What kind of work do you do/business do you run?
I jointly run Kakadu Creative. We’re a full-service vegan design agency on a mission to change the world one business at a time.
What do you love about it?
Before founding Kakadu Creative I worked in corporate magazine publishing. My role as Creative Solutions Director involved working with multinational businesses to help them to engage with our audiences in new ways to sell their products and build their brands.
I’d been working towards the role for over a decade but once I got there I was miserable. It was all about making money, both for my clients and the business I worked for. There was no passion, no soul and no mission.
It’s different with Kakadu. Yes, making a profit is important; we all have to eat and pay the bills, but how we make that money is just as important, if not more, than the money made.
What’s your ‘why’ in life? What drives you?
My ‘why’ is a drive to leave this planet better than I found it.
We are beyond lucky to have been born onto a planet that is so utterly stunning and with so much to give.
Yet we as a society we’re taking that privilege for granted and taking more than the planet can sustainably give to us. That needs to change and I am on a mission to help bring that change about.
Why are you a member of VIVAS?
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such an inspiring, strong and passionate group of women? A group which is aligned on a mission to bring compassion and kindness into the world.
What’s been the biggest highlight or ‘wow’ moment of your career/business/professional life?
Probably soft launching Kakadu Creative while Lee (my business partner and other half) and I were backpacking in 2018.
After spending my entire employed career being told that I had to be tied to a desk in an office to do a good job, it was a revelation to realise that a profitable, professional and impactful business could be run from anywhere, with no detriment to our clients.
Designing a book and sending it to the printers whilst on a tropical island in Indonesia, along with creating a brand for a music festival from a liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef were two big highlights.
How do you handle failures, fear and disappointment?
I’m pretty hard on myself. I am my biggest critic and I hold myself to incredibly high standards. On the one hand this is great as it pushes me to be better, learn more and not stay still.
But for the times that I am too hard on myself I strongly believe that talking to someone about it is the best option.
This is why I’m pleased to have a great support network of both personal and professional contacts that I can lean on.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
Oh wow, that girl had so much to learn and part of me wouldn’t want to tell her anything. I strongly believe that your experiences shape you and if she hadn’t gone through the things she went through I wouldn’t be here writing this today.
But, if I had to tell her anything it would be don’t worry, things always work out in the end and the things that you’re worrying about today, you won’t even think about in the future.
Easier said than done though.
Which women inspire you and why?
I know I should probably say someone like Michelle Obama, or Jacinda Ardern but to be honest, it’s every woman.
We all go through so much in our own way and we keep fighting, we keep striving, we keep handling all that life throws at us and we keep going.
I think women and girls are the backbone of our society and the heartbeat that keeps it going. So, for every woman reading this, you inspire me.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how has it helped mould who you are now?
I’d had a tough relationship with my dad since I was very little and a turbulent mid-late teens saw me leave home early and enter into full time work.
This meant I didn’t follow my dream to go to university and train to be an interior designer.
But, it taught me that I’m incredibly resilient and adaptable and can handle pretty much anything that life throws at me.
What’s your super-power? What are you amazing at?
Getting stuff done. Give me a challenge and I’ll find a way to complete it. I’m a fast learner and can turn my hand to pretty much anything.
What brings you joy?
Our rescue dog Gili. She was found starving on the streets on Sarajevo four years ago and spent a year in the rehoming centre waiting for her forever home and we’re so pleased we were the ones able to give it to her.
Plus, seeing how alive our garden is now. When we moved in it was covered in concrete slabs with a rotten shed in the corner. It’s now full of plants and whenever I see a bumble bee buzzing around, it always brings a smile to my face.
How do you define success, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Success is a happy customer and with 100% of our reviews being 5* I know we’re achieving it.
What’s your vision for yourself and your business/career for the future?
Our future will be working solely with businesses who are also on a mission to change the world.
Plus, we’ll have bought a piece of old pasture land, built a tiny home on it and then transformed the rest into a woodland, wild meadow, pond and allotment patch.
Kayleigh Nicolaou is co-founder of Kakadu Creative, a vegan, full-service design agency which puts planet before profit and supports businesses with the same ethos. As they say, everyone has a part to play in creating a sustainable and ethical world. But nobody said it has to be with boring, generic design.