Ever wondered what it’s like to create the business of your dreams? For most of us, it takes months, even years of tedious planning, brainstorming and sleepless nights before we make the decision to finally pursue it full-time.
For Claire McKeen at Keen Collective, this wasn’t the case. Claire can laugh about it now, but the story of how Keen Collective came to be is a great reminder that sometimes an unexpected push is all you need.
NAME: Claire McKeen
BORN: Scotland (but asked daily if I am Canadian lol)
WHAT YOU DO: I help businesses bloom!
WHO YOU ARE: The Keen Collective
Can you tell me a little more about The Keen Collective and what made you want to start your own agency?
Well I have always wanted to start my own business! When people asked me when I was younger what I wanted to do… I said, I wanted to be a business owner, but it took me a fair few years to figure out what the business would look like. Then one day I thought, why are you trying to force other ideas when you could just do what you know… and TKC was born!
What does a week in the life of Claire McKeen look like right now?
I am still only about a month and a halfish into doing this full time, so my weeks are anything but consistent… as I go through this adjustment period of figuring out routines. Each week I spend about 2 days actually in one of my clients stores, they own the coffee shop next door, so I set up shop there and it gives me the opportunity to really understand how they work, how customers buy, create content for their socials and bounce ideas off not only the owners but the other staff as well. The rest of my time is split between working at coffee shops, working at my parents (they have a dog lol), or working at my ‘home office/spare room’. Next month I am trialling a coworking space to hopefully find a bit more routine in my week! The rest of my week is usually filled with spending time with my boyfriend and family!
How hard was it to take the leap and be your own boss?
As much as I would like to say that I was brave and heroically quit my full time job to pursue my passion… my leap was more a huge push! Long story short, I was working at an advertising agency where some of our services offered slightly overlapped. I was still in the major setting up stage of The Keen Collective and didn’t actually have any clients signed, so at that point I decided to not tell my employer (yet), until I had found my feet a little more. Flash forward a couple of weeks, they found out… were not happy and I ended up resigning. Looking back, I wouldn’t change an absolute thing! We have to learn lessons one way or another, and I don’t know if I would have been brave enough any time soon to make the leap myself so I truly think it was the universe just making the choice for me! Flash forward just over a month and I am working with six clients.. Plus my mortgage is still getting paid – phew… everything really does happen for a reason!
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
My biggest risk has probably been not defaulting to looking for a new job after leaving my last one, making the choice to becoming self employed is risky when you have a mortgage and bills to pay! I own my house by myself too, which is probably a good thing for this situation because I am not letting someone else down if things go wrong (touch wood!)
How do you maintain your career/business and also nurture your friendships and relationships?
I don’t think I have ever really had a huge issue with this. I don’t have a lot of friends who I see regularly, so I guess that makes it easier haha. Because I live with my boyfriend, it is a lot easier than if we were still doing the back and forth between our places. It’s just about time management and taking a break from work when you need to, but also knowing when you need to just buckle down and get some shit done!
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
My top lessons learnt are:
You learn just as much, if not more, from bad managers as you do from good ones
Everything happens for a reason… every person, situation, job… then one day all the dots will connect
It is extremely important to value other people’s time
What is the number one piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
I can’t remember where this piece of advice came from… it might have been from a podcast or I could have made it up in my head.. But something that has made a huge difference in my life is.. ‘Don’t do anything that you really just don’t want to do’. I found myself being around people, going to events, and just generally doing things that I actually just didn’t want to do. About 2 years ago I just started living by that mentality. When I changed my thinking around this, I found that I became a happier person and was putting my time and energy into things that I genuinely wanted to. Let go of the idea of FOMO… and enjoy that fact that you actually would rather stay home on a Saturday night instead of getting drunk (plus spending too much money). I heard Erica Davies say on a podcast the other day JOMO – the joy of missing out… and I couldn’t have related to it more!! I have never been a party girl… I am such a homebody and I love it.
Have your priorities/the things you align with changed over the years?
For sure, as I have matured things have changed, and I think I have got a lot more laid back about everything… distanced myself with people that I didn’t align with anymore.
However my overarching priorities, I feel have always stayed very consistent. Things like setting up myself for the future, a good career, family and all that good stuff always have been at the forefront of my list of priorities. The only thing that I made a decision to put on the back burner was travel, I went on four decent holidays over about three years with one of them being a three month trip to UK/Europe, and a big part of me wanted to just keep going, but I said to myself, I can’t do it all. So I bought my house, but now I do want to pop travel back up my list of priorities in the next year.
Who do you look up to or go to for advice?
I rely heavily on advice from my parents… whenever anything happens I am straight on the phone to my mum haha. My dad owns his own business, and mum takes care of all the behind the scenes, accounting elements, so they are really switched on and business savvy.
In terms of who do I look up to, this really does vary depending on what mood I am in and what I am currently going through. As absolute basic bitch as it sounds, I really do look up to Beyonce… if you have ever watched her documentary Life Is But A Dream.. You will know that she has an insane work ethic and high standards for the quality of her work. On a day to day level, I do watch a lot of YouTube and look up to the likes of Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes, the business empire they have created and how far they have come from simply having dedication, good ideas and a camera is phenomenal!
Can you tell us about a big dream you have?
I keep saying that I would love to own a coworking space called ‘Keen Company’ lol… but I feel like that dream is evolving to just be a space… a creative area that I can create beautiful content in, that is inspiring to work in and can be shared with other creatives too.
Do you set goals and who keeps you accountable?
This is something I need to spend more time on, I for sure have goals but I need to remember to go back and adjust them when things change in my life! Depending on what the goals are, I will tell my boyfriend and family about them to help me stay accountable, but overall – I keep myself accountable for them!
Biggest win to date?
Making more money in my first full month of business than my previous ‘safe’ salary job!
Biggest fuck up?
The previously mentioned losing of my job! Haha. Main thing is, learn things from your fuck ups….. Like learn not to leave your email accounts logged in on any computer that is not your own…
QUICK FIRE 60 SECOND QUESTIONS
What would you be doing if you weren’t being a boss and running TKC?
100% still sitting at my desk dreaming of running my own business, staring at my ‘don’t quit your daydream’ quote
What does a regular day consist of for you?
Coffee, work, food and banter with my boyfriend
Fav music track at the moment?
I literally cannot stop listening to Cardi B, it is becoming a problem
Summer day up the coast with my boyfriend, floating around Cotton Tree…followed by a family board games night with a drink or two!
It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you 😉
Out and proud vice?
CARDI B – and now Love & Hip Hop – it is so cringe but so good
Plan ahead or wing it?
I am king wing! Not much a of a planner at all (until it comes to my clients haha)
At Home With… Series 2 is out! Loving it (by Anna Newton & Lily Pebbles)
Next adventure destination?
UK to visit family (bf is from there too) with a bit of Europe on the side!