Kathi Ziolkowski is a straight up hustler. She’s quick to speak her mind and rhyme off headlines to jumpstart a convo and bring you closer together. And you have to be a hustler with serious social graces when you’re at the helm of your own agency that’s been kicking for 14 years. She represents photographers, videographers, social influencers and all walks of content creators and partners them with brands in the fashion, beauty, retail and luxury businesses (L’Oréal, Birks, Indigo, Estée Lauder, Gap, Adidas, UnderArmour and Louis Vuitton to name a few).
While running KZM Agency, she also spent four years developing sales and brand partnerships for The Coveteur and the beginning of her career was defined by impressive gigs at Club Monaco and Holt Renfrew. When we sat down to talk, she met our expectations and was refreshingly unedited about being a momboss and how-to make it work. “I want to see Ivanka Trump show us her support staff. It’s bullshit that she’s makes it look like she’s doing it all on her own. And why is everyone bashing Sophie Trudeau for having a nanny? She’s busy. She needs help and WTF is wrong with that.”
On having a nanny for the past 8-years…
“My nanny Joy is a working mom too. She has two kids and all these years I’ve followed her example. She’s so focused and determined to give her kids a better life and she never bitches about it. I was never threatened by her because I knew I would not have been as happy or good at being at home with the kids when they were babies. I had to go back to work soon after I had them and that worked for me. After about a year working together, our relationship opened up and I started going out of my way to have her back the way she always had mine. It’s become a true partnership over time. My family lives in one unit of a triplex building that we bought years ago. Instead of renovating and taking up more space, we rent out the other units so we can afford to have her help and know that when my husband and I are home, 100% of our time and attention is with the kids.”
“I had my own prejudices about working moms before I had kids. I fell into the belief that they didn’t work as hard. It was an asshole move and that sucks. But now I know better and I know moms are effing strong. It’s proven that female athletes perform better after having kids; they have more physical and mental stamina and I find that inspirational. As a working mom, I’ve learned that when bad things happen at work, it’s not the end of the world. For example, soon after I had my first, I was seeing a client in New York and leaned against a filing cabinet and all this milk came out and made my shirt transparent. After something like that happens, you learn to roll with it and your priorities shift. Today I’m focused on keeping the lights on for myself and everyone who works with me and traveling less so I can spend more time my family.”
On recession-proofing her business…
“I had my first daughter on April 4, 2008. The economy was crashing and Holt Renfrew, who had been my biggest client for years, told me that they weren’t going to use me going forward. It was super stressful and I was very worried that people wouldn’t want to hire me now that I was a mom. My husband Gint was a rock and really helped me keep my head on straight. A former pro athlete, it was at this time he also taught me how exercise can keep you grounded when things get tough.
I was forced to get to work and pivot my business right away with no time or money for any kind of mat leave. I started out as a production company for print advertising and now we strategize and produce cross platform campaigns and bring the best creatives together to create exceptional campaigns for our clients. I also have a small group of friends who own businesses and it’s amazing to be candid with them about my struggles when I’m feeling weak. They really kick my ass back on track and remind me that the dips are just a blip in the continuum of life and that we shouldn’t let bad moments define us.”
On Shonda Rhimes being her hero…
“Whether you’re a mom working your ass off at an office or at home, we have to have each other’s back and Shonda has my back. In her book, The Year of Yes, she talks about saying yes to things she normally wouldn’t like working out regularly or turning her out-of-office on. Like her, I turn my OOO on the weekends and evenings and it’s made such a difference. I consciously limit my work hours to 45 to 50 hours a week so I can do more of the things I should say yes to more often.
One of the biggest challenges for me was saying yes to relinquishing control of every aspect of my company, let go, trust my staff and allow for other perspectives and voices. Also, I recently joined an introduction to CrossFit program for women. It was terrible and amazing. There were several times that I cried in my car after the workout because I was so frustrated but in the end I accomplished more that I could have dreamed and built camaraderie with my classmates. For 2017, I’m going to say yes to future success and believe that I am as good as I am at work and at home.”
ROOM TOUR A work place that brews creativity
A Canadian flag is hung in gratitude to our home and native land. Wall hanging, West Elm; and lamp, EQ3.
Kathi keeps copies of In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by DesignSponge founder Grace Bonney as gifts for any given day or occasion.
A Louis Vuitton briefcase has stayed on point during the span of her career. She’s had it since she worked at Club Monaco as their director of global communications over 14 years ago.
Her daughter Hana drew a daily mantra for mom to keep at the office. “I’m so proud that she made that. It shows that my hard-working ethos is rubbing off on her.”
Succulents line the window. “They were from when I worked on the NBA all-star game here in Toronto about a year ago. They were pressed into floral foam for an event. We didn’t want them to go to waste so we replanted them and gave them a home here at the office.