Kate Daniels of Catalpa: On Doubting Yourself, Inspiration, and Juggling Kids and a Business.
Kate Daniels owns and curates Catalpa, a vintage and antique shop. Catalpa is known for having some of the best vintage rugs in town, and her new collection of vintage hats and denim is pretty swoon-worthy.
She’s a mother of two, a freelance interior designer and is a pro at pop-ups. Kate has been a vendor at a ton of events in and around Austin, including markets for Madewell, Laissez Fair, Preacher, Byron & Blue, Aro, and is a regular at the Stag Flea Market.
I was excited to see how Kate would answer these questions because I knew she’d be honest about the not-so-exciting parts of running a business. I also know that she truly loves what she does, so we’d all leave with some inspiration!
how do you balance being a mom and running your business?
Organized chaos, really. I’m very lucky that I have a devoted partner with lenient work constraints who allows me the space and time I need to run the business.
I’m a SAHM and an antique dealer and neither one sleeps or has weekends off and that’s the hardest part of it.
There are days I attempt to juggle the kids and work, but antiquing with a toddler is hilarious and scary. Faberge eggs look a lot like toys and children are very fast when distracted by something shiny. But I digress, I try to look at the big picture and realize while I am doing this for me, they benefit from it too. I’ve certainly had resentments towards having to watch the kids instead of going to this sweet estate sale that my children should be absolutely nowhere near, so that’s hard, but I try to step back and realize there will be other sales and these are my only children…and I like them a lot.
What excites you the most about your business?
The freedom. Getting to buy whatever I want for the shop with only my own constraints. Being able to change the style and the ebb and flow of what inventory looks and feels like. Antiquers and vintage dealers tend to keep and collect a lot of what they sell, so that’s a big perk. Nah, that's MY hat.
How do you start your day?
With an alarm and coffee my husband so graciously procures. Then getting the kids ready for their respective schools, if it’s a weekday, so that I can make my mental list of what comes next. Often household chores, then either doing a scouting trip or two, setting up items for pop-ups or getting them online, then attempting to take a pretty picture of something to keep Instagram followers from thinking I just sit on my butt all day eating bonbons. I don’t sit ever.
Tell me about a time you lost your confidence in what you were doing and how did you get that confidence back?
Just one time? There have been several. It’s usually after agreeing to do a pop-up and risking so much time and money and effort and having it fail miserably. Or watching someone who does what I do, get into a market that I didn’t even get invited to.
Or just plain not fitting in. It’s kinda like high school. So, I feel bad about myself. Like I’m doing it wrong or I don't look or act a certain way, and it’s tough on my psyche. But I get up again. Time, encouragement from friends and peers, somebody buying something, or you know, getting invited to the cool kids’ party. You just get back up if you wanna do it.
What were you doing before Catalpa and how did you get here?
This is a fun one. Um, I have a degree in Physical Anthropology and I used to work with non-human primates. I interned at a zoo helping with the primate enrichment program, even interviewing to work the Koko the gorilla (RIP). Then I was a veterinary technician for several years.
When my husband and I decided to begin a family, I quit tech-ing. I was working for an exotic vet and aside from having outgrown the politics of the vet world, it wasn’t a conducive workplace to be pregnant in.
After my son was born, I became a "stay at home mom” and realized I really wasn't doing anything for myself and didn't have a creative outlet I was satisfied with. I had always been a vintage collector because my parents had always taken me on antiquing trips. I had honed my tastes and skills over the years and had amassed a large collection of vintage flags for some reason with no room to display them so…hobby turned job.
What’s the hardest part of running your social media?
Having the time and energy to keep up with it in addition to my everyday life and make it look effortless. That and putting myself out there for all of the internet to see is just plain uncomfortable.
What’s the hardest part of doing events?
Lining up childcare and getting assistance to physically move product in place and take it down when the event is over. That and spending time away from my family at the risk of failure.
Tell me about a time when you felt truly proud of your business?
When I began to find my niche. Honestly, doing pop-ups with Stag was a big boost in my confidence because I got to work alongside very like-minded people who are also doing what I’m doing. It’s just a great group of humans doing good things for other people and themselves. I also like to watch people get as excited about antiques as I do.
What projects are you working on unrelated to Catalpa?
I do freelance interior design for a design build firm here in Austin on occasion, mostly renovation layout ideas, finishes, and landscape design. I’ve also helped a few friends outfit their businesses, homes, or work studios with vintage furniture, decor, plants, and textiles.
WhERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I get inspired when people like the things I find for the shop. It makes me want to hone my skills a little more and learn about that specific item and carry more of it in my shop.
WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT ANTIQUES / VINTAGE?
The history in the patina. The rarity and one of a kind-ness of each item. The hunt. The comradery around it? Which sounds weird but I have a couple of friends that collect vintage tee shirts and showed me their massive collection the other day and it was so cool. We met over vintage, they, themselves met over vintage. There’s a community around vintage and antiques and it can be a really great one if no one is an asshole. :)
how do you feel austin embraces small businesses?
I do feel that Austin has a good community for small businesses. People show up to pop-ups, they buy things, they support local. Even some of the larger, more well-known brick and mortars genuinely encourage the little guys by hosting and inviting small businesses for events. Breweries get in on it too and that’s a win-win for everyone involved.
how do you handle taking time off or going on vacation?
Ha! What’s a vacation? No, really it’s the kids that make taking vacations difficult. I think I’d actually enjoy doing some sourcing from different cities or countries. I’m kinda never not working in all regards. It’s a good thing I love what I do.