Katie +Maud is a Sligo Design business that creates some of the most beautiful, inspirational prints and was founded by the very talented Johanna Butler. Since being founded in 2014, she has gone to create a bright and successful company that still has the same values upon which it was founded. It is one of the brands that I simply enjoying buying from as their prints are inspirational and add real value to my home.
Since I started practicing mindfulness last year I have tried to make my home a little calmer and more focused and Johanna’s creations are just the perfect way to add that focus to my daily life. This interview with Johanna has been one of my favourite to date as the inspiration behind the brand feels so personal and can have a real impact on people’s lives.
Can you tell us a little bit about the beginnings of Katie + Maud?
Katie + Maud was imagined and developed by me in 2014 after I took up mindfulness meditation practice and was then looking for some contemporary design products that would give a little reminder to be more mindful in the day; fresh design with uplifting but practical words. I found that there were no design products with a positive mental wellbeing benefit. So I put my design skills to use and started designing typographic Print, with sentiment inspired by mindfulness and wellbeing. Products you would buy for yourself or as a gift for someone special.
And I understand that there is a very special meaning behind the name?
Katie and Maud are the names of my Grandmother and Aunt, two women who are very close to my heart. I am blessed to be surrounded by strong loving women in my family but these ladies inspired me to create this design business.
Katie was my Grandmother, Godmother and beloved friend who died aged 93 on Easter Saturday night in 2014, on my birthday. She was a warm, creative and intelligent person and we shared a love of crafts and inspirational sayings. Granny would also often find inspirational quotes, place them onto nice pictures from an old calendar and put them on walls around her house, to give pause for some thoughtful contemplation; so I guess this is in my genes!
Maud (Mary) is Katie’s only daughter, my Aunt and great friend. Another amazing woman, she is a constant evolver and embraces life to the full. Mary is a mother, nurse and a counsellor and is always striving to learn more about life and living more positively.
Have you always been creatively inclined?
Oh Yes! My Grandmother taught me crafts, poems, songs and also instilled in me a love of inspiring and uplifting literature. My parents always encouraged my art and crafts hobbies; even with the overflowing ‘make and do’ boxes taking up every corner of the house! Art was always my passion and I then embarked on a career in Architectural Technology, which combines creativity with problem solving.
Where do you find your inspiration for the Prints?
When I start a new design I ask myself ‘how will this benefit someone’? Design with an important function: to interrupt the stress. So I start with what I want the design to do, this probably comes from my architectural background. The colour of the Print then has to match the sentiment, whilst being fresh and contemporary.
Although I am sure that it is hard to choose but what has been your proudest moment to date?
Personal highlights for me have been when people tell me how Katie + Maud prints have really helped them interrupt the daily stress, whether it’s a print over their desk or one at their bedside. One gentleman bought the full set of my first four prints for his Mum, as she was a bit down after recovering from cancer and he wanted to give her a special gift that may help her get through her day. That is when I really felt that our products ‘worked’.
From a business aspect, my proudest but most terrifying moment to date was being interviewed live on Today FM’s Sunday business show. The Presenter and Producer had a real interest in wellness in the workplace and loved how our mindful inspired designs worked in an office setting. It really validated my business idea. They invited me on to launch the new Katie + Maud website in August 2015 and again in December 2015. I am proud to be part of Team SBS; businesses supporting each other nationwide.
Along the path to being a successful entrepreneur who owns her own business, what have been some of the greatest challenges that you have faced so far?
For this design business, the main challenge has been financially moving forward as you are creating physical products. You really have to keep going back to your core business ethos values to ensure you are making the best financial and creative decisions.
Do you have any advice to those who are looking to start their own business?
My advice to anyone wishing to set up a new business is to do your research. Evaluate how your business idea can help people and then how you can make it a financially viable business. Speak to other successful people in the field you wish to work in; I’ve found many experienced business people and designers to be very generous with their advice. Remember it’s a business and be objective about it. Be brave, enjoy the challenges and try not to take things too personally; it’s all a learning curve. The Local Enterprise Offices also have a great range of courses that can help you develop your business plan. Networking is also very important, even at the early stages. Go to business events, chat to people; you will pick up great advice and you never know how you can mutually benefit each other. It also boosts your confidence and helps you ‘pitch/define’ your business ideas.
On a slightly different note, I try and practice mindfulness each day as I feel that it actually improves my day and I can see that mindfulness is also a strong theme across Katie + Maud. When did you first discover mindfulness?
That’s great that you use mindfulness too. I first heard about mindfulness practice a few years ago and its great benefits. Then in March 2014 I attended a local course. My busy mind is usually in overdrive with lots of ‘to-do’ lists, so I felt I needed a tool to help me calm mind and body; what I got from this course was this and much more.
Mindfulness and related practices such as yoga are hugely popular at the moment as everyone is so busy and constantly bombarded with information and ‘stuff’ to do. It is very hard to completely switch off; so we need little reminders; sometimes simply to stop and concentrate on your breath for a moment
What impact do you think mindfulness has had on your day to day life?
It’s had a huge impact on my daily life. The main simple benefits are:
- I am more present and I listen better to those around me.
- I react in a calmer way to stressful situations, using mindfulness techniques.
- I am more productive in my working day, concentrating on the task in hand.
- Gratitude – I see daily life, my loved ones and those around me through in a much brighter and more precious way now.
Do you have tips for those just discovering Mindfulness?
When I first started Katie + Maud in December 2014, not many people were familiar with mindfulness practice. Now it’s hugely popular and for a good reason, it’s practical, accessible and it works. Try a course in mindfulness meditation, it’s an investment in yourself and you will learn how to properly meditate and the huge physiological benefits of the practice.
A massive thank you to Johanna for the interview, I love the well-being message behind Katie + Maud and if you are looking for a gift for someone special (or for you!) then I would highly recommend taking a look on Johanna’s website, she also has some amazing inspirational articles on well-being, mindfulness and kindness. She is also sharing on social media across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.