CHRONIC CREATOR, For the Culture
Kim Goulbourne / Jamaican / 27 / Designer / Developer / Entrepreneur / Based in NY
Kim Goulbourne is an award-winning designer, developer and ‘Chronic Creator’ from Jamaica. Under her venture studio, Bourn, she works on crafting purpose-driven products and experiences across a variety of industries. Her latest venture, You & Sundry, focuses on redefining the barbershop experience for women, GNC, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Jumping right in, what are the most exciting and most frustrating things about being Kim Goulbourne in 2018?
KG: In August 2017, I quit what I would consider my dream job as designer at a product consultancy to pursue my own ventures. As a result of that, the most exciting thing in 2018 has been the flexibility and freedom I’ve gained to build my own business. On the flip side, the most frustrating thing has been dealing with everything that comes along with such an endeavor.
Not many persons can say they’ve arrived at and left their dream job by 27. #bossmoves. What’s one thing you can say with unapologetic confidence that you’re the best at?
KG: I am a finisher. Some find it hard to start but more difficult to finish. Somehow, no matter what, I get it done.
For The Culture Club is inherently interested in celebrating the different relationships our members have with what being ‘for the culture’ means. How does Kim Goulbourne embrace being for the culture?
KG: To me, being ‘for the culture’ means that I’m doing something in my own way to help, and move my community forward. Whether that’s creating a barbershop where women, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQIA+ individuals feel comfortable getting a haircut, or creating a mobile app experience for New Yorkers to explore more of their city, or an art exhibition celebrating popular and impactful hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #LoveWins, or a product line that reminds us to do more of what matters, or creating a mantra site to inspire founders to keep going.
It also in some ways means embracing and being unapologetic about who I am and embracing what makes me, me. I’m an entrepreneur, designer, developer, and a queer woman of color. While this combo has opened some doors for good reasons, it’s also made it harder to open others.
This game called life isn’t easy and I hope to play my part in inspiring others to go after their dreams and creating experiences that make life more bearable and memorable.
If we think of ‘community’ as a collection of people with some shared experience, how would you describe the community / spaces that you identify with or occupy the most?
KG: The self-employed, entrepreneurial community is what I identify with the most. The energy, passion, and drive that these individuals have for building their businesses pushes me to keep chasing my crazy dreams.
What I also love about this community is the diversity of people that exist. Seeing myself represented, particularly seeing women, POC and LGBTQIA+ individuals crushing it in their businesses gives me hope that I can do it too.
What do you do for a living? What sets you apart from the rest of the self-employed community?
KG: I consider myself a ‘Chronic Creator’, web designer, and developer. More specifically though, I’m focused on building a business out of building businesses. My end goal is to become the female Richard Branson. When it comes to personality traits and having a love for the freedom and flexibility that comes with self-employment, I’m pretty similar to other entrepreneurs. However, being a woman of color who can design, code and create anything she wants always gives me a bit of an edge.
Everyone's path to how they arrive at what they do tends to be so uniquely designed. What did your path look like?
KG: Discovering the web: I studied graphic design in college but I didn’t really know what I enjoyed doing until I discovered web design. During the Summer after my sophomore year, I helped my mother design a website and decided I also wanted to build it myself. That’s when I started teaching myself to code. I took a few more classes in college on web and interactive design to help guide me but I mostly used Lynda.com and the only book on HTML, CSS & JS that I ever bought. I haven’t looked back since.
First job in college: I got a design and development internship at an aerospace company my senior year in college which gave me the first real taste for the world I was about to step into.
First job out of college: I got my first internship and then job as a Junior Developer at a well known agency in New York which I believe started my job trajectory.
First solo project: The first product I ever did solo was Hshtags, a social media search engine for hashtags. I worked on it one year out of school and iterated on it for almost 3 years. It shaped me into the person I am today because it gave me first hand experience for what it would be like to create something on my own from start-to-finish and it introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship. Ever since then I’ve been in love with the process of creating and have dreamt about owning my own business.
First business failure: While my first project Hshtags taught me how to start something, it also taught me when to put a venture to rest. It was always just a learning tool for me but throughout the process of building it, I convinced myself it was a business I wanted to pursue longterm. Though I learned a lot on this one project, I made the mistake of not knowing my true ‘why’; why I wanted to work on that particular project - which would ultimately determine how long I worked on it. Ever since I made the decision to shut it down I've never started a project without knowing my ‘why’.
It’s often that people of color working in creative fields have to navigate spaces differently. What has your experience been, not only as a creative but as a POC woman in tech?
KG: I luckily have not experienced too many challenges in my career so far, in that regard. Instead I’ve always been considered a unicorn because not only am I a female developer of color but I’m a designer as well. Only once have I been ‘talked down’ to because of my gender but that issue was handled promptly and the person was let go. They were the cause of many other issues for the team in general, so I got lucky in the process.
You’ve adopted the moniker ‘Chronic Creator’, and rightly so. Where do you continue to find the motivation to create new projects?
KG: Since the majority of my ideas come from problems I personally have, I think most of my passion and motivation comes from my internal need to solve that problem and also knowing my ‘why’ for creating it. For example, when I first moved to NY, finding an apartment was an excruciating process. There are so many things you don’t know and they won’t tell you until you’re in it. To chronicle my angst and share the knowledge I gained, I created Bitter Renter, an interactive guide for first time renters in NY. It actually went through 2 iterations before it turned into the beauty it is today. The first was a simple informational website with a blog but the second one I’m most proud of. It not lets you know what you need to know, but it shows the numbers based on your own situation which is a key factor in everyone’s search. In this case, Bitter Renter was something I wished existed when I was searching and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one.
In addition, the high that I get from the creative process also provides that little extra push I need to keep going.
What has been your favorite project so far? Which one would you love a second chance at?
KG: Bitter Renter, an interactive guide for first time renters in New York, has been my favorite project thus far because it had a lot of elements to it. I spent a lot of time pinpointing the strategy, gathering and planning the content, finessing the user experience and visual design, and ensuring I made the right decisions from a code standpoint. It was the first time I really loved all the decisions I made because up until that project, I wasn’t too confident in my UX and design skills in particular. This project showed me that with a little practice and dedication, I can get to where I want to be. The Webby award I won for it may have also pushed it to the top of my list haha.
I don't think there are any projects I’d want a second chance at because I’m pretty happy with the decisions I made on each one. That being said, one project I would like to iterate on (which is very unlike me since I typically have a start and end to my work) is conferCal - a conference calendar for people in tech. When I first made this tool, it was because I had a hard time finding a list of conferences that I could potentially speak at. Every resource I would find was always dedicated to one topic such as design, code or entrepreneurship but since my interest, goals and journey spanned across all three, I wanted one consolidated place where I’d be able to find the right conference for me. Earlier this year I released what I would consider the “MVP” of the product but now I want to take it a step further so it can be the go-to tool for conference goers.
What crazy new idea do you have in the pipeline?
KG: My latest venture is far from my skill set and far from anything I thought I’d ever create but I have a feeling it’s going to be one of my biggest achievements. Being a woman with a short haircut and an androgynous look, who’s part of the LGBTQIA+ community, going to barbershops has never been a comfortable experience. Having a barber who was a queer woman of color was the only thing that ever made the experience bearable. But then she moved to a different state and I couldn’t imagine going through the process of finding a new barber in a space I could bear. That’s how You & Sundry was born. You & Sundry is focused on redefining the barbershop experience for women, gender non-conforming and LGBTQIA+ individuals by creating an inclusive, judgement-free space where anyone can get their haircut no matter their gender identity or expression. It's the first venture I've spent more than a few months on since my first startup, Hshtags, and I hope to have a lasting impact on the industry and the community I’m trying to serve.
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Within 3 years what’s one thing you’d like to achieve, one thing you’d like to remain the same, and one thing you’d like to change in your life or community?
KG: In 3 years, I’d like to have a sustainable business where I no longer have to rely on freelance projects to pay my bills. I hope to keep my burning desire to build experiences that have an impact on people. I’d probably want to change my habits like working out, eating a little better, and paying attention to my mental health.
We can think of so many more things to ask, but what’s one question a younger Kim would ask current Kim? How would current Kim respond?
Young KG: How hard is it to run your own business?
Present KG: It’s really hard but it’s very rewarding. If you know your ‘why’, have the passion for what you’re doing, have the resilience and persistence needed to keep going, and show up every day, you’ll always be moving forward. But you need to be patient, and don’t beat up yourself too much if you’re not moving at the pace you desire. Just keep going, you’ll get there. And ever so often, don’t forget to take a moment to congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made.