How one designer leapt from buzzy Soho to the tranquil Swedish countryside

Meet Kerry, she lives in a little wooden house on the edge of a forest in Sweden. Short of having blue-birds brush her hair in the morning she is essentially living in a Disney film. She is also a designer and loves nothing more than getting creative on her Mac overlooking the wood.

*Warning* this post may induce serious life envy.

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A coaching guru recently told me ‘It’s all about having a vision’. This vision can change but if you are embarking on a new chapter it helps to envisage where you want to be this time next year etc. Interestingly Kerry Owens, founder of KOHQ never really envisaged the life she now has until she had her first child and something had to shift. This gal is an amazing example of how where you live should never stand in the way of working for yourself. If anything her new tranquil surroundings have enhanced her creativity and work/life balance.

Here is a little peep into life in the forest…

Who you are you and what do you do?

I am Kerry Owens – the KO part of KOHQ. Buckinghamshire born and bred. Lover of all things colourful and creative. Mum of two. Honorary Swede residing in, and renovating, the old school-house of Säljesta, Järvsö – otherwise known as the (very beautiful) arse end of nowhere.

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“I conjured up my own “head quarters” – a place where I could work on a variety of different things that I love, as a freelancer.”

How did KOHQ come about? Is your background in design? 

My education background is actually fine art. After graduating from Goldsmiths University, I landed a job with a big London publisher and worked my way from events to design. After five amazing years, working on lots of different magazines and websites, I became a full-time mum and moved out to the Swedish countryside. Finding myself in need of a creative outlet and a way to earn money from a remote location, I conjured up my own “head quarters” – a place where I could work on a variety of different things that I love, as a freelancer.

What inspired you to make the move from the steaming metropolis that is London to the wilds of Sweden?

Johan, my Swedish partner, spent many years trying to persuade me that Järvsö was the place to be. I wasn’t buying it. Even though I agreed that it is beautiful, and we spent many happy holidays here, it wasn’t until our first child turned one and I was faced with redundancy from work, that I began warming to the idea of country life and a slower pace (as slow as life can be with small children!) 

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“When we first moved here the silence was deafening, but I appreciate the peace here now. My mind is less cluttered. I’m more contented and I can really focus.”

What are your experiences so far of working for yourself? Things you love and dislike?

Great experiences so far. I love to sit at the computer and draw, so when I’m getting paid to do just that I feel like a total winner. It’s been quite a slow process business wise, because I’m really still a full-time mum, although I now have a precious 15 nursery hours each week to spend working without interruption. But I have been lucky enough to work with some really talented individuals and small companies who have inspired me to go for it.

Oddly, I think many of the things I love and dislike end up being one and the same. Like I love being able to work curled up on my sofa, with a beautiful view of the forest outside the window. But I can miss the buzz of going out to work in the city. I love that it’s so peaceful here and I can think clearly, but I can miss the busyness of an office and a team to bounce ideas off. The one thing I dislike the most is the lack of dedicated tech support! 

What effect do your surroundings have on your working life and life in general? 

I did find London so inspirational. I loved the galleries, the architecture, the mix of cultures. I was in awe of the people around me when I lived there: amazing artists, designers and stylists. But now that I’m living much closer to nature and in a more isolated environment, I actually feel more personally creative.

When we first moved here the silence was deafening, but I appreciate the peace here now. My mind is less cluttered. I’m more contented and I can really focus.

What inspires you when you design?

It depends on the project, but inspiration comes from all over. I love searching for beautiful fonts and colour palettes online and I am often drawn to anything playful – from clothing prints or wallpapers, to classic picture books or childhood toys that I’m revisiting with my own kids now. And the kids themselves are a daily inspiration to be fearless and just go for it. I also love listening to successful creative people talking about their approach. Ilse Crawford is great, to give just one example.

I spent many holidays in the Swedish sun and snow before we actually moved here and I think it really helps to ‘try before you buy’.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge to working on the edge of a forest? (Squirrels?)

Lol 🙂 It’s not so much the squirrels as the ants taking over every summer. Keeping them at bay is not easy. But the heaving ant hills in the forest are mesmerizing and observing the little creatures in their relentless pursuits across great distances is awe-inspiring. 

What advice would you give someone considering a similar move in both location and free-lance design?

I spent many holidays in the Swedish sun and snow before we actually moved here and I think it really helps to “try before you buy”. If you’re moving somewhere remote, learn to drive first and try to avoid being pregnant while you do it: the morning sickness doesn’t help at all! With the freelancing, it’s comforting if you can create a support network around yourself. Befriend like-minded individuals, and seek out people who excel in the areas that you don’t, so that you have a team of sorts to turn to. Failing that, never underestimate the power of a YouTube tutorial when you feel a bit stuck.

What 3 things can you not function without at work?

  • Builder’s tea (on tap). 
  • Adobe Illustrator.
  • My idol RuPaul playing on the stereo – “cause if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

What’s next for KOHQ? What are your plans?

This is just the beginning and there’s so much more to do. The HQ is buzzing right now on a project I’m loving, creating branding for an amazing yoga teacher. This year I need to overcome my aversion to social media, get connected and become more visible. I’m working with my daughter on a book of poetry for kids, which I hope to finish soon and share. The dream both Johan and I share is to build an uber-modern treehouse as an office. Fast forward a year and maybe we have a shed, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Kerry xx

 

Tree houses, social media and a poetry book for children written with her daughter, busy times in Järvsö! Can’t wait to see all this unfold. If you want to follow the further adventures of Kerry or commission her contact her here: KOHQ . AndSoSheDid will be keeping a beady eye on this one and will update you as and when we hear more of her adventures.

Just goes to show that you really can set up something special anywhere, city or country alike as long as you embrace the positives that each environment gives you and learn to see beauty and inspiration regardless (see Ant hill reference!)

 

 

How to leap from selling to life coaching

Life coaching was B’s calling all along, it just took a throwaway chat to ignite the spark.

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Introducing Rebecca Levene or B to her friends and clients. After years in academic publishing she decided to re-train as a life coach and has never felt better (or busier). A prime example of someone who could silence that inner voice no longer and took the leap towards something she loved and had a natural affinity for. I caught up with B, our first ‘start-up sister’ as she gets ready to launch Rebecca Levene Life Coaching in April.

Love this girl, she can coach me any day…

Who are you?

My name is B, I am a life coach, my fledgling biz is called Rebecca Levene Life Coaching. I live in Manchester with my boyfriend who is called Ian, my small child who is called Ted and my large lurcher who is called Blue. I am 40 years old in body and permanently 25 in my head.

 

How would you describe your business today, right now?

My business is in its infancy although I have been coaching people since April 2017, and, as it transpires, being doing some form of coaching all my life, although I didn’t label it as such. People have always felt able to talk to me about their problems and come to me for help and support. Currently I am setting up the business ready to go full-time in April.

I am a real life coach who works with real people who want to make a change in their lives and who want to talk about this with someone who is down to earth, kind and who just gets it.

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I might actually be able to make a living out of it– and that’s the dream isn’t it?

 

How did all of this come about?

The premise of coaching is something that I have natural proclivity for although for many years it was just below the surface and something I never really thought to label, it was just part of my personality and how other people related to me.

The seed came when my cousin told me she had been to see a life coach (early last year) and my ears pricked up and I found myself far more interested in this than perhaps normal. I wanted to know why and how and who and what it was all about. The whole idea just totally captivated me and so I started researching life coaching courses and what it might take to be a life coach and the rest is history.

At the risk of sounding quite ridiculous I feel it was something I was born to do. An extension of me that I might actually be able to make a living out of – and that’s the dream isn’t it?

What was the driving factor that made you start it and continues to drive you?

The biggest driving factor for me, other than a deep desire to help people with my coaching, is making change happen instead of just thinking about it, and dreaming about it. The desire to not have to answer to anyone except myself and to be in control of my own time. Freedom and flexibility and a real connection with what I do. I was miserable in my current job and so the situation demanded looking at properly. Life coaching just made absolute sense on every single level.

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“The other big learning curve is not to compare”

What’s been your biggest learning curve?

There have been so many this last year, if I had to pin it down I would say that learning about how to be a coach has fundamentally changed me, in terms of how I approach things and how I view my life and what happens in it.

I have learnt that how I experience the world is through my own lens and it’s only my take on things,  so I have the power to change how I see things or what I choose to pay attention to. This has profound implications for how I tackle the everyday challenges of setting up the biz, learning my craft and juggling life’s balls (lol). This sounds horribly coach-y but it’s true. And it works. You’ve just got to let that shit go.

The other big learning curve is not to compare – I am on chapter 1 and looking at those who are on chapter 101 and freaking out is not going to serve me well. We are all exactly where we need to be.

 

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“I feel so strongly that I can make this work and that this is right for me that the blocks tend to be ignored most of the time”

Did you have any reservations/blocks to starting your business and if so how did you overcome them?

In coaching lingo these are called limiting beliefs – and yes I had a bunch. The biggest one being that old favourite – money. Giving up a well-paid full-time job with a company car to step into a brand new career of my own making was a block that it took me nearly a year to scramble over. And it is still trying to rebuild itself when I’m not looking. But I feel so strongly that I can make this work and that this is right for me that the blocks tend to be ignored most of the time.  As the old adage goes if nothing changes then nothing changes and the thought of staying where I was work wise was far more depressing and scary to me than going down this untrodden path. So here I am.

From a practical point of view when it comes to money I have also done sums and worked out the reality of what we can afford and what I need to bring in so that makes it feel less scary. 

I would never advocate being reckless but I would certainly advocate being brave and excited about the unknown, you don’t need every single step mapped out just the first few.

 

Where do you find your inspiration?

My friends and family – especially those with their own businesses or those who are brave enough to challenge the status quo. My little boy – he loves life and isn’t scared of anything. Life coaches who have made a living from doing what they love. Instagram. Ted talks. Mums everywhere. Myself.

3 things you couldn’t do your job without? 

 

 

 

My laptop, my phone and my kettle!

 

Even though you are early days with all this, what would you say to anyone thinking of doing the same?

Get in touch I can coach you on this. I would say to anyone thinking of getting into life coaching to attend the 2 day free coaching workshop run by The Coaching Academy – there is no obligation to work with them or do any of their courses but it gives you a great insight into what it’s all about and a chance to practice a little bit in a safe and fun environment.

I would also say get involved with looking at other coaches online and see what they are all about, what they are offering and whether any of this resonates with you. I would in all seriousness also say go and see a coach – this will change your life and give you the chance to talk it all through with a person who has no agenda other than to listen and question and support you in working it all out for yourself.

To people thinking more generally of rocking their boat and doing something brand new I would say if you’re thinking about it it’s because this is what you want to do, deep down, there is something going on inside you that must not be ignored. Scratch that itch, start with small steps and see where it takes you, you’ve one life darlings and you don’t have to stay anywhere forever..  What’s the worst that can happen? I promise you that whatever you thought of in answer to that question will not happen.

What keeps you awake at night?

Checking Instagram on my phone.

My toddler

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What’s next for Rebecca Levene Life Coaching? What should we keep an eye out for?

As I mentioned the business goes full steam ahead in April – I am working my ‘day job’ concurrently atm but that comes to an end in April. The website is nearly up and running so there will be noise around that when it’s finished. The Instagram feed is growing too, so this is the best place at the moment to check me out and get in touch. I will be launching my coaching packages as well with some special intro prices available for a limited time in April and May.

I have so many ideas on what I want to do beyond that, but I think that’s enough for now. I honestly believe that everybody can benefit from life coaching. It doesn’t matter whether you have a plan or if you have no idea what you want to do next. If you feel like there is something that needs to change or that something is not quite right and you need to go digging around in that to see what’s going on – examine those feelings of unease, dissatisfaction or frustration with how life is now – then get in touch!  

Love and light xx

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What a gal!

General setting-up-your-own-business-and-marketing resource recommendations: 

  • Sam Bearfoot Instagram whizz
  • Talented ladies club for loads of great info on business/social media etc.
  • Lucy Green of Brand New Mum is AMAZING, she is a business coach and was instrumental to my early business planning. Check her out!

If you are keen on Life Coaching here are just some of the courses B found useful:

Other coaching schools worth looking at are:

  • Co-Active Coaching
  • Animas
  • Strategic Intervention (based in the US but can be done online/via webinar)

Closing note from B:

The schools need to accredited with the ICF (International Coaching Federation) to be worth their salt really – there is a lot of guff out there so it’s worth doing your research – some universities and colleges also offer coaching courses – usually from a business/management perspective but not always.

 

Keep track of B and her adventures into life coaching on Instagram or Facebook.

Lush photos courtesy of Anna Hardy