Each month we feature a woman in business who personifies what it means to be a Business Betty- she is confident, smart, stylish and successful. Do you know a woman that you consider a Betty? Tell us about her by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a snowy day in early January, Allison and I headed to Boston to meet this busy lady. It may have been super cold with a nasty wind chill, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our time with Kate. Read on to learn more about Safe Hub Collective and Kate Ziegler, this month’s Featured Betty!
Safe Hub Collective is a group of volunteers that believe that public spaces, physical or digital, should be safe and accessible for everyone. We know that for many people, navigating public space is fraught with harassment, fear, anxiety, and violence simply because of who they are. SHC is working to end street harassment and to support safe streets, transit, campuses, establishments, and gathering places in the Greater Boston area.
Safe Hub Collective is only one of your “jobs.” Tell us what else you do.
I run a boutique design firm based in Boston, Union Jack Creative, focusing on custom web and print design. My partner Jack and I work with clients to bring dream designs to life, creatively and within their budget. We focus on combining our skill sets – I have an art background, and handle things like hand-lettering or sketching custom monograms, before Jack scans my work and incorporates it into digital designs. Jack is behind the design and print layout for Don’t Take Pictures, a biannual photography journal, while I tackle proofing and client correspondence.
By day, I work in Operations in a law firm downtown, and on the side I’m also involved in bike advocacy and the campaign to cultivate a later-night culture in Boston.
What are your responsibilities for Safe Hub Collective? How have things changed since you started?
I helped to found Hollaback! Boston in 2011, and for three years served as Co-Director and Design and Policy Coordinator for the site before we transitioned to Safe Hub Collective to broaden our work and our team. When I first got involved with Hollaback!, we had to force the conversation about street harassment; now, people in Boston and beyond are much less likely to insist street harassment doesn’t happen, and are much more likely to join the discussion whether they agree with us or not.
In many ways, because the collective is such a passionate group with varied experiences and diverse interests, the transition has allowed me to slow down a bit and channel some “free time” energy back to Union Jack Creative and other projects. I’m honored to be organizing with these activists!
Currently, though, my work with Safe Hub Collective will allow me to continue facilitating workshops, support groups and guest lectures talking about street harassment, responses and solutions, and to continue raising awareness and educating youth, adults, leaders and community members about the ways in which street harassment harms our city and makes marginalized populations feel vulnerable moving through public space. We’re having an upcoming workshop if you’d like to check it out.
The concept – that someone could make a critique or suggestion, and that I could accept it graciously but choose to move forward another way – was a game changer.
What obstacles or challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?
As someone with (clearly) strong opinions, it was challenging for me early on to accept that I didn’t always need to express them. One of the revelations I had to help me get over my need to be right in all things was someone pointing out that the great thing about advice is that you don’t have to take it. That concept – that someone could make a critique or suggestion, and that I could accept it graciously but choose to move forward another way – was a game changer.
Imposter syndrome is an ongoing challenge, and a common one for women in business and entrepreneurs and creatives generally. Since my work is varied and across many fields, it can easily feel like I’m the one at the table who is not quite corporate enough, or creative enough, or grassroots enough, or savvy enough; for me, the solution thus far has been to keep doing work, keep listening, and keep focusing on the unique perspective that that position at the table gives me.
It’s important for me to be honest with myself about how many hours are in a day, and that’s still a work in progress.
You seem really busy. How do you balance it all?
Notebooks. The pen-and-paper task list I keep in my notebook is the only to-do list, online or off, I’ve ever had success maintaining. I keep lists for each venue or project – UJC work, house work, day job, SHC, emails to send – and I break larger projects down into discrete tasks. All of this helps me separate work from side projects and home life while ensuring nothing slips through the cracks when I shift gears, and crossing simple items off in Sharpie throughout the day keeps me motivated and moving forward. I know I’m not alone in list-loving, but it makes a big difference in limiting stress and mental energy spent worrying about what I might have forgotten.
Then there’s the need to be present, to maintain balance between activities: Coffitivity helps me focus on my day job when my mind is reeling about a pre-work meeting for Safe Hub Collective or a looming deadline for a client. Running helps me think through challenges and decompress, and time spent with friends without talking shop is crucial.
Balance, in the more spiritual, less logistical sense, is something we don’t talk about enough! Having Union Jack Creative as an outlet for my creative work and blogging habit, and Safe Hub Collective for my organizing itch, helps to counter the fast-paced, logistics-centric nature of my day job, and together they bring balance – but sometimes I still need a break. It’s important for me to be honest with myself about how many hours are in a day, and that’s still a work in progress.
What inspires you?
The women in my life are a constant source of inspiration – from the women I was lucky enough to have as teachers, mentors, family and friends of my family as I was growing up, to the women I’m proud to call my friends today. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by smart, kind, funny, passionate people who are strong, creative, and entrepreneurial. They go after what they believe in, and they never fail to inspire me to do and be better.
What is the one tool you couldn’t live without?
Next to notebooks, my bicycle: I ride year-round, and it’s the fastest and most reliable way to get around this city. Biking saves me time spent in transit, and efficiently doubles as a workout if I can’t fit in a run. Plus no paying for parking or waiting for a cab or ride-share! I was recently featured in the Bostone Globe about Year-round riding in Boston.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I had a scholarship to Northeastern – to play the tuba.
What’s the nicest compliment you’ve received in your career?
As a designer, the greatest compliments are seeing photos of our work in the wild (escort cards at a wedding, posters framed and hung in a home) or the words, “I trust you” (to create something awesome for us). Like this cool poster commemorating each of the towns runners encounter along the route of The Boston Marathon.
In my activist career, I once received a note from a stranger responding to an article about biking and street harassment. She noted that she had been involved in organizing for Title IX in the 70’s, and said that I embodied exactly what she had hoped for the future: “strong, athletic, capable.” I’m not sure how she got that from one article, but I am so grateful for her tying all of my passions, which often seem disparate, together in those encouraging words.
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs?
Know that it’s not just your business or career that can benefit from your entrepreneurial spirit, and don’t limit yourself to one venture! We all need to be careful to avoid burnout in our lives, but your hustle, creativity and know-how can be applied to other passions; working on those “side projects” can instill balance, refresh and inspire you, and bring a new perspective to your business or primary work. Think about other things you care deeply about, consider how you can get involved in the world, and never stop listening to and learning from others as you go!
And don’t let anyone get away with calling you “honey” or “sweetie” in a meeting. Have none of that.
What do you do when you’re having a bad day?
Take a deep breath, scroll through the Buzzfeed article that never fails to make me giggle – you know you have one – or borrow mine, put on some killer heels, get a fresh cup of coffee…and start a new list.
CONNECT WITH KATE