"I feel proud every time I run payroll," says Kate Harmer, Owner and Creative Director of Hum Creative. Kate founded the boutique Seattle design and branding firm after realizing her freelancing plate was getting rather full. "When I was freelancing I worried about supporting myself alone. It means a lot to me to me to create consistent, creative work for rad people." With deep roots in music, Kate and Hum have worked with artists like She and Him and Benjamin Gibbard, music festivals like Capitol Hill Block Party, and is slated to jump into a project with Seattle's KEXP. But that doesn't mean Kate's a music snob – her playlist includes the likes of Insane Clown Posse… kinda. She has immortalized the band's crap rap lyrics by scrawling them on a wall in her home office. It reads: "there's magic everywhere in this bitch." This move was probably more of a tribute to her approach to creativity than her devotion to ICP, but knowing Kate, it might be both.
Like so many women, Kate comes off as supremely confident. Someone like me might even say they aspire to be a little like Kate when they grow up (except Kate and I are the same age and, well, I'm feeling a little behind). It's easy to assume that this trait goes with the territory of finding early success, running your own business, pulling off a very righteous haircut, and generally being a badass. Kate regularly pitches clients on creative concepts she and her team have developed – and her success as a firm depends on the success of those pitches. And yet, a lot of that poise is feigned, especially when it's on her to give the presentation. "Social situations make me anxious," she explained. "I've actually just started working with someone to help me get over my public speaking fears and challenges. I feel incompetent every time we meet, but each time it feels just a tiny bit easier than the last." So what's the moral of Kate's story? Even the cool kids listen to shitty music. And sometimes, those cool kids get scared. And they ask other people for help. Remembering that people I admire experience fear - in a real, even crippling way – helps me navigate those times when I'm frozen and unsure which step to take. So the next time I'm about to take some leap, I'll remind myself: there's magic everywhere in this bitch.
So. How did you come to do what you do?
I'm the Owner and Creative Director of Hum Creative, a design studio in Seattle. Subconsciously I think I've always wanted to do what I'm doing, but I had to make a lot of choices along the way to help focus my path. First I was a painter, then an illustrator, then a designer. A few years into freelancing, I had more work than I could do myself and I hired Hum's first employee. The studio has grown since then, and I've grown into the role of business owner and creative director.
When do you feel the most yourself? Why?
On a long walk with my husband and our two dogs. There is some land we walk through by our house that reminds me of being a little kid running through big fields. I feel totally safe, comfortable and happy out there.
When do you feel the least yourself? Why?
When I'm getting to know someone new. Social situations make me anxious so I'm always a bit unsteady and unsure when navigating new relationships.
What do you love about yourself?
I'm getting better at going with the flow, which feels great. I want to be someone that can just breathe through any crazy.
What's your greatest personal achievement?
I haven't actually achieved this yet, but - I hope to raise a cool kid or two someday. That seems like the ultimate personal achievement.
When was a time that you felt vulnerable?
I felt incredibly vulnerable after my mom died. I was nineteen and just starting to define my adult self, and I felt like there was no one for me to call for help or guidance anymore.
How did you make it through that time?
Eventually, I realized that I was wrong – I actually had a lot of people I could call, I just had to be brave enough to do it. It is still hard for me to ask for help, but I try to do it often. I'm always glad when I have.
Who are you intimidated by?
Molly Moon Neitzel. I respect Molly like nobody's business. She is a friend and intimidates me in the best way, just by being her amazing self. She is sharp as hell, super involved in her community, knows what is happening in the world, advocates for what she believes in, and runs her business thoughtfully. She inspires me to do some good in this world and listen to more NPR.
What's a great piece of advice you've been given?
My husband says "act like you've been here before", which I love. It works.
At what age did you feel the most insecure?
My early twenties were awful. I hated the process of fumbling around, trying things out. I didn't enjoy feeling like so much about myself was unknown.
What advice would you share with that former self?
Nothing! No spoilers.
When have you been guilty of judging another lady too quickly?
Instagram makes me do this all the time. It is totally unfair, but I can't help but form opinions about people based on their feeds. I'm often smacking my own wrist about this. You can't know anyone without actually knowing them in real life.
Ever felt unfairly judged by other women?
I don't know for sure, but I worry that my anxiety in social situations makes me come off as rude. I hope not.