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Balancing the Grind with Kait Tregenza, Impact Investor & Start-Up Growth Mentor

Kait Tregenza is a start-up growth mentor and impact investor, where her focus is on rapid and radical decarbonisation.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I suppose the first unconventional thing that I would say is that I don’t see myself as having a career. I don’t actually understand the concept of a career nor the genuine reasons one would pursue one.

I never sat down to map out a career and have never even applied for a corporate gig. I think that is because I was never chasing money, titles, things or accolades. However, in reflection of this question, I understand that I have mapped out, and in fact in great detail and colour, exactly how I wanted to live, feel, and be throughout every stage of my life.

I have led with a feelings-first creation of my life, which helped me to unfold and discover my purpose. I don’t know why or how I understood that the power to design my own life was my own until after I had done it several times. In fact, I didn’t really grow up being shown this creative capacity, I think I just followed my heart and it showed me the next step and the step after. 

Looking back at what has genuinely been a remarkable career and life journey, it is tempting to apply the autobiographical licence to allude that I was some kind of prophet knowing that I had a destination in mind from the time I was young.

It wasn’t the case. But what I have always had is an ability to follow what felt right in my heart even if the steps weren’t clear or the risks were large. I always trusted myself and listened to that trust.

I first learned that making my own money was akin to designing my own life when I was very young. It has been the single most valuable life skill I possess. I started with simple supply and demand: I sold chocolates door-to-door for profit at around 10 years old. No one taught me how to find customers, so I made it up.

This turned to ice-cream, to t-shirts and more. By 16, while juggling state-swimming, netball and waterpolo, debating, theatre, and toast masters, with my best friend at the time, we founded Smarty Parties, which become quite the neighbourhood monopoly on children’s parties entertainment, tutoring and babysitting and eventually earned me enough to pay for university in France.

Graduating right on time to catch the mass unemployment of the GFC, solidified my path as an entrepreneur. I realised I had a talent for solving problems – not because I saw things no one else did, but because I had a talent for asking people about their problems and really listening. I took out the guesswork and just asked for the answers. 

My career path, if I must call it that, has been all about listening and caring to people, understanding what they need and designing a solution that fits. If you approach life through that lens of caring about other people, the planet and the problems that seem really hard to solve, then life actually becomes incredibly simple and so does business and making money.

I see the difference in people pursuing money for money’s sake compared to pursuing a purpose with passionate curiosity. The time and energy required for each scenario is vastly different. And so, my career path has been putting my dreams, my vision for the world in the centre of my life and building everything else around that.

That has enabled me to live in 5 countries, conduct business in 4 languages and build meaningful solutions to problems without a network, and build upon the expertise and experience of those I invited to join me in creating big solutions to meaningful problems. It is a joyful way to work, and I even find it hard to use the word “work” to describe it.

Four years ago, I switched sides and started as an impact investor. My focus is on rapid and radical decarbonisation. The seeds for this were planted during my time living and working in China, but the way that I approached it was definitely through my reeducation in Europe.

My time in Europe allowed me to deeply explore epistemology. I learned how to question knowledge itself and really question what we know as a people. I started putting structure, philosophy and context to my innate desire for questioning everything everyone told me, and also what I had grown up believing. I started learning, from scratch, the world and allowed my experiences to be my only true teachers. 

Living in China, and especially in Beijing,  would give me the focus, ammunition, education and understanding I needed to seek out environmental impact through business. Living in the most polluted city in the world, I found my deep, unwavering ‘why’: Carbon.

Using a simple house vacuum cleaner, I vacuumed the sky, collected the air and then made bricks from pollution. An entire investment and life philosophy was born. What if scope1/2/3 emissions don’t matter? What if everything we knew about carbon and pollution was undeveloped and reduced to ignorant labels such as “bad, dangerous and problem.”

It was a persistent thought and in 2018 I set about investing in companies creating new materials, chemicals, products of all kinds from pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and creating a downstream pull market for this kind of carbon sequestration. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I woke up around 5am. My husband and I share our dreams from the night before with each other and we share what we are excited about for that day ahead. We tend to start our day with kisses and affection and this puts me in an incredibly inspired and happy mood for the day.

I usually drink water from my bed. We then get up and go for a walk along the coast for an hour. During our walk we have our business meeting for the day as he and I are co-founders of a new startup. We find that walking and watching the sunrise create a lot of positivity and inspiration to talk about the company and solve any outstanding issues.

We come back home, have breakfast and then have a quick white board session to deal with any outstanding issues for the day. We then get started on our day and our work. We tend to have a mid morning break, walk down to a nearby coffee shop and a quick walk along the beach for 10-15 minutes to stretch our legs, get some sun and feel the salt air on our faces.

We go back and work for another batched session. We then have a light lunch together and then a quick run along the sand and a swim in the ocean. We take about 1-1.5 hours break around 1pm. We go back to work in the afternoon.

We tend to finish around 6 or 7 and stop for an end of day walk around the block and then prepare dinner. We often just talk about our day or catch up on non-work related discussions over dinner. We like to ask ‘bigger questions’ for dinner conversation. There are however those days where we instead watch a movie on the laptop because we are tired and want to sit in silence.

We usually go to prepare for bed around 8:30, and read for 30 minutes. Lights out around 9. And of course as the founders of a sexual wellness brand, we maintain our wellness.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Yes, I have been working from home flexibly for most of my entire working life. When you are in charge of your own productivity, time and income, then you have a great amount of power to manage the way you break up your day, and your month.

As a woman, I use the power of my hormonal cycles, and the power of that productivity, genius and creativity flows to my absolute advantage because I know my body so well and am in sync with its strengths at each phase of the cycle.

Women and their cycles are actually incredibly predictable and a little education on how they work and what its power is at each phase goes a very long way! You can use this to your advantage in business too.

I don’t have to subscribe to a typical Monday to Friday, 9-5 week in and week out style of working. This may work for some people, and even for many people that don’t have the luxury of being able to design a working schedule that works for them can still apply the principles as best they can.

However, if people (especially women) are interested in designing a work month that works for them, I would encourage that all the way! You’ve heard of getting your money to work for you – have you heard of getting your time to work for you?

That is the foundation of the principal here. Knowing your own body cycle, the peaks and troughs of your own creativity, productivity, ideation, action or whatever kinds of work you are doing and when it pours out of you with ease, versus that push feeling of just ’slugging along’ is the most powerful shift in working I have made.

When it is time for me to think and plan, I use my body’s own natural state that supports this stage and I do it at that time. It is scheduled and I revel in the disconnection from meetings and distractions to go internal, to review my mission, my vision, my goals and strategies.

This is a time of complete dreaming and seeing possibilities and creation. When it is my body’s time for action, creation, production, I shift and put these plans and ideas into action – with total ease.

I have noticed over the decade of working this way that I can get as much done in a week had I been working on it 9-5 everyday. But the difference is that I feel more energised at the end of each day, and I am not in the glorified “hustle” or “grind” and yet more gets accomplished with less stress and more ease.

Magic happens when you are in sync with yourself, your body, your genius, your team and the wider world. It feels effortless because you are working in the rhythms of your own body and mind, and that dance is beautiful when it is done in balance and in harmony. The French say, “you cannot dance faster than the music” and that is a saying that I live by.

Rest, silence and stillness are actions. They allow so much to unfold. But in the hustle culture of doing more than anyone else, the noise drowns out the inspirational whispers of the soul which often contain the instructions for the next step.

Those are the most valuable pieces of inspiration, and that is what I am looking for in those quieter inspirational times of my month. It gives me clarity, confidence, reassurance and understanding of what I am doing and where I am going. That means I don’t waste time, energy or money on second guessing, undoing or starting a million things and finishing none.

Being on target, on mission and remaining strong on my vision comes from a constant revisiting and reacquaintance with vision as I sit in its power and purpose every month. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

The first thing is to really address the balance within each of us before we address the balance outside of us. That which we are living is only a direct translation of our inner selves.

If I ever feel like I am pulling or pushing between deadlines and obligations, people or agendas, I try to come back and understand what is imbalanced within me that needs resolution. That mostly clears up the sense or the perception of being pulled in two different directions and allows me to feel ease in my direction again.

I also have very clear understandings of what I stand for, what I allow and what I am working towards. With that clarity, I am easily able to see any decision that would take me away from my vision, mission or purpose and say no. The b

I think that hustle culture has become very toxic, and very dangerous. It is an outward, tangible symbol of pervasive patriarchal, hierarchical and historical belief structures that you are less than, unworthy or undeserving of your innate brilliance and success. If you have to work so hard and move mountains and change the entire world to prove you’re worthy   

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

Yes, during the last 12 months I stepped back into the founder seat again. This time I really got to experience how to allow a company to form itself as opposed to hustling, grinding, and running hard through sprints which I had been taught at previous accelerators and incubators with previous companies.

I decided to throw out all the philosophies and techniques I had learned and read on startups and instead step into the vision of the company every morning and feel the inspiration of the company and the impact it was here to make.

I chose to step away from the grind and the push that I had adopted in my past, and instead sat to receive and take one step at a time. The results were a company that felt like it created itself with ease and grace and one that so many people wanted to join, as a variety of different stakeholders.

I started to experiment with the idea of creating from a place of true unwavering, unconditional love and holding that as our mission and never left that vision. I find that I jump out of bed eager to work within the company and for the company’s mission.

In my past startups, I couldn’t maintain the passion because I had to “work to get it going” or “push it uphill” or “hustle, hustle, hustle” for sales or manufacturers or partners or investors. Now I feel like I have opened an invitation to those who seek to be a part of this impactful journey, and the rest fall away.

It is very exciting and very rewarding. I feel energised and inspired by the company instead of wondering how it is going to work and trying to ‘pitch’ the concept to others. Now I simply talk about what we are doing and why, and people beg to join.

That is the most powerful and dynamic shift in my life and business creations to date. It means that I have slowed down, calmed down and listened more. It means that I allow myself to dream for hours per day and understand how valuable that ‘work’ is and what it can create.

I suppose I have these habits now where I am actively decoupling the meaning of work from struggle, hard or difficult and redefining it as fun, easy and effortless. I go to nature every day, whether to the beach or a park.

For example, I spent one month in the forest when the company was first founded, dreaming and imagining it into life. I have really started to create lots of pleasure and enjoyment around my work and my day, and I feel that makes an impact into every aspect of the business, including how we partner or collaborate, how we work as a team and how we make sales.

It is a truly pleasure based and love based approach that has changed my life and my role as a CEO and founder. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I am an avid reader. As I don’t own a television, reading is how I mostly spend my downtime. I prefer real books to kindles and I make notes and highlight sections as I often revisit books or pass them along to people.

I also find that highlighting helps me to retain key messages and facts too. I read very widely in terms of topics, from physics and universal understanding, to biology and neurology and health, genomics and longevity, history, climate science, oceans, atmosphere, to spirituality, sexuality, women’s health and reproduction, and self help to technology and finance, money, startups, business, investment, capital.

I also read autobiographies and even travel stories. The only thing I don’t read much is fiction. For me reading is fun and enjoyable, it is a way for me to unwind in the evening with tea and beautiful music on the couch.

I have always loved reading and the more I read, the more I can recall. Plus you become quite capable of linking lots of topics together and understanding life easier, meaning that your efforting in work or life is less, and often your capacity to connect with new people in new realms of work or life is easier as I have likely read quite a bit on something that sparks their interest, expertise or background.

Or I would like to and can ask questions to discover more. Having a great conversation is the same as reading a great book or listening to a podcast, if you know how to do it properly!

I also read a lot of trade papers, industry papers, startup newsletters and I am reading about 20 pitch decks every day (I have someone who brings me the best and discards the others).

I suppose my recommendations on reading or consuming information is do what brings you joy. If you hate reading the Financial Times but read that you should, you will not retain anything and will hate the experience and you won’t be better off for it.

Read and consume information that brings you joy, that expands your mind, your life and your ideas. This should be applied to friends, colleagues, social media, and other media. Whatever you consume is in you, it influences your day, your energy, your mind, your ideas and the way you see the world. It is so important to ingest things that are good for your health and expand you beyond where you are to where you are going.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Being able to work in this way also requires that I am extremely systematised. I LOVE technology so I seek out and integrate many apps, softwares or just basic systems in my life for optimising my time, decision making and processes.

If I do anything on a repetitive basis, I seek out a software that could do it for me. I try to optimise my work flows, email, communication external and internal as best as possible wherever and whenever it is available. That means I can manage my day with a mix of routine exercise, beach time, family time and regular meals and breaks.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

Sara Blakley, founder of Spanx.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t be afraid to go your own path; indeed it is the only way you’re supposed to go!

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.