Co-founder / lady-brains
In the first part of our interview with lady-brains co-founder Caitlin Judd we went deep. Covering everything from how she navigated through her early 20s, the Uni/Work juggle, the travel, the pivots… the everything.
In the second half, I felt like a lightbulb flicked on in my mind and all seemingly unattainable goals filed their way into a possibility folder. That’s the power of Caitlin and why I am so obsessed with the LADY-BRAINS movement. Through concrete examples and real advice (I’m talking about the juicy stuff you desperately want to know, yet people don’t really go there… type of advice) examples you get to see a new reality form for yourself, and your world opens up.
This interview is filled with all the above and so much more.
In the words of the lady-brains founders themselves “Strap yourself in” because this interview is one for the record books.
Welcome to The Cool Career, Caitlin.
Can you start by telling us where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career you are in today?
I grew up in the Southeast suburbs of Melbourne with a very community-focused upbringing. I was always playing with the kids in my street until we were called home for dinner. We lived close to my primary school (and high school) so there was always someone around. It was the best.
I remember I used to coax my brothers into playing make-believe business and school with me when I was younger. At one point I owned a hotel, and they would help me check in and take care of guests. I also had a school where I would force them to be my students. This often happened during the school holidays when they were just trying to take a break – the poor things!
It’s interesting to reflect on these moments. I loved running businesses and teaching back then, and here I am doing those exact things. I get to coach and mentor female founders, and soon we’ll be delivering our entrepreneurship program to year 10 students.
I have great respect for the teachers that help raise us. Somehow, I knew that I would be involved in education but didn’t know how exactly. Life has a funny way of working out.
Wow, how interesting, thanks for the insight, Caitlin. So, after high school did you go on to further education? Where and what did you study?
Yes, after I graduated high school, I went on to complete a Business and Arts degree at Monash University, with a major in Marketing and Media & Communications, and a minor in Sociology. I’d say I am the exception to the rule, but I have managed to utilise both my degrees!
Later in my career, I went back to uni and nabbed a professional certificate in Positive Psychology from the University of Melbourne. I was working in the positive psychology and well-being space and thought it would be a significant advantage to study the science of human flourishing. I love understanding how the brain works, and I’ve been able to use this practical knowledge in the lady-brains business and in my own personal life too.
Do you think it’s important for people to have a degree in your line of work?
I really enjoyed my time at university and think there’s merit in formal education. There are opportunities and doorways that can be opened to you that you’d perhaps find harder to access without it, such as study abroad and graduate programs.
University taught me how to think critically, how to form arguments and the fundamentals of business that I still use today. I often think about going back one day and continuing my education – learning is a life-long passion of mine.
However, it’s not the only way to get an education, especially if your goal is to start and grow your own business. The experience I gained from working with other people and within organisations has been super helpful, as well as all the online courses I’ve taken.
I’ve done everything from a copywriting course to a digital marketing funnels course, and female leadership programs. The beauty of the internet is that you can find a course or program to satisfy your skills and knowledge gaps. I love the fact that online programs are targeted, self-paced and practical. And you often discover a new community of people that have a common goal or interest.
It’s one of the reasons why we created our own online course. Our lady-brains business course, Base Camp, is specifically designed to help people with an idea start their business. We cover off everything from branding, vision, marketing, and sales to finance, and it offers a combination of theoretical and practical knowledge. I wish we had it when we started!
Did you complete any internships or volunteer placements? Tell us about your experience.
While I was studying at uni, I completed several internships. In fact, I loved one so much I did it twice – it was at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts in Miami, Florida. It’s the second biggest theatre in the US and I absolutely love the performing arts, so it was amazing to be able to work behind the scenes in the marketing department. Miami is so culturally diverse, and so were the shows I was working on.
I also volunteered at Art Basel in Miami, a world-leading art fair that brings collectors, galleries, and artists together. It was a very cool experience. When you’re starting your career the best thing you can do is to try it all, what have you got to lose?
How did you get into the job/career/business that you are in now?
I started lady-brains in 2017 with my business partner Anna. At the time we were looking for a female business group where we could check the ego at the door and have real, honest conversations about work and career. We ran intimate supper club dinners that grew and grew and so did the business.
From there, we launched our top-rated podcast interviewing female founders and offered group mentor programs, and online courses for almost-founders. We’re now taking our entrepreneurial program into schools which is so exciting. We can’t wait to encourage the next generation of purposeful, mindful, and confident female leaders and founders.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
As you can imagine, no two days are ever identical and depending on what the business needs at the time is where my attention goes. I love the variety of work in our business, it keeps things interesting and exciting.
Over the last few months, we were focused on launching our online business program Base Camp, and now we’re heading into a period of podcast recordings and events.
On any given day you’ll see us coaching and mentoring, prepping questions and recording the pod, writing sales emails, building a marketing plan, approving social media content, refining online course funnels, attending client meetings, pitching stories, updating sales forecasts, networking and the list goes on.
What piece of career advice do you wish that someone told you in your early 20s?
That solid foundations are important.
While I had some incredible experiences and learnt a lot on the job in my 20’s, there’s a part of me that wonders what it would have been like working in a much bigger and more structured organisation, working my way up the ladder so to speak.
It’s interesting because we’ve created an entire online course for early-stage founders on how to build solid foundations – it’s something we’re so passionate about. We want founders to avoid wasting any unnecessary time and money, and most importantly, the energy to keep going. We built the content off the back of our experience building our own and other people’s businesses, corporate experience, and our podcast guest insights. We’ve taken our time to curate all the stuff we wish we’d known at the start of our journey; it will save almost-founders a lot of heartache.
What is the worst piece of career advice you received in your 20s?
It’s less about the advice, and more so a lesson in trusting your own gut instinct. I was offered a good job in my early twenties with a decent wage, and the advice from people around me was to take it. I’d be silly not to. But deep down inside, I knew it wasn’t right for me. If it doesn’t feel right, even if it looks good on paper, then keep searching for that job that is going to light you up. It can come across as fluff, ‘do what lights you up’, but what it really means is do the things that are going to energise you, fuel personal and professional growth and make you happy.
Ahhhh love that so much. You are right, if it doesn’t feel right, then lean in and listen to that. So, if you could start your career all over again, what would you do differently?
BIG question. Honestly, there’s so many things I’d change. But we can’t go backwards, we can only keep looking and moving forwards. And it’s our responsibility to take those lessons from the past (the good, the bad and the ugly) and use them as fuel to make better choices for our present and future self. Some of the more painful career and face plant moments are the ones that have taught me the biggest lessons and have helped me to grow not just as a businessperson, but as a human too. It’s humbling, and we all need moments like that.
List the most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your career.
- Favourite Website? www.ladybrains.com ;)
- Instagram/ TikTok Account that you love? It’s not business related but gives my brain the break it needs! All the whale content one can love at @dronesharkapp on TikTok.
- Favourite Podcast? I enjoy listening to episodes from various shows that are recommended to me by friends and community members. Lately, I’ve been listening to The Imperfects, The Marie Forleo Podcast, Expanded by To Be Magnetic, Dear Gabby Podcast, How I Built This, Oprah’s Super Soul, and Esther Perel. There aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to all the conversations out there.
- Anyone noteworthy we should follow? There are so many incredible women in the lady-brains and Australian start-up community. I love hyperrealism artist CJ Hendry, who we’ve had on the podcast several times, she’s wildly talented. Hannah Spilva, co-founder of LVLY, is another podcast guest I adore. She recently sold her flower and gift delivery business for a big sum and I’m excited to see what she does next. Kate Morris, founder of Adore Beauty is a mover and shaker, and then there’s so many great new businesses and founders finding their way, such as Gabby Neal from Intact – a brand selling wardrobe essentials made from 100% Australian merino wool.
- Favourite App that you use every day: Co-star, Oura and Instagram!