Gabi Cox has coveted paper since childhood, painstakingly smoothing out the foils from Easter eggs before touching the chocolate. Frustrated by the lack of quality notebooks available at affordable prices, she launched Chroma at University. Two years on, she's successfully turned a passion project into a livelihood and built a cult following from her bedroom.
We spoke about thriving with chronic illness, throwing fantasy dinner parties and harnessing the courage to work for yourself.
Working from home can be difficult. How do you optimise your space?
Crohn's causes fatigue, so I keep mornings relaxed-scrolling through Instagram with my mini dachshund Toby before settling down around 10am. I try to adhere to these rules for the rest of the day…
- Keep to a routine. I set an alarm, get out of bed and start my day at roughly the same time. Introduce some form of structure.
- Change out of PJs. Nobody can see you, but even pulling on a pair of jeans helps switch your brain into work mode.
- Take regular breaks. Remember to step away and stretch your legs. I take the dog for a walk and leave my phone at home.
- Maintain human contact. It's vital to form your own support system, even if it's digital. Friends, family, and fellow GirlBosses are great to have on hand to talk ideas through.
- Switch off. You shouldn't be constantly checking emails after hours. Binge watch a boxset, get lost in a book or arrange to see friends. Keep work out of the bedroom where possible, or at least contained.
You used Kickstarter to elevate Chroma from a side project to a sustainable business. What would you say to someone considering a similar funding route?
It will be harder than you imagined, so plan every detail and accept some people won't understand what you're trying to do. If you believe and invest in your idea, others will feed off your positive energy.
Tell us a bit about your experience with IBD. How do stay motivated when you're unwell?
I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, a form of IBD, at sixteen. When I developed additional arthritis symptoms the only option left was to have an Ileostomy bag. Although I’ve had low moments, you can't let the disease take over. When you’re used to your body letting you down, you become resilient.
I set up a blog where I write about living with Crohn's Disease and everything that comes with it. Having that community to tap into is vital, as is taking care of myself at my most unwell. Simple things like getting a haircut or having your nails done can work wonders, even if you just head back to bed afterwards. I also take joy in writing down five positive things that happen each day, even if they're tiny victories like 'had cake for breakfast', 'walked to the shop and back' or 'didn't get rained on'. Everyone should do it to gain perspective and appreciate the good.
Are there any myths surrounding the disease you'd like to dispel?
A lot of people confuse IBD with IBS (a more manageable and common condition), and there’s stigma attached to ostomy bags-which people mistakenly assume are gross, unhygienic and something only old people have. Another misconception is that things will “get better” with time. There's no cure, so it’s all about living life to the full when you’re feeling okay and learning to manage things during a bad flare.
You self-identity as a Girl Boss. Which inspiring women would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Nasty Gal's Sophia Amoruso, Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy (our charcoal shade is named after the show's protagonist Meredith!), and Bathsheba Everdene from Hardy's novel Far From the Maddening Crowd.
Images: Gabi Cox.
Follow Gabi on Instagram here, or learn from more inspiring Sisters in Issue 30, available in our shop and wherever great magazines are sold.
To learn more about IBD or donate, visit crohnsandcolitis.org.uk