I grew up in Hamilton in New Zealand but moved to Australia when my father was headhunted to be the CEO of the Australian Dairy Board. It was a massive move for us all – my parents, my two sisters and myself at the age of 13. Growing up in New Zealand we led a very sheltered life, we didn’t travel much or go out much. Our family grew up around nature and animals, and even though we lived in suburbia my dad’s family farm was near where The Hobbit was filmed – the countryside is spectacular. Moving to Melbourne was a major shock for all of us. The schooling system is very different in New Zealand, so not only did I have a really strong accent, I was one year behind my age group. It was tough.
I was always creative, so I sunk myself into graphic design, arts, cooking and all things visual. I did my graphic and art folios in year 11 and 12 and as soon as I left school I did graphic art and design at Chisholm, and that was at a time when digital graphics was coming to the fore. It was difficult trying to get work in the industry, but I landed a job working in a printing company which was a pretty male dominated world. It was an amazing job though, because as a graphic designer you would never normally see printing in action. You’re usually stuck behind a desk working on a computer whereas I could design a job and go straight into the printing factory and see the results. It gave me the most amazing grounding for graphic design. I was there for about three and a half years before getting a role with a design studio in Collingwood called Kryptonite, and that was a whole new level of design working with brands like Jockey, Jag, Laura Ashley and Bonds doing heaps of photos shoots and managing teams. And that’s where I met my partner Athan – he was a client of the Agency and we worked on some really cool jobs together.
Athan and I decided to start our own Agency called Creative Combat, and we had some really huge clients in the tourism industry because Athan had been working with Qantas for so many years. We pumped out loads of brochures – the ones you see in a travel agent for skiing or Fiji, CIT, Europe – that was our thing. We worked so hard, and we worked really well together.
When I had Mia ( who is now 12) she was with me all the time because Athan was away so much, travelling for work. Because I worked from home, making myself stay out of my office was really hard. I’d be working away, and Mia would be tucked up under my desk. And when Lucca came along two and a half years later it was the same. There are pros and cons to having your own business and raising a family, but I love how they can be interlinked. Our kids have been really blessed, learning that there is no line between work and play. I’d hate to have to leave them to go to work, and then leave work to come home. Each day is intermingled. When they come home from school I might do some work, then we’ll cook and have dinner together then I’ll do a bit more work. And then we’ll do stories and after their bedtime I might do some more work. They’ve been brought up to understand that when they get me, they get the best of me, and we’re always there to pick them up from school. They come to lots of shoots with me as well, and get to enjoy all the beautiful places and restaurants we go to and they get involved in the shoots too. They get to talk to adults and know how to communicate with people from all walks of life.
I did take a bit of time off when I had two children and there were definitely challenges to face. Our office was always home based though which did make it easier. We had a number of designers working with us as well and it was pretty cool actually. I’d make lunch for everyone and spend time with the kids, and do some work in between. And it was great for me, rather than being at home on my own with two toddlers and having a hubby coming home at 7.30 at night. Athan was a part of it all, and I had adult communication – I would have gone stir crazy otherwise.
Moving to the Mornington Peninsula led to the launch of Love the Pen(insula). When we first moved to the area we started discovering all these really cool places but had no knowledge of any of them, we felt that the community was there but no-one was really sharing information. Everything was so beautiful but no-one was photographing the area. And that was how Love the Pen was born. Photography has always been a part of my life and career, and taking beautiful photographs of the area, and businesses in the area, was the foundation of what Athan and I created. Our staff at Creative Combat helped to build the platform, and it’s been going now for nearly four years. The first 12 months was a soft launch where we did profiles on 50 businesses in the area, and then it started to get a bit serious because we started to get lots of enquiries from businesses wanting to advertise on our site. But we didn’t want advertising as such – Love the Pen was a creative, visual enterprise. We created a way in which we could visually tell the story about a business in the way we wanted to tell it, and we also developed Love the Pen postcards which are produced every three months and displayed in special boards in specific locations around the Mornington Peninsula. This was a way of making the business sustainable whilst staying true to the aesthetic of the website, and our advertisers really get what we try and achieve.
We have exciting plans for the future of Love the Pen – it takes time to build quality content and we’re in a really good place now. We have established some really engaged followers, and they understand how involved and dedicated we are to the landscape of the area and that we believe in those who have built their businesses on the Peninsula. There are so many artists and creatives and fascinating people who live and work on the Mornington Peninsula, and we love telling their stories. The more people we get to know, and the more ingrained Love the Pen becomes with their businesses, the easier it all becomes. Love the Pen is our future, I can see myself still working on it when I’m 70, which is a beautiful thing.
I think it’s really important to inspire younger people – our kids who are raised on the Mornington Peninsula – to realise that they don’t have to leave the area in order to have successful careers. That’s a huge part of our business. We want them to know that they can live and learn right here, and get incredible skills – and of course travel and explore and do all those things – but they can come back here and lead an amazing life. Ten years ago that might not have been possible, most people left the area to find work, but fortunately that has really changed.
I love having my own business, but I would only recommend it if you have someone else to help you. I personally think you need support. It is hard work, I don’t stop. The kids are demanding, the house is demanding, the dog’s demanding, and you have to look after yourself so you have to exercise. So there’s not a lot of time left. So if you run a business but you don’t have someone you can bounce ideas off and you can support you when you need help, it will be really hard. If you have the support you need, go for it!
Love the Pen is a distinctive mix of photo-journalism covering life on the Mornington Peninsula. Writers and photographers are dispatched daily to deliver stories on people, emerging ideas, popular culture and inspiring moments. Love the Pen covers subjects in art, business, culture, design, events, food, farming, history and community. They respectfully acknowledge that the activities of Love the Pen(insula) take place on Boon Wurrung country, and they pay respect to elders past and present.
Kate has been running her own business for many years, with her partner, and with support from family, staff and colleagues. Business Mamas understands that it can be hard to find the support you need so they have established a strong mentor program and networking opportunities that can help relieve the burden or isolation and provide a way for you to share your ideas and get the support you deserve.
Copy: Melanie Quirk Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios
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