One of the most unexpected and unknown things about Kathleen Shannon is her height. It’s the characteristic that slips by her thousands of blog followers, virtual coaching clients, and fans – Kathleen is freakin’ tall. She towered over me during our first meeting at an Oklahoma City, Okla. coffee shop at 5’9, but her high heels and a headful of dreadlocks added even more dimension to her already commanding persona.
Kathleen’s tendency to overshare on her personal blog, & Kathleen, skyrocketed her from a quiet life as a print designer to a creative entrepreneur that hosts a podcast, speaks at design conferences, and calls some pretty cool (and famous) people clients. Today, Kathleen is the co-owner of Braid Creative – a creative consulting firm she runs with her sister, Tara Street. Together, they help creative entrepreneurs blend who they are with what they do. Creators, makers, writers, photographers, coaches, yogis, and doulas come to Braid for branding and business visioning.
I imagined speaking with her in real life to be akin to talking to a big sister’s raucous best friend. In reality, she’s more like your favorite girlfriend – occasionally lowering her voice to a hush as she leans in to tell you a secret or ask a personal question. Because anything is up for discussion with Kathleen. Her transparency and vulnerability with both real life friends, online followers, and even clients are at the core of her work and life. She wants to be known, yes, but also has an inherent desire to know others intimately and authentically.
See, her personal life and her work are one in the same. She calls it ‘magic in the overlap’ and it’s the mystic balance that working mamas everywhere are trying to make happen for themselves and their hustle. She birthed baby Fox at home in January of 2014, and we all watched as her body and business grew that year (and every month since). What’s the secret? Kathleen sat down with us and the Spitfiremom Society to talk all about business, baby, and bringing it all together.
Talk to me about your journey to motherhood. Is it something you always wanted?
I always imagined that I would have kids in the future – but as I got older and the future was NOW I started to question whether or not I really wanted kids. As I was growing up in the suburbs the model was “go to college, get a good job, get married, have kids, invest in a pension, retire.” But once I actually became an adult and started carving my own path I learned that that model of living wasn’t necessarily for me.
Did owning a business influence your decision to be or not to be a mom? How so?
Launching my business, Braid Creative, felt like giving birth. And these first few years certainly have felt like the first few years of parenthood. I’m tackling new challenges daily and figuring it out as I go. Having a business consumes a lot of my energy and focus so it was scary to imagine adding a kid into the mix. I was afraid that I would want to quit working.
How does being a mom influence your work, your creativity?
This might sound a little woo-woo but when I was pregnant – as my body was growing – I found everything around me was growing as well. My creativity, my business, my finances… And it hasn’t slowed down since having Fox. I’ve had more business opportunities come up since being a mom than ever before. Maybe it’s just timing or maybe it’s a cosmic kind of abundance that was catalyzed by having a family. It sure feels bigger than me.
On a more practical level, I have to be incredibly focused. I don’t have time or energy to waste so it keeps me very intentional in the way I run my business and my life.
What resources have been the most helpful to you as a working mama?
Daycare! I have no idea how work-at-home parents manage. I’m a good business woman and I’m a good mom but not at the same time. Because my baby goes to daycare I can be 100% present with my work or with my baby. Also when I was about 8 weeks postpartum I began working with a postpartum and maternal health coach named Rebecca Egbert – http://www.rebeccaegbert.com. Rebecca and I met weekly for 6 months – she really helped me navigate what was happening in my body, mind, and soul in those early months. She helped me realize that I wasn’t just raising a new baby but I was raising myself as a new mom.
Do you talk with your clients or potential clients about being a mom, or your baby? Why or why not?
Yes and no. When I’m at work I’m at work and while my baby is always on my heart he isn’t always on my mind. So sometimes I just don’t even think to bring him up. But when it’s relevant – if my client is struggling with being a creative “mamapreneur” I can empathize and share my story. A lot of the work we do really dives into personal branding and the work / life blend. I’m a mom now and that’s a big part of my identity – so if I’m going to practice what I preach being a mom is naturally going to be a thread that is woven into my story.
Has your clientele changed any since becoming a mom?
We always seem to attract clients based on whatever “phase” I’m going through. When I was talking a lot about health and nutrition we started attracting holistic nutritionists. So when I was deep into my yoga practice we were attracting yogis. When I was pregnant we were attracting doulas and midwives. Right now though, we’re working with a lot of creatives who are transitioning from a day job to building their own dream job – and they need a brand (and the confidence that comes with having that brand) to make the leap.
What’s one thing you still haven’t figured out?
Oh gosh, there’s way more than one. But if I had to really narrow it down I would say I haven’t been able to figure out how to make time for everything I want to do. I’ve been able to carve out time for business development and client work but I haven’t quite figured out how to make time stretch to share my life story on my personal blog – because after dinner, bath time, and bedtime routines I’m ready to collapse on the couch and zone out with some Netflix.
I always wonder about identity after motherhood. How did being a mom change the way you share online?
I’ve always been something of an open book when it comes to sharing who I am online. After having the baby and becoming a mom I wanted to share that experience too – and I very much do – but I have to be careful that it’s MY story from my perspective. In other words, I want my baby to be able to write his own story one day. It’s my job to protect him as much as I can until he can creative boundaries for himself.
Did you change how you position yourself and your personal brand?
I’m still figuring that out. I felt hesitant sharing too much about being pregnant or becoming a mom because I didn’t want to offend anyone or become a “mommy blogger” but I learned quickly that part of having a personal brand is allowing that brand to evolve as you evolve. I have to give people permission to stop following my work or my writing if it no longer resonates with them. I’m not the same person I was two years ago – but that would be true whether or not I had a baby – and that’s okay. Change is good!
Many strong opinions swirl around parenthood and how to do it right. How do you/did you navigate making those big decisions (daycare/diapers/home birth/breastfeeding, etc) and owning those choices?
Giving birth at home, breastfeeding, putting my baby in daycare – it took consideration and thought but I never questioned myself once it was happening because I always felt confident that I could change my mind. If the home birth didn’t work I could always transfer to the hospital. If breastfeeding didn’t work I would be grateful for formula. If putting my baby in daycare didn’t work I could always find another option. Now, sharing those choices and being okay with people telling me I’m wrong or a bad mom – that’s none of my business.
I also have to say that in hindsight the big decisions were kind of easy – I did what felt right for me and my family. It’s the little daily decisions that wear me down. Stuff like “should I call the doctor about this snotty nose or ride it out?” or “I wonder if he’s allergic to this milk?” or stuff like timing his naps with going out. The daily juggle is what I’m still trying to find grace in!
What tips do you have for expecting entrepreneurs or brand spankin’ new mamas?
The first year is a total shit-show (of business and baby) so be kind to yourself. Do what you can to make yourself happy first and the baby and business will follow suit.
Thanks so much for sharing, Kathleen. We are inspired to be total boss ladies in our own lives.
Jess, Heidi & Jenn
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