This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Kate Rostance on…
- Launching and running a business with her husband
- Choosing clients and projects, not just accepting everything that comes in
- Not being seduced by vanity metrics
Hello Kate! Tell us a bit about you.
I’m the managing director of a film and animation agency, a mum to two young boys, I’m renovating our first home, love a good conversation, great food, fizzy wine and wonky crochet.
And tell us more about Fat Free Media.
I head up a team of 9 exceptionally talented producers, animators, editors and managers with my husband and business partner, Neil. Fat Free Media is a boutique film and animation agency based in Nottingham, UK. We work on brand campaigns with clients like Center Parcs, Toyota, Nottingham Forest Football Club and Wattbike.
What inspired you to start your business?
My passion has always been in making things happen: managing projects, building relationships with clients, navigating tricky situations and keeping the plates spinning. I loved life in an agency and on the front line of high volume, high-pressure client work. My husband Neil very much exists on the creative side of life, so we decided to join forces and see if we had what it takes.
How has the experience been for you?
It’s been an intense period of change, both for us personally (one wedding, two babies, a professional qualification and a house renovation later) and professionally (growing from a team of 2 to a team of ten in 5 years), but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The control you get as a business owner to make your own rules and be the master of your own destiny comes with very few other jobs. It’s been really important for us to be able to decide what principles we want to live our lives by, and to build a business which is in alignment with that.
What have you found the most challenging?
The lines between professional and personal blur when you run your own business. That increases tenfold when your business partner is your husband as well. It’s been a learning curve to separate our professional lives for our personal ones, and to make sure we carve out enough time to be the best version of ourselves in each.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share them with us?
I’m never not making mistakes – this job doesn’t come with a rule book. The challenge is to make sure you learn from mistakes and never make the same mistake twice.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
Yes, absolutely, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
I’m lucky enough to have a relative who ran a creative agency and gave me my first taste of work experience when I was a fresh-faced 20-year-old. She’s been there (usually in times of my existential crisis!), as a sounding board to help me navigate my thoughts and come to my own conclusions which has been hugely valuable to me.
I also worked with a financial coach when I realised there was a huge gap in my own skillset when it came to practical financial management skills, financial planning and strategy. The work we’ve done together has been more valuable to me than any professional qualification and has made me into the business leader I am today. But I’ll never be finished – the challenge is to keep getting better, keep learning new things and keep improving as a leader.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
It’s taken me a long time to realise that we are in control. If a client comes to us with unrealistic timelines, expectations or budgets, it’s not our job to bend over backwards to make their vision a reality. We get to choose the types of projects we work on, the clients we work with and the principles which guide our work. It’s a subtle mental shift to give yourself that permission as a business owner, but it’s an important one.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me isn’t flashy cars or expensive clothes, it’s balance. Balance is something I’m constantly striving for, and something that we’ve definitely not got right in the last year. Creatively fulfilling projects leads to the team doing great work, which brings financial prosperity and happy clients. It’s like the creative agency circle of life, but if one of those things is out of kilter, it has an impact on everything else.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Have a clear idea what success looks like to you (even if that changes along the way), and don’t be swayed if that looks different to other people’s versions of success. There’s a lot of vanity metrics out there, but if you can work out your own principals, you won’t find yourself chasing someone else’s dream.
Which books or podcasts do you love that you would recommend?
David Allen’s Getting Things Done has done more to change the way I use my brain and plan my workload than any other. The tools Allen teaches have given me so much mental clarity, I should be on commission for the number of times I’ve recommended his book to others. Special shout outs also needed for combining his methodologies with Nirvana HQ software and the GTD podcast too.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Thank you Kate! – Frankie & Lara
About the Author
Lara Sheldrake is an entrepreneur and founder at Found & Flourish. Lara writes and speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, motherhood and social media for business. She also hosts the Bossing It podcast, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK. Send Lara an email. You can also find her on Instagram @Lara_Sheldrake or Twitter @Lara_Sheldrake.
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