works on new construction design projects but also handles remodeling projects.

Growth has been part of the Emily Moss Concepts and Designs story since the beginning. Shortly after starting the business, for one, Moss brought on a design assistant to handle the influx of work. “All of a sudden I had four houses,” she says.

Part of the success likely stems from Moss' commitment to improvement and making improvement processes, such as project autopsies, a regular part of operations. Another key? Moss brought to the firm her experience working with different tradespeople through her husband’s company as well as knowledge from the classroom. “It was really putting together a lot of skills from teaching,” she says. “Almost like developing lesson plans for houses.”

With her former students, Moss knew the status of their individual progress and was constantly working to help them move forward. That remains true — but now she moves houses forward.

Her focus on organization and systems from her teaching days have come in handy, too. “I have a file system for each job that is very detailed and organized,” she says. “We all know the millwork details are in this folder under this section under this job number.”

The team Moss leads includes a designer, a product specialist, an assistant and an office administrator. When the firm started, employees had a variety of tasks. “We were all doing marketing, all doing ordering and all doing everything because there are so many hats to wear in a small business,” she says. “Slowly, we’ve been able to define roles and specialize.”

‘I think with every project, there’s something that is learned or we tweak a little bit.’ — Emily Moss, Emily Moss Concepts and Designs

The firm’s bread and butter is new construction home projects. “We’re leaning more toward new construction because it’s more straightforward,” Moss says. “It fits in our process really nicely.”

The majority of the firm’s projects are in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, but it’s also done projects in Lakewood Ranch, in east Manatee County, and worked on several waterfront homes. “Our style lends itself to the coastal feel,” she says. “We ultimately do always lean into the clients’ needs.”

New clients come from a variety of sources, from signage and word of mouth to social media, particularly Instagram. “People reach out to us on that all the time,” Moss says. The firm has advertised in Architectural Digest too and entered homebuilder association contests that have garnered attention.

Like with many businesses, the pandemic has had a range of impacts for Emily Moss Concepts and Designs. On the positive side, more people are moving to the region from other parts of the country, attracted by weather, lower prices and more. That means building is booming. “Nothing has slowed down,” she says. “It has been very busy.” On the negative front, building supplies are in high demand, with prices of essentials, such as lumber, going up. Moss has also experienced major delays on furniture. “You can have a supplier tell you it will be there in two days, and then two weeks have gone by,” she says.

With each house she works on, Moss says the process becomes more efficient, but not by accident. At the end of each project, Moss and her team go through a project autopsy. “We all sit down and look at it together — what we thought went really well, what we thought could have been done better and situations that arose and how we handled them and if those situations could have been avoided,” she says. “I think with every project, there’s something that is learned or we tweak a little bit.”

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