Meet Annex Studio! “Annex is an integrated branding, graphic design, and web development firm in Charleston, SC”. The Annex Team: Brad, Jason, Geoffrey, and Colin are all graduates from the College of Charleston. Brad is a 2012 graduate from the Computer Science Department with a BS in Computer Science. After re-connecting with Annex at Pecha Kucha, Brad offered the CS Department valuable insights on Annex Studio’s startup development, lessons learned, and advice for current students.
Who is the team behind Annex Studio?
Born in 1987 in Atlanta, GA, Jason Emory Parker had a keen interest in science and technology from a young age. After relocating with his family to Greenville, SC, he spent most of his middle and high school years learning about web design and development. He got his start at serious web development in the easily 00′s helping to administer a popular discussion forum run by technology host and author, Leo Laporte. In 2006, he left home to attended the College of Charleston where he earned a B.S. in Biology. While at the College, he spent much of his free time working at the campus newspaper and would go on to build Cisternyard.com, a student-run multimedia news and information portal. After graduating in 2010, he moved briefly to South Korea to teach English before returning to Charleston to work at a research lab at MUSC. In 2013, he became a founding partner in Annex Studio, LLC. His interests include science fiction, journalism, analysis of pop culture phenomena, and baked goods.
Geoffrey W. Yost is a communications specialist in Charleston, S.C., and an expert in digital strategy. Geoff has held major leadership roles in several fields, relying on his expertise in design, media, marketing, public relations, and event planning. He has helped plan high stakes political events, including the 57th Presidential Inauguration, President Obama’s 2012 Election Night celebration in Chicago, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He has also worked in communications at a D.C.based trade association and on South Carolina political campaigns. An accomplished graduate of the College of Charleston, Geoff was the editor-in-chief of the College’s student newspaper, majoring in Communications and Political Science.
Colin Johnson is a Denver native, and a junior in the Arts Management Department at CofC. Currently acting as the photography editor for Cisternyard News at student media, Colin manages a small staff to produce images for print and online distribution. Outside of the college, he works as a freelance photographer, having contracted with local designers and national corporations alike. In 2013, Colin became a founder of Annex Studio, LLC with three partners, all graduates of the College of Charleston. When he isn’t in school or at the office, Colin enjoys music, cigars and fine gastronomy.
Bradley M. Woods, an accomplished student leader, graduated cum laude from the College of Charleston in 2012 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science. His experience as an analyst and project leader at a top tier software development firm, as well as his college work has allowed him to acquire proficiency in many languages including Java, Python, SQL, and PHP. Brad has assisted with the development of CLForJava, as well as contributing to several other open source projects including Shotwell. In 2013, Brad co-founded Annex Studio, LLC. Brad’s interests include responsive design, politics, and music.
What prompted the formation of Annex Studio?
In the Fall of 2011, Jason and Geoff first discussed the possibility of starting their own business. Geoff’s entry into politics pushed back the timeline through early 2013. In March, Jason and Geoff resumed discussing the idea, bringing Colin and myself into the fold shortly thereafter. Formally incorporated on May 29, 2013, Annex Studio proceeded to quickly acquire its first client, and the business has continued to operate since.
From the beginning, our motivation to start our own business stemmed from the desire to work for ourselves. This allows for the maximum amount of creative and professional freedom. A strong desire of each of us.
How did you take the plunge into starting your own business?
Originally, our biggest concern was funding. We investigated several options for loans, lines of credit, and an office space. After some further research, we realized that we didn’t need any of these things. With minimal capital injection, we would be able to legally incorporate, and acquire the software necessary to operate without having to take on debt or look for investors.
This means that for time being, we do business after our day jobs and on the weekends. We decided that we were more comfortable giving up more of our time, rather than taking on a large financial burden, and were prepared to start the company this way.
We spent some time with a local lawyer, who helped us straighten out an operating agreement and square away our paperwork with the state.
What experiences at the College of Charleston formed a foundation for what you are doing today?
Each of us gained a great deal of experience while working at the student media organization on campus. At various points through his college career, Geoff was the PR Director for CofC Radio, General Manager of CofC Radio, Editor in Chief of the George Street Observer, and Chairman of Cougar Media Network.
Jason started as a volunteer at Cougar Television. He was then a Producer at Cougar Television, then the Director of Online Publishing for Cougar Television. Colin is the current Photography Editor for The Yard magazine. I (Brad) started as Beat Writer, covering the Student Government Association, and was later the Advertising General Manager for Cougar Media Network.
Each of these experiences exposed us to various opportunities that refined our creative skills in various ways. I already had technical experience from my ongoing education, but I learned a great deal about sales, design, and management through my advertising position. Jason created one of the previous iterations of cisternyard.com (available at old.cisternyard.com) singlehandedly, combining technical and design work. Colin expanded on his already impressive photography skills and acquired new skills in visual design. Geoff learned everything the rest of us learned combined.
Looking back were there personal projects that you worked on outside of the classroom that helped you with resume building and professional development?
The four of us worked on many projects through student media that led us to where we are today. All of our projects there have helped to build or resumes. Furthermore, I helped to flesh out the technical side of my resume with my independent study, and Bachelor’s essay (Outside the classroom, technically, but still classes)..
What advice would you pass on to Computer Science students that are preparing to graduate and apply for jobs?
There are two things all Computer Science students should do before they graduate. Coincidentally, these are two things that I did not do, and they bit me in the end.
- The first and most important thing all CS students should do is to take on internships in Computer Science. Real world experience with programming is immensely helpful when out searching for jobs. One of the biggest concerns employers had with my resume was my lack of internship experience. I did internships, but they would have looked much better on an application for a job in hospitality and tourism management. On more than one occasion, a company told me that they really liked my resume, and that I interviewed very well, but my lack of internship experience was why I did not get the job.
- Secondly, all CS students should take a class on databases. I didn’t know that databases would be important, and the class wasn’t required, so I didn’t take it. This was another major hurdle for me when looking for job. In every single job I applied for, the technical interviewer asked how much I knew about databases or SQL. The only thing I could say was that I really didn’t know much about it at all. I don’t have concrete evidence for the importance of this, as I do for the first point, but I am fairly confident that my lack of SQL knowledge was detrimental to me finding a job.
A Special Thanks to Annex Studio!