342 MINISODE Kathy Kearns: A Startup and Two Toddlers

Women Innovating Networking Growing Scaling – that’s WINGS … I’m Melinda Wittstock, my mission is to help women take flight to soar to the success of our dreams in business and in life– and create and grow businesses in alignment with our passion and purpose.

On this special Mentoring Minisode of Wings of Inspired Business … we talk about how entrepreneurship can be leveraged for social good, in this case, the sustainable fashion movement. There is a growing consumer demand to know how our clothes are made, who made them, the quality of the materials used, the impact on the environment and more. But maybe I buried the lead because we also talk how to grow a startup with two toddlers in tow – and why we all have to simply accept in entrepreneurship that we are always “a work in progress.”

Here with us today to provide her insights and inspiration is …

Kathy Kearns.

Kathy is a former Google Sales executive who spent 18 years understanding what motivates people to take the actions that they do. Now as an entrepreneur she’s applying all that knowledge to make a positive impact on the world. She is the Founder of THIRD LAW, which specializes in wardrobe optimization – transforming your wardrobe to be lean, sustainable and reflective of your personal brand.

And now to the inspiring Kathy Kearns.

At Google Kathy works across a number of verticals including fashion, sports and apps, where she leveraged market data and industry trends to create high-growth digital strategies resulting in $1.8 billion in business. Pre-Google she led brand marketing campaigns for major media and entertainment companies including the History Channel, MTV’s Video Music Awards and the release of Radiohead’s Kid A album. Then she took the leap into entrepreneurship and as founder of Third Law, she’s focused on changing the fashion industry for social good.

Melinda Wittstock:         Kathy, welcome to Wings.

Kathy Kearns:                   Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Melinda Wittstock:         It's wonderful to have you on too, and I'm really excited to learn what's inspiring you right now.

Kathy Kearns:                   What is inspiring me right now is the collective power of the sustainable fashion community.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, tell me more about that. What do you mean by the sustainable fashion community?

Kathy Kearns:                   Yeah. So there's a really powerful movement happening right now within fashion. I kind of equate it to what's going on to what has happened with food where a lot of people look at their food and they want to buy organic food, or they want to understand what … their food came from, and how their animal was treated. And where was my tomato grown? What are the ingredients? Same thing is happening in fashion right now. So people want to understand where were my clothes made? Who made them? Were they paid a fair wage? Were they treated well? Did they have a good working environment? What kind of materials is my clothing made of? Is it toxic for me? Is it toxic for the environment? What are the resources that we had to pull? And how is it affecting our people and our planet?

So there's a huge growing community around sustainable fashion, and it's wonderful and I think it's one of the biggest opportunities that we all have to make an incredible impact.

Melinda Wittstock:         Aww! That is inspiring. And so I know that there are always challenges in business I know from four of my own companies now company number five that it can sometimes feel like a roller coaster and I always want to de-stigmatize that because it comes with the territory as an entrepreneur. What are some of your challenges right now?

Kathy Kearns:                   I'd say one of my biggest challenges is really balancing being a mother of two toddlers and also having a business.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my goodness. I'm just going to give you a SheroGram right now. How old are your kids?

Kathy Kearns:                   They're two and a half, and four and a half. So almost three and five. That's  a lot with the startup, and I feel for you because I've been there. Several months back, my daughter was six weeks old when the money came through. When like we got our funding. And I was like, “Okay, go.” And she's like six weeks old.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wow. Yeah, that's tough.

Kathy Kearns:                   So yeah. So it's a lot to juggle. So what are some of the things that you do to try and juggle all that? Well, the nice thing about being in charge is, I can set my own schedule. So even though some nights a lot of nights I'm working late, if I do that, then I can say, “You know what, my son has the day off from school tomorrow and I'm going to spend the day with him.” Or I take time out of the day to do different things with my kids. So I try to balance it out that way. Like yeah, it's challenging. I think I'm tired a lot, so I have to be careful to get sleep and take care of myself try to force myself to go to the gym.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, you do. You have to actually force yourself to put yourself first sometimes too. And that's hard. I think for women, we all get challenged by that. It's kinda like when you're on an airplane, and they say, put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If you don't do that as an entrepreneur, trying to balance … I guess I call it work-life integration. If you don't do that, then you just burn out. So I'm glad to hear that you're doing all that stuff for yourself. Keep going keep doing that stuff. It will make everything easier.

So along the way, you've moved from Google to start up, so you've done a lot of things, Kathy, what are your top three go to pieces of advice for women in business and entrepreneurs, especially those taking the leap into entrepreneurship as you did.

Kathy Kearns:                   I think my number one piece of advice is that it is okay to be a work in progress. You don't have to have the answers to everything. I say this because as soon as you tell someone, you're building a company, you're building a startup, they want answers. They want to know your elevator pitch, and they want to know, like, what's your long term plan? What are your business goals? Are you raising money? All this stuff. I think in the beginning, you're testing and iterating and in my case, building an organic community.

So I don't have all the answers and I think that's okay, and that's part of it. And I think that's a beautiful part of it. It's all about the journey, and you don't have to necessarily be all buttoned up. I think that's okay. So it's a little vulnerable. But if you listen to Brene Brown, she ties vulnerability to courage.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, I love her. I've been reading her book Dare to Lead, which is a must read for anybody in business.

Kathy Kearns:                   Yes, I saw her speak recently. I'm a member of the Wing, which a female … Well, it's not a co working space. It's actually a female club. But I work out of the office in New York. So she came there and spoke and was very inspiring.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, absolutely. Well, I think that's really great advice because we can't be perfectionists all the time and expect to succeed. What are your next two pieces of advice?

Kathy Kearns:                   Yes. So next, I would say that everyone has a different leadership style, and yours may be softer and quieter, and that is okay. I say this because I think that women can come in all different … there's all different types and there's all different ways we communicate. I think for a long time, it was, well, you need to assert yourself, you need to have a POV, you need to be loud, you need to make your presence known. And I think that's true in some respects, you want to be confident, you want to definitely not be walked on. But there's also different styles. There's people who collect information, and maybe they are quieter, and they're gathering all the information so they can make an informed decision.

I think we need to start opening ourselves up and seeing that diversity of leadership style.

Melinda Wittstock:         That's such important advice that there's … I find actually that a lot of really successful entrepreneurs are introverts at the end of the day. Like we force ourselves to be able to be articulate and make the case for the company, as you say, the elevator pitch and do all those things we need to do as founders. And yet, the more introverted among us tend to be maybe a little bit better at listening, which is vital. So what about number three?

Kathy Kearns:                   Number three is so important, and that is to not wait for perfection. But just go ahead and put something out there, put your creation out there and then iterate on it. it's tough to do, because you're going to be criticized, people are going to judge you. But ultimately, if you don't start doing the thing, and you don't start putting something out there, you're never going to have a chance to really refine it and get feedback and move forward. Honestly people don't really remember that early phase. I think people remember when you're successful, and they're like, “Wow, you're an overnight success.”

But an overnight success where you put all this hard work in and really paid your dues for a while. So that's tough for me too, putting things out there that I know could be better. But I've learned to do it and I keep doing it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, you really have to do it. I think in a way it's good because you can co create with your customers at that point. I mean, you're actually going to be more likely to be building something that people actually want to pay for, rather than perfecting something that you don't know. I mean, that's really a hypothesis until it actually becomes a business and people are actually paying for what you're doing. It takes a while to find that product market fit for everybody. So, for anyone listening who's in that phase, it's okay. Keep going.

Kathy Kearns:                   Yeah.[crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:08:38"]

Melinda Wittstock:         That's awesome. Oh, so Kathy, how can people find you and work with you?

Kathy Kearns:                   They can find me by going to my website, which is shop Third Law. Third Law is my company and it's inspired by Newton's third law. So for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. And that's the idea, that we're all affecting each other in some way. So it's shopthirdlaw.com or shop Third Law on Instagram.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.

Kathy Kearns:                   Thank you. It was a pleasure.

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