Human on the Inside with Uniek’s Katherine Gracey

Article

5 min read

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Katherine, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight!

You’re the Founder and Creative Director of Uniek – an Australian based and made ethically and sustainably designed luxe loungewear label you established in early 2020.
In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your current role entail?

Everything! As a small business owner you need to be across everything! I have been so lucky to work with an amazing designer on this debut collection and my husband is also very hands-on with our business. A lot of my time now that the collection has launched is driving sales, content, social media and everything else!

Prior to Uniek, you spent almost 15years in the world of marketing, holding senior roles for leading brands such as HP, Harvey Norman, and most recently Mercedes-Benz Australia where you led some exceptional campaigns including ‘Tough Conversations’ hosted by US punk singer turned activist, Henry Rollins. How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

I feel so lucky to have worked for the brands that I have. Particularly in my last role at Mercedes-Benz, we were a very small but agile team and wanted to find ways to connect to our customers differently like “Tough Conversations”. We had a lot of flexibility in what our messaging and creativity looked like and that was really exciting for such a global brand. As a marketer it was a dream role – we did everything and we had an opportunity to make sure what we did in our campaigns carried through every single touchpoint we had with our customer. That is something that I ensure I carry through with UNIEK.

UNIEK was created because I felt unseen in the fashion industry as did many of my girlfriends. I wanted to create a label that was inclusive of all women regardless of size, age or ethnicity. I wanted to create a label that was made right here in our beautiful city. I wanted to support an industry where so much had been moved offshore. My father had his own business for over 20 years alongside my mum and he was so passionate about Australian manufacturing. Pandemic or not, we were always going to be Australian made. I knew that meant that our pricing would be more expensive but I was ok with that given it was something I really believe in. And like a lot of brands today, being made sustainably and ethically were non-negotiables. The quality we have created is testament to values we have as a brand.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

I studied a Bachelor of Business and majored in Marketing and Management. I loved Uni and got a lot out of it, but I’m also a firm believer in practical work experience too. During high school I had a part time job at Bakers Delight and worked there through my university years as well. That experience, when so young, taught me the value of customer experience and has held me in good stead ever since. My Degree certainly helped me get that my first job out of university, but throughout my career, the on-job experience gained and what I continue to learn each day has led me to where I am now.

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21 year old self it would be …

Relationships are key. How you treat people and how you show up day to day will lead to big things.

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your workplace right now?

Nowadays brands have to show the human side of who they are – people want to see the people behind the brand or label. Being able to share a bit more of yourself with your audience and why you do what you do helps people connect with you. What do you stand for? Who inspires you? It’s far more than just selling a pair of pants.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

My ability to build relationships. I pride myself on that, and throughout my career, have always ensured I treat people with respect. You may not always see eye-to-eye with others, but making sure you stay true to your own beliefs and respect those of others is so important in building a strong career.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career

Confidence. Not feeling 100% ready all the time, and being willing to have a go when I am 80% there. All I can do is learn from something that didn’t work and that’s ok!

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent Uni graduates or candidates keen to work at a company like Uniek, what would it be?

Gain as much work experience as you can – whether interning in your ideal field, or simply having a part time job to ‘fill the gaps’, the skills you’ll gain by getting out there will serve you well in navigating all kinds of working environments; from small business to big global brands.

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

Again, I look for someone who has worked before – whether that be at your local McDonalds or as an intern. It shows me you have the ‘get up and go’, and understand the dynamics of a working environment.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”
What’s next on your #learning agenda?

Oh gosh there is so much, but for now it’s the never ending vortex of social media! How do I engage and drive an audience to purchase is a big one for me at the moment. Being in the fashion industry is also new for me, so I’m always learning from other brands and industry leaders on how to be the best brand we can be.