A lawyer by trade, Kate Taylor recently started her own business Calvi.Co which specializes in luxurious bed linen made from 100% pure hemp. Calvi.Co gained quick success in Australia and the brand is already looking to grow, increasing color and size offerings and expanding its shipping destinations in the coming months.
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Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Kate Taylor: I am a lawyer, mother of two and the owner and founder of Calvi.Co, a sustainable bed linen business that I run from my home in Melbourne’s inner north. My husband and I are enthusiastic renovators and I have always used styling our home as a creative outlet. In 2021 between two stints of maternity leave and with my hometown of Melbourne seemingly in a perpetual state of lockdown I decided to bring together two of my passions – design and sustainability – to build a business. Calvi.Co was an instant success and I haven’t looked back.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Kate Taylor: I have vivid memories of recruiting my younger brother to help me sell clippings from my mum’s garden to our neighbours passing by as a very young child so I guess my entrepreneurial instincts have always existed. But it still took until I was almost 30 before I believed in a product enough to really have a crack at starting my own business. It was a bit serendipitous really. Pure hemp is a game-changer for the bed linen industry and I happened to fall in love with it at the perfect time. I was taking some time away from my day job to raise our kids and was lucky enough to have room to grow my business baby as well.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Kate Taylor: Women supporting women is so important but unfortunately I had quite the opposite experience until I started my second job as a lawyer. The female partner I worked for in that role was one of those women who makes being a boss and a mum and also a nice person look really easy. She is still a very dear friend and a constant source of inspiration personally and professionally. I hope to inspire other young women in that easy one day.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Kate Taylor: I had a toddler, was working from home and with a second child on the way I was lacking direction and motivation when I discovered pure hemp bed linen and its incredible sustainability profile. Sometimes being stuck in a rut helps you to take a risk and my husband was extremely supportive when it came to taking the plunge into business ownership. I would never have put our savings on the line were it not for his confidence in my abilities. Overcoming those anxieties and taking the leap has been the toughest part so far but I’ve learned that you have to have a go and make mistakes to grow and succeed.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Kate Taylor: Calvi.Co is a family owned and run business which sells 100% pure hemp bed linen. Hemp can be used to create super strong, buttery soft, luxuriously textured fabric that is hypoallergenic and thermoregulating. It is therefore an ideal candidate for bed linen. It’s also the most sustainable textile option available.
I am pretty much a one woman band at the moment so my responsibilities are varied and include photography, marketing, design, liaising with manufacturers and other stakeholders, bookkeeping, packing, postage and the list goes on. The varied nature of the role is what I love most but as we grow I will need to let go of the reigns in some areas. No doubt that will be a big challenge in itself.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Kate Taylor: To me, being the CEO means being accountable at the end of the day for all of the business’ goings on. I consider it my responsibility to ensure that our business is not only profitable but also kind to its consumers and to the planet as well.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Kate Taylor: I had a very unrealistic notion of a business owner’s lifestyle and imagined I’d have this wonderful work life balance. It turns out there is just never enough time in the day to get everything done. I am constantly dreaming up new ideas for Calvi.Co so even after my most productive days my to do list seems longer than ever.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Kate Taylor: In my experience a CEO needs to be able to focus on everything but perhaps that would have been different if I were starting out in more of a team environment. In order to make decisions that are in Calvi.Co’s best interests I have to know what is going on across the board.
To get the business off the ground I did everything from web design to import management to business registration to marketing and while I made a lot of mistakes along the way for me that was really the only way I knew how to stay across all of the different parts of the business.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Kate Taylor: One of my main aims with Calvi.Co was to ensure that pure hemp bed linen was accessible to anyone keen on balancing style with environmental friendliness. And I believed that in order for our product to be truly accessible it needed to be affordable. Unfortunately the manufacture of sustainable and ethical products is expensive so keeping our prices low inevitably meant there could be no middle man or woman. The decision not to offer wholesale was difficult because the prospect of getting huge wholesale orders in the early days of a business is particularly enticing. At the end of the day offering Calvi.Co products exclusively via our website means we can maintain low overheads, pass those savings on to our customers and achieve our ultimate goal of bringing hemp linen into the mainstream homewares market.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Kate Taylor: It might sound like a cliché but to me the ultimate mark of success is being able to find happiness no matter what stage of your life or career you’re at.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Kate Taylor: My friends and family would probably not believe me but in my professional capacity I am quite a friendly leader and find it difficult to assert myself.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Kate Taylor: Our business was established in the middle of the pandemic so we knew what we were in for before we got started. I do think that businesses like ours were quite lucky because they are nicely aligned to the common values that have come out of the pandemic. Here in Melbourne at least people seem to have developed a newfound respect for the environment and a desire to support local businesses. Homewares brands like ours are also having their moment more than ever given the amount of time people are spending at home (and in my case in bed).
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting out on their journey?
Kate Taylor: Make sure you have good supports in place and then BE BRAVE. You will have good days and bad days, particularly in the beginning and the only way to get through the bad days is with a good attitude and a sympathetic ear. Having a group of cheerleaders in your corner will help you overcome self-doubt when it inevitably creeps in.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Kate Taylor: Microsoft Excel. I’m sure it’s helpful but I just don’t get it.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Kate Taylor: I think it would be called “The art of learning on the job” or something like that. That book probably already exists and if it does I should probably read it because everything I have ever achieved has been a result of trial and error.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kate Taylor for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kate Taylor or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
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