• Common Knowledge co-founder Kate Hurst with her baby boy. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Elke Kramer and Kate Hurst are long-time friends who joined their businesses to start up a creative agency specialising in fashion and design.
Daniela Intili

SBS Small Business Secrets
23 May 2018 - 3:38 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2018 - 6:41 PM

In the age of budding mumpreneurs, long-time friends and business partners Kate Hurst and Elke Kramer offer sound advice.  

“Be gentle on yourself; being a mum is already challenging,” said Elke.

For Kate, support and self-care is crucial.

“We were working on our businesses independently and became disillusioned with the workload, and felt isolated and alone,” she said.

The priorities for these self-proclaimed “over-achievers” had changed, so they merged their businesses together in the pursuit of a better work-life balance.

“Once you have a child, that child matters so much more and you just don’t have the energy,” said Elke.

An accomplished jewellery and accessories designer, Elke joined forces with Kate’s fledging creative business to set up a consultancy and creative agency, specialising in fashion and design.

Elke still runs Studio Elke, but it’s now part of Common Knowledge which does all the branding, digital marketing, social media and web design for the jewellery brand and other products.

“Collective Knowledge offers a whole range of services and this provides a revenue stream for us to keep Studio Elke a really creative project,” said Kate.

“We’ve been able to keep the integrity of the brand because of the fact we have these dual revenue streams.”

Common Knowledge also keeps its business sustainable through online sales, to get rid of old stock, and pop-up sales.

The business is now in its third year and both women admit there have been challenges.

“I fell pregnant right at the conception of the business and at the time I thought, ‘this isn’t going to work’ but Kate had this amazing enthusiasm,” said Elke.

“I signed up for it, I just didn’t realise it would be so soon,” said Kate laughing.

With Elke having to take maternity leave so early in the business, Kate struggled with the extra workload.

“It was very stressful, being overachievers, things took a hit, “she said.

Meanwhile, Elke battled guilt, along with post-natal depression, a condition which affects one in seven Australian women who give birth.

“It was hard, I mean, it was hellish having no sleep and being in that incredibly anxious place.”   

They hired a life coach to help them get through it and communicate better.

And when Kate fell pregnant with her second child, Elke was finally able to give back.

“It was incredible. I feel really lucky that we’ve both been able to have this mirrored experience,” said Kate.

“I mean we both have two boys as well.”

With Kate’s youngest yet to turn one, she’s still working three days a week, while Elke works four days.

They also employ two full-time staff and draw inspiration from their own mothers, who were also self-employed.

“We were both always shown it was possible to do both, maybe not perfectly and I think that’s the main thing,” said Kate.

The biggest challenge for both women is having two children under the age of five and juggling the demands of a growing business.

That remains “a work in progress”.

“At the end of the day, we love coming into work and love going home to our kids,” said Kate.

“As long as we get sleep, we can do anything.”

Watch this story at the top of the page, or catch the full episode on SBS On Demand.