Designer & Creative Director / DAY SEVEN
It’s not too often that you read the words ‘Melbourne Waitress Launches Tailor-Made Uniform Label’, and that’s why I am obsessed with this week’s #careerstory. Get ready to meet Molly Kent, a Melbourne-based former waitress who launched a fashion-forward, made-to-order uniform label to shake up the industry.
For years Molly worked as a junior cook and then slowly began to learn the ropes of all front of house services from waitressing, bartending and then hosting. After moving from job to job in different cities and countries she had gathered enough evidence and identified a gap in the market for job-specific functioning high-end ‘uniforms’ – and the rest is history.
In this interview, you will find out how Molly built the brand, but also her must-have tips and resources that she believes anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps should be made aware of.
Hey Molly, where did you grow up and how did your experience shape the person you are and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in a small town in the South-West Victoria called Casterton. I absolutely loved growing up there but only return for visits now. It was a place where I had/have a lot of friends, and family and was involved in all of the community sports and groups on offer. It’s where I also had my first jobs helping out at my aunties Airbnb, in a glassworks studio, in a newsagency and then finding my feet at the local cafe, which was where I remained throughout high school and years off and on upon returning from overseas adventures. The cafe was an incredibly tight-knit group of women of all ages who very much taught me a lot of the foundational basics about being an adult and navigating my way through teenage life. I was always very eager to leave the country life behind and head straight to a big busy city full of lights and unknown things to learn about.
I ended up leaving for Vietnam and living there for a year as soon as I graduated VCE and left school. I wanted a gap year no one else was having. The memories and early lessons of learning all about food, wine, cheese, service, teamwork and hard work are most definitely experiences that have shaped where I’ve ended up in my career path serving up the hospitality industry in fashionable form with my baby startup DAY SEVEN.
When you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
All I remember wanting when I was younger and in my teens was to explore the world. I always felt there was so much more to see and do. I was so interested in seeing all the things my small little bubble of a community could never offer. So I guess early on and still today all I want to be is a modern explorer and I’m always going to make sure I am able to do this with my business and other ventures I take up. My trips always inform me of my next move, idea or interest so it is important to me to be a global citizen. On the less dreamy side, I went through phases of joining the special ops, being a forensic scientist or joining the police but felt what I could do there, I could achieve something equally purpose-driven in my own business venture.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to high school at Monivae College in Hamilton, about an hour bus trip every morning from my hometown. I’m so thankful to my parents for educating me there, I had and still have a beautiful supportive cohort all throughout school. I wasn’t an academic student, I was a strong sportswoman and I loved participating in so many different sporting and extracurricular activities just for the sake of being involved around the school and making friends from all different groups. Back then my lack of academic skills did make me feel somewhat not as good as my peers, so I’m sure my teachers and I would both agree that I was a challenging student for a few years.
However, towards the tail end of my schooling, this love-hate relationship with my teachers actually matured and emitted much more respect both ways. I always had a really strong rapport with my peers and other students which lead me to become a community services prefect. This was important to me at the time because in years 11 and 12 I found subjects I loved and was good at and applied myself to achieve personal goals in terms of results. I studied with the bordering students after school, on weekends and on holidays which seemed a very unlikely thing to do at the time to dedicate myself to studies rather than sports or socialising. It was then I proved to myself I can do anything if I put my mind to it.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
I was always involved in arts and creative studies. One project I designed my year 11 formal dress and had it made up documenting the process as the final assessment, I loved these subjects and I definitely felt at home down in the arts wing. On the other hand , I was so intrigued by psychology that I wanted to deep dive into this as a career path following high school. I think my keen interest in the human mind plays a huge role in businesses today, so I think my interests in both avenues play a huge role in how I operate my business.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I was learning a lot of new skills at the cafe I worked at all throughout high school ( and thereafter) so I’d asked if I could just work and earn money as I was always quite independent growing up (eg. saving up to fund my own holiday overseas when I was 16). I loved that I did this because I loved the job I had, the people I worked with, and in rural Victoria, you don’t get too many options in professions you can choose to experience work with.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
While in years 10 & 11 I studied a Cert 3 in hospitality operations. It was a great class and teacher, however, my on the job experience at the cafe excelled me so I do believe that hands-on experience for people like myself is so so important particularly when you have great mentors. Then when I returned from my gap year (after doing a short CELTA course in the summer after graduating and working in Ho chi Minh city teaching English) I was accepted to study for a double degree in Psychology and Forensic science, which I could not believe I actually got into my first preference. I was obsessed with this course, although the academic side of me struggled to maintain the workloads I ended up deferring, moving to Canberra to then work through the Australian Federal Police and hopeful that one day I would pick up my studies again and work in the AFP forensic unit. I had an itch too big to ignore that I wanted to explore. So after working a few bars, restaurant and cafe jobs the last two years I saved up and to travel overseas again. This is where I worked as a dive instructor in the Maldives, modelled, worked various hospitality gigs in different places and ended up on a working holiday visa in Japan where I settled for a year. and this is where all this experience I had working-travelling I channelled into a grand plan to fill a gap in the market and combine my two loves for hospitality and fashion.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?
My career so far has been a lot of experimental exploring trial and errors that revealed my likes and dislikes to then be able to curate a life I could sustain enjoyment, purpose and variety and challenge. I’ve worked for so many great people and places, and some terrible ones (even someone who fired me while I was in a very weak vulnerable state on a hospital bed with dengue fever). It’s important to learn what you personally like in a leader/boss early, as the good ones allow you to flourish and encourage your upskilling- they let you fly when you’ve grown from the nest. But it’s important to learn from every experience your likes and dislikes in a workplace and from those who lead you.
I’ve learned so many valuable lessons from both kinds of people and workplaces and hope that I can implement the good and discourage the terrible in my own workplaces I’m building.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
After many years working in the hospitality industry in so many various positions, I found a gap in the market that no one was filling and took the initiative to take on the project myself to help provide functional yet stylish workwear for workers like myself. While working I would always be talking to my teammates about the issues around the venue and how we could improve them, and uniforms were always a common subject. So I taught myself the need-to-knows about fashion design and the basics of business, and from there I haven’t stopped teaching myself. I feel lucky to be living in a time where we have a library of information at the press of a triple www on a keyboard, where information is in abundance and ignorance is no bliss, but knowledge is power.
I believed in my idea and worked 5 jobs at one time to fund it and financially back it. It can be a lonely winding road to starting a successful business but all you need is a handful of quality early adopters who believe in it just like yourself. Your self-talk and dedication will be the key to seeing it through. I went from being unable to afford food and eating bananas for breakfast lunch and dinner, I was purpose-driven and determined as well as intuitively listening to my inner dialogue.
What is the hardest part of your current job?
I find that making those first few strong connections to really take your business to the next level are hard to come by. Some come and go, but picking the one that truly believes in the business and wants to be part of its growth are the keepers. The other hard part is probably most definitely being an industry disrupter, you’ve got to really showcase your product and service in the best light from the get-go. Choose early adopters that truly align with your values in order for there to be some kind of ripple effect among the like-minded in the industry. I believe you can’t change someone but you can be the influence towards their change.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
A lot of laptop work right now as we are growing our client base between Australia and New Zealand. I’ll spend time researching businesses, preparing proposals for them and meeting back and forth with them on concepts and directions for their brand. If not this i will be working on the production side of things with my team on custom designs and checking in with their process and relaying it to the client.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
One of my inspirations growing up was my first boss. Penny was my age when she opened her cafe that was wildly successful in a very small town and I just always thought what a cool life she has running her own business and her dream with complete creative control, choosing her team to work alongside her to enjoy the ride. Others have been my best friend Gabrielle who has pursued her dreams that we’ve talked about since we were 16 into the film industry and now runs a successful production company. She’s always pushing me and supporting me through the similar challenges we have as self-taught business owners just as my mum has and I think how amazing she is for having owned her first business at 20 – a hair salon and then having very modest entrepreneurial traits that I think run through me, particularly her newfound passion in travelling (backpacking at 50 – LOVE it) when us kids all left home.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
If you have an idea and you have the drive to pursue it, create your life around it and live for it, it will all soon manifest itself. Remember to persevere, as good things take time to grow. but never stop, there will come a time where you think you’re in too deep to ever back out now. and when that comes the only way is up, and it’s a beautiful feeling that you’ve earned.
List the most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration.
- Favourite Websites: design milk – they always feature the most amazing new clever design products on the market. Business of fashion for updates, as well as places like broadsheet for hospitality updates.
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: @thelocalproject– feasting my eyes on amazing architect dreaming of what the DAY SEVEN HQ will look like one day.
- Favourite Podcast: Owners Collective, Lady Brains, My Millennial Money.
- Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: Self-made; the story of Madam C.J walker!
- Who is your mentor? (This can be a person you follow for advice or an IRL person). Kerryn Moscicki founded Radical Yes, the most awesome women’s shoe brand. I remember going into her shop in the early years by the market, then I collaborated with her on my first photoshoot and have remained in awe of her business ethics.
- Favourite all-time book/s: my favourite book still has been Dessert flower; the story of model-turn activist Waris Dirie,
- Favourite App that you use every day: Trello I use this for brainstorming, team management, customer sales funnel, to-do lists, the lot. And Plann and Canva also – I’m a massive advocate for both these brands as they are Australian female-founded too!