Special Senses of Place
Because her family moved so often, home décor was always a passion for Arielle Cobb. Her mom was in the military and relocated baby Arielle from Denver to Germany when she was just two weeks old. Okinawa followed as her next residence, and then eventually Colorado Springs for her high school years.
“One thing mom used to say was ‘home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling’” says Cobb. “It doesn’t matter what the walls looked like. It was about making it feel like a home.”
The lesson served her well, as she later married an Air Force man, now a member of the Space Force. They met in Florida, which led to a move to Great Falls, Montana, then another back to Colorado Springs. Three kids have come along to keep Cobb, now 36, busy as a mother. But she’s never lost sight of her early dream to own her own business.
“As kids, the other girls played housewife; I said ‘I’m gonna be the boss of a business.” She finally made that a reality in mid 2019. “When I told my mom, husband and friends I was starting it, they said ‘yeah, we were waiting for you to do that.’” With Wood Knots and Whimsy, a purveyor of stylish home and bath products, she’s taken on titles of founder, designer and curator.
Cobb says that aside from the itch to move every four years by habit, she’s always scratched another itch: to create. “It’s an outlet for me,” she says. She attended Johnson & Wales University and earned an associate’s degree in advertising communications, following that with graphic design studies at University of Colorado Denver and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Colorado State University-Global Campus. Over her years of study, she worked for several small businesses, such as a now-closed denim bar named Gloss at the Promenade Shops at Briargate. She cites its owner, still a friend, as a big mentor.
While in Tampa, Florida, she worked for L’Oréal SalonCentric as a replenishment analyst for 98 stores. In Montana, for a stint, she worked a job she didn’t love, just for the paycheck. It encouraged her to rededicate herself: “If you aren’t working for yourself, you’re working for someone else making their dream come true.” Still, she gleaned what wisdom she could, enjoying her coworkers and finding a model of how she wants to treat her future employees: “like family.”
Upon arrival back in Colorado Springs, she hit the ground running. But after six months, she hadn’t made as much progress as she’d hoped, feeling despondent when her husband returned from a deployment. He looked at her goal sheet, then took a marker and crossed out the date, changing the year forward. “He said, ‘I’m giving you the gift of time.’” She laughs joyously telling the story today. And when she finally launched a website, which now features 10 unique products — from custom-label glass soap dispensers to printed ceramic coasters and cool, wooden “donut” chip clips — she admits she just “threw it together… I wasn’t sure if I was doing what I was supposed to do.” So, in October, 2019, she learned of the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and gave them a call to go over her business plan.
Consultant Tiffany Cox was the first to jump in with digital guidance. Months later came a single-day bookkeeping course, which gave Cobb a QuickBooks primer. “It was all so intimidating before, but they broke it down for me, so now I’m not throwing things in random categories anymore,” she jokes. And just this past month, she got one-on-one advice from SBDC consultant Janet Brugger, also the President of the Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce. “I want to move into wholesale and expand my product line,” Cobb explains. “She had great ideas about how I could do it.”
“It’s extremely valuable to have people locally you can reach out to that are willing to take the time to help you and answer questions and tell you if you’re on the right path,” she says. “The SBDC has always been so informative. The people are all just so passionate about what they bring to the table. I love that. You feed off of that and it really helps you.”
To expand Wood Knots and Whimsy’s product line, Cobb says she has a notebook dating back to high school, filled with ideas. She’s just waiting for her third child to hit school age, so she can dedicate more than a few hours a day to growing the business. She’s already undertaken local collaboration with Ink and Mud Co. and envisions working with more local artisans. Some day she would like a brick-and-mortar spot, as well as participate in more markets.
Much more than helping customers turn their homes into special, intentional, comfortable places, she wants her business to thrive and create generational wealth for her children, two of whom have special needs. “That’s a part of my ‘why,’” she says, recalling an inspiration from Tampa. She and her mom had learned about some parents who helped their children launch businesses to help foster independence. “A young man with Down Syndrome owned a diner. Another person on the autism spectrum was running a hotdog stand outside of Home Depot. It touched our hearts.”
Which gets back to what Wood Knots and Whimsy’s all about: a feeling.
Visit woodknotsandwhimsy.com for more and also find Cobb’s products on Garden of the Gods Road, at Willowstone Antique Marketplace, booth 74.