Founder / Otis + Otto
In a world of excesses, it’s refreshing to meet a woman who from an early age has learnt that less is truly more. As a creator of the most transfixing content you will ever ingest, coupled with an online store that lives and breathes, it’s no wonder that we have deemed Kirsty Davey, rock royalty of the inter-webs.
Think of Kirsty as a lithe, hunter in a sundress. Her prey? Exquisite, local, handmade gifts that she captures, curates and sells to her growing number of followers.
Go on, close your eyes… If you’re imagining a Cate Blanchett – Lord of the Rings type starlet, then ‘BINGO’ you are on the right track.
As Kirsty explains, she enjoyed school, but loved love, anthropology and life more. This women is wanderlust personified and I am so blessed to tell you her career story.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
Kirsty, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in Melbourne & spent most of my childhood outdoors…camping, fishing & collecting things. After finishing school in 2001, I pursued Media Studies at University, dabbling in hospitality, photography and corporate piffle but over time my focus shifted from study to travelling, abandoning the urban metropolis and eventually launching my own business.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to Clonard College, in Geelong, Victoria. At the time, it was relatively small and offered girls a nurturing, unpretentious learning environment. The majority of staff were sagacious, perceptive, supportive role models and encouraged us to pursue creative inquiry as well as academic study.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
I think so. I had access to the resources, practical & emotional support that I needed to cultivate my interest in anthropology and the arts.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
Following VCE, I felt compelled to continue studying… I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but felt obligated to put my ‘top marks’ to good use. Throughout school I was interested in literature, photography and languages so I opted for a Media & Communication degree with electives in philosophy, sociology and international politics. It was reasonably stimulating but at 18 years old, I was too self-absorbed and free-spirited for conscientious study… I was preoccupied with love, wanderlust and socialising.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
Working as a model throughout school, I came across various opportunities to indulge my passion for photography and styling. I took on volunteer projects, work experience offers, freelance gigs and anything else I could squeeze in between study (probably to appear more grown up – only child syndrome!). Throughout my early twenties, I oscillated between corporate work and travel, eventually re-locating to the Victorian Surf Coast in 2009 and falling into a Global Liaison / Editing role at Quiksilver HQ. Following the birth of our daughter in 2011, I re-evaluated my ambitions, abandoned ‘conventional’ expectations and set out to pioneer something ‘outside the box’.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
Without any initial plans to build an online business, I launched Otis & Otto (the blog). The blog began as an impromptu pin-board, a central place for me to collate and share online content/inspiration and eventually develop my ‘online voice’. On the advice of friends and readers, I decided to expand the blog by opening a small online retail space in 2014 and have since been collaborating with artisans/makers to slowly cultivate an (evolving) collection of unique objects from across the globe.
What is the hardest part of your current job?
Negotiating distractions. Working from home is rewarding, liberating and convenient but comes with limitations and uncertainties… juggling domestic / family life, well-being and a grass-roots business is a delicate balance. So far, my ‘organic’ (slow) approach to expanding the business has worked…I could implement a more aggressive advertising / marketing strategy or invest more heavily in products but I would be taking on more than I can commit to for now.
Assessing, accepting and owning my strengths / weaknesses has been a significant learning curve since embarking on the Otis & Otto project. (I’m also incredibly lucky to have such a supportive, insightful husband and network of peers to keep me in check!)
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
Most days are a myriad of business and family commitments so ‘typical’ is hard to define. I focus on waking early, preparing (& consuming) yummy food with my tribe and allocating time for the business during school hours so that I can respond to e-mails and pack/send orders without too many distractions.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
As a child I was fascinated with the origins and complexities of the past, envisaging a future in archaeology, foreign wayfaring or storytelling… I absorbed endless autobiographies, documentaries and travel programs (most notably Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, Clive James’ Postcards and Les Hiddens’ Bush Tucker Man).
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Be proactive and reach out to people… if you plan to commercialise your online endeavours, try to keep your content / message consistent and be careful to integrate sponsors who are aligned with your ethical, moral and aesthetic objectives.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Online Haunts: The Paris Review, Freunde von Freunden, Côté Sud, The Gentlewoman
- Books: Confessions of an Art Addict – Peggy Guggenheim, Telegrams of the Soul – Peter Altenberg, Forty-One False Starts – Janet Malcolm, Toujours Provence – Peter Mayle, The Teachings of Don Juan – Carlos Castanedahttps.
- People: Georgia O’Keefe, Hauschka, Alice Waters, Clive James, Donald Judd, Robert Redford, Kevin McCloud…the list is endless.
- Other: Mother Nature