Stephanie Duval steals the spotlight as Kaai woman of the month. Stephanie is not just any Kaai woman, she is a power woman who does not sit still for a second! We are therefore enormously honored to have been able to ask her a number of personal questions about her life as a mother and her interesting career path. Are you curious about the interview? Keep reading!
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your career path?
I was born and raised in Antwerp 35 years ago and was bitten by reading and telling stories from an early age. I studied Germanic Philology, followed by a second Master's degree in journalism. I already freelanced as a journalist during my studies, for magazines such as ELLE and L'Officiel, and at the age of 23 I tumbled into my first important role as editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine.
Around that time, however, the consequences of the financial crisis, the globalization and the digital revolution began to become very present, including in the media. So I quickly realized that I would have to continue to develop my skills in order to remain relevant on the labour market. In the beginning, blogging was really just a hobby in which I could use all my creativity. But it got me on the path of content marketing and brand consulting, which later - after setting up my own consultancy business with my partner Nele Pieters - led me into the world of brand strategy.
Storytelling is still my thing, so to speak. However, after all these years of diverse experience, I am much better equipped to guide brands in telling stories that are really relevant to their long-term strategy.
How did you take the step from journalism to entrepreneurship?
It happened very gradually and started when I met my partner. Nele has a more corporate background than I do, so our experiences were very complementary. At the same time, from the beginning, there was an enormous mutual respect for each other's experience and insights, which allowed us to go much further together than we could have done separately.
It did not feel like a leap to start up our own business (and then another, and then another) with Nele, but as a kind of natural and inevitable consequence of our ever closer cooperation.
What do you like most about having your own business?
The feeling of creating something that was not already there, of adding something to the world that is in real need - even if that does not immediately translate into effective demand. That is also the most difficult thing about doing business, and the big difference between freelancing and doing business.
As a freelancer, you answer an existing question by offering an existing service. Some entrepreneurs do the same, but true entrepreneurship is about reinventing supply and demand in the form of your business. And that is incredibly creative and satisfying, but also challenging and demanding.
How do you maintain a balance between work and private life?
It's difficult. I work 75% from home - I have always done that, ever since college. I need that freedom to organise my time myself, to be able to concentrate when I'm in the zone, but also to be able to say "foert" when I really can't, and to go for a walk, go shopping or do something else that gives me creative energy again.
But working from home also means that everything that mixes, which also makes it tempting to quickly check my emails after dinner or on a Saturday morning. If there's good news in there, there's nothing wrong, but a bad news message definitely has a negative effect on the rest of my free time. I have to push that button, I really have to force myself, otherwise I keep worrying and thinking about things that can be done better.
Can you tell us a little more about your book "You do you"?
It is the second book I wrote together with Nele Pieters - the successor to our first book 'Community Marketing. We already laid the foundations for our vision of brand strategy in our first book, but we still stuck too much in the world of marketing. As a result, the book was mainly read by professionals in executive marketing, while our ideas are about the strategy that has to be determined in advance.
With You Do You, we offer CEOs, entrepreneurs and brand managers a guide to sharpen the positioning of their brand, and an overview of the impact of that positioning on each department and each activity of their organization. So it goes much further than just marketing: it's also a new perspective on HR, product development, and so on.
How do you deal with COVID-19 and how does it affect your daily life?
I really didn't experience the lockdown as something positive. As an entrepreneur, the consequences were, of course, immediately noticeable - moreover, I barely got around to working with two little kids in the house and a man who could not switch back from his full-time job. There was absolutely no quality time for us, and a great relief when the crèches and schools reopened. I really need that balance between work and family - too much of one without the other, and I'm going crazy. In addition, of course, it is really not easy to live in a country other than all the friends and family, so with the current ever-changing measures, there is constant uncertainty about when we will be able to see each other again.
I know that everyone is talking about 'the new normal' and that there are certainly positive sides to it, but I see the negative sides, and really not just for myself - because I realize that I have been spared a great deal of suffering in many areas. I do have serious concerns about the long-term consequences for the economy and about the widening gap between people with privileges and those who have to fight twice as hard in life for equal rights anyway. We already live in such a polarized world - and it is getting worse with this current crisis.
What ultimate tip would you give to starting entrepreneurs?
Don't get too carried away by gurus, example companies or 'best cases'. Every company is different (or should be to have a raison d'être), which means that not all good advice will apply to your company.
Set up an advisory board with people from different backgrounds to regularly challenge your perspective, so that you don't end up in a tunnel vision. But at the same time: know very well what or who your company is and what it stands for, so that you can place their advice in the right context and weigh up whether or not you should start working on it.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment we are still busy promoting You Do You through workshops, lectures and key notes. In addition, our consultancy company continues to operate - even though 2020 has already been the most challenging year to date.
And we are preparing a new initiative that will probably come online before the end of this month - a collection of companies working together to promote a more ethical and sustainable approach to marketing.
What do you think of KAAI?
Kaai had been on my radar for some time - I often see my favourite style influencers taking pictures with them: I saved some of their outfits with a Kaai bag on Instagram in my inspiration leaflet.
I have a soft spot for both female entrepreneurs and a timeless, classy style - so as far as that's concerned, Kaai is totally my thing!
Which Kaai bag is your favourite and why?
The Ikon in Croco Oyster. First of all, such a smaller size that you can carry cross body is really ideal if you need two hands to keep your kids happy. I don't like having to change handbags every day (all that hassle, I'm sure I'll go out half the time without keys), so I think it's important that a bag is both stylish enough for business meetings and practical enough for weekend trips with my family.
I also have to admit that living in Switzerland brings out the Upper East Side side even more strongly in myself, hence my choice of the Croco Oyster. It really is such an ultra luxurious and classy combination of texture and colour - I'm certainly not a grey mouse, but at the same time not flashy or extravagant. In my dreams I have Lily van der Woodsen's wardrobe (you know you love me, xoxo Gossip Girl), and this bag absolutely belongs in it.