Before co-owning and operating two businesses together, Nikki and Sam Kragiel were just two students at the School of Art + Art History who were focused on their own creative projects.
The two luckily met through a mutual friend who Sam was moving in with. “Our friend pointed him out one day while he was crossing the courtyard and I immediately got nervous and awkward – the only way that you do when a horribly gut-wrenching moment like that surprises you,” says Nikki. “By horrible and gut-wrenching, I mean magical and unexpected.”
Although Sam didn’t notice Nikki in that moment, he did later on when the two were formally introduced at a concert. “He cooked up the nerve and shyly asked for my phone number that night,” says Nikki. “Before cell phones, we used pen and paper for that. I didn't have either, so I wrote my name and number (way too large) across his forearm in Sharpie.”
Much to Nikki’s surprise, the Sharpie worked in her favor and Sam ended up calling her a few days later. The rest of their college experience would consist of Sam making the effort to visit Nikki in the darkroom in the UF photo department and Nikki making visits to Sam in the sculpture studio.
“Looking back, that was a pretty special time, as all college romances can be,” Nikki reminisces. “We were busy and focused on being creative people and later we had to learn how to translate that into life and work.”
Now, the two have been together for 16 years and they work hard to build up their two businesses—Brave Space Design and Timber Line Jewelry. The couple also enjoys traveling and spending time with their 5-year-old daughter and 2-and-a-half-year-old son.
“Our time in the College of Arts was the start of a long path for us,” says Nikki. “We are partners and worthy adversaries in the best way.”