In fact, a few weeks later as I sat in a coffee shop listening to more of her story on entrepreneurship, motherhood, career leaps, raising teens and ALL the topics, there were MULTIPLE moments of complete laughter where I almost blurted out, “did we just become new best friends?!?!”
In hindsight, maybe I did blurt it out at some point. Regardless, Kate is so relatable and down to earth, yet also inspiring and an amazing role model on marriage, raising functional adults, and so much more. Additionally, she has INCREDIBLY entertaining stories!
Like breaking her foot at a 60th birthday party even as the sober driver. Or backing a U-Haul into a bridge on one of her first gigs of home staging entrepreneurship.
But we’ll get into all of that in a second. Kate was on a panel recently, sharing her betting on yourself journey into entrepreneurship and the resulting launch of her business, Koti Design Co. In fact, she made a big, scary leap from a well-paying job and ultimately decided to bet on herself. Clumsiness and all.
Enjoy her story and I hope it brings you as much insight and laughter as it did me.
NEVER LEAVING MICHIGAN, JUST KIDDING
Kate and her husband, Dave, have been together since high school. Flash forward to 2023, with 3 grown kids, successful careers, a series of life pivots, and they appear to be the all-American family a lot of couples strive to be. Rightfully so!
But Kate lives her life in a way to support and mentor others. Learning then pivoting. Pivoting then learning. A betting on yourself approach to life while also not forgetting to prioritize fun and enjoyment.
I like being a good role model for marriage and kids to others. But not in a “my way is the only way” context. I just try to lead by example and only give advice if someone asks for it!
Born and raised in Michigan, Kate and Dave began dating and never looked back.
We married SOOO young! Dave and I got married and then had three kids right away. We were crazy! And BROKE. [said through laughter and exasperation.] We had our first little house and three kids, Kaleb, Grace, and Eva. I was a wedding photographer for flexibility to be with the kids during the week, but man… it was hard work in those days.
Then the Elliott’s were approached with a big life decision.
Dave got a job offer near Indianapolis. Actually, they held the job for him, and his boss/mentor was pretty much like – “you need to take this job… now.” The kids were in 4th, 3rd, and 1st grades and we decided to head to Indiana.
Days before their house went on the market though, Kate broke her foot doing some stellar dance moves in 3 inch heels at a 60th birthday party.
“I was even the sober driver that night,” she shared through laughter of this memory.
Even funnier, picture this. Days later she was seen in her casted foot, maneuvering around on crutches with their dog in a head cone and cast on his foot. The dog had an unrelated toe injury. A neighbor walking by paused and pointed, questioning if they were related injuries.
Nope. Not related. Just chaos.
But cast and all, Kate managed to get the house sale ready. Including crawling around on the floor to clean and even pack boxes.
Off to Indianapolis the family of 5 went.
WHAT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP?
Kate was now faced with what she wanted to do for a job after the relocation. Re-establish a wedding photography business? Or something else entirely?
Because of the abruptness to the move in May of 2012, she still had weddings to photograph all summer and fall resulting in a lot of trips back up to Michigan for long weekends.
Even though she loved being in the moment of photographing a wedding, Kate was unsure about a photography business in their new city. In fact, her brother often supported her at these weddings as an assistant and was now hours away.
My brother and I had so much fun at these weddings. Often, we were on the dance floor hanging out, leading dances, and having a great time! We were much more than just wedding photographers!
Noting she loved the people side of weddings and the creativity and art of photography; the career path still wasn’t entirely clear.
“What am I going to do?” Continued to be the key question she asked herself. Then one day at the local pool, she pulled a kid out of the water who was struggling. And through a series of chance encounters, Kate and Dave became friends with the other family. (No joke!)
After I pulled their daughter out of the water, we ran into them a few more times. It was so ironic! We just laughed and said clearly, we should become friends. And we did! Through this relationship, I started my first job in a Tech start-up, leading into a fruitful career in the Tech industry.
TECH TO HOME STAGING
Kate’s career in Tech spanned over ten years and multiple companies. She took on roles developing customer success platforms and really honed in on her skills of process, workflows, and automation.
Then in February of 2020, Kate felt the urge to do something new and different. Furthermore, to put her creative skills to use in a different way.
She stumbled into home staging and felt the creativity flow again.
I really love the vintage and antique looks but implementing them in new and unique ways. My installs have a wide variety. I don’t like to just pack things up from one house and set them up in the next. I enjoy using the inventory I’ve built up over the last few years and making each space unique.
While Koti Designs began as a home staging business, it has evolved into Koti Design Co also now specializing in interior styling, selection, and furniture & styling for clients.
Even though Koti Designs (now Koti Design Co) was founded in February of 2020, it was a nights and weekends business for Kate. In fact, she didn’t make the decision to leave her tech job and go full time on her business until October of 2022. A full 20 months of building and growing first.
Kate had this to say about what it felt like to leave steady and comfortable to the betting on yourself approach:
It was scary. And liberating. And I was suddenly leaving a consistent paycheck. In hindsight, there is a part of me that wishes I would have set more financial goals before making the leap. Put more back. Maybe done more planning on the business side of it. However, it has all worked out. I just probably gave myself some un-due stress at the time in the hustle.
She went on.
It’s funny though. My daughter Grace will sometimes say, “this sounds like a future me problem,” if she is getting too caught up in trying to figure out all the future scenarios of a moment. Maybe I followed her advice at the time because the 2020 version of me to the now me sure doesn’t regret it!!
KOTI DESIGN CO
In fact, Kate is feeling really great about the legacy she is building.
As she talked about the business, it became apparent a lot of the experiences she had previously have been put to use in her business.
First, the client facing piece of business. From her photography days and being amazingly relatable and fun, it’s easy to see how she connects with clients and meets them where they are in the design journey.
Second, the process and workflow automation. From her tech days and implementing strategy and automation, Kate has a focus on automating anything she can in her business to free herself and her employees up to do the things they thrive doing.
And finally, the creativity. During her tech days, she thought at some point she would want to run a tech company. Flash forward to now, she’s running a company, yes. However, she’s discovered the type of company she wanted to run wasn’t tech after all. Conversely, it’s somewhere she really dials up her creativity in design.
And it’s working!
Additionally, she shared the shift from the business being an after-hours and weekends side gig to a full-time weekday job has been amazing.
I asked the kids at one point if it bothered them that I not only work, but also, I love to work. It was gratifying to hear them say things like – “why wouldn’t you???” and “it’s great we have an example of a strong and successful woman to look up to.” Comments like these make me feel good and know I’m where I am supposed to be.
She also credits her husband, Dave.
He has been so supportive. I’ve since hired someone to help with the installs, but before that, he would spend his nights and weekends helping me. Just what he wanted to do I’m sure after working a long week as an engineer [laughter].
MARRIAGE & RAISING KIDS
Kate shared stories of her now adult kids WANTING to hang out with them and the joy this brings. So, I of course wanted to know how they accomplished this! The betting on yourself approach doesn’t just apply to the work side of things either.
The kids have always known that it’s Dave and I first. We wanted to model for them a good relationship, not just in word, but also in action. And while the kids are our world, they are not our universe. We focused on teaching them the universe didn’t revolve around them. In fact, it’s our job to make our kids contributors to society and kind humans. And at some point, they will leave and do their own thing. I didn’t want to get lost in only having one identity as mom.
Helicopter and bulldozer parenting came up. Kate laughed in dismay about a recent story she heard of a college student’s parent calling the University about their child and issues with the Dean’s list.
Can you imagine?! My kids know, life is their battle to fight, not mine. They need to figure stuff out on their own!
As Kate and Dave approach being empty nesters this fall, she shared there would be some tears as they drop their youngest, Eva, off at Purdue.
I’ll do a little crying, but not too much.
In fact, as they enter a new chapter, she’s excited about doing some travel with Dave. The flexibility in her business allowing her to work from different locations.
Kate is focused on growing a legacy with Koti Design Co. She supports homeowners and home sellers in design to communicate, not just decorate.
Find out more about the interior styling and home staging business through Koti Design Co. Really amazing stuff!
Kate found a way to combine her passion for creativity and skill of process improvement to bring her business to life. And while it’s hard work, it’s easy to see how much joy this brings her.
Additionally, Kate encourages all parents out there to support their kids in understanding while they may be our world, they aren’t our universe. You can (and should) have multiple identities, not just the role of mom. Take it from Kate, your kids will be better for it.
And an added bonus… they might just want to hang out with you when they are adults.
Thank you for sharing your amazing story Kate and bringing your purpose to life through Koti Design Co. Enjoy empty nesting!
Follow Koti Design Co on Instagram to see more of Kate’s amazing work and inspire your creativity.
Always bet on yourself, no matter what the odds are. It means more to be in the race than to watch the victory laps from the stands.
– Pete Wentz
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