Kay Storey, Creative Director, Founder, Brandstorm Creatives
Kay Storey is chief Brandstormer at Brandstorm Creatives. In this interview with The Industry Leaders, they share their top advice for business professionals, namely the 3 things they wish they'd known when starting out.
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I became a designer because I can’t sing.
As a small child I remember that dreaded time of year, school choir rehearsals, entering the school hall, standing in line, and shuffling my way towards the piano with trepidation. The tweed twin set clad music teacher would plinky-plonk her way up those keys with purpose and without exception, when your Mary Jane’s inched up to that piano leg, you had to work your vocal magic to her tune.
If you received what I called the ‘hand of shame’ on your shoulder during practice, that meant you had to mime. Guess who was familiar with that?!
I remember being invited to remove myself from said hall and create the designs for the posters because I clearly couldn’t sing! Turns out I aced those bad boys and there it is, my first memory of being a designer and owning my lane.
That intrinsic love of colour, design and creation never left me throughout school, college and higher education, where I graduated in Graphic Communications and was launched wide-eyed into the business world.
What I’ve known from a very young age is that I’m unemployable. I made it impossible for my bosses. I’ve only ever had four short ‘proper jobs’, over 4 years combined, and was made redundant from them all. After my fourth employment dumping, I promised myself that I would never rely on anyone else for my wages again. I’m still keeping that promise, I’m no quitter!
I welcomed the freelance years with open arms, and I can tell you, they were lots of fun! I Worked for lots of different design and branding agencies, working on clients over many different sectors from small businesses to corporates. Here’s the thing, being a designer working in corporate, you are massively restricted, and I needed to be free - to be as creative as I could possibly be, so I shifted my focus and created an agency model business. I found a real passion helping business leaders and small business owners to create incredible brands that look and sound different, feel individual and look unique.
There have been plenty of challenges over the past 25 years. My career has been anything but dull and I'm lucky to still work in an industry that I am passionate about and proud to be the founder of Brandstorm Creatives.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
In short, no, however I would have the longest Oscars speech ever with endless thank you's. One of my business values is Quality Relationships: tuning clients into cheerleaders. Looking back I have excelled in connecting with clients, some may call it a superpower.
I believe that creating a network built on my core values meant that no matter what stage of business, I’ve been lucky to have the right people around me, supporting me when I needed them. I am very grateful for this.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
Own your value. After being offered one of my first jobs via telephone (one you dialled), the director proceeded to say "but it will be a couple of thousand less than advertised, is that ok?" I thought for all of 0.1 seconds and answered, "No." Then there was silence for what felt like forever until a voice said "ok, we will leave it as advertised, see you next month." This was my first experience of owning my own value in business.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
To remember your WHY. For me it is the exponential impact made helping people build their brands and create strong identities. Some people charge at leadership like a sugar fuelled kid hitting a piñata, others, like me, took the long road to get there. For the latter, it's essential to remind yourself you are showing up for others especially when you are crazy busy or going through one of life's curveballs.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
1. Delegate. Let it go to grow and delegate. Small business owners, especially newbies, wear so many hats trying to ‘do it all’ while building their empires, with many having no other choice financially. Unfortunately, this means growing the business can feel like cycling with a slow puncture that stops you in your tracks every now and then. It can also be draining on your energy and takes you away from your zone of genius, as it did for me. Everytime you invest in yourself by delegating tasks that don’t bring you joy allows you the space to grow with a supportive team around you.
2. Systems and Processes. Save hours of your time with good systems and processes in place. It’s not something I gave much thought to early on in my business. However, what I do know now is that without them scaling or growing a business is impossible. 3. Mentors. Get a mentor. I think mentorship is a non negotiable, no matter the size of your business. “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle”. Having someone else’s eyes on your business, a cheerleader to help take you to your next level of success or the wisdom and guidance of a peer, is crucial in both our personal and professional lives. I have mentors and have mentored people. Mentoring someone is also a very fulfilling way to pay it forward and share your knowledge, it lights you up watching someone’s face when they have a lightbulb moment.
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
Get out and meet people at networking events, if you are going to be working with someone the chemistry need to be right. Connect with them on social media with and don’t be afraid to ask. Some of the mentors I have worked with came from me simply picking up the phone and asking.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
There are many reasons to pivot, my advice would be to follow your gut, when it feels right, it usually is. In business the need to pivot come from many external factors. Research is essential, it’s important to keep a track of your market, look at predictions and check in with your target audience.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
Staying motivated becomes easier with experience but we all hold our breath at times while riding the business Big Dipper. Stay focused on your goals and stick to your plan, keep going and show up consistently. Mindset and breath work helps you to stay positive, focused and reduces over-thinking, overwhelm and stress.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
Think bigger, better, bolder. Too many people play too small for too long.