“My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.” Maya Angelou
Kate Walker is the Founder and Director of KWD – a business that specifies, sources and supplies hard finishes for new builds, renovations and restorations; and as a single mother of two, Kate says she’s passionate about providing a working environment with a healthy work-life balance for everyone.
“I believe it’s important to support working parents, so they can be there for the important things and not let work get in the way of special milestones. At the end of the day, it doesn’t mean that my standards or expectations are any less, we just find a way to make things work”.
Growing up as one of seven children, Kate says it gave her an incredible work ethic, something she’s now trying to teach her children.
“My parents did an amazing job, but they couldn’t be across everything. We didn’t really have the attention of our parents for homework or reading at bedtime or dropping something to school if we forgot it. We had to just get on with it, so it made all of us fiercely independent, motivated and driven”.
Kate was the winner of this year’s Soar Collective Business Owner Award for her commitment to excellence in customer service and outstanding results in growing the business to over 10 staff in her first three years.
“I’m proud of the business I’ve built. I’m equally proud of the support I provide to local businesses. I work in a wonderful community and I’m proud to have created an amazing team who are like my second family”.
When the going gets tough, Kate has a tenacity that has her “get up and get on with it”. She recognises that building a business, and taking care of two children on her own, is not easy and it takes guts to rise strong. Despite her success, the journey has of course had its challenges – finding supplier partners who share the same ethics, morals and business practices, she says, has been difficult at times.
“I learnt the importance of integrity, something my father first taught me during the difficult times of the 90s when Geelong was hit with a recession and the only thing my father could do to survive was trade on his reputation and integrity. It’s a story he’s told me and my son; and it’s now one I share with my partners.”
The supply partners Kate now works with, she says, are so incredibly honourable that she considers them supply partners in her own business – she offers them support and they offer her support and honesty in return.
“It’s integrity that’s got me to where I am today, and in turn our supply partners are client focused. We bend over backwards to get the job done regardless of any issues and who is responsible for those issues. I always tell my staff, we have to deliver on our promise, and if we can’t for some reason, then we must tell the truth. You can never get in trouble telling the truth.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My family. I’ve had no greater inspiration than my parents and grandparents. I had astute grandfathers who were both successful in their own right. They had their own ways of doing things and I’ve taken a lot of advice from them, and my father.
I’ve been dealt a fair amount of adversity in my life and it would have been very easy to play the victim – to roll over and say ‘I can’t do this’; but I didn’t. I was never prepared to fail. I always wanted to succeed, but more than anything else I wanted to be an inspiration for my children. If it wasn’t for them I may have given up, but I wanted to give them an incredible life and I wanted them to be proud of me.
Now that my kids are at an age where we can travel, I want to show them the world. Growing up in a big family we couldn’t afford to do a lot of overseas travel, so only having two children myself I want to show them the world. And having a successful business will help me to achieve this.
I do want to mould the business to a point where I don’t have to keep on working as hard as I do. I want to work smarter not harder. I want to foster a better work-life balance, and I want to live a really natural, healthy life that is community conscious and environmentally aware. I want to be a positive example to the next generation. I think it’s important that we all treat each other with compassion.
My father taught me a lesson when I was little. I came home from school one day crying because a girl was being mean to me, and he said “you know the meaner someone is being to you, the kinder you should be to them, because they are hurting inside.” And he was right, that little girl’s parents had just got divorced and I was close enough to her for her to take it out on me.
My own personal experiences have meant I have had to put on a brave face at time so no one knew what was going on behind the scenes. A lot of people don’t want to ask for help, or don’t know how to ask for help, so it’s important for all of us to be compassionate to everyone no matter how someone is acting. Sometimes when people are being the meanest we need to show them love. Quite often they just need a cuddle.
If there’s one thing I want to be remembered for, its “for not only surviving, but thriving – that no matter how many times I was knocked down, I got back up again, every time”.
If you’re interested in being inspired by some incredible KWD projects follow Kate on Instagram or Facebook and of course if you’re interested in doing business with Kate visit her website or connect with her on Linked In.
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