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Sara Kelly

Sara Kelly

  • Location: Ingatestone, Essex (UK) 

  • Title: Brand Consultant & Strategist 

  • Company: Sara Kelly Brand Consulting 

  • Sector: Branding & Marketing

How does your usual day look like?

I start the day by rushing around getting my two kids out the door to school and then I’ll sit and decompress with a cup of peppermint tea, review my diary for the day and put together a to do list with priorities.

I mostly work from home, in my lovely purpose-built garden office. I start work by 9am and I have a mix of contract work and projects, so there’s lots of variety and no two days look quite the same, but every day usually involves some design management, strategic thinking, client meetings and keeping track of project timelines. I enjoy the variety and the flexibility of working for myself, because I can manage my own diary and make space for gym classes, walking the dog and a bit of downtime.

I try to finish work by 6pm, but if I need to work late, I’ll try and work shorter hours the next day or later in the week. My kids go to bed after 9pm now, so I have a short window to relax in the evening and I might watch an episode of something on TV and try to hit the sack by 10pm, but usually that’s closer to 11pm.

What are the things you like the most about your job?

I love design and creativity. Once I’ve developed a brand strategy, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing my work and words come to life coherently and visually in design, be that as a brand identity, a look and feel or brand comms and marketing material.

What are some of the skills you utilise the most in your day-to-day at work?

​​Creative and strategic thinking, listening, and asking lots of questions, planning and time management, problem solving and multi-tasking.

What was one of your happiest days in your career and why?

Getting to visit the incredible High Arctic on two occasions (and not being eaten by a polar bear!), to create the strategy, name, and branding for the world’s most northerly art gallery, called Nordover. Check it out here.

What was the toughest career decision you ever made?

Giving up design agency work, going it alone and overcoming imposter syndrome! I was sure that my peers from past design agencies would wonder why on earth I thought I was skilled enough to run my own business, but with eight years of independent experience under my belt, and lots of great client feedback and some fantastic credentials, I know I’m worthy!

What is something you had to learn to become better at your work?

Being fully responsible for the work I produce. If something isn’t quite right, it’s on me to make it right.

How did you get to become a Brand Consultant?

I worked in client services within design agencies for over 10 years and made my way up the ladder. When I fell pregnant with my first child, I hoped to resume my job after six months of maternity leave, but the design agency world at that time lacked flexibility for working parents. I therefore decided to take a full year off and work out what to do next. During this time, I helped a friend create her brand and marketing strategy for a start-up children’s fashion business. She loved the work and said I should be helping more businesses like hers. I followed her advice, and the rest is history!

What's the one piece of career advice you have for anyone interested in following your footsteps?

There’s no such thing as a stupid question and listen, and then listen some more.

What's your number one productivity hack / when or how are you most effective?

I work well under the pressure of a deadline, but to make sure I’m effective I try to allow time for breaks. It gives me a chance to digest and reflect on my work and build and improve on it.

What makes you gracefullyBOLD?

Being kind and being my authentic self.

How do you spend your weekend or downtimes?

Weekends can often be busy with kid’s clubs and their other sporty activities, ferrying them in every which direction. But when there’s downtime, my husband and I make time to relax, getting out in the countryside for long walks, enjoying good food and if the tides are right, I’ll dash to the coast for a cold swim.

How do you deal with stress and build resilience?

In April 2023 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I put my business and career on hold and took over six months off to focus on my treatment and recovery. I’m just starting my work comeback now, but this time I’ll be doing things a bit differently, prioritising self-care and my health and wellbeing and reducing stress levels. I now try to meditate every day for at least 20mins, I journal every evening, do regular yoga and pilates, I make time for fresh air and I stick post it notes around my office, reminding me to be self-compassionate and kind to myself. I think I’m naturally quite resilient, but I hope establishing these good habits will help me build more resilience.

What would have been your alternative career path or alternative University degree?

A midwife. I’ve helped deliver a few babies and there’s nothing more amazing!

Who is a female professional that inspired you along your career journey? What did she do / say / or what are the character traits and professional skills she uses.

I’ve worked with so many incredible females along my career journey and I’m lucky to have hung on to several of them as good friends. More recently, since running my own business I outsource or pass work on to other female founders. One of those is Aggie Meroni, from White Bee Digital. Aggie runs her own paid social agency – She is brilliant and makes her job look very easy, which I know it’s not! She’s smart, methodical, measured and knowledgeable – I want to be more Aggie!

What's the last thing you learnt?

To be kinder to myself, don’t be afraid to say no, and establish clear boundaries.

If you could time-travel and meet any leader, who/where would that be?

I’d want to meet the leading author, Matt Haig. His words, ideas, ramblings, and books are always such a comfort, with beautiful insight and wisdom.

Note: Matt Haig is a best-selling author of books such as 'The Midnight Library' and 'Reasons to Stay Alive'. He's sold over 3 Million books worldwide.

The one question we didn't ask you but you'd like to answer?

  • Question: What's your biggest dream in life?

  • Answer: To own a property on the West coast of Ireland.

The previous interviewee left a question for you: “What does success look like for you?”

Success is balancing my career, health and home life. To enjoy the work that I do, to feel challenged and to grow and to make enough money to live life to the fullest away from work.

One word answers & quick fire round. Let's go!

  • Your superpower: Positivity

  • Favourite restaurant: The Frog

  • Favourite fashion brand: Patagonia

  • Favourite beauty product: Aesop Primrose Facial Hydrating Cream

  • Favourite perfume: Escentric Molecules 01

  • Book recommendation: "The Outside Boy" by Jeannie Cummins

  • Next holiday destination: Croatia

  • Your hobby: Outdoor swimming

  • Who inspires you: My awesome female friends

  • Tea or Coffee: Coffee

  • Red wine or White wine: No alcohol, thank you.

  • Morning bird or Night owl: Morning bird

  • Cat person or Dog person: Dog person

Thank you Sara for sharing your journey & wisdom with us!

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