A Drive for Digital and Constant Learning With Dani Roche

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For Dani Roche, self-employment has always been the only option, even when it wasn’t obvious. Since she was 16, her mind has been set on work and putting her heart and soul into her ideas, a natural tendency that has followed her into every full-time role she’s had. But as many entrepreneurs learn, Dani wanted more than what a 9-to-5 job could give her: as a child of the digital era, she wanted to breathe life into her myriad ideas and spend day and night perfecting them.

After enough dissatisfaction, she launched Kastor & Pollux and she hasn’t looked back since. A full-service digital and experiential agency and creative community, Kastor & Pollux works with progressive clients to create and distribute catered content and media with collaboration at the heart of it all. Just like Dani’s experience working for others didn’t satisfy her unique needs, she now offers that same considered and custom experience to clients such as Samsung and Maybelline. Today, she’s joining us to chat about everything from NeoPets and Twitter, to vision and the 5 W’s that should define your business. –Sabrina

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

Growing up in an environment almost completely dominated by the digital, I was prone to the idea that almost anyone could be “self-made.” This is probably deeply intertwined with something I refer to as the “me, me, me” condition – which is a generational epidemic that basically addresses the idea that you can make a living off of just being yourself.

I spent two years out of school working agency “9-to-5s,” but failed pretty miserably because I was never able to decipher what my limits were. I was investing so much of myself into my 9-to-5, everything just became intertwined beyond recognition. When I stopped knowing what my goals and ambitions were, and stopped being able to differentiate my agency work from my personal work, I quit. Then I figured it out and went full-throttle with my own business.

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Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

My framed university degree says that I am a graphic designer by trade, and I suppose I got into graphic design by way of Neopets in the early 2000s. My interest in the platform was a departure from virtual pets, but rather the community that the site fostered by way of “Guilds” and message boards. I began designing and developing web pages on and off the site by the time I was 11 years old, and continued expanding my skill sets through high school and university. Thirteen years later, and I’ve continued to maintain an interest in learning new things in unconventional ways – and that includes figuring out how to run a business!
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What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

I started my first business venture when I was 16. It was an e-commerce shop that sold vintage and reworked clothing. My friend and I kept it a secret for nearly 8 months because we were apprehensive to show our peers that we were spending our time taking pictures behind her bedroom door instead of getting into mischief typical of most other 16-year-olds!

In those formative years when you’re doing everything and anything with no set objectives, being successful feels impossible, and failure seems pretty inevitable. While at the time we had nothing to lose, keeping it a secret meant we had no one but ourselves to validate what we were doing. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to be completely unashamed – in terms of everything I was making and everything I stood for.

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What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

I think defining the “why?” The other W’s – “who,” “what,” “where,” “when (and even the “how”) – that stuff is subjective and comes easy. For me, a notorious over-thinker (Scorpio), making efficient decisions has been kind of difficult. I’m always looking to make every iteration of everything I do something that moves me – either emotionally, or in terms of my career. At this point, all I want to do is grow as a person and a functioning adult, and it just so happened that I’ve been able to use my work as a catalyst for that.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

You can believe in the people that you work with endlessly, but empowering other people to feel the same way about themselves is next to impossible. I value every single person who has taken a leap of faith in me, and every day I attempt to reciprocate those feelings with the people that I work with.
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If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

Watch more movies? Listen to more podcasts? Read more books? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the importance of taking time off to recharge, relax, and learn something new. Someone who I value a lot once told me about “sharpening the saw” – essentially a concept that prioritizes the idea of “self” – therefore pushing you to re-evaluate. I’ve learned that you are not a product of your productivity. A few more hours a day for self-renewal would be clutch.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

Nearly all my personal relationships are defined or built off of work. I think starting my own business has taught me a lot about myself, but it’s also taken away a lot of my time that most would apply to figuring out how to be a 20-something.

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Image above: Photo by Lawrence Cortez for the#MogoPerks party

Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences?

I’m a big believer in “faking it until you make it.” While “making it” is totally subjective, to me, the slogan is a reminder to never stop trying new things.

I don’t know if I have any “great successes” yet, but I feel generally really fortunate to be able to work with a really supportive group of people, and a really supportive roster of clients who believe in my vision.

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Image above: Photo by Othello Grey

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

I’m pretty sure Twitter is open before I’m even remotely conscious. I like it because it consolidates all the things I care about in one place. Not only do I get to read about my friends and their crazy antics, but I also get to see updates/pictures from/of Cole Sprouse (and similar), click-bait-y headlines, and world/local news. Before I pull myself out of bed, I feel like I’ve consumed a good amount of information.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

I really do relish every mundane task I have to complete, because I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to even find myself in a position where I have mundane tasks to complete! The more paperwork I do means the more money I’m making, and the more cheques I’m writing means the more people I’m paying!

  1. Patricia says:

    yeah, but what does she actually *do*?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Patricia

      I’m going to assume you meant that genuinely. Dani’s creative agency’s portfolio makes the answer pretty clear: http://kastorandpollux.com/?tag=portfolio (Videos, branding, design and event production). All pretty standard types of work for a modern digital/creative agency.

      Grace

  2. Stacey says:

    Really insightful interview! I love to learn about the experiences of individual designers/artists/makers on D*S, but it’s especially inspiring to hear about creative women who also make a point of engaging in fun and meaningful collaboration.

    P.S. I hopped on over to kastorandpollux.com and discovered that essence of their creative work is ‘personality-driven storytelling.’ So good!

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