She started out as model, became a tech consultant and then founded her own tech start-up, Kovert Designs. Kate Unsworth, 27, is on mission to help us control our bad digital habits with the help of some beautiful digital detox jewelry, so we can use our time wisely and enjoy real life.
Her time is spent between East London and New York, and here she tells List for Life the importance of going offline to be inspired and how it all started.
1. How did your adventure in tech began?
I founded Kovert Designs in 2013 after being a tech consultant for two years. I saw this old couple in the park once and they looked so happy to be with each other and look in to each others eyes, and I realised we don’t have much of that anymore because of technology. I went on a two week tech detox, with my phone disconnected, but work and getting in touch with friends made it very impractical so I thought we needed another way to be more intelligently connected. I was a model for 11 years and I learned to code at university so I guess I had the ideal background to start a fashion and technology company.
2. Tell us about a normal work day in your life.
Because we’re a small team my role, I always have to be on top of everything. I can be with my tech team building gadgets, or sketching designer jewelry and working with other designers to develop our brand. I divide my time between London and New York, so when I’m in London I catch up with my teams, going through the designs, the press strategy, the partnerships, collaborations, sales, strategies – it keeps me busy but I love it.
3. What would be your advice for young professionals trying to be productive?
Change your email etiquette. No matter what job you’re doing, a constant flow of emails always keeps you from fully concentrating on that task at hand. I usually spend an hour responding to emails and getting on top of my day so that when the team come in I feel prepared and able to answer any questions that they have about what we’re working on that day. Then I try not to be on my email throughout the day so I usually reply to urgent emails in the morning before we start the day and then I’ll try not to check my email again until 4 or 5pm and usually do another hour or two on emails going through everything. Doing that stops me getting distracted and wasting the day away just by responding to things.
4. What’s the most important thing when building a tech start-up?
Having the right team. Right at the start of our journey, my first business partner, Dan, and I were looking for a CCO and I had a really specific set of skills in mind for this person. We heard of this guy called Fabio, who we approached but he said no. Dan and I were really upset and we chased him for six or seven weeks really constantly. Finally he decided to quit his job and join us, which was a huge deal for us because we realised that we weren’t going to be able to do this if we didn’t have the best team.
5. How do you get inspired?
Often I’ll have a meeting with somebody new, or someone who really believes in what we’re doing, or someone who’s doing something for a similar reason and it will get me really excited and remember me why I’m doing this and what my purpose is. It’s really important for me to find time to be creative because if I get too focused on the analytical and technical things and all the aspects of running a business, I lose my inspiration.
I also always try to make time for sitting down with my notebook, jotting down ideas and sketching new products. Even in the morning, if I have to do any work before I get to the office, I try to do it in my notebook. I feel like it makes me much more creative, if I’m away from being contacted by people, so I often sit in a cafe and sketch things or jot down ideas or even walk around and try to feel inspired.
6. What’s the secret for having a good day at work?
We often work some late nights but we make sure that we make it fun. We put music on and get some beers in and we have brainstorming sessions, so it’s more like a hangout more than a working environment. At 4pm we meditate all together as a team for 20mins. I’ll lead the meditation or one of my team members will lead us and sometimes other people who work in the same co-working space as us also join us. We do this in a technology free zone, where you’re allowed to go to just relax but no phones or computers or even headphones are allowed.
7. How important is it for young professionals to learn to take a break and refocus?
I think it’s very important to get away from the screen and get a different perspective on your day. It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day problems that you often lose sight of what’s important. A break really re-sets everybody so that you go back and start the second half of our day. When we’re busy that break is even more important because there’s no way people can work long hours and not go crazy.