What is your professional title, purpose or passion?
Co-Founder & Director of Kindred.
What did you want to do when you were a child and what changed?
I wanted to be a singer. It was always a big part of my life. I asked my mum to start having singing lessons at 6 years old and continued all the way through school, doing all the grades, in choirs, concerts, competitions – ended up doing my diploma. I still love to sing, but I remember a very stark moment when I was about 18 applying for Julliard in New York, and I thought – actually – I didn’t want to put too much pressure on something I love this much to be my career. I also wanted to work to help people, so I became a Social Worker instead.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given?
I remember being told by my dad years ago about his approach to hiring people back when he started his first company. He said, always hire the person, not the role.
I feel the most amount of pride when I’m listening to the team – always passionate and driven (and trust me, it’s not because they’re paid particularly well!) – hearing their ideas, and always learning from them. I feel proud that the majority of our team have been hired as a person – not because they fit a particular role we were looking for. It’s like, you meet a person and think – wow – that person, their energy and their passion needs to be on my team. Sure, we don’t have a specific role for them just yet, but we’ll make it work. Three people on the team stick out as having been hired with literally no role to put them in – but they’re all total superstars, and Kindred would be lost without them. I think when you give people independence, trust and encouragement, they can really shine. I’m incredibly proud to work with them every day.
What is the best thing about your current working environment?
I work at Kindred, all around the building with everyone else. It’s pretty nice working in the environment you’re constantly trying to make better. You’re seeing things in real time, and able to make real time decisions. Amazing food, coffee and wine all within reach too.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I want to see more Kindreds! I think there’s a lot of work to do here in Hammersmith, but I don’t think we’re far off from getting it really flying. (Bit awkward if I read this in 5 years’ time and it’s a smoking heap on the ground…. )
Tell us more about a charitable organisation or project you think is great.
Ah, so many. A few really stand out from my Social Work days – I used to work with a lot of teenagers who were involved with gangs and at risk of exploitation, and have had really positive experiences with the St Giles Trust; a really amazing organisation. They do loads of things, but one service they offer is one-to-one mentoring with young people who are at serious risk of gang-activity, violence and exploitation. One young woman I worked with completely turned her life around after working with St Giles Trust – I believe she’s now gone on to pursue a career in performing arts. Very cool.
What drives you?
Tough question. I guess I want to be successful, I want Kindred to work so you keep running until you don’t need to run anymore. But I also think I’m driven by the people around me, my family, my Kindred family and my friends. They’re counting on me to make this work – plus it’s a lot of fun, which always helps.
Any final comments?
I think a lot of people see big barriers in starting their own business and feel anxious to take the first step. I guess I’d encourage you to go for it – as long as you have the start of a good idea, and you’re able to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Getting up at 6am, exercising (sometimes – not nearly often enough), walking to work, helping with opening up, catching up with paying invoices, multiple cups of tea.
Bouncing ideas with my team about what’s going well and what we could be doing better, checking work, giving direction. Meetings with visitors about how we could collaborate. Emails Emails Emails.
Staff lunch at 3pm (the chefs always cook something wonderful with stock that might have otherwise been wasted). There might be an event on in the evening, so I often stay for that (often I end up on coat check – a role I’m notoriously bad at).
If I’m around later than 7pm I often end up being accosted with a glass of wine by one of the team. Home late, and sometimes not (I’m getting better at not doing the really long days). Sometimes I have dinner at work, sometimes at home – with my fiancée Sam and my tiny dog Chutney.
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
Starting up Kindred for sure. I look back to where I started on this journey and I just cringe at the naivety and confidence I had in my early plans. There were some initial setbacks, but we’ve come a long way so far. Securing the lease on our building, and seeing a room full of architects and contractors discussing plans for renovating this space was always amazing. When the building works were underway, I would often feel like I was doing a double take to realise – wow - things are happening. And at other times – Oh My Goodness. What. Did. We. Do.
Tell us about a a woman who inspires you
My sisters. (Is that cheating?) – I was the youngest of three girls, all raised by my mum who was on her own since I was about 4 (she inspires me too).
My sister Elizabeth (or Libs) is an incredible source of inspiration for me. She’s a doctor (a paediatrician), an amazing mum, literally the cleverest person ever and just the most loving and supportive sister. She is the only person who is able to understand exactly what I’m thinking, before the thought has even fully formed in my mind. When I’m not sure how I feel about something, I ask Libs.
My oldest sister Zoe was a whirlwind of art, ideas, partying, passion, laughter and bright colours. She inspired me (a natural introvert) to exercise my extroverted qualities – I saw how much fun she was – the life and soul of any party, and I wanted to feel more confident like her. She died at age 24 and it almost broke us as a family, but I take inspiration from her every day. I see her in Kindred for sure; we do a lot of things here that I know she really loved.
What was your biggest failure?
You know when I said I hire people for them as a person? I have no regrets about this approach – but it can go wrong – especially if you’re a little naïve like we were in the early stages. We hired a person who had an incredibly magnetic personality and we liked them a lot. Sadly, it all went bad; the wonderful highs in their personality were matched with some pretty awful lows and we had to let them go. We’re still dealing with the fallout from that months later, but we’ve learnt an important lesson. It won’t be the last time we make this mistake, but we’re more careful now.
What do you like most about yourself?
One of my colleagues told me “you’re really good at delivering bad news in a nice way”… which I think is a good thing? I’m grateful for my brain, my ability to communicate fairly well, and my ability to feel empathy for people. All things not to take for granted.
How can we make the world more inclusive and accepting?
I’m a big believer in exposure being the best antidote to fear. So many people fear ‘the other’ and genuinely don’t know how to reach out to people.
One of the coolest projects I’ve ever seen is StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), an attempt to bridge divides by creating a ‘culture of listening’. They effectively bring two people together, who either know or don’t know each other, and encourage them to ask each other questions; record the whole thing, and watch the magic of connection unfold.
They’ve done some particularly powerful ones between two people who were separated by something; a father and daughter who have different political ideologies, an ex-offender who wanted to speak with his past victim, a mother talking to her son’s killer, and tons of others. They’re incredibly moving, and they feel like an important step in understanding human nature in all it’s diversity. So, more StoryCorps basically.
What skills have been key to your journey so far?
Empathy and grit. Understanding how people are feeling; the team, customers and partners, has been incredibly important in getting Kindred started. Then it’s just about having the grit to keep going, even when it feels scary, or like it’s not quite working. Hold your ground, look under that rock, keep your nerve.