Our Featured Hustler of the week is Penny Ashby from Lady Kate Knitwear. Penny has just recently graduated from our High End Hustlers Summer program, and attended our Summit here in Byron Bay a couple of months back. She joined Owners Collective as she realised she needed a Practical Education in Business (Which we like to call a PEB), but what she walked away with was a life changing mindset. Read on to read about the shifts she has in business and life.
Penny launched Lady Kate Knitwear in 2014 with an intention of to showcase the superior feel of Australian grown merino wool through timeless, classic designs. The brand was named after her great-grandmother, Lady Kate Merriman, wife of a sheep baron and one of the women behind the Australian wool industry!
We are so wrapt to showcase some of the incredible talent from our HEH program coming out of regional NSW! Penny comes from Narrabri which is about a 7 hour drive from Sydney, she lives and breathes farm life having grown up on a sheep farm in regional Australia.
Where are you right now?
I’m sitting at my desk in the sunroom of our house near Narrabri, North West NSW. Around me it’s messy – there are boxes of product, samples, Mother’s Day gift packaging mixed in with my kids’ toy tractors and helicopters – but in front of me is a huge, easterly-facing window with a view out to green paddocks, sheep grazing and the Nandewar Ranges in the distance.
Tea or coffee?
Tea – Bushells loose leaf, in a teapot, five cups a day.
Tell us a bit about what you do at Lady Kate Knitwear?
I design Lady Kate Knitwear made only from Australian Merino wool – I grew up on a sheep farm and my family are all wool growers so I’d be uninvited to Christmas lunch if I used anything else! The designs are all inspired by the landscape and heritage of the bush – think cable knits, leather buttons, suede patches – and of course, soft, cosy wool.
Why do you do what you do?
Australia is renowned for producing the best Merino wool in the world, but there’s a whole generation of women who have never felt the luxury of wool on their skin. Considering Australia once rode on the sheep’s back, that kind of makes me a bit sad!
I want to introduce Merino wool to a new generation of Australian women, to make them fall in love with it and be proud of the natural, renewable fibre our woolgrowers produce right here in our backyard.
What rituals do you have in place to help you get the most out of your day?
Oh gosh, I think I have more bad rituals than good ones! I’m a bit of a stress-head and constantly bite off more than I can chew – but I am learning that a walk outside first thing in the morning and a few short meditations a day will provide the energy and clarity to solve most things.
How do you get into flow?
For me, it’s often about creating the mental space to allow myself to really dive into something, so for that I find taking 5-10 minutes to create the physical space really helps set me up. I move everything I don’t need off my desk or into another room, turn my phone off, light a candle, make a pot of tea, then I can focus on the task at hand.
If I’m designing and I get stuck, or lack creativity, my trick is to just doodle and colour in anything I feel like, with no real purpose or goal. I find once I remove those constraints and stop wondering where the drawings are headed, it really frees me up to create from my subconscious.
What is your favourite thing about running your business?
Oooh so much! I love the creative outlet and I love collaborating and networking with like minded women in business. Most of all though, I think the most rewarding thing is contributing to the industry that my family’s been a part of for 120 years, and helping to promote it.
I’ve seen the wool industry threatened by droughts, poor wool prices and farmers selling up, yet the ones that stayed kept refining and perfecting their fibre and it is truly world class. When I speak to a customer who has never worn wool, but tried one of my jumpers, loves it and now wants to ask other stores if they stock Australian Merino wool knitwear…that just means everything to me.
What book, podcast & song are you jamming to at the moment?
Well I’m actually just about to (next week) release my own co-hosted podcast called Women Behind Wool so I’ve been listening to that on repeat lately!! But I’m also loving Double Date podcast (will make you fall in love with love), One Wild Ride (of course) and Company by Skye Manson (my co-host on WBW).
I’ve just read the life-changing ‘Do Less’ by Kate Northrup and am about to start audiobooking ‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McConaughey … mainly because I just want to listen to his voice all day.
As for songs… to my dismay I mostly listen to the Wiggles or Disney soundtracks. I hate it, but I’m outnumbered!
If you could have dinner with 3 people (dead or alive), who would they be & why?
This is really boring for everyone reading but I’m going to say my husband and two kids – Ed (3) and Charlie (2). We rarely get family time at the moment as both of us run our own businesses and the thought of the four of us sitting up together for a meal is more appealing than anyone else’s company…(and yes, I will probably regret my answer after sitting at the table with two toddlers for 5 mins).
What has been your biggest takeaway from High End Hustlers so far?
I signed up to HEH for the practical business advice. After six years of guessing and Googling my way through each new phase of my business, I really wanted some clear advice to take forward. What I actually found though, was that was only the tip of the iceberg…
The biggest takeaway for me was around mindset – learning to tap into my intuition, to trust myself, honing my vision and not letting fear stop or confuse me. That is pretty liberating stuff!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Hopefully doing exactly what I’m doing but just on a bigger scale! I want to continue designing beautiful knitwear that shows-off the fibre our woolgrowers produce, I want to make Australian women fall in love with wool and become proud ambassadors of our industry, and I want a business that lets me spend enough time with my husband and kids. Sounds easy, right?
Best piece of business advice you have been given?
Start with why… (It aaaaaallll comes back to that!).
Want to connect with Penny & keep the conversation going?