Kay Storey on How To Bounce Back Stronger in Business
Kay Storey, chief Brandstomer at Brandstorm Creatives
Can you start by telling us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur, focusing particularly on your experiences with setbacks and challenges? How has this shaped your understanding and mastery of resilience in business?
Post graduating, I only ever had 4 short “proper jobs” over 4 years combined and I was made redundant from every one of them, so, at the age of 24, after the fourth employment disaster I made a promise to herself that I would never rely on anyone else for my wages ever again - I've just hit my 25th anniversary in business.
As a freelancer I had lots of fun and worked for many different design and branding agencies supporting clients over different sectors from SMEs to corporates. At 27 I took a year out and went travelling, got a flat in Sydney for 7 months then travelled Asia 3 months, this included working on the boats as a scuba diving guide for tourists.
Upon my return KDesign (old business name) was back in full swing as I needed to follow my desire for more freedom, I chose to take more control over who I wanted to work with, so I could be as creative as possible. That’s when I decided to shift my focus and create an agency model business. Within this I found a real passion helping business leaders of SMEs to create incredible brands that look sound and feel unique. The team grew and with it KDesign branding agency, which in 2021 rebranded to Brandstorm Creatives.
In the world of entrepreneurship, failure is often seen as a stepping stone rather than a dead-end. How do you perceive failure, and can you share an instance where a failure led to an unexpected growth or success in your business?
I think one of my biggest failures was when I decided to go into business with a partner on a new venture. I very quickly learnt that we had very different values and ideas of running a business and promptly closed the business. When I realised I could be getting myself into a nightmare of a situation I closed the business and put all my energy back into my own venture. I was young and naive and should the situation arise again, I would handle it very differently! There were many lessons learnt around due diligence and the importance of having open conversations, especially around money.
What strategies have you employed to cultivate a culture of resilience within your organization? How have these strategies made your team more adaptable and innovative, especially during trying times?
Connection is huge for me, especially with people we work closely with, and a sense of community is invaluable. It’s really important for me to bring joy into my day and I'm no stranger to having fun in the work environment. I genuinely feel like close colleagues and clients feel like family. I would advise not being too setting your ways and be open to suggestions around change. Just because you’ve been doing things in a certain way doesn’t mean that things haven't evolved and there are better ways to be found. It’s essential to have clear communications and the opportunity for feedback for all members of staff and clients. If someone doesn’t feel like they’re being heard, it’s only going cause underlying problems that can easily escalate. Mental health and well-being have never been as important and talked about as they are currently. Feeling supported in your working environment is essential. Happy Team, happy life. I love that we have a good giggle at work but if there’s anything going in the background, whether work or personal, I genuinely feel that colleagues are more than happy to have open conversations.
You've spoken about bouncing back from failure, but I'm curious to know if there is a methodology you follow to analyze what went wrong and how to correct it. Could you describe your process for assessing and learning from mistakes?
The first thing I would think about is how this affected your mental health and look at doing some inner work. You may need to face what happened and break it down then be able to move forwards without carrying baggage you don’t need. I would then certainly think about doing a SWOT analysis on the situation and try to put things in place to stop it happening again. Acknowledge what happened then put it behind you.
Many entrepreneurs fear failure to the point that it paralyzes them. How do you balance taking calculated risks with the fear of failure? What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who struggle with this?
I can say 100% that there is inner work to be done here and a piece around due diligence, again look at the SWOT analysis on whatever happened. Research is key, but the thing is, as an entrepreneur there is usually an element of risk involved, but that certainly needs to be a calculated one.
Sometimes, resilience requires knowing when to pivot or even walk away from an idea. How do you recognize the difference between a challenge that requires persistence and a situation that necessitates a change in direction?
The very thought of needing to pivot, or even walk away from something comes from your gut so listen to it carefully. You need to map out what the new scenario looks like to you. Is it still something that brings you joy or excites you? Is it viable financially? Lots of questions need to be asked, and it depends on the individuals circumstances.
The global economic landscape is always changing, and recent years have seen some extraordinary disruptions. How have you adapted your business to overcome unexpected global challenges? What were the key factors in your successful navigation of these waters?
In very recent years, I too have been affected by the changing global economic landscape. I decided to use that time to look for areas where we could upscale, increase offerings, and become more visible at a time where some buried their head in the sand. For us, our mission was to be in the strongest position possible on the other side of darker days.
Resilience in the face of failure is often linked to personal growth as well. How have your business experiences shaped you personally? Can you share a moment where your professional resilience translated into a personal transformation?
We learn and grow through all life experiences, constantly evolving and business is no exception. For me giving in has never been an option after 25 years in business, and I actually think I have more confidence now than I ever have.