I am so excited to introduce you to Anna Braff! I learned about Anna and her company, Provenance Rentals, in the middle of the night. I was looking for the perfect vintage chair for the Breaking Glass - Girl on the Rise photo shoot and I came across Anna’s website. I was so impressed with Anna’s customer service. I remember our first phone call, it was a Wednesday, and she took the time to get to know me, my goals and worked with me so I could achieve them. She’s so supportive of women and their dreams. I knew immediately that I had to work with her. Her collection is to die for - even if you aren’t into the vintage thing, you’ll still find something you love. She is so genuine, Anna delivers unforgettable experiences by creating the perfect ambiance and setting for their special event. Pretty much she’s like a fairy godmother in that she brings your dreams to life.
Lauren Elizabeth: Tell us who you are.
Anna Braff: I was raised with humble beginnings. My parents were divorced, and my wonderful single mother always encouraged my sister and me to pursue our creative talents and education. I made my way to NYU eventually from my provincial New England town and then mistakenly found my way to law school to seek a stable career. Though I am proud I succeeded in law school and passed the California Bar Exam, I knew this career and lifestyle were not for me. I temporarily strayed, but returned to creative endeavors. I listened to myself and followed my passions. Now I am a small business owner, designer, mother, and wife.
LE: What is Provenance Rentals and does the name have a significant meaning?
AB: Provenance Rentals is a design house and brand dedicated to crafting beautiful experiences and memories for our clients with high-quality, romantic, chic vintage, specialty, and modern pieces. Provenance means record of ownership of a work of art, or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality. This [provenance] is the perfect word, to sum up my brand, my business, my essence. I actually could not believe that another rental company or design house snagged this name. It makes a difference that our vintage products are a certain age and high-quality. The products add to the feeling, experience, memories, and photographs.
LE: After establishing a law career, you transitioned into entrepreneurship as the owner of Provenance Rentals. What was the transition like?
AB: The transition was a little scary, but more exciting than scary. Never did I imagine being an entrepreneur. Though my personality is one to buck authority; it is also a natural fit. It has been a slow and steady climb, but it also gives me confidence over the long haul. Small accomplishments along the way create an environment for me to embrace and prepare for the big wins and successes.
LE: You recently went through a rebrand and website update. What are the top three things you’ve learned from the experience?
It takes a lot longer than you think it will.
It takes money to elevate your brand if you want it to be identified a certain way.
You have to always do something different if you want a different outcome. Staying the same does not result in growth. I will probably have to change and improve again. I never want to rest on my laurels. You have to listen to what is needed, or popular. You can't think you know everything. The universe always gives you clues.
LE: How did you feel to book your first client?
AB: It was amazing to book our first client. Though interestingly, her wedding was many months away so other client events actually preceded her event. I knew that by booking one, it would lead to another. Sure enough, it did, but the momentum was a little slower in the beginning.
LE: What is your favorite piece in your collection?
AB: This is a tough question since I fall in love with so many of the pieces in my collection. However, I found this feminine French provincial writing desk with a mini-hutch that literally took me exactly one year to acquire from when I first spotted one similar. I came close three separate times, and the sales did not go through. I finally found it from a seller in Orange County and I was determined to get it. She is very special to me; we named her Colette which means victorious (which is quite fitting). I might even keep this for myself if it ever came time to rotate it out of the collection, though I doubt it since she is quite popular.
LE: Tell us about your breaking glass moment.
AB: I actually think I am continually breaking glass. Some of my moments are standing my ground at the risk of being disliked, or unpopular; asserting myself; standing up for myself and enforcing my boundaries with clients, or other vendors; charging what I am worth.
LE: What's your daily routine like?
AB: Lots of emails, calls, and constantly on the hunt for gorgeous vintage pieces. I would be remiss if I didn't mention dealing with numbers, money, accounting, and all that stuff I am not too good with but have to face, yet outsource as much as possible. Also, there is lots of heavy lifting, fixing, painting, cleaning, and hauling. People don't realize there are a lot of unglamorous parts--like any job.
What are your top three tips for vintage shopping?
Unlike some people, I try to stay focused. If you have endless money -- sure you can buy whatever you want. But when you have to still consider where else your money needs to be spent, keep a clear focus and don't settle.
Get as much history and detail from the owner, the Internet, or any source where you can verify if it truly is vintage (or antique) and not some knock-off trying to pose as vintage.
Negotiate. Some people are not open to negotiations, but others are. You just have to ask. Keep in mind, do not insult the seller; be reasonable.
LE: How do you overcome a struggle?
AB: Talking about my challenges with people I trust and thinking about consequences help me with my process. Also, yoga and other exercises, deep breathing and taking a moment of gratitude give me perspective when I struggle with personal and professional dilemmas.
LE: What is your favorite quote and why?
AB: "Don't think, just do." I have a tendency to get caught up in my head. It is more productive for me to step away from the analysis paralysis and take action.
LE: What advice would you give to a Girl on the Rise?
AB: Trust yourself. Be your own best friend and don't waste time toiling if you should pursue your passion. Life is so short, you might as well try. You might succeed.
LE: What's your favorite thing to do when you’re off the clock?
AB: Binge watch Succession on HBO, exercise, and of course bond with my adorable kids.
Anna has shown us that even if your career starts out in one place, it doesn’t have to end there. She majorly changed careers and became the ultimate business owner. She is living her dream and making dreams come true for others. Her passion for her work shows in every piece in her collection. Thank you, Anna, for sharing your story and how to shop for vintage items. Cheers!