Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Katia Kelso, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Ilio Nema

Katia Kelso is the co-founder & Chief Operating Officer of Ilio Nema, a Sydney-based ethical fashion label.

Learn how the most successful people in the world structure and manage their days. Sign up to our newsletter today and receive a free gift that will help you achieve your goals!

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

I spent eight years in New York before moving back to Sydney in 2020. I moved to New York with designer Fleur Wood and then joined Ulla Johnson as Production Director. I was the fifth employee at Ulla Johnson and part of the label’s exponential growth from locally known to internationally recognised.

I learnt to love the full life-cycle of the business, working with our artisanal partners in Peru to our marketing team who sat beside me. I gained a full appreciation for the complete process. This experience gave me the tools to start and grow something of my own and gave me the confidence to co-found Ilio Nema with Ariane Leondaridis. 

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

I always start with a morning walk and coffee. Then my day can progress in any number of ways, from working in the studio to shipping orders – we do it all! The business is just myself and Ariane so we wear all the hats. 

Recently we have been working on our new collection, fitting samples and planning our photoshoot- which is always fun!

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

Yes, running my own business allows for flexibility but it can also mean longer days too. I do a pottery class every Wednesday afternoon, to make sure I get some down time. Most weeks we do a 2/3 split- working in the studio together and working remotely from home.  

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

After eight busy years in New York, work-life balance is still something I’m figuring out. The general pace in Australia is a lot slower giving me time to positively balance the demands of the business and my personal life. 

Work is a big part of my life, the brand is our baby and intertwined in everything we do- from days in the studio to wearing it on the weekends. I have always loved my job and what I do. I’ve been very proud of the brands I have worked for and their amazing creations and now extra proud of Ilio Nema. 

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

In the two years since I’ve moved back I’ve switched from exercising at an indoor gym to coastal walks. It’s been such a great change to exercise in nature and take in my surroundings and one of the advantages of living in Australia. I live on the Northern Beaches which is such a gorgeous part of Sydney. I feel lucky for this change in scenery and the flow-on change to my lifestyle.  

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

I really enjoyed Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. I read it before the idea of Ilio Nema came to life and found it very inspiring.  

Podcasts- How I Built This & Lady Startup Stories. I love to hear what inspires people and about their journey. 

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

Sadly, Instagram. It’s a great tool for brand awareness and necessary for our business but I’m also guilty of spending too long on it!  

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

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland. She is a young working mother, who governs a small dynamic country and is a similar age to me.

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

Make time each week to do something you love and spend lots of time with family and friends!

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.