The Leap Stories #44: Kellie Macpherson

One of the amazing pieces of feedback we get from leapers we profile in this series, is how cathartic the process is of stopping and reflecting on the questions posed in the interview. Answering these questions takes time and introspection. And every single person who’s done it has thanked us for the opportunity to sit for a moment and think more deeply about the choices they’ve made, what drives and influences them, and their attitude towards failure and courage. How often do you think about those things?

I believe the essence of leaping is disruption. It’s getting off the treadmill for a while and standing still to allow your quiet self to catchup with you. It’s giving yourself time and space to create your life consciously, and not just live it by default.

This week’s leaper Kellie Macpherson, founder of Castle and Cubby went on maternity leave convinced she’d return to her full time sales career. That didn’t happen. Instead, she took a leap. Today she heads her own company that upcycles old apple crates into the cutest cubby houses and sandpits you’ve ever laid eyes on. Seriously. I want one in my size. I’d invite you all over for rose petal tea and sandy mud cake!

(While this story is about Kellie’s leap, I can tell you from first hand experience, what she has created for families is magical. Building beautiful spaces that encourage children’s imaginations, helps them create their world and explore possibilities is a gift. As one mum says ‘Today we sat in the cubby while it was raining drinking imaginary tea. It was one of my best mum moments by far!’)

GIVEAWAY! Kellie has kindly offered one lucky kin a $250 gift voucher to go towards your favourite cubby from Castle and Cubby. Comment below or on Instagram and tell us about a curiosity that you’ve discovered, rediscovered or finally given space to let grow (or would like to). Entries close midnight Friday 4th March 2016.

ALSO! The Time eCourse ‘Suss It Out’ webinar is tomorrow. We’ll share with you some tips that helped us become more purposeful, focussed and productive in our business, as well as give you an insight into the course. Register here. (We’ll be recording it too!).

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Kellie Macpherson

Gorgeous leaper, Kellie Macpherson, Founder of Castle and Cubby

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

I never really knew what I wanted to be for sure.

I have always been creative with a passion for art, interior design and styling from a very young age, but then I also had a very technical side and a passion for computers and programming and the inner workings of things. This duality of passion made it difficult to pick the right path.

It is only now coming into my late 30s that I am starting to understand where I am supposed to be and what it is that I want to be.

What did/do you study?

The creative side of me runs in my family, but even with artistic predecessors my own creative passions weren’t explored fully. So I followed the technical path and studied economics and computer programming and went on to a diploma in marketing.
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What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

Deciding not to return to work after having my first child. I distinctly remember walking out for my maternity leave saying to them, ‘don’t worry I will definitely be back, there is no way that I can be a full-time mum and work on my own’. I had been in discussions with work before I left about my intentions of coming back and it was always really clear. I felt I needed a team of people at arms length around me to be motivated, I thought I would be bored working on my own. Also the thought of being a full-time mum was too much.

Leaving work and leaving a career that had defined me was scary.

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Castle and Cubby builds beautiful cubbies and sand boxes with bunting and all. Could it get any cuter?

What were you doing before you made your leap?

I had spent a year on maternity leave and was just counting down the days until I returned to work. I had been working in a sales management role for five years prior to that.

In that year I had obviously become a new mum and was mostly enjoying the challenges of motherhood and learning about my son, but I had also spent that year focusing on me and what I enjoyed doing.

I had totally immersed myself in photography, which had become a passion prior to leaving work. I was hooked; every spare minute I had I was reading, watching, practising and teaching myself both photography and photoshop. I loved every minute of the process of teaching myself, learning new things and honing that skill.

I had also became really fixated on creating and mastering certain other skills like baking cupcakes to the Magnolia Bakery standard, you know the ones made famous in Sex and the City?  Yep, well I almost did. I even got a copy of their icing recipe.

I also taught myself how to build websites in that time.

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Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

On reflection the three biggest influences in my career have all been people with a similar personality. I respond really well to honesty and frankness and strong personalities. They have given me some tough love, tough answers and tough challenges which I thrive on.

I have spent many many years in sales learning about the sales process from some very smart people. I attribute so much of my ability now to succeed in whatever I do down to a keen understanding of sales and negotiation.

My sales manager – Simon was the first person to challenge me to my core. He had a kind of nonchalant, tough love, high expectations approach to managing. He also didn’t give out compliments too freely but when he did you knew he really meant it. He was a real details guy, an intellect, and he loved data. He would always be challenging you to bring forward the most detailed version of your thoughts and suggestions, no fanciful ideas and creative concepts. You had to back it up with the why and what for. While his style probably frustrated me the most out of any managers I know, it helped me grow the most and I think of that time fondly.

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One of Castle and Cubby’s incredibly cute creations! A beach box cubby perfect for parties, festivities and everyday play.

Sales trainer – Elliot gets a gong for also influencing me the most. Another super smart guy that just got my style and me. He taught me about listening; and the difference between listening and hearing. Every day in business and life people are just waiting for their turn to say something. They are only hearing what you are saying and spending a good chunk of the time you are talking planning the thing they are going to say next. I see it all the time, in business and in friendships. Elliot made me practise listening with my friends and questioning based on what I had heard. I believe that the lessons he taught me not only made me a better sales person but a better friend and it’s something that I still practise to this day.

My father – He taught me when I was really young to have a voice and to be heard. He would send us in to the fish and chip shop, or other shops to order with detailed instructions on making sure that we were heard above the ‘adults’. I distinctly remember being a little kid overlooked and standing up for myself saying ‘hey, excuse me but I was next’. Those lessons have always stayed with me and whilst this bravado might not have been skillfully honed in my younger years, I understand it now to be my strength and my need to demand what is good and right of the world and of myself.

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What did you have in place before you made the leap?

I had nothing cemented at all, except for a bunch of little ideas and businesses that I was dabbling in to see where they might take me. I still thought I was returning to work in some capacity, although it was becoming clear that it was not panning out as I had expected.

I had made some efforts to start up small businesses in the final months of my maternity leave. A girlfriend and I who had spent time in the events industry together wanted to design and loan unique items to the events industry. We started designing things, building a few samples and buying up some stock, but it wasn’t coming together. We both had new babies and she had to return to work for cash flow and it simply fizzed out. We had so much fun doing it though and I know now that it was an important step for me. It made me realise that I actually was interested in doing something for myself and that I probably could do it.

I also started my own photography website and started shooting product, events and childcare. It brought in some money, enough to pay back some of the hefty prices of equipment, but it didn’t feel right for me. The passion I had for it was in the creative process and, well, there isn’t a lot of creative license in photographing for business, especially in the area that I was focusing on.

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What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?

When the end of my maternity leave started drawing closer and the reality of returning to work sunk in, it felt sickening. 12 months prior I had walked out declaring my intent to return bigger and better and here I was, gulping at the thought. I was obviously going to miss my baby, however I was mostly ok with him being in care full-time to allow me to work. What made me sick to my stomach at the thought of returning to work was losing the freedom to learn and create and be guided by my passions.

I did make serious efforts to try to get back to work on a part-time basis, but unfortunately the GFC, lack of roles and a new commute time of one hour (we had moved house) made me realise it wasn’t going to happen.

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How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

Having taken a number of leaps before, and continuously finding myself back in the same space of seeking out more creative fields, I knew it was now or never. I never followed through with the leap to creative roles, I always went for the safe option and the more economically prosperous option.

I had the beautiful gift of a year off work to nourish my soul as a new mum and I used that time to push myself creatively. We learned to live off less money and our child changed us in ways that you hear about but can never imagine until you experience it. We were no longer driven by the same things. Life was slower and more meaningful and I experienced this yearning to be a better version of myself, for them, for me, for my life’s story. It seemed a no-brainer that now was the time.

Courage came easily because it hadn’t before and I wasn’t prepared to answer to myself again if I chickened out.Kellie Macpherson Quote6

How did you fund your leap?

My husband took another job. He could see that I needed to pursue other things and he liked the idea of the kids not having to be in care. He was prepared to back me by taking on the extra work. He worked every second weekend and when I started working on Castle and Cubby he started working on that too, working three jobs so that we could make it all happen. Thankfully he has now dropped back to his weekday job and still building for Castle and Cubby. He is my hero and I am thankful for him every day in allowing me to follow my passion.

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What other leaps have you made in the past?

I do love a good leap. I am a firm believer that in life everyone needs to make at least one blind leap of faith, based on gut and gut alone. It is invigorating and scary and exciting and lonely, but isn’t it the things that challenge us the most that lead to the most growth?

I have made a few leaps like this in the past. Leaving the events industry was one of them. That was a real blind leap of faith. I wasn’t happy in my job and, instead of trying to find another, I just quit and walked out. It was life changing and definitely invigorating.

I also had another leap moment going into the events industry. I had a job lined up working in textiles and I was a few weeks away from starting. I was working part-time at the old Supply and Demand store in Richmond and a guy walked in to buy his personal assistant a Christmas present with $1000 to spend! So I took him shopping. We had a grand time and, as a result, he called the shop half an hour later to ask me if I wanted a job. I met him for drinks after work, all above board, and he offered me a role in events. I had a total sliding door moment and I couldn’t say no. It was the best decision I ever made.

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What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?

When I left the events industry, and quit without another job lined up, I went through a similar process to what I experienced with my most recent leap, in which I tried to find my purpose. I really wanted to study interior design, I even put a folio together, but I chickened out. I should have known then that I was seeking a more creative outlet, but I went back into what I knew, sales and corporate. I suppose you could say that was a fail, but only if you believe in regrets, which I don’t.

Surely no leap fails. Failure is one of the best lessons we can learn from. You can’t know your depths and your strengths if you haven’t experienced failure.

What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

I honestly don’t fear a lot and it comes back to my belief that failure is a gift. I know that if something doesn’t work out, it will suck for sure, but I will know more about my capabilities and myself as a result.

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How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.

10 – Totally rad. I am having the time of my life and truly feel like I am where I am supposed to be, for now.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

A sense of adventure and a little fear of the unknown keeps me on my toes. I love being challenged. Embracing a healthy level of fear of the things outside my control keeps me working really hard and achieving great things.

What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?

No downsides so far.

What might be your next leap?

Who knows? I am certainly not planning a leap in the near future. What I do know for sure is that there will be one and it will be awesome and scary and challenging and out of my hands and perfect for where I am supposed to be.

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What are your favourite words to live by?

Marianne Williamson’s quote – Our Greatest Fear. In summary, ‘It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.’

This quote has a tendency to follow me around, it shows us up in lots of weird and wonderful places. My favourite was on the back of an art piece done for me by someone that didn’t know me.

It really resonates with me as I feel that I see, too often, mostly women who diminish themselves, negate their talents or talk themselves down. This negative language in women’s conversations, my ‘this’ is too ‘that’ or I am not enough of ‘this or that’ or but you are better at ‘this and that’. I wish that we didn’t feel stupid or ego driven or embarrassed to talk about our light. I always try to encourage people to talk about theirs.

Castle and Cubby cubby houses Of Kin The Leap Stories

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

I spoke to a career counsellor before I left on maternity leave and her analysis of me contributed to my decision not to pursue my old role. She was around 60-65 years old and amazing, stylish as hell and funny. She told me of her own experiences starting out as a nurse, then being a mum to four kids and then listed all these amazing roles she had been and the study she had done. Basically she changed careers about four times and had degrees in so many things. She was such an inspiration and proved to me that you can change where you want to be at any time and you can be anything you want to be.

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A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

Go with your gut, close your eyes and jump high. You will land.

Right now I’m:

Hearing: Harry Belafonte – The Banana Boat song especially. Loving the crooners at the moment.
Eating: Spag Bol.
Drinking: Water.
Reading: Ppfft, I have no time to read.
Loving: My new Alpha 60 jumpsuit. First jumpsuit since childhood.

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Give yourself some time this week. Call a friend for a playdate, pour yourself a cup of tea, suspend reality for a moment and imagine the world you could create. It’s possible.

Lovingly, Kylie x


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