Meet: Katy Murray and Fiona Smith, Founders of Catalyst Collective

Hannah Brice Written by
Hannah Brice
Close to burning out in your current role? Keen to make a difference? Then you need to meet two women who were once in your shoes and have since created something special.

Meet Katy Murray and Fiona Smith

Co-founders of Catalyst Collective, create programmes and resources to equip women to step up and lead with courage and resource D+I professionals and those who want to create more inclusive organisations with practical strategies that make a difference. With over 20 years of business coaching and transformation experience, and having worked with the likes of Oxfam, Just Eat, Kings’ College London and other corporate companies, they are experts in their field. Here’s their story. 

1. Why did you start Catalyst Collective and what were you doing before?

We set up Catalyst Collective in 2017 – initially thinking we’d co-author some blogs. Writing a blog quickly snowballed into a flood of ideas for other resources we wanted to create together.

We started exploring how we could unlock the magic of our 1-1 coaching and group facilitation practice and make our 20 years (each!) of wisdom available for more women globally.

We’d each spent many years putting time and emotional energy into building other people’s businesses. We realised we’d like to build our own and knew we didn’t want to do that on our own.

Catalyst Collective was born.

2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?

We quickly realised we were transitioning from a traditional consultancy style business and into the thought leadership space. We tracked down people on the interwebz who were where we wanted to be and spent time understanding how they’d got there.

We’re supported by our initially bemused partners who now are accustomed to our talk of funnels, lead generation and launches.

Totally recommend building your business in a partnership – the whole is way bigger than the sum of the parts.

3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?

We knew we didn’t want to set up a traditional consultancy, nor replicate some of the systems we’d already been part of.

We’re curious how we can model collaborative leadership, allowing each other’s strengths to shine, without comparing ourselves or competing with one another (which is often our socialised response as women).  As we lift ourselves with this mind-set we’re seeing that this allows space for other women to lift and rise as well.

We’re really aligned around our values and shared sense of the transformational resources that we want to create, and we’re quite different as well. So a challenge has been how do we keep our relationship really healthy and ‘clean’, while we’re also running fast and scaling at pace.

There are weeks over the last 2 years where we’ve been doing things we’ve never done before every day! This takes massive energy and a mindset of learning, humility and boldness.

Take the time to look at what’s happening ahead over the next 12 months and get the resources in place ahead of needing it = it’s a way to avoid start up burn out!

Finding a balance between hustle and rest and recuperation is key. We came back to work after a 2 week holiday switch off and found that the outline for our first book and event plans for the whole of the year flowed immediately.

Growing a business takes creativity and bandwidth for learning. There’s a huge competitive advantage in being well rested

4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?

When we create incredible resources that normally only very senior women in very well-resourced organisations would get hold of, and we can make them available to a lot more women in the world. Our online programmes, regular wisdom guides on topics like networking, self-promotion, stepping up in leadership, dealing with overwhelm, and our free resources like our Gender Pay Gap – What Next? or our Gender Bias Guide.

When we create things and people go ‘wow that’s so useful’, that feels amazing.

For 2019 we’ve also scaled a women’s talent programme that will impact 100s of women globally, and engages men in the conversation around inclusion. Huge amount of work and again, proud moment.

5. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out?

Have a financial buffer before you jump into a start-up situation, so that scarcity is not driving your business decisions.

Know that it’s likely to take longer than you think to reach your goals. And know that over time you can achieve more than you think you can.

Get really clear about what you want to create and why.

Be ready for massive learning curves.

Act out of hope not fear.

Surround yourself with role models (can be online as well as IRL) who expand your possibility thinking.

Intentionally cultivate supportive and challenging relationships with other business owners who will proactively cheerlead you.

6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?

Creating a physical workspace in each of our home offices that allows us to be creative, energised and in flow as much as possible.

Buying a decent laptop = we realised we were going to spend a lot of time looking at it!

7. Which element of marketing has made the biggest impact on your business?

Creating a strong web presence that reflects our brand personality, communicates what we are doing in the world, and invites others to join in. Connecting our web presence and free resources to our list generation to grow our community of change makers.

8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?

We’ve a schedule of regular events where we’re speaking or convening conversations around diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, leadership and entrepreneurship.

We’re launching our ‘How-To’ webinar series  – monthly bitesize professional development boosts for busy women.  We’re also writing our first book and launching the Catalyst Collective podcast.

You can register your interest for their coaching and learn more about the business here.