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Meet the design duo on a mission to empower female homeowners navigating the construction industry

Meet the design duo on a mission to empower female homeowners navigating the construction industry
July 2021

Building Badasses also hosts a podcast and works to uplift women working in the construction field



Interior architecture designer Emily Cox and interior designer Michelle Suddeth launched Building Badasses—including a podcast—to uplift women in the construction industry and help female homeowners take the lead on construction projects. 

“Bugs! It’s bugs…in the wall!” lamented one woman on a recent episode of the podcast Building Badasses after a subpar home inspection that neglected the infestation of hungry termites decimating her darling Park Circle cottage. Unfortunately, host Emily Cox hears this sort of home-owning horror story, be it insatiable insects or a questionable contractor, all too often. One-half of the duo behind residential and commercial design firm Onyx Design Collaborative, Cox is leading an estrogen-studded effort to demystify the construction world.

Each week, listeners can tune into the interior architecture designer and her business partner, interior designer Michelle Suddeth, for the nitty-gritty on home ownership and renovation—all amusingly delivered with PG-13 commentary in their charming Carolina accents. In addition to riotous one-liners and snarky snack notes, the saucy team delivers smart advice for any lady looking to spearhead a building project. “We take female listeners on a chronological journey through purchasing property, interviewing and hiring contractors, and communicating with team members in order to execute their vision,” says Cox.

As a female professional making her way in a male-dominated industry, Cox quickly recognized that little support exists for women in the various corners of construction. So four years ago, Cox, with invaluable insight from Suddeth, hammered out a plan for Building Badasses. This multifaceted brand empowers and educates women on the building process, whether they’re cutting the checks or the sheetrock. Upon this foundation, these whip-smart yet approachable tutors have engineered resources for both tradeswomen and laywomen.

(Clockwise from above left) The design duo is responsible for the cool vibes in Graft Wine Shop. Emily and Michelle on their podcast Building Badasses; “Never before have women owned and maintained property like they do in this generation, but we aren’t culturally conditioned to know how to interact with the construction industry.” —Emily Cox

Building Badasses’s first tier reinforces career women in the construction industry by providing a private online salon in which to bolster connections, share experiences, and pose queries. Monthly meet-ups further that camaraderie. “Ultimately, the entire industry is facing an extreme labor shortage, and women can be the solution,” points out Cox.

The second branch of the Building Badasses’s structure accommodates the women hiring these professionals. “Never before have women owned and maintained property like they do in this generation, but we aren’t culturally conditioned to know how to interact with the construction industry,” she explains. Building, buying, or renovating a home is fraught with pitfalls that most feel ill-equipped to navigate. “Over and over, I see female clients nodding at a table of men, only to pull me aside later and remark, ‘I’m embarrassed, but I don’t understand what the contractor just said.’”

Building Badasses’s mastermind series for home buyers and homeowners provides weekly virtual meetings to give members the vocabulary and know-how to work with a contractor. “This is the biggest investment a woman will ever make, and she deserves to feel like she’s in the driver’s seat,” Cox says. Also in the tool belt is a 12-week online crash course in construction that accommodates those whose budgets or projects aren’t large enough to warrant hiring a full-service professional.

While Cox still hopes to be discovered by talent scouts and offered a multimillion-dollar podcast deal, she has leveled her sights on more practical brand expansions, like launching a YouTube channel in 2022. She also envisions nationwide chapters that focus on specific regional building challenges. What Building Badasses programming won’t do, she emphasizes, is DIY. (She gets fairly fired up over Pinterest and HGTV.) “We’re not ever going to tell you, ‘Here’s a shipping pallet and a dream.’ We want you to make money doing whatever it is you’re really good at and then hire someone who’s really good at building.” 

To hear the Building Badasses podcast featuring "industry insights that deconstruct the construction industry" visit buildingbadasses.com/podcast