INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY MINI-SERIES: KIRSTEN BUTLER
Next up in our series of inspirational women is the wonderful Kirsten Butler. We were lucky enough to work with Kirsten late last year during a project up in Byron Bay, and were so thrilled when she wanted to be a part of our IWD special.
Kirsten owns and runs a vintage car hire service in Byron Bay, chauffeuring passengers to and from their desired destinations in May The E.K. The dusty pink 1962 EK Holden Special Sedan is a true charmer, with chrome highlights, a glamorous boot and a vintage allure (AKA our dream chariot).
We sat down with Kirsten to pick her brain about what it's like to be a female driver in a predominantly male industry, and to find out just how she came up with this unique business concept.
[TLSE] What do you enjoy most about being a creative stylist?
[Kirsten] I love the variety in my work! I never know what each week will bring, which is what I thrive on. In one week I could go from running around sourcing props in old antique centres, to dressing an actress on a photography set, to lugging 40kg suitcases around airports, to wallpapering a wall in a caravan, and this could all be in one week! I love the challenge that each job brings and the "ah ha" moment when it all works out. Being a stylist is one of those skill sets that can be applied to any industry and I am always learning and growing along the way.
What inspired you to create this unique spin on a car hire service?
It has always been a dream of mine to have a vintage Holden. When I found May, I had decided to move to Byron Bay from Sydney and during my research in to the wedding car hire business, I noticed that all of the wedding car drivers were male and I felt there was a gap in the market being female and being a stylist. I had 2 weddings recently with wardrobe malfunctions on the way to the ceremony that I was swiftly able to fix. I offer so much more than the average driver.
What's the most challenging aspect of running your own business? What's the most rewarding?
The most challenging part for me is finding balance, I tend to put other parts of my life on hold because I am busy with my multiple businesses. (I have May The E.K, I am a stylist, I do Social Media Marketing for 4 clients, and I am also renovating a caravan to sell at the moment!). I don’t have an assistant or anyone helping me, so it’s a juggle.
The most rewarding thing is the feeling I have coming home from a wedding - I am just so happy and giddy, I crank the music up and sing along to my 60’s tunes all the way home. Nothing beats that feeling.
What is the best piece of advice you have received throughout your career?
When I was in year 11 at high school, I was the only female in a class of 20 guys, doing Media Studies as part of my HSC. For one of the semesters we had a female teacher, I remember her telling me that if I wanted to be in a creative field as a female, I would have to put 110% into every project I worked on. She said that females could never be lazy, that it was much harder as a female to “make it”. I think a lot has changed since then, but that really had an affect on me and I remember promising her to always try my hardest. I actually came first in my class that year but it was never recognised as the boys in the class protested against it. That would never happen now but it really helped push me and gave me my drive.
When I was studying Fashion Design, a teacher told our class a similar thing and that when you are an assistant you need to be prepared to do anything - get them coffee, wash someones car for them (yes, she really said that!), be as helpful and productive as possible. I found by having this work ethic you can’t help but succeed in what ever you turn your hand to. As I've gotten older, I’ve noticed more and more how rare this work ethic is.
What advice would you offer to other women in business?
Find your people; find supportive people within your industry that you can talk to who understand the ins and outs of your industry. It’s important to have a few trusted friends who have your back (and you have theirs) who you can encourage and cheer you on when you kick a goal, or when you go through a hard time to help find a solution.
Who do you admire most?
I admire strong women who don’t follow the traditional rules of success, who make a business work for them by doing things they love; Marie Forleo, Emma Isaacs, Pip from Jumbled and Lisa Messenger.
To learn more about May The E.K. or book your very own chauffeured ride, check out Kirsten's site here.
WORDS | Brittany Ross
IMAGERY | Kirsten Butler