Kasia Gospos, the founder of Leaders in Heels, found her passion in designing inspirational stationery to help women develop leadership habits, go after their dreams, and make their mark on the world. While Leaders in Heels is a small team, they have sold already over 70,000 books worldwide and to employees of companies like Google, BHP and American Express. Leaders in Heels is also a leading Australian online community created to nurture, inspire and empower female leaders and entrepreneurs. In our interview we talked with Kasia about the founding story behind Leaders in Heels and why she thinks she is still a leader in progress.
What did you do before you founded Leaders in Heels and how did you come up with that idea?
Leaders in Heels started as a blog in 2011 when I first came to Australia and was working as a management accountant for a mining company.
The idea came from my initial experiences in the workplace in Australia and women sharing their stories with me. One day one of my colleagues told me she was disappointed that she’d been overlooked for a vacant role. After talking to her, I discovered that she’d never told the boss she was interested in the role – she thought he would see her hard work and promote her.
I realized that some women don’t like to put themselves forward, and it made me wonder why some women were more successful than others. Surely there was something I could learn from them. That’s where the idea for the blog came from – I wanted to learn from successful women and share their experiences with others. I wanted to help women build confidence, develop leadership traits they could use beyond their careers, and create fulfilling personal lives.
It was not until 2014 that I began creating stationery with the same purpose – to help women grow as leaders by creating daily habits through products such as notebooks, journals and planners that they could use every day. The stationery is unique, with exercises and activities created in collaboration with highly respected leadership and self-development experts. It inspires, educates and helps women build new habits incrementally, from one day to the next.
What makes a good leader in your opinion and would you describe yourself as a good leader?
The Leaders in Heels Manifesto is also a manifesto and affirmation for me as to what makes a good leader (and how to be one!). It is six traits that I have seen exemplified by all the successful female leaders I’ve interviewed – passion, creativity, innovation, confidence, determination and kindness.
I try to be a good leader, but I know I can do better. I’d like to spend more time with my team communicating our vision. I often don’t get to this as I’m always feeling busy, reverting to emails and short instructions. There’s always room for improvement!
What was the most surprising part of your journey as an entrepreneur so far?
I gained confidence through experience. I used to think confidence was something you had to be born with, but by taking small steps outside my comfort zone I’ve become more and more resilient and able to move onto bigger risks. It’s like flexing and building muscle. When I launched my first product it was an investment of around $5,000 and it seemed like such a big risk. Now I’m investing 10x that amount and I still get that thrill. The same goes with public speaking, communicating issues with suppliers, dealing with underperforming staff … you get better at it by doing more of it.
Founding a business like yours is mostly a result of a personal desire the founder had to initiate the idea. What´s a thing or advice you wished you have had when you first started out?
To not overthink. To start small. Don’t wait until it’s perfect. People are inspired by your work even when it’s not perfect. They will support you because you showed up and started at all. That kind of vulnerability and desire inspires others.
On your platform you give a lot of good advice to other female entrepreneurs to make their day productive and keep mental health. So, now you´re one of them and probably still deal with the same struggles. How easy/difficult is it for you to follow your own advice? And do you have days were not of this is actually working?
One of the worst things about me is that I’m impatient. I want to do things quickly and never feel like I’ve done enough. My to-do list never ends and when I accomplish something I move straight to the next item. So because of that I struggle often! What helps me is planning my day out on paper so I can reflect and pat myself on the back “You have done a lot today. Relax”.
Which marketing strategy or business move turned out to be the best decision you made so far in your business, even though it was scary and uncertain in the beginning?
Launching stationery. Initially the business was run as an online magazine with some revenue coming from ads and sponsored content. The competition and overload of content on the web only made it harder and harder, particularly as I was working on the business after my day job. We also had some financial setbacks so bringing a physical item to the market was a game changer. By focusing on leadership habits we were different from other stationery products, and was a niche that worked for Leaders in Heels as it was a natural extension of our vision. This is when our business truly launched.
You collaborate a lot with other businesses and experts. What makes this so valuable for you?
I’m an analyst, not a coach, marketing expert, writer or designer (at least I wasn’t when I was starting out!). I knew it would be hard to do anything alone, particularly when our inspirational stationery had a coaching aspect. It had to have that input from other experts to deliver the value that it does. It is what sets Leaders in Heels apart, we collaborate to create products that work.
Have you ever had a project or a decision you made turn out to be a completely failure and how did you deal with that?
Not yet! 😊 I’ve made mistakes such as misspelling things that went to print, getting a color number wrong and ordering a completely different cover, but never a complete failure. I just ride with the mistakes and keep going.
You said, that one of your biggest learnings so far was to diversify the wealth and never to rely on one income source. Tell us more about the moment you learned that lesson and how you practice this in your business.
As I mentioned, the market environment for an online magazine relying on income from ads has changed significantly in recent years so it was good to have diversification through the stationery line. This year with the outbreak of COVID19 we launched our ASPIRE Career Designer as digital first before launching the print version, to combat the risk of delayed or suspended deliveries. I’ll also be offering our planner as a printable product for the first time this year, so we are diversifying that income even more.
What is the next big goal on your vision board you are working on right now?
My vision for Leaders in Heels is to offer more tools for women, to help women with specific everyday challenges such as to-dos, meetings, and incremental steps forward. So this year I’ll be launching Meeting Notebooks and Day Organizers to the range. I also want to hear from our community to help Leaders in Heels continue to move forward with their needs front and center.