Confessions of a founder (who happens to be female)

Kayla Brown
Written by Kayla Brown
on March 26, 2021

Meet Katrin Press. Up until March 2020, she was a commercial food photographer hovering on the edge of burnout. But when the Coronavirus pandemic turned our collective worlds upside down, she found that it was the perfect time to take the plunge into her first role as a founder!

Her company, Klapp, is gaining buzz as the "Tinder for freelancers'' — as it helps solopreneurs to find connections — and work — based on shared values and trust. She sat down with us to talk about Klapp, her tips for combating burnout and imposter syndrome, her experiences as a first-time founder (who happens to be female), and how she sees things changing for the better!

Tell me more about Klapp! How did you come up with the idea? 

I have a background as a solo business owner myself, I've spent the last decade working as a freelance commercial photographer. The idea for Klapp came to me last year during the beginning of the Coronavirus when I was hearing from my freelancer friends about their businesses dying and no government assistance to be had. I started thinking that maybe there is a way these local freelancers can help each other out by bartering knowledge and services. 

Around this time there was a virtual hackathon organised here in Estonia to tackle the Coronavirus crisis. It was the first time in my life I've ever been involved in something like that since I don't have any experience in tech. I thought I would be such an outsider but on the contrary, it was such a powerful experience the way people from different backgrounds came together to solve real problems in only 48 hours! It made me realise how important it is to have connections with other people, especially when you're running your own business and you just feel like you're on a giant hamster wheel running from one deadline to the next. 

This gave me the idea that Freelancers need a support network and this can be the way for them to actually gain business, and these larger freelancer gig platforms are just not addressing these problems. I found team members during the global hack, and we started developing the idea. I was doing a ton of research about the different platforms and I learned that 80-90% of recurring jobs or projects come from a professional's own network. It totally makes sense because you've already begun to establish that trust, and I also understood that this is something that these freelancer job platforms are unable to create between the freelancer and the client.

It made me realise that we have an opportunity to make things better, and it's been a really inspiring journey for me feeling like an outsider, not being from a tech background, but finding my own tribe and trying to create something of value. 

Katrin and the Klapp team

What has your experience been like as a female founder? Perhaps this is a leading question, but have you ever felt that a situation would have had a different outcome if you were a man?

During my time as a freelancer I have of course wondered about the payment discrepancies between me and male counterparts who were doing the same job with similar experience. 

But during my time as a founder and entrepreneur, I haven't felt like I've been treated differently because I happen to be female. On the contrary, I feel rather lucky because I have found I am on the receiving end of a lot of resources and support because of the recent trend towards taking more effort to empower females! 

Speaking of female founders, there is a growing consensus that the need to attach "female" in front of "founder" is irrelevant and downright condescending. What are your thoughts on the subject?

I have been following this discussion for some time now. While I do think that there are larger issues to tackle than what we are calling female founders, I think that with time, these things will naturally evolve and settle into place on their own.

I think the most effective thing to do is ensure we have more women in powerful positions to serve as role models so that younger generations will see just how much is possible! 

Do you ever experience the phenomenon known as 'imposter syndrome' and if so, do you have any tips for combating it? 

Yes, I think I even journaled about it during the hackathon and started looking into what it was. I went into that environment not expecting to experience any success, but I decided to speak up about my idea. I wasn't expecting anyone to listen or have any interest, but suddenly I had a team of 10 people looking at me, asking me questions about our next steps. I kind of freaked out at the fact that there are so many people who are experienced in these situations and I am not… we had on the team people who were very experienced CEOs, people who had experience developing digital products, and both of them seemed to me to be much more suitable to be the leader of the team.

It took me a very long time to work through this feeling that "Ok, I made this happen!" and the idea isn't worth anything without the people who can actually make it happen and to start trusting yourself that maybe there are different ways of doing and being and that there is not one fixed model for success. 

I think the trick is just to trust yourself a little bit more because yes, I think that we always assume that everyone else knows better than us. But if it's your life and your idea, then probably there is no one else that knows better! 

What are your goals for 2021?

The primary goal would be to launch the actual Klapp product so we can begin onboarding users and providing value to our community! Raising funding is also high on the list, as we are currently bootstrapping this entire project so access to more capital would help us to get the product to market that much faster!

In terms of my personal life, as the mother of two children, one of my goals for the new year is to spend more quality time with them. I'm lucky to have a great support network, which allows me the time and space to work on growing my company. But when I spend time with my kids, I really have been trying to make an effort to close my laptop, put away my phone, and be fully in the moment with them. 

Katrin & Co. living in the moment in Sicily

When you have a bad day, how do you build yourself back up again so you can keep going? 

I've started noticing that my worst days are also the same days when I'm completely drained of energy; when I'm already overworked, but I've just come out of a challenging meeting or have a deadline looming. I've always been a high achiever by nature, and I tend to push myself to my limit until I just crash

I've learned that when I start to see the warning signs — when I start to feel depressed, drained of energy, seeing the world in darker tones — that I shouldn't push myself to just "pull myself together" or "just get over it" because I've probably already been telling myself that several times already!

So at that point, I've realised it's important to relax, take a step back and allow yourself to rest because you start to make really bad decisions when you're overworked!

It's also important to forgive yourself for being a human being who requires rest. The world around us can be so competitive and social media and the "hustler culture" are constantly sending us signals that what we're doing isn't enough. Which makes it that much more important to shut it all down and just spoil yourself! Take a bath, go for a walk, listen to music, do something nice for yourself — and when you come back, not only are you more energised, but you'll realise that the world didn't fall apart while you were away! 

What advice would you give to other women who are looking to follow in your footsteps? 

To not be afraid to dream big. To be honest with yourself. To forgive yourself for past failures and instead of dwelling on them, allowing yourself to learn from them and move on. 

It's also really important to realise that you and the life you lead  — are not fixed. You are not someone who is always the same, and our lives are always changing in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Maybe at one stage of your life you want to stay home and concentrate on raising a family. And then maybe at some point down the road you decide you want to take on a new challenge, something that maybe even scares you! 

There's no prescribed path for entrepreneurship — you don't have to go to business school and get your MBA. Instead you can just decide to do it, and then be prepared to work really hard!

Who would you say are your personal heroines — founders or otherwise?

Brene Brown. Her most recent book really resonated with me as it is all about an alternative approach to leadership where you're able to embrace being vulnerable rather than pretending to know everything about everything. 

For the people who are reading this and want to help out — what's the best way for them to get involved? 

There are three things you can do. The first is to contact me on LinkedIn because I really enjoy connecting with people from all different backgrounds. It's something I'm a big believer in — and a big part of the reason I created Klapp!  

The second would be to visit our website, have a look around, see what we have to offer — and then email us and let us know what you think!

And finally, if you're an investor looking for exciting new opportunities — feel free to reach out!

All photos compliments of Katrin Press.

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