Celebrating Advokate’s first birthday!

Celebrating Advokate’s first birthday!

One year ago today, I registered Advokate’s DBA. The next day I opened a bank account for the business with $1,000 in it. I told myself if I blew through the money and things didn’t seem promising I’d just throw in the towel and wait tables or something until I figured out what comes next.

Sure, there were a few scary times. I started out super busy and super poor, watching the bank account slowly diminish despite a rapidly growing amount of work until my SCORE mentors took a look at my finances and said sheesh, Kate, you have to consider retirement, insurance, office expenses, advertising/promotion for yourself, professional fees, taxes, gas money – and you should be able to pay yourself a liveable wage, too! It took a few months for me to realize that what I was doing (even though it’s fun for me!) really helped people. Small rate increases once I saw that my work produced results kept me in business. I know now that Advokate DOES produce results for its customers, and I can say that with gusto instead of it being a hopeful promise. I have complete confidence in the business’s viability, because Advokate really does help its customers.

Early business name idea

Early business name idea

I’ve made friends and allies with my would-be competition and realized I don’t need to be scared of them hating my guts; that we can work together or just focus on our own niches. I’ve figured out where I stand in the business world and the way I want to run things. The Kate way. The ADVOKate way. Always just being myself, excited, optimistic, transparent, with my heart on my sleeve, and sensitive to everyone’s feelings and needs. That’s my real self.

There are certainly downsides to working for yourself – being glued to your computer, working around the clock, frantically doing 80 things at once, the weight and responsibility that comes with knowing if you don’t come through for a customer there’s nobody else to blame but yourself, your name on the line, trying to keep on top of everyone else’s to-do lists while chipping away at your own, the overwheeeeelming number of emails I get each day and feeling like a giant poop when you take too long to reply to someone, living in terror of being sued (“anyone can sue anyone” – though so far all my customers are happy), keeping track of so many meetings and deadlines and the ongoing struggle to keep so much information organized, the kind of stress that technical glitches put on you, lag time between work done and check received and panic about my own bills when folks are slow to pay, my awful posture from being curled up in a ball by my computer 10 hours a day, the fact that I pay myself below minimum wage for the hours I put in… to name a few.

Early business name/logo attempt

Those lessons shape the business, and the small stumbles and worries along the way make up less than 1% of the entire experience – vastly outnumbered by the feeling that I’m doing something right. I’ve got more than 70 customers now, many of them bringing me repeat business and referrals. There’s no end in sight to the workload — it’s snowballing and I’m one happy, busy business owner!

I LOVE WORKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I love getting paid for the work I love doing! Just today I walked out of a successful meeting with a client and literally skipped to my car, grinning from ear to ear. When I got home, I opened a piece of mail containing a much-awaited check and did a high kick and pelvic thrust, shouting “Whoooo!” to my cats. Even after a year, it completely amazes me that I can do something I actually enjoy all day and get paid for it. Resigned to a miserable dim cubicle with mildly annoying coworkers and a boss breathing down my neck? Not me, pal! I enjoy every day of Advokate. My bosses are my customers, who are awesome.

Early version of Advokate's logo. Ugly!

Early version of Advokate’s logo. Ugly!

I mean, really. They are super awesome. Advokate customers are creative, driven, curious, brilliant, hardworking, entrepreneurial people, investing in their own future and making our community and our world better for their efforts. I feel so lucky to know them and even luckier to be a part of what they’re doing.

It’s a huge thrill to be out and about and see something I’ve designed. It’s like sunshine on my face every time I hear about a sale or new client they’ve gotten because of the help I’ve given them, or the compliments they’ve gotten on a design I made. I love that I can provide that for them. And they help me learn just as much as I help them. They aren’t just customers, either. They’re potential clients, folks I’ve met networking that support and recommend me because we hit it off, and they’re my vendors, like Liberty Graphics. These folks are my friends, too – whether I knew them pre-Advokate or we were strangers when we started doing business together. I like catching up with them and it’s nice to spend so much of my day with people I like and admire. This can’t be work. It’s fun!

I posted in my blog about a year ago about how I was going to post a photo of when I’m rolling in dough. I have a feeling that I’ll never be diving through piles of money like Scrooge McDuck. I wouldn’t ever want to take more from my customers than I need to get by and keep things toodling along, and I don’t have dreams of owning a huge corporation with a ton of employees. Mo’ money,

Early Logo Idea

Early Logo Idea

mo’ problems. I love right where I am. There’s a little room to grow – maybe I’ll subcontract more one day; maybe sometime I’ll hire an assistant or ask someone to do my billing for me. But where I am is a very nice place – both in the business sense of things and personally; in the story of Kate’s Life.

I am exactly where I belong and I’m so grateful to the universe for that, and to the Advokate community. I’m helping people by doing things I enjoy, and there’s nothing like it. I want to thank each and every one of my customers, whether we’ve only talked once or have done thousands of dollars worth of business together – I’m living my dream, and it’s because of you. Advokate would be nothing without its community of clients, vendors and supporters.



I can’t thank you enough.

Here’s to year one of Advokate, and many more years to come!

Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council, and is involved in the Jackson Heights PTA. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.