Owner, Alison K Consulting
TLDR: Being the extroverted geeky kid paid off!
I'm a designer tuned web geek that has been running her own web + brand consulting business since 2015.
I was a pretty lonely kid so I got into coding websites at age 14. I loved it and the communities online made me feel part of something.
Thing is, no one knew how the internet was going to become a thing back then, so there was no options for a young girl interested in websites. Unless she wanted to go into robotics or computer science. I was also artistic so I went to NSCAD University. I earned a bachelor in Design with a minor in drawing.
I was hired as a designer for a local newspaper. I would also become obsessive about marketing and sales, as our office was small and I learned from everyone. This would prove to lay the foundation of my eventual business-owning.
There seems to be a gap in meetups for creative folk, so I started the East Coast Creative Collective in 2012. It is a monthly meetup for visual artists that still runs to this day. Creatives at all stages of their practice come together to share experiences and relax a little.
Eventually I switched gears to become a senior designer at a software company where I was reunited with my love for web. This is where I'm introduced to WordPress and I LOVE IT. So much so, that I start the WordPress Halifax Meetup to bring that community together. We've since run WordPress conferences as well.
In 2015 the company downsizes and suddenly I'm freelancing! I survive and refine my offering to become what I am today: a web and brand consultant who helps established companies do more with their existing websites.
I also speak internationally on topics that intersect business, web and creativity. Recently I've been on a BIG Google Analytics kick. I aim to raise web literacy for small business through very professional tactics like showering attendees with candy and filling slides with fart jokes. It works.
In my spare time I mentor emerging female designers, draw wonky nudes for fun and cater to every whim of my two pet parrots.
What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?
Growing the WordPress community in Halifax. I first attended a WordPress conference in Montreal in 2013. I was blown away by the energy of that community. I promptly came back to Halifax and applied to bring a WordPress meetup here. In 2017, I launched WordCamp Halifax, the only WordPress conference East of Montreal.
Since then, our community has grown not only in numbers, but in abilities. I'm proud of what people accomplish when they attend our meetups. I'm proud of the age diversity of those that attend (we joke 18-88). Ageism is a problem in entrepreneurial and tech circles. But in this community, you're welcomed because of the DIY attitude you bring to the table, not your youth or tech savvy. We have seniors that can code, design or write circles around us millennials!
What’s your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
Biggest vision: stronger collaboration between the arts, tech and business communities. Building bridges between them so that we all progress Atlantic Canada forward, instead of trying to scramble for 'a piece of the profit pie'. So, more collaboration in physical spaces. Sharing of skills and expertise.
Our biggest opportunity now is to talk about Atlantic Canadians to OTHER Atlantic Canadians. To stop with the fomo of 'the other cities out West' and really own and be proud of what we're accomplishing here. With the likes of Amplify East and others, and with the age of sharing, there's less walls and more opportunity than ever. To showcase our strengths, grow through our weaknesses and come together in ways we couldn't before.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
About year 3 of owning my own business. I had read "Linchpin" by Seth Godin and a light went off about what I can offer the world. I stopped thinking like a graphic designer who codes. Instead, I started thinking like a business partner to those trying to navigate their business online. I also made a conscious effort to do more live video, public speaking so that people couldn't help but see me everywhere. At the time, it felt like I was spinning my wheels with all that stuff. But about 6 months in, it started coming back in spades and I've never looked back.
What’s your favourite or most read book or podcast? Now or at each of your greatest stages of growth?
I don't re-read books because there are too many to get through in my lifetime. That being said, there is one that I pick up whenever I feel stuck: "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I often use the index in the back to find key content when I (or someone I'm mentoring) are going through something specific. Like feelings of inadequacy, impostor syndrome or artist block. I've never actually read it front to back. I treat it more like a paper life coach!
Who’s inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
Christina Edwards. She took me under her wing when I was a graphic designer for the Daily Newspaper in Halifax way back in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the paper tanked and her and I were part of the Metro Newspaper. It was a scary time for a recent grad like me, but Christina was a strong, hilarious force that taught me that you can be kind and a badass in business at the same time. She would later join PEG Entertainment, who are responsible for Buskers Festival and Halifax Comedy Fest. I'm just in awe in how she carries herself and conducts business. I literally have times where I say to myself "What would Christina do?" and I use that as my beacon for business and treating others. She is 10 years older than me and I always strive to "be like her when I grow up".
What would you have done differently?
I would have been more proactive in art school to suss out mentors. I had to learn a lot on my own and if I had known how easy it was to ask for help, I would have been further along in my career and art practice than I am.
What are the principles you live by?
1) Don't be a sheep and follow the herd. Be a goat and follow your own path.
2) Reserve the right to delight people.
3) Say 'no' more so you can say 'yes' to the right things.
4) Tell those you love that you love them any chance you get.
Consultant, public speaker, mentor, intergalactic goofball