CJC Interview: Kaitlin Fontenot, Owner & Lead Designer, Love Kait Design Studio

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Tell us a little about your path so far— where are you from? Where are you currently?  Share a few career highlights. “My path has definitely been interesting but as I look back, every single bit of it makes sense. I’m from a VERY small town in north Louisiana, and my dreams have always been a little bigger than they needed to be in such a small town. I had always thought I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, but after taking a few Marketing courses at Louisiana Tech, I knew I had found my passion. I graduated with a Bachelors’ in Marketing and went on to become a retail manager and buyer, then into retail marketing. I taught myself every aspect of the design business and, garnered with my Marketing background, it’s been so beneficial. 

Some of my biggest career highlights have been interviewing Alexis Bellino of The Real Housewives of Orange County and Jeremiah Brent, the Interior Designer and former Rachel Zoe Project intern. I was also named one of the top 16 designers to follow by Shopify.

 Right now, I’m residing in Mandeville, which is across the lake from New Orleans with my son and husband. We’re going into year three of owning a studio and have made leaps and bounds. I’m hoping to hire a full team over the next year and expand our services to offer assistance in a few more areas my clients need.”

Where do you find inspiration? “I tend to go to various places for inspiration in different facets of my life. I wish I could say I look to this one thing or place for inspiration but truthfully; I’m finding it in all different areas around me. Sometimes an image from an Anthropologie catalog can inspire a full branding suite. A clients’ backstory can inspire their entire design to a new website or even their collateral. I love Pinterest, the Anthropologie catalog, and mostly getting out to explore whatever city I’m in. Traveling brings so much inspiration to me. When I have hit a roadblock with a design, I’ll unplug and go explore New Orleans - there is so much culture and art, it’s really inspiring. Inspiration can come in the strangest forms; you just have to be paying attention when that light bulb goes off.”

How would you describe your personality? “Quirky, funny, and outgoing. I’m going to be the first person to run up and introduce myself or help you with your groceries and I’m always the one trying to stay positive and make everyone laugh.”

What does being an ‘entrepreneur’ mean to you? “It means flexibility and the chance to spend time with my family. It means being home for every meal, every school function, and being able to travel anywhere in the world with my family. It means providing an opportunity to my son that I never knew existed. My hope is that I can show him that if you truly work hard for something, anything is possible.”

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What’s the biggest misconception you face WFH or as an entrepreneur? “Oh man, where do I begin? People think you sleep in and lounge around all day. I’ve heard people make the all-too-known comment “it must be nice to sit at home all day.” A lot of people who don’t work from home or own their own business, think it’s all luxury and lounging. I wish I could say I slept in but I prefer my 12-14 hour work days and time with my family. I work harder than ever so I can do the things no other career path could give me. I have 4AM wakeup calls and sometimes I’m already awake for them because I’m so excited about the project I’m on.”

Who was the last person that inspired you and why? My brothers, honestly. Not from an entrepreneur perspective, but from their lives. My oldest brother, Trey, is a veteran and my second oldest brother is a police officer. Hearing their stories, attempting to understand their struggles, and knowing how hard they’ve had to push through has been really inspiring for me. I’m always motivated by them. Trey actually marched 112 miles last year to bring awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

What’s your favorite ‘me-time’ or ’self-care' activity? “I suffer from anxiety so I have to make time at least 5-6 days a week for the gym, even if I just get a quick run in. I love to go shopping at local boutiques for new home decor & clothing, and honestly sometimes just sitting on my balcony with a glass of wine is enough. Sometimes, when my son is in school, I’ll get my bike and ride on this beautiful trail we have in our parish, the St Tammany Trace. It’s an old railroad track that’s been paved and reserved for running, cycling, and walking. It spans 28 miles and goes past swamps and beautiful Pontchartrain views. It’s so therapeutic!”

What is the biggest lesson you learned in your 20s? “Life is too short. I got married to my college sweetheart at 23 and we had our son at 25. I was SO HAPPY with my life, absolutely in love with being a mom and wife; I had what was then my dream career. I woke up when my son was 5 months old and instantly was stricken with post partum depression. I went from being the happiest person to feeling like I was on the outside looking in on myself. I quickly learned that life is fleeting and we have to do the things now that we’ll wish we did later. We have no time for those who bring negativity into our lives, whether it’s a friend, boyfriend, or family member. I learned that positivity and endurance is key - faith in God is my rock and I have to keep him with me at all times. After enduring what was one of the greatest fights for me, I hope to one day be able to inspire others who are battling Post Partum Depression or even speak at events about the disease.”

What is your outlook on your future career? Your career industry? “So positive, so surreal. My husband is a pilot so we’re waiting for that final destination home, so to speak. We expect to settle in a more permanent place within the next two years and I hope to open a physical studio where my clients can drop in and say hi, schedule physical appointments with me, and have an amazing team in-house with me. Being able to see my clients in-person would be a dream - they’re so amazing.”

What’s your favorite quote? “I was given this mountain to show others it can be moved.” 

What is the biggest contributor to your personal, inevitable self-doubt? “Social media, social media, social media. I preach to my clients to stop watching others when they feel like they’re doubting themselves, and I’m very transparent with them when I say “I do it too.” I go through moments when I find myself looking at others and what they’re doing and feeling stagnant and doubting everything about myself.  When I find myself feeling this way, I’ll take a break off of social media for a few days. If you see me being quiet...you know that’s why or I’m super exhausted!”

If you could give one piece of career advice what would it be? “Stop watching others, what they do doesn’t affect you. It’s something I tell myself often and have to continue to tell myself, but also want to preach it to everyone I meet. Others businesses will be successful with doing one thing, but it doesn’t mean you will be. Focus on your own readers & clients and what they want.”

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If you weren’t pursuing your current career, what would you want to be doing? “Pursuing a career with one of the Hearst magazines. One of my first big jobs was as a PR & Marketing intern and I was able to work alongside the Hearst teams. I then traveled to New York and remember seeing their building for the first time and it just felt unreal. I would love to one day be on their design staff or even work as a contributor.”

If you could give younger self any bit of wisdom what would it be? “Stop caring so much what others think of you. There will be people you meet in life who have an opinion of you, and that opinion will not matter one bit.”

How do you define success? “Success to me is enjoying what I do everyday, without having to sacrifice my personal life. It’s being able to inspire or assist someone else with their business, in a positive way. Success is being able to provide for my family in the best way possible. It’s laying my head down at night, knowing I’ve helped someone feel more confident, feel better about their business and processes, and prouder of their brand overall.”

What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses as an entrepreneur and/or WFH? “I believe my greatest strength is being able to motivate others but my greatest weakness tends to be motivating myself. I love to tell others they need to hire a full staff, schedule their days perfectly, etc. but I find myself ignoring the same message. It’s really hard as a business owner to delegate tasks and ask for help and I think that’s something I can sympathize with my clients on. My husband is an airline pilot and is in Chicago (we live near New Orleans) for 70% of the month, so it’s just my son and myself. My schedule is packed and I’m usually booked solid for 5-6 months in advance. One thing I’m struggling with is actually asking for help from those around me, whether it’s asking if my son can play with his friends for a few hours or asking my family to come into town for a weekend so I can get a break. I’ve always been the type to want to do it all - I’m slowly realizing that’s not something you can continue forever.”

What do you believe most prepared/inspired you to work solo—i.e. corporate experience, college, friends, family, etc.? “My last career path was so crucial to my growth and although I no longer speak to my former employer, I am and always will be inspired by her. She went from being a waitress to owning a multi-million dollar boutique all on her own, she was so inspiring. She taught me things about myself I didn’t know then and pushed me to go beyond my limitations. I believe working for her prepared me for all that I do now. She tended to put a lot more than I could handle on my plate, but it showed me how far I can push myself and how to prioritize projects. Naturally, I didn’t enjoy that at the moment, but looking back I’m really grateful for it. She showed me how strong I was and allowed me to manage a team on my own.”

What is your favorite Instagrams to follow? “I absolutely love watching the HQ account for Riff Raff (@riffraffhq) because their entire team is fun, inspiring, and down to earth. Their content is engaging and it’s enjoyable to see how far their owner, Kirsten Blowers, has taken a business she started from nothing. I also really love Brighton Keller (@brightonkeller) for her faith & real life stories and Amber Fillerup (@amberfillerup) because it’s enjoyable to see another mom live out her dream with her children by her side. I’ve spoken to Amber a few times via email and she’s always so kind and so gracious. Our sons are the same age and my son, Grayson, LOVES watching her son, Atticus, on Snapchat. He thinks he’s so funny!”

What’s something few people know about you? “I think since my followers have only known the Kaitlin I am today, it would be interesting for them to get to know the Kaitlin I was growing up. I have two older brothers so I was always a tomboy until around 14 years old. I wore soccer shorts and oversized t-shirts, crew socks, and hated brushing my hair. We grew up in a very small town that had literally two caution lights and a handful of stop signs - no red lights, no grocery stores. As kids, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves on our land so would ride four wheelers, play in the mud, go fishing, and explore my great grandfathers’ old dairy. I hated makeup, hated dresses, and loved reading Archie Comics. I think growing up with my brothers inspired me to love the outdoors as much as I do today.

I live away from all of my family and sometimes, honestly, I would much rather be in the woods with my dad or sitting on the front porch with my mom, doing anything other than being on social media or sitting in traffic in the city. I’m a country girl at heart and I love being with my family. I think another thing a lot of people don’t know about me from social media is how much I support our military and police force. My dad is the President for Louisiana Hunters for Heroes, which provides sponsored hunting trips and assistance to injured veterans, and I enjoy volunteering with them. My oldest brother is an Army veteran with a 9/11 enrollment and my second oldest brother is a police officer. I’m really dedicated to any cause that supports them.”