Katja Vilund is the coolest cat I know. Her style is undeniable yet understated and the same goes for her entrepreneurial spirit. Katja has gone from dream to action and have agreed to share her journey with us in this IN FOCUS piece. Although, she doesn’t like the word journey as it’s too romantic a word to describe what it really takes to become a jewellery designer and business owner. Curious? Read on.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Katja: I’m from Finland but I have lived in Australia for 8 years exactly, today!
I met my now husband when I was travelling around South East Asia. After my holiday, I went back to Finland but he convinced me to come to Sydney and the rest is history. I asked myself, should I stay there for another Finnish winter or come to Sydney for an exotic Aussie summer – the decision wasn’t really that difficult.
What kind of work did you do back then?
Katja: When I first came to Sydney I worked in fashion retail but then I went in to hairdressing which I had been doing in Finland for over 6 years. At that point I was already sick of hairdressing but when you move to a new country your life is in limbo and you worry about things like; are you allowed to stay? Do you want to stay? etc. so it felt secure doing the work I knew how to do.
When did your dream of becoming a jewellery designer show up in your life and how did it come to you?
Katja: I’ve always been very creative and I’ve always known I was going to do something tactile. I had wanted to do jewellery design back when I lived in Finland. So when Australia became my new home and I realised I still wasn’t living out that dream I thought to myself, I have two options; 1. I either put those plans on the backburner or 2. I change my situation. In the beginning I was afraid of letting go of the security I had built but after a little while I knew I couldn’t be at a standstill anymore and that I had to start moving.
How did you practically start following your dream?
Katja: I was working full time in hairdressing but I wanted to test out if jewellery design was really my passion so I took a few short courses in jewellery design, metal work and silver smithing and I absolutely loved it! The more I learned about it the more opportunities I could see.
As a creative person, I was predominantly interested in the design aspect so I applied and was accepted to study jewellery and object design at Enmore Design School.
How did you manage your time working and studying?
Katja: When I started studying I went from working full time to part time. It was funny when I started letting go of trying to control everything, things just started falling in to place. The way I ended up working and the income I received was actually much better than expected. When I finishes studying and started my business I realised I needed to put in 100%. I couldn’t expect great results if I didn’t give it everything that I had. So I quit hairdressing altogether and pursued my passion full time. My husband was supportive and said just do it! Besides, I had suffered long enough in a job that didn’t serve me anymore.
Were you ever worried about the new direction you were taking was going to be the right one?
Katja: I had no doubt! I felt so strongly I had to change my life that I just had to make it work. I was unhappy and unfulfilled and eventually I thought anything would be better than feeling like this. I believed that things would work out and they did.
Q. How did it make you feel when you starting going from dream to action?
Katja: I felt so empowered and proud once I started to chase my dream and let go of the security. It all progressed in a natural way, I started thinking how would I be able to make my dream become a viable business? How can I do something I love and make money out of it?
Did you feel supported by friends and family along the way?
Katja: Yes, especially my husband has been amazing, he has helped me out every step of the way. I also found that it’s okay to ask for help and advice. But I’ve also come across some negativity and off-putting comments but I’ve come to understand that a lot of times people are simply projecting their own fears on to other people.
So perhaps I have become more selective in who I tell about my business and what I say.
Where did your business idea come from?
Katja: The course was focussed on contemporary jewellery but I wanted to combine simplistic Nordic elements which is where my design aesthetics lean towards. I saw a gap in the market and an opportunity to make high-quality jewellery while still being priced so that it is accessible to most people.
What was the biggest learning curve for you?
Katja: Without a doubt, the hardest part was knowing where to start and what to do first. I had no idea what I was doing but I did it anyway. I took small steps at a time and before you know it you’ve actually come pretty far. It’s important to maintain the self-belief.
Thought my work as hairdresser I spent a lot of time chatting to clients and I found it helpful telling them what I was doing. They would ask how I was doing and I started to feel more accountable and it forced me to get in to gear. It’s good to put a bit of pressure on yourself.
What has been the easiest?
Katja: Honestly, nothing has been easy! But once you start, things just start rolling and moving forward. You kind of naturally figure out what you need to do next.
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
Katja: I wish that I had not let the pressure get me down as many time as it has. I wish someone had told me to just take small steps when you feel the pressure is becoming too much. When it feels like there’s 25 million things to do you can become paralysed and at that point my advice is to just try and do one thing. It may not be the most important thing on your list but do it and perhaps you’ll end up doing a few more and you see it’s not all that scary and suddenly you’ve gotten through the day.
What’s next for Katja and VILUND DESIGN?
Katja: Getting my next collection out and getting it out to a lot of stockists. My next theme is negative space and I’m so excited about it! I’d like to have my jewellery brand in retailers across the world. Besides that, it’s always been the freedom of owning my own business that holds more value to me that any financial goals. The freedom to work from where ever and travel and be mobile. I’m a creative at heart and I need to explore the world and seek inspiration from around the world.
What’s your advice for anyone who is wanting to go from dream to action?
Katja: Just take the first step and continue taking little steps forward and to enjoy the journey. No! Don’t write journey, it’s too romantic a word to describe what it takes.
Enjoy the ride is more appropriate. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Thank you Katja for sharing your path from dream to action. We wish you all the best with your new collection and can’t wait to see it!