Kady O'Connell

CITY: Sydney

Business: Kady Creative & Kady's Kitchen
What? Design and Marketing studio


How did the idea for your business first come about?

I have always been completely enamoured by food and design. While working as an Art Director of a design studio in Sydney, I decided to start a food blog, Kady's Kitchen, as a creative outlet for my cooking and food photography. This blog and new-found passion naturally paired me with clients such as The Fit Foodie, Brenda Janschek and JSHealth by Jessica Sepel. For some time, I did all of this work on the side (at weekends and evenings) until it became too much and I decided to jump in head first to this new business, Kady Creative. It happened quite naturally and organically. I made sure I had enough clients to get started with before leaving the security of a full-time job. Since then, I have been learning all about running a business as I go along and it has been the most exciting adventure, full to the brim with personal growth.

When did you have a ‘f*ck-it moment’ and decide you were going to go all-in and start your business?

I had been steadily building up my client list with the intention to start my own business. It was always the plan and I just knew in my bones it was only a matter of time. I was very unhappy in the job that I was in, as there was a lot of politics in play that stifled creativity. I felt like I was running a pre-school rather than a design studio. I just knew I had so much more to offer than this. I wanted to work with amazing and like-minded businesses to create something amazing. I was so fed up of working somewhere that was all about quantity over quality and one day I simply could not do it anymore. I was craving inspiration and connection. I left the job and travelled the world for 7 months. The entire time I travelled, I was also doing freelance design for my clients and soul-searching for the type of business I wanted to run. I felt so alive and excited by all the opportunities and the flexibility of my work. I arrived back to Sydney 7 months later, on a mission and brimming with inspiration to help like-minded business do exactly what I had done - create the life of their dreams on their terms. I quickly found my tribe of entrepreneurial ladies and worked with them to translate their vision into killer branding so they could live on purpose and start their dream business.

What were some major challenges you had when starting your business? And how did you overcome them?

A major challenge I had was that I had never ran a business before and did not know very much about operations, finance or marketing. Being curious and eager to learn has been the biggest factor to success I can think of. I have read countless business books, I follow blogs, am part of amazing communities such as the League of Extraordinary Women and ask (a lot!) of questions. It almost feels indulgent that I get to spend so much time learning, connecting and being inspired. To me one of the biggest perks of owning a business is the personal growth and network of people you meet. One of my favourite quotes is by Steve Jobs and says "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." Every single event you go to, new strategy you learn or person you meet almost always comes into play for your business in some way. So you have to always keep learning, connecting and growing and most importantly have faith, It's OK if you have not figured out all the small details just yet, trust they will come into play in your future.

For me faith is so important. When you start a business you are really putting yourself out there and it is scary stuff! Self-doubt and imposter syndrome is so common amongst entrepreneurs. For me, I was so unsure of my direction because I loved food and design. I did not know what to focus on. But some great advice I received was to just keep going and follow your passion. It will all work out and you get more confident as you grow. In the end my food blog & design business has gone hand in hand. Having a food blog connects me with other foodies and health authors and once I build these relationships, they tend to want help with branding or cookbook design. In fact, having a point of difference like being a ‘foodie designer’ makes you more memorable that just another graphic designer.

What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?

My biggest pinch me moment was seeing the cookbook I co-wrote, designed, styled, photographed & self-published get stocked in bookstores across Ireland and Australia and be short-listed in the prestigious GOURMAND awards.
Because so much of my design work is engrained in the food and health industry, I am constantly designing ebooks and cookbooks for other health authors. It had always been a dream of mine to write and design my own book and to have a tangible thing to hold in my hands. When I met my co-author and Sunday Independent journalist Brighid McLaughlin, I knew this was something we had to do and we set about creating our first book baby, Behind the Half Door; Stories of Food and Folk. Receiving rave reviews fromMarco Pierre White & Colin Fassnidge, it is a truly remarkable patchwork of Irish history, emotion-filled interviews and authentic recipes. We put our heart and soul into this and spent nearly 2 years perfecting recipes, shooting & editing photographs and finding printers & distributors. So, to see it get such amazing reviews, launch in top bookstores and get nominated for awards was just the cherry on top after all of our hard work and dedication.

Starting a business can be gruelling - what keeps you motivated, and keeps you going?

 Having an amazing support network. You need to get out there and join clubs such as the League to find your tribe. You need to have peers and mentors to talk about things with. I am also a huge fan of business coaching and I am always looking to work with a coach, mentor or group. You will go insane if you do not have this support, I promise! Plus, there is nothing more amazing than connecting with people on a similar path and to support and encourage one another. Some beautiful friendships have developed out of these business relationships that I am so grateful to have.

How do you create a work-life balance?

By trying to switch off! Initially I worked from home and my partner would have to physically remove my laptop from a white knuckled grip to get me to stop working at night. There were no boundaries in place and I had no end-point from where my business stopped and my personal life started. I recently rented a space in a converted warehouse in Paddington and it is epic to have that separation. Plus, I am actually far more productive! That plus having a really good structure in place to make the most of your time helps no end. Instead of staring at one never-ending to-do list and getting sucked down that rabbit hole, try to batch different tasks and put them in your calendar so that you know when you will come back to that task. It helps to manage the overwhelm.

Words of Wisdom / Personal Quote
 The tallest oak in the forest was once just a little nut that held it's ground.