Having practised as a lawyer in a top tier firm for the past eleven years (now part-time to balance her professional schedule with She Lion), Kate Dillon regularly carries a laptop, sometimes reams of paperwork, together with a handbag (and, if she’s organised, also a gym bag)! After thorough research into the bag market to find a bag to carry everything she needed in her day, it became clear that there were minimal options available and fewer still with an organisational function that were stylish. Following conversations with many women and friends in professional services, it became apparent that they too had found it difficult to find a bag that suited their needs, so Kate decided to create her own.
Kate launched She Lion July 2015, and her debut range embodies the attributes that Kate sees as paramount in driving her success daily – fierce elegance, premium practicality and bold ambition.
What is your title? Creative Director / CEO
Is this your first business? Yes
How long have you had the business? Four years this July!
How has business changed since you first started? In SO many ways! Both the learning process and the consequent way the business has evolved since it first started has been exponential. The business has advanced from hand-drawn specifications with a factory diligently sourced through AliExpress online to sophisticated digital specifications and a diversified portfolio of handbag construction and hardware factories sourced from international locations, trade fairs and face-to-face meetings overseas. This was a large transformation and steep learning curve that was implemented and embraced over the past 36 months. These changes have resulted in the refinement in, and design sophistication of, the product and the supply chain itself – and facilitated my growth in building a deeper understanding of international business relations, supply chain management, B2B and B2C communications and overall optimisation of the original business model.
How have you adapted? Previously a closet creative in corporate life, I am now loud and proud about the case for career success by your design. While the traditional portfolio of non-executive directorships is well recognised, the case for combining two demanding day jobs is less well established. I am passionate about demonstrating that this is not only possible but that the combination is mutually reinforcing.
Currently I am both: a senior lawyer; the National Innovation Strategy Lawyer at Australian law firm, Gilbert + Tobin; and CEO and lead designer of luxury work handbag e-tailer, She Lion bags: www.SheLion.com.au. Although legal innovation and retail manufacturing, at first glance, appear distinctly different pursuits, their combination is actually synergetic.
Things learnt in the context of a professional career (law and innovation in my case), have weaponised the birth and growth of my career as a designer and creative director of a luxury handbag business for working women. I divide my time and career goals between legal and entrepreneurial pursuits with the intention of achieving high performance in both. I am serious about my career trajectory and quite intentional about my portfolio approach to success by design and applying an innovative approach to all aspects of working life.
One piece advice every new business woman needs to know? JUST DO IT! You win or you learn; win/win.
Any training you would recommend? The best training is ‘doing’. I’ve learnt more from running my own business than any university degree (although my tertiary education has most definitely assisted). Recently I completed the AICD Company Directors Course, which was fantastic – particularly for upskilling in financial acumen and company strategy.
If you could advise your younger self something about what you know business-wise, what would you say? Jump in and have a go; don’t wait! If you don’t know…ask! Would you do it all again? Definitely!
We sat down with the CEO and Founder of design-led innovation company Naked Ambition, Fiona Triaca (Fi). Fi works tirelessly to create unique and creative experiences that support her clients to make the changes they want to see in their companies. We were more than a little inspired by our chat.