Rena Tom Rena Tom

Profile: Kish + Co

Melbourne-based Karishma is a maker with a day job, like many of you. The product line was born of frustration and has created a sense of balance. Read on to find out more about how the two businesses interact. – Rena
The Start
My husband/partner and I started Kish+Co, a full-service design agency, back in 2008. It was just me as a freelancer, so I had affectionately named it Miss Kish. I never saw it coming. I was actually stuck in a super sad phase in my life; after applying for job after job, I managed to get one. But less than a month in, I knew it wasn’t for me. I hated going to work every day, but was terrified at the thought of being stuck without any moolah.
It was my husband, Vivek, who pushed me to let it go and start freelancing. He’s the financial and strategic spine of the business, watching my moves and keeping our cash flow in check.
I had no savings. A nice fat mortgage. I was only 23 (oh my god, I only just did the math to that, what was I thinking?!!) My background is from NZ and Fiji, so I had very few contacts in Melbourne.  And please don’t think my husband was sitting comfortably at $100K. Far from it. Half far from it if you get my drift :)
So suddenly I was home all day, trying to build something. I read The Secret. Emailed everyone I knew and found the best resource of my life: the internet and websites like this one. I’ve seen myself evolve from a designer, to a senior designer, to a creative director and most recently into a PR Manager for our new business. It has been one crash course after another and I love it.
Our studio has evolved – and it happened very fast; at one point last year, I couldn’t hack it. I told my mentor that I wanted out. Away from the stress and the digits and the conversations about the digits and the justifying. At that point, I realised I had lost my creative outlet and some part of me wanted it back – she knew it all along, but it had taken me time to accept this.
We looked into reducing these everyday tasks, trimming our client base and working with those we love and have great relationships with – and I started designing Kish & Evie Goodness, a range of limited edition, handmade scarves.  A lot of people have asked me why we chose scarves and as much as I’d like to wax lyrical, we came to the simple conclusion that they’re largely worn and easiest to produce without having to worry about sizes and the like.
I fell back in love with making things, refining the process and this time was allowed a more tactile treat which was more of satisfaction for myself, than the end consumer. I cannot tell you just how much joy this gives me. I’ve got the biggest grin on my face when I’m confronted with hundreds of colours and textures to choose from.
So I’m still at the studio every day – checking in on design work and keeping in touch with our clients, building the business and so forth. But on the side, I get to nurse this gorgeous baby which allows me to see colour and pin away on my Pinterest board over and over.
Where do I begin. But allow me a little disclaimer first – I truly believe, the core challenge was always challenging my own perception.
I’ve always had issues with looking too young and therefore being perceived as irresponsible. Can you see where I’m going with this? The problem is in my mind. Now that I’m more confident, I talk to everyone and I can see them nodding and understanding me.
Risks. There comes a point when you need to hire. That is scary talk for any first time business owner. You’re thinking, I’m paying myself a wage, how am I going to pay this person that much – if not more? (In my case, one of my employees was paid more than me and he/she didn’t know it at the time.) It’s a leap, it’s a risk. If you’re not in business to take risks, I really believe you’re not in it. I’ve met the sweetest people who all want their own business, but they are tied to such a cushy pay packet, I’m grateful I bowed out of the working world when I did. I’m a sucker for nice things.
Building a client base. I want to say this one because I feel its something all businesses go through. I’ve done a lot; postcards, direct mail, SEO, brochures, launch parties (yes, I can use the plural!), referrals, celebrating Valentine’s Day, e-newsletters, cold calling. My list goes on. I read somewhere “try, try, try and try again” and that is where my head is at. I do not believe in “No”. Yes, I’ve had my slumps. I’ve had weekends when I keep checking my emails in hopes of better news. I’ve eaten paneer and more cheese that I should to console me. But I allow myself those slumps with the end rule being that I will kick in with more oomph than ever.
Networking. I’m not a suit wearer. I am ridiculously shy in crowds of people. This isn’t a challenge I’ve overcome. It’s just one I’ve learnt to trick my way through. I now send short casual messages to people via Twitter / email. Then I hope like hell that they’ll eventually tweet / email me back. And then I hope like hell that they’d agree to a coffee (always on me of course). So I figure, if I’m not comfortable doing it the right way, surely I can cheat my way thru it :)
Good Advice
It’s like a marriage. It’s bloody hard, but worth it if you stick it through.
Don’t expect great things in 2-3 years. My Papa is 50+ and I can really see him living it up. But we worked hard in the early years.
Don’t listen too much to the rubbish people tell you, if all they tell you is rubbish. Stick with the folks who believe in you.
Don’t ever think someone wouldn’t want to work with you. I made the biggest mistake thinking that someone I’d hired was soooooo amazing + soooooo above me. I let them hold the reins too strongly, because I was young + didn’t see how far I’d come.
Just ask. People are nicer than you think and we all innately love to help one another.
Look at the numbers. Look at me talking. I haven’t even opened up the P&L my accountant just emailed me and here I am harping on about looking at the numbers. But seriously. Step away from the business, the stress, the personalities and look at the numbers. I ignored them for a good six months and was in denial. When I woke up from my slumber, I had a lot of fixing up to do. It’s hard work, but if you’ve invested yourself into your business, never, ever ignore the numbers.
Thank people. Cause what goes up fast, can sometimes come down just as fast. In my case, it was Vivek, my sisters and my parents who picked me up, dusted me off and told me to start fresh. I’m just glad I wasn’t an absolute brat when the going was good. Everyone who does stand by you is a part of the success of your business. Celebrate them with small gestures that take time, effort, love and thought. If I ever forget this, please feel free to remind me.
Thank you, Karishma! Small business owners, contact me if you’d like to be profiled in this space. (I can’t get back to everyone, sorry!)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Very inspiring story & gorgeous scarfs ! All the best & success for your company & future projects :)

  2. kelly says:

    Loved this sooo much.

  3. Marcie says:

    Wonderful advice. Well-written. Inspirational. Thank you.

  4. I’m going back to read this again. Lovely message from a person who values and deserves every success. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. evie says:

    Echoing Marcie’s comments! Wonderful advice. Thank you.

  6. Such a great feature. I am officially inspired. I am about to celebrate the anniversary of my first year in business, and there’s a lot of good stuff in here that I feel I can apply to my own life and business. Karishma, you are fabulous!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>