When it gets too easy, it’s time to do things that make you uncomfortable to grow. I was in an easy flow for awhile as a one person show. I would space out my clients to work into my schedule. I had a fear of speaking in public and marketing myself in a public way. That Year on New Years I made a resolution to do three things that made me nervous and uncomfortable. Teaching a class on organization, A segment on a tv network about organizing and hire someone. Each challenge made me nervous, but I never felt better than accomplishing these goals! It gave me drive and excitement. Each year I will continue to push my boundaries.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing…Katy Winter, founder of Katy’s Organized Home, a professional home and photo organizing Business. She received her degree in Fashion Marketing at the University of Texas in Austin and landed her first job in NYC in the fashion industry at Adrienne Vittadini, Cole Haan and then Milly. She paused her career to start a family and make the big move to the burbs. With children comes more stuff! She found herself reorganizing her playroom daily and searching for the best solutions. Soon friends were asking her to help them, and it wasn’t long until it became a business. A mother of three, Katy realizes how toys, paper and memorabilia can easily accumulate. Her goal is to help streamline her clients’ homes and simplify their lives. Her team believes in a practical and minimalistic approach. The process is fun, simple to maintain and visually pleasing! It’s very challenging to change a habit. Her goal is not only to edit and stylize her clients’ homes, but also to inspire and motivate clients to enjoy a more organized life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Miami, FL. I was not only the smallest girl in my class, I had the tiniest room of anyone I knew. I am the third child in my family. When I was born my parents converted an office into my bedroom. It was basically the size of a large closet. If my pillow and comforter were on my floor, there was nowhere to walk. If my stuffed animals were thrown about, it was impossible to move or play. So I learned how to keep my room very neat. It’s the only way for me to navigate the space.
When I was 11, and my parents decided to move into a bigger house. I was given first pick of rooms. I was so excited to finally have my own space. I unpacked everything very carefully and gave everything a perfect place. I peeked into my messy older brother’s room and saw the same old story in a different location — clothes and papers piled everywhere. That’s when I realized that I had already established organization skills that my brother did not have. I knew how to keep the room neat. I learned out of necessity, but now it had become a habit. And it has served me well.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
After I had my second child, I paused my career to stay at home with the children. I spent a lot of time in the homes of my children’s playmates and I watched fellow moms struggle with their playrooms, kitchens and closets. As the mess accumulated in my home at the end of each day, I found myself trying to straighten the toys and books and put practical solutions in place.
Seven years ago, I had no idea there was a career possibility in Home Organization. As I was googling business ideas online, it popped up! The thought of making a career from something that was natural, fun and easy for me sounded enticing. My original thought was so have something part-time. I had no idea it would become what it is today.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I decided to go for it. My parents seemed very confused by the idea, and a lot of our friends asked why I wanted to clean up for people and chuckled at the thought. But I knew immediately I wanted to try. If you don’t put yourself out there and try, you will never know. I was lucky that I had a supportive family that encouraged me to take a risk. If it didn’t materialize, I would try something else.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Sometimes we are very good at something instinctually, but we don’t realize that it’s hard for other people. I needed that Aha moment to realize that many people struggle and have major anxiety when confronted with organizing their possessions. For me, it is instinctive, easy and fun. Pinpointing this career was partly self-awareness. You need to recognize your strengths, and then channel them in a meaningful career. The career will present itself. It’s more important that you hone your skills, and find value in yourself. Finding a career out of a passion is the most rewarding job. Not only do I do something I love, I help people and create beautiful relationships that fill me with love and gratitude. I am so lucky to be invited into my clients’ lives, and I love the intimate relationships we form.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I don’t agree with that statement. I can organize all day every day and I do! But it’s important not to burn yourself out. A business comes with many other aspects like PR/ social media/ employees/ billing/ invoicing/ accounting/ blogging…. So the day never ends when you come home. It’s important to hire talented people to help you in the areas you do not enjoy or do not have time to address. This was a lesson learned!
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
It feels so gratifying to know that you built something yourself. Teaching yourself along the way and seeing the hard work payoff is incredibly satisfying. However, the day never ends when you start a business. It’s like another child that needs constant attention and supervision. At one point I realized that I could not be a full time mom and have a full time career. I could not do it all. I was burning myself at both ends, and I felt like I was giving so much of myself to everyone else leaving no time for me. I learned that it’s important to get help when you need it. Instead of doing it all myself, I hired talented people to help me, and it made all the difference.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I started this job as a part-time career. I never anticipated it would be full-time and that I would hire people to work for me. It happened organically. As my business blossomed opportunities for expansion presented themselves, and I embraced them.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes, there were moments of self doubt and disappointment. But I think that is par for the course. You need to push those thoughts out of your mind. When it’s not going as planned it’s time to take some time for yourself to self-reflect and reboot. In the beginning, I was chasing business, and I was accepting work indiscriminately. Initially, my work was seasonal, and I would have periods where business was slow. Feelings of insecurity and worry that I would never be busy again would creep into my psyche. Then I would have a busy stretch, and there was no time to think. At some point, I developed a regular flow business, and I was able to manage my schedule efficiently.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was hired to organize a nine year old girl’s room. I found glue sticks, tape, pom poms, sharpies, googly eyes, chalk and half-baked crayons all clumped together in random bins. I tackled the project by separating, sorting, color coordinating and labeling all the art supplies into cute little containers and drawers. When the nine year old came home for the big reveal, she burst into tears. In full on tantrum mode, she picked up all the sorted containers and dumped them back into the bins, recreating her comfortable chaos. I learned then and there an important lesson. Children want to own their rooms. That incident motivated me to create InstaReady Your Room. It is a program to teach kids to organize on their own. I want to help empower and instill good early organizational skills.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I won the lottery with my family. My parents and my three siblings are all strong, supportive and inspiring. They each bring something unique to the table and have different outlooks when I have questions. I was lucky to have parents who bring out the best in each other and that helped me to chose my partner. My husband always knows when I need advice and when I just need a hug.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I am making small differences in people’s lives. The world is so stressful and the news haunts most of us. When your home is a space that makes you feel calm and happy, it not only affects your peace of mind, but it has a ripple effect on the people around you. It inspires creativity and time for family and friends.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Embrace social media. I was very shy at embracing social media. It felt narcissistic and a waste of time. However, in business it’s an amazing marketing tool. It connects people and is a great visual way of explaining your company. I found that it opened new opportunities for me and that I am my brand, so it’s okay to share about me as a person.
- Ask for Help when needed. I felt uncomfortable asking for help in the beginning. I ended up trying to do everything myself. But at times I hired other organizers for their advice. I also networked in the organizing field to find comrades to discuss tricky situations. It was very helpful for me.
- When it gets too easy, it’s time to do things that make you uncomfortable to grow. I was in an easy flow for awhile as a one person show. I would space out my clients to work into my schedule. I had a fear of speaking in public and marketing myself in a public way. That Year on New Years I made a resolution to do three things that made me nervous and uncomfortable. Teaching a class on organization, A segment on a tv network about organizing and hire someone. Each challenge made me nervous, but I never felt better than accomplishing these goals! It gave me drive and excitement. Each year I will continue to push my boundaries.
- Make time for yourself. The price of sacrificing yourself for your family and clients is exhaustion. Exercise is critical for clearing your mind and reducing tension. Read a book, garden or indulge you hobbies, so that you can reboot and be your best.
- Don’t be afraid to learn new skills to enhance your business. I had to learn to build a website and master a complicated labeling machine.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am in the process of writing a graphic novel called InstaReady Your Room to help teach children organization habits at a young age. It teaches them to take control of their own rooms and create an individual system that works for them. It also reflects on time management and offers DIY craft ideas to help motivate children. I am hoping to create an app in combination with the book where kids can share photos of their completed tasks and feel proud and motivate each other. An instagram type app for your organized rooms. Marie Kondo and the Home Edit girls had series on Netflix. But Kids are my passion and they say and do the most wonderful things! I would love to be part of series on organizing children.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I once listened to a speaker at a conference. She had dreamed of being a rock star like Lady Gaga, but abandoned those thoughts and found a different career. A midlife crisis motivated her to join a band in her fifties. Now she is a motivational speaker who sings and dresses like Lady Gaga during her speeches for large crowds. You could tell she loved her job! Her lesson was to reach for outrageous goals! I love that lesson. If there is something you want, reach for it. It might take you somewhere else or open up other opportunities. But self doubt and shame will never get you anywhere. And I would never have been happy with a life of “What ifs”.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oprah Winfrey! I grew up watching her show every day with my mother.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.