Good Hustlers: Katinka Challen || Lily and Dot

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Katinka Challen is a spunk, in every sense of the word. She is a woman who is not daunted by a project, a change of career, the impermanence of self and life around her, but instead seizes it in her capable crafty hands and makes a red hot go of it. Underlying her creativity is her capacity to weave compassion and community into everything, which puts her in the good hustle hall of fame in my book. It also clearly demonstrates a point I make over and over again about good hustle businesses - when you are in service to others, it builds your customer base, creates raving evangelists for your business, makes people happy and most of all is the core of a sustainable business. 

At Lily and Dot, Katinka's retail shopfront, not only does she directly donate to awesome local causes, but by making space for crafternoons that bring people together, she enables real connections with people, space, place and creativity, which can be so hard to find in our ever connected always alone world. But why don't I let her tell you the story....

1. Describe your business in one powerful sentence.

Lily & Dot is at once a small gift store and a large social media community; with over 400 beginner crocheters through our social stitching ‘crafternoons’ in two years.

Sometimes I feel there’s a virtual cosy blanket wrapped around the store; such is the joy of our makers and customers via their making and gift-giving. I’ve made so many friendships and flourishing business relationships since opening its doors.

2. How do you integrate service to others in your business model?

Nine-out-of-10 customers are purchasing a gift for someone else; be it for a new baby, family member, colleague or friend. We collect gold coin donations for our gift-wrapping service and donate to the Hobart Women’s Shelter, together with crocheted blankets made by the Lily & Dot community. We also participate in an annual ‘Dignity Drive’ for Share the Dignity, a national not-for-profit that donates sanitary items to homeless and other at-risk Tasmanian women. I’ve done enough pop psych management courses to know I’m a ‘helper’ type! Whether I’m assisting a customer to find a beautifully made gift, waxing lyrical about the mindfulness benefits of crochet while I teach or finding new ways to engage my social media audiences in causes that are authentically related to the core of Lily & Dot and our ‘shop small, shop local’ ethos, I’m serving the community that supports me.

3. What were some of the highlights and lowlights of your journey to where you are now?

I’ve hosted Jean Paul Gaultier and Arthur Boyd in my years in museum PR on the Big Island. I’ve been awarded a scholarship for my Masters in Gallery Management, before running a General Store on an outback cattle station for a year. I’ve worked on high-level government projects like the Hobart visit of President Xi of China. As a small sole trader, I’ve built relationships that have resulted in Lily & Dot’s inclusion in national PR campaigns that have benefited my business and its growth. I’ve had a sold-out workshop program for over two years, with a clear an innovative point-of-difference in a noisy marketplace.

I’ve also managed episodes of anxiety in high-pressure, low-resourced and sometimes toxic team environments – to varying degrees of success. Sometimes it’s much, much later that you reflect on the intensity of your experiences and thank the universe for delivering you the learnings and opportunities it has. Last week I messaged a former director to thank him for all I took on my journey from a particularly hectic project four years ago – even the lowlights aren’t so dim further down the track. In my mid-forties I’m weaving all the threads of my life experiences together – you never complete the final work, but you come to appreciate the process more and more.

4. Do you have a spiritual practice? 

Crochet is my spirit animal, teehee! The repetitive, almost hypnotic process of hook and yarn is like a daily practice to me. Like a runner’s footfall, perhaps. For me it’s as much about the action of yarn over hook, over and over, as it is about the finished product. All I can see is the stitch in front of me, switching off any spiralling thoughts. Crochet has also opened up a huge online community via social media – my people!

5. Advice for others who want to start their own good hustle?

Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Remember that self-belief doesn’t mean operating in a bubble and shutting out constructive feedback – seek it, listen to it and respond to it through action. Never quit the quest for improvement – both self-improvement and business improvement. Complacency is the enemy of growth.

Working for yourself can be isolating. Find and shape your network. Support others – hold each other up. Women are particularly amazing at doing this. I am continually inspired by the makers and shakers in my world – crafters, creators, producers and advocates. I think Maya said it best;

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.

~ Maya Angelou

Polly McGee