How would you describe Simple & Season?
It’s about building a life and work that feels like you – with less should do’s and more soul. That means learning to tap into your self-trust and working from your inner knowing to live a daily life that is truly what you want.
How did your business come to be?
I had started Simple & Season as a lifestyle blog in 2016 as a way to get more creative and really make use of my spare time while I was working in a job with a lot of responsibility. By the following year, I was craving an escape from the 9 – 5 in order to live a life more on my own terms. My now ex-partner got a new job in North Wales and we made the 200-mile move – which meant I had to start turning that blog into a business pretty quick!
My background was in marketing, and through Instagram I was coming across lots of people with wonderful businesses who were clearly struggling to make marketing work for them, and that’s where I knew I could help. Over the years, my work has evolved so that it’s not really about marketing anymore, but the emotional experience of doing this work and using self-trust.
How did your career begin?
After graduating with an MA in History of Art I really wanted to work in museums and heritage, but with any paid work in that field incredibly hard to come by, I took an entry-level marketing job – and found I had a talent for it. In my first job I was the only marketer, so it was a real baptism of fire, but it meant that I got to do a bit of everything and really create my own style of marketing. I then went on to work as European marketing manager for a furniture brand, which involved lots of travel and meetings that I had thought I wanted – but the reality didn’t make me happy. It was after a year in that job that I started my blog.
What are the services you offer?
I currently have a mix of self-led and more intensive offerings. I have workbooks to help you plan, find your purpose or hone your ideal customer, and courses to set up your business and marketing plan, plan and create consistent content, and market your work as a coach. I also work with people one-to-one and through my group programme, The Trail. This year I’m having a big rejig of my offerings, so there will be new programmes coming soon, too!
How did you first discover your love for what you do?
I can’t pinpoint a single moment, and in a lot of ways I feel this is something that is still unravelling for me. What I’m doing and my direction now is wildly different to even a year ago, and I also know that in another year it will be different again. We tend to treat things like ‘work direction’ as a static thing, even though we are constantly evolving as the human beings actually doing that work. I like to not hold too tightly to the definition of ‘What I Do’, so that my work can be something that works for my needs, and not the other way round.
Describe a typical working day…
I am not a morning person, so I most definitely do not get up at 5am to do a workout and have a healthy breakfast! One of my motivators for leaving the 9 – 5 was not having to wake up at 7am every day, so I tend to get up between 8 and 9 and slowly warm up to the day with a potter down the lane and a cup of tea. From 10am I do a few hours of focused work – this is usually creative work like writing, because I’m never in the right headspace for this if I leave it until the afternoon. After a quick lunch I’ll do a few more hours of more fiddly or admin work like emails, creating resources for my group programme etc. By late afternoon I’m dying to get outside, so will go for a walk or run and do yoga before dinner.
I really only work 4 – 6 hours a day, because I have spent years honing what’s important. It’s so easy to fill up your day with things other people want you to do, or things that you feel you should do. I have three criteria for anything that goes on my to do list: it directly takes me closer to a goal, it’s efficient (i.e., it does more than one job in my business), it brings me joy. If something doesn’t hit one of those criteria, it doesn’t happen!
What are the values underpinning your work?
The key thing for me is to choose yourself relentlessly. This doesn’t just mean to do what you want (but it definitely does mean that too!), but to choose to know you have the answers, choose to believe yourself over other people, choose what is best for you in any given moment. It’s having an inside-out approach, rather than taking the lead from external influences. It’s looking inside yourself when you have a decision to make and letting that be the driving force.
What has been the greatest hurdle in starting your own business?
It has been, and continues to be, embracing what might be possible. Most of us come out of school and workplaces with very narrow views of what might be an option for us – we’ve always been told how good we are, what our potential is, what we deserve to be paid, whether we’re ‘good enough’ for promotion. It takes a lot of unravelling to not continue to exist within these limits in your own business; I personally always butt up against the assumption that ‘I could never do that’, and continually have to be conscious of challenging it.
Describe your business’s location…
I was going to say that the business’s location is kind of irrelevant to what I do as it’s all online, but actually it’s not. Living in North Wales and being a passionate hiker definitely affects the business – I approach problems the same way I approach a mountain, and all my imagery (photographic and metaphorical in my writing) is deeply embedded in the landscape here. Simple & Season is, however, a global community with people listening to the podcast and joining programmes from every continent.
Is there an element of your work that you love the most?
I really love to spend a few hours writing a blog post on a new lesson I’m learning, an ‘a-ha’ moment I’ve had for myself, and to try and find words to communicate it in a way that will help others get to their own a-ha moment. When I read the post back through, I can think of a few people who have messaged me on Instagram or who I’ve had conversations with on the topic, and know they’ll love it – that’s a great feeling.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
Without the online community, there is no Simple & Season! Everything happens online, with my podcast, newsletter and Instagram being the real hubs.
What’s been the biggest eye-opener for you in running your business?
I always say there’s nothing quite like running a business for revealing the deepest, darkest parts of yourself. You’d imagine that it’s just work, and you should be able to just do it without any particular soul-searching, but nope! Something about running a business pulls out all your insecurities, all your deepest stories and beliefs about yourself, and brings them to the surface for you to wade through every day. But it also brings up all your strengths, creativity and capabilities, too. So you really learn a lot about yourself and who you are through this work.
How do you differentiate yourself in a creative industry?
Share your truth. Tell your stories. Talk about what excites you. Be open. Markets are crowded and particularly in places like Instagram it’s easy for people with similar businesses to blur together. You might not remember which coach spoke about ‘10 ways to do X’, but you will remember the one who talked truthfully about their own experience of changing after burnout, for example. To stand out, and crucially to keep people’s attention, we need to have infectious energy – and the best way to do that is to talk about what you’re excited about.
Do you enjoy working as an independent – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
Independence is a very important value for me in life generally, so I love having control over my time and deciding what I do each day. The greatest joy is knowing that if it’s a lovely day, I can go off for a hike in the mountains and do the work another day, but I also love that you get to see the direct impact of everything you do.
I am fortunate to have wonderful friends who also work for themselves and we discuss ideas all the time, so not having a team isn’t really a challenge for me as I have a lot of support around me. Perhaps the greatest challenge is accountability – it’s only me that does stuff and decides when things happen, and sometimes I never quite get round to it! But to be honest, it’s hard to think of many challenges that I really struggle with; I absolutely love working for myself and would never change it.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
For me it’s about sharing what I’m doing and how I’m approaching it. With work like coaching, it is your approach that really intrigues people and helps them to see what might be possible for them. Sharing my projects and showing how I’m leaning on self-trust helps people to see their own challenges with a different lens – and they may want to go deeper into more support from me if they feel inspired.
What have been your business highlights so far?
When I hear ‘highlights’ my mind immediately goes to awards or press features. And while those things are lovely, they also don’t feel like true highlights to me – you can win an award but still feel completely lost behind the scenes. The true highlights for me are the times when I have allowed myself to embrace what I’m doing the business for. It’s the times I’ve taken an afternoon off to go walking, the times I said no to things that didn’t serve me, the times I changed what I was doing in order to have more of the life I wanted. These acts of choosing myself feel like the real highlights.
Where do you find inspiration if you’re in a creative rut?
Stop trying! We’re all susceptible to the ‘I haven’t published anything in weeks I need to just get something out’ panics, but one of my mantras is to only post when I’ve got something to say. Whatever I post has to be intentional, rather than just making a noise. So I try to make myself focus on other things, do some fun things to give me something to write about, and just trust it will come back when it’s ready.
Do you have any pastimes or hobbies?
I walk every day, but now I am gearing up to do the Welsh 3000s (climbing the 15 highest peaks in Wales over 2/3 days) this summer, I’m aiming to do a mountain hike once a week. Otherwise I love to have lunch and coffee with friends and read in a long bath.
What is the most important lesson that running your business has taught you about life?
That there is no ‘There’… there isn’t some magical endpoint where you have everything you always wanted and can stop worrying, and are finally allowed to enjoy life. We so naturally put off joy until we’ve worked hard enough or ticked enough life boxes – and the list only gets longer. There isn’t this imagined far-off place, but there is now, each day. So even if that list isn’t ticked off, even if you didn’t hit your income goal, even if you’ve not got that dream house in the country, choose to enjoy life in just a little way today – and that’s how you bring ‘There’ into ‘Here’.
Any advice for independent creative businesses who are starting out?
This is the worst you will ever be – and I mean that it the nicest way possible! Over the next months and years you will grow in ways you can’t even possibly imagine right now, your work will mature, you will change, your business will shift. You’re not supposed to have it all sussed out now before you launch, and you’re not supposed to know what you’re doing. So just start with what you have, because you need to start before you can begin making it really good. It’s all to come.
In as little as six months’ time, when you’re busy with clients or stressing out about fulfilling orders, you’ll look back on this period and wish you’d enjoyed it more. You’ll wish you had relished the planning a little more, wish you’d spent some spare time outside, wish you’d been present in enjoying the early stages. So embrace it.
Books I love:
If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
Getting to Center by Marlee Grace
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The hills around Beddgelert
Instagrammers I love:
Frank & Feel – @frankandfeel
Poetry is not a luxury – @poetryisnotaluxury
Madison Morrigan – @madisonmorrigan
Discover more about Kayte’s work on her website and Instagram:
Kayte recently wrote a feature for our print magazine – Volume 11 – about redefining the concept of growth within your small business, and how to keep a healthy growth mindset. Click here to purchase Volume 11, which is full of beautiful interiors, creative people and inspiring small businesses.