Kristen Brown: “We can do hard things”

The slower pace of life has reminded us all what is really important: our health and our family. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. As a part of our series about how […]

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The slower pace of life has reminded us all what is really important: our health and our family.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Brown.

She is the owner, founder, and chief creative officer of Hoot Design Company, a women-led brand strategy and design agency. Her vision for HDco is to be the choice employer for female creatives in Missouri.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I have always been interested in visual communication. As a kid I loved doodling and hand lettering, tracing Mary Englebreit’s work and studying advertisements as opposed to a fine art.

After graduating from Saint Louis University, I worked at an advertising agency in Chicago for five years as a production artist and then art director. When my husband had the opportunity to move back to our home state and open a remote office there, I decided to try and start my own business.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Hoot Design Co. recently wrapped a project for a nature school that is the first of its kind in the nation. We love working on projects that will impact our community and move culture forward. It is such a privilege to be a part of a business’s or organization’s success story.

The nature school will allow students across the county to experience the outdoors at a pivotal moment in their education, which will hopefully create lifelong environmental advocates out of them. I’d say that’s a pretty big impact!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m definitely grateful for my mastermind group. I started meeting with three other female business owners five years ago and they have been absolutely pivotal in my growth. We meet every other week and offer an ask and a give. I definitely consider them my mentors in business ownership.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

Covid hit me especially hard as a mother and business owner because prior to the pandemic, my life was held together by a web of support from other people. When that support was gone, it became crystal clear to me how essential that reinforcement is.

It was also interesting to me that my husband didn’t feel the same pain. He was under the impression we were coping just fine, but after the first week, I knew I couldn’t keep going the way things were. From then on, I went to my parents house so they could help with our 4 month old baby, and my husband kept our 6 and 8 year olds at home.

Covid has meant more work for me as the mom within our household. We are currently tackling virtual school for our first and third graders — which means way more coordination and involvement than school would typically require. I think like most things, the burden falls on the mom’s shoulders, and limiting support from others has had an extremely negative impact on my ability to cope.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

To overcome the stress I felt as a working mom, I reached out for family support, and I try to give myself grace when I’m feeling overwhelmed or brain dead. I need to constantly remind myself that it is ok to not be ok right now.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

The pandemic has made balancing work and life even more challenging. Work is more consuming due to managing an unprecedented event, and home is more consuming for the same reason. I never would have imagined tackling home school while running a business.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Expanding my network of support has been really helpful, even if it is just virtually. Reaching out to see how others are coping, and learning from their experiences, has been critical. And remembering how privileged I am to have any choices right now has been a good reality check.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

For me, it was critical to get support for childcare. At first I tried to work through the chaos with all of my family members in the house, which quickly became unsustainable. We had to make the decision to create a small pod with my parents so that they could help with our youngest child. And after our stay-at-home order was lifted, our nanny was reintroduced to the household.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

Our number one coping strategy has been to get outside more. I absolutely see this as a silver lining to this experience. We are lucky to live next to a walking trail and a small lake, and we have never appreciated them more.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel to be the rebirth or renewal that often comes after a reckoning. I recently heard on the Michelle Obama Podcast that we should be reaching for better, not just a new normal. That was profound for me because I agree — if we see this as a necessary experience for our culture, we can see the transformation coming on the other side.

Five Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis:

  1. The slower pace of life has reminded us all what is really important: our health and our family.
  2. We can make an impact by acting in the best interest of others (wearing a mask).
  3. This crisis has called us to appreciate the outdoors and act in its best interest.
  4. We can work from home when necessary. This will have positive effects for working women in the future.
  5. We can do hard things, as a community, as a nation and as a global community.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I recommend getting outside and moving your body. I also recommend Tapping or “EFT,” which is a therapy method that uses the mind/body connection to heal.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is from Brene Brown: “Get comfortable with discomfort.” This is something the pandemic has called us to do on a daily basis.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow along with HDco on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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