Kathryn Batty is the founder and creative director of We are Mindful Store a retail space, studio and gallery in Cronulla, Sydney. Inspired by Kathryns background in nutrition, We are Mindful Store houses a collection of small, sustainable, fair trade and ethically-produced products, with an emphasis on local and international brands who emanate the stores ethos of conscious creation. Their studio, an extension of the We are Mindful Store, provides a space for local artists, designers, and creatives to come together, and share their work.
Here Kathryn shares with us a piece of her personal self, as well as some valuable small business wisdom.
What is your full name and star sign?
Kathryn Lee-ann Batty.
Capricorn, with Libra Rising.
How do you spend your working days?
My work days are as long as they are varied. I’m usually moving between interacting with our customers, visual merchandising for the store, researching new brands and ordering new stock, going to showings and preparing and styling content shoots. For the Studio I’m also coordinating with artists, makers and community members to organise our calendar of creative workshops and private events. I’m across many different things at once which can be difficult, but my workspace is beautiful and calm and I am lucky to work with wonderful, inspiring people.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
My community. I’m motivated by the opportunity I have to contribute to its health and wellbeing through our product offering and creative workshops. I have intentionally created spaces - both the studio and store - for people to feel inspired, feel relaxed in and leave having had a positive experience. It brings me great joy to share this with others.
My work also gives me the opportunity to use my own creativity and to support and work alongside talented and creative individuals, particularly women, which is so rewarding.
The vision I have for my store and business energises me every day.
In life and in work, where do you draw most of your inspiration?
I’m always inspired by people and draw inspiration from those I surround myself with such as my florist, photographer and artistic friends, who each express their creativity in different ways. In work and friendship, they challenge my perceptions and make me question my usual patterns of thinking - they open my mind to new possibilities and ways of seeing and for this, I am so grateful.
For styling and interiors, references and inspiration is literally at my fingertips with Instagram and Pinterest.
Rituals are something we are drawn to in our daily lives. Do you have something you do everyday for yourself?
Rituals keep me feeling grounded and focused within a busy work/life schedule. I love breakfast time, so making a proper and substantial breakfast every morning and sitting down to eat it without technology, enjoying the view of my backyard from my kitchen is one of my most beloved rituals. If I’m sitting outside under the awning, I will also throw the ball to my dog, Chloe. It’s a simple but powerful way to start the day, being present.
If you could change one thing about your industry what would it be?
If I could implement it, I would like there to be legislation in place to make it mandatory for businesses to be transparent about where their products are made and accountable on the production process. This information should have to be clearly communicated on their website or an information database. Two brands that I stock, Lois Hazel (Melbourne) and Kowtow (NZ) set the standard for me in terms of transparency, ethical production, fair trade and sustainability.
Consumers should be able to make more informed choices easily. This would have a big knock-on effect, with business and brands made accountable, they would be forced to make more ethical decisions about how their products are made and who makes them.
Who is your favourite artist, and why or how does their work move you?
At the moment, my favourite artist is my dear friend, Cat Santos who runs Illustrations by Cat. I recently hosted her first art exhibition, ‘Daughters of Jupiter’ in the We Are Mindful Studio. This particular collection is about what it means to be beautiful in our modern-day world and is a revelation of non-representational beauty. This collection resonates with me, as I have always struggled with accepting my appearance, and with at times not feeling beautiful. Her work expresses a different value system, and conceptualises inner beauty through explorations of passion, depth, integrity and individuality.
Your most treasured - item, place, and time?
My most treasured place is the small town on the mid-north coast of NSW, Smith’s Lake. I have been holidaying here with family since I can remember. It’s a small, undeveloped lake surrounded by bushland that feels untouched. In all the time I’ve been visiting, it feels as if nothing has changed. It’s quiet, peaceful and restorative. It has a beautiful calm lake where we swim, take walks and picnics. It’s a special place to me.
You are a qualified Nutritionist and are passionate about living a holistic lifestyle, what made you transition from Nutrition into opening a retail space?
I had been working in the local health food store as a sales assistant and in-store Nutritionist and noticed that customers would be coming in looking for reusable products. It became apparent that these kinds of things weren’t readily available in our area but there was a demand for them. I knew there was an opportunity for a retail store that supplied wellness and lifestyle items, homewares and clothing that had a focus on sustainability, ethical and fair-trade production. I felt like I had the skills and knowledge to be able to open a store on my own from years of experience working in retail. I was also longing for a beautiful consulting space of my own, instead of consulting out of pilates studios or my home office.
My initial vision was to create a wellness space inspired by Kate Dalton, the Naturopath and founder of Mayde Tea. She was consulting as a Naturopath with a small retail store to complement her practice and treatments and I loved this business model. Unfortunately, the only suitable space available at the time in Cronulla didn’t allow for a separate consulting room. I had to make a decision between opening a retail store or consulting full time, and I ultimately chose to open a store as I had loved this type of work and I wanted to offer more to my community. While there are aspects of the work of a Nutritionist in the field of health that I enjoy, I truly feel that I’m on the right path now as a business owner of a sustainable, community-minded retail store.
As small business owners, our personal lives often become entangled in our business. What business values are most important to you that you see translating into your daily life?
My business is based upon values such as integrity and accountability, and these were input directly from my personal values and as such are expressed in my daily life. The value-system to me is entirely shared. In my business and in personal life I emphasise communication, connection and consideration and above all, I value universal wellbeing.
Has there been a particular moment throughout your time growing We are Mindful that stands out to you as a definitive moment, and what was your biggest learning from this?
A definitive moment was when after 5 – 6 months of operating, the business was only just staying afloat and I needed to either change or close.
At the time I was in a different location in Cronulla, on the outskirts of the Cronulla Mall near the residential area where there was limited foot traffic. After 6 months there I wasn’t gaining any new exposure and I became reliant on paid advertisements to promote the store, which wasn’t at all ideal.
An opportunity arose to move further into the Mall on a highly visible corner premise. While it wasn’t too much bigger than my current space, it had no onsite water supply, parking or bathroom (only outside in an alleyway), but it was going to be the make or break moment to see if a better location could help my business thrive and grow.
The rent was double and I had to outlay funds for renovations, however I immediately noticed a substantial increase in sales, foot traffic and new customers discovering my store. It was a lesson in trusting myself, having faith that my business model and store were of value to the community, and a good reminder of the importance of our environment and that sometimes we need to take risks in order to grow.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about to embark into a small business?
My advice would be to set clear and realistic goals for the business and understand the steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve them. I’m the type of person who wants to do so much so quickly, but it really does take time, and having the means and experience in order to grow a successful and thriving business. I would encourage my younger self to worry less about achievement, and to appreciate instead what is gained in progress.