Monday Muse: Katie Kath
Another Monday is here and and what better way to start than with a Monday Muse? This week’s muse is Katie Kath of Jkath Design Build + Reinvent. I’ve followed Jkath on instagram for awhile, but little did I know Katie and I have met before! It wasn’t until we were both at an event together and we were introduced. We were both convinced we knew each other, but could not for the life of us figure out how. Fast forward a week later when I reached out to her for this interview, having done a bit of research on her and Jkath, did I discover how we knew each other. We used to both sell Stella and Dot and she owned Spill the Wine (where we would have our Team Meetings and one of our favorite wine bars back in the day). It’s such a small world and fascinating to see where our lives take us. I knew back then Katie was a force to be reckoned with, but after doing this interview with her, I’m even more impressed. Katie gets stuff done. She is a true girlboss. She sets goals and crushes them. Read on to learn more about Katie and Jkath.
Let's start at the beginning. What did you want to be when you grew up and what did you go to school for? Did you always have an interest in design?
I had many career ideas, but always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was enrolled in the Institute of Technology at the U of M, with a focus on engineering. Later moved to pre-law, eventually starting my own business upon graduation. In the end, I had a creative yearning that needed to be addressed. I was most happy buried in a cookbook, getting lost in a yarn store, dreaming up projects for the sewing machine. None of which I’ve mastered, but the endless opportunities to challenge myself and evolve creatively keeps me coming back for more. After a few failed start ups, I eventually opened a restaurant. It was an industry I knew, and I knew it well. Creating a profitable bottom line was no sweat, it allowed me to also tap into creative resources to drive traffic and revenues .. particularly in the dead of winter in Minnesota. I wore many hats in this career, and marketing/branding was the most fun hat to wear. Honing in on our target market, spending habits, frequency of visits, how to reach them (insert digital marketing!), and once they arrived how do we impress with the ambiance? What creative and unique ways are we different, what is our niche strategy, what memorable details are we leaving behind. I quickly learned this was no small task and not one I could take on and easily manage while also running the operations of the restaurant. We did our best, and after 8 solid years, many restless nights, a career change was in order.
Can you share your career journey? You've experienced a few different paths, how did they lead you to where you are today?
( .. taking off from the above question) I sold my restaurant and started over with a clean slate. I knew what I was passionate about, what skill sets I used in my previous career that I wanted to take with me:
1) Digital marketing/content to reach an audience- this is much more involved than a singular post in IG. It’s establishing a voice, rhythm, community, and building trust with a wider audience.
2) I also knew how to run a business, staffing, retention, branding, leadership to name a few .. so working for a larger company where I couldn't’ tap into what I enjoyed doing wasn’t going to be a fit.
It turned out my next move was already waiting for me, my significant other at the time had a remodeling business and a cabinet shop. He was managing 1 project at a time, wasn’t documenting his work or end results and was relying on the clients to make all their own selections. We didn’t love the idea of working together, we were also both single parents with full custody of our kids living in 2 separate households, this venture felt too risky. ONE of us should seek the corporate job with securities we often told one another. One small experimental project led to another, and another, and before we knew it we were working nights and weekends on the kitchen island together, CREATING beautiful spaces for our clients. I found this renewed energy safe and exciting all at the same time. Where I may have lacked in formal design language or etiquette, I showed up with an understanding of margins. I found immediate success in helping clients cut back when needed, and knowing when to splurge and where those splurges should be, some of this is innate, some is learned, and the rest is intuition.
Being an entrepreneur - what do you love most about it? Least?
I love the creative outlet, and this isn’t just the arts and craft of what we do, it’s the ability to solve problems, see immediate rewards, take action, results oriented. I also love the creative space of making spaces beautiful again. Least? It’s really challenging setting your own boundaries. I am not tied to an hourly rate/40 hour work week, so knowing when to turn it off can be really difficult. I also enjoy what I do, so it can often be a choice to work on client projects when I should otherwise take a break.
What does a typical day in the life look like for you?
Along with being an entrepreneur, comes the flexibility to write your own schedule. I almost always get up early, 5/5:30am, on purpose, lol! Cup of hot coffee, little bit of cream, no sugar .. and off to the lightrail (summer or winter) to catch a train to downtown Minneapolis for my morning workout at FlyFeet. This isn’t a daily routine, but several times a week. If I am not off and running, I am still finding time for myself first thing in the morning. Rarely do I do client work or early morning meetings. From there it’s go go go for 4-6 hours, I am pretty good about calling it quits mid afternoon to reengage with our kids. This may involve driving someone somewhere, meal prepping for dinner, working on a puzzle, sometimes a quiet moment to read. We opened an office in Highland Park, earlier this year, and since we’ve done this I rarely work after hours from home. An occasional urgent email or prep for a client meeting may take up some evening hours. If possible I am paging through cookbooks planning out our families next meal, scouring Pinterest making plans for our next vacation - things to do and see, may pick up a set of knitting needles or go for a walk with Jesse and our new puppy.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
What other people think of you, is none of your business. Stepping through this door and reminding myself we all have our past experiences that have created the people we are today. Often, the judgement of others truly has to do with their own experiences, and nothing you have said or done. It’s a solid reminder to be yourself, go out into the world putting out what it needs from you, finding happiness and CALM along the way.
What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now? And what would you tell your younger self?
It took me awhile to surround myself with supportive people, I think I was always trying to prove myself early on. That I got this, I can do it .. I am an overachiever and often seeking perfection. It was never enough. I also wasn’t surrounded by the right people to acknowledge this, to support me, encourage me, tell me that I am enough .. all the messages I constantly share with my children now because I didn’t have this as a young woman. Once I experienced these messages and could feel it from the people around me, my life changed. It gave me permission to make mistakes, permission to fall short occasionally, learn from my failures, and realize that I am stronger today because of those lessons. I can also very easily set boundaries professionally and personally. And this has been a huge key to my success, knowing when to say no, or push back, as well as say yes and make a new connection .. I would tell my younger self to figure this piece of life out sooner. I may have lost some relationships along the way, and possibly hung onto to others too long as a result.
Rapid Fire Questions
Early Bird or Night Owl: 100% early bird.
Caffeine ASAP or nah, I'm naturally full of energy: Caffeine ASAP
Go to wine: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
City Slicker or County lover: City Slicker
Favorite room to design: Mudroom, I love the practicality of it.