Founder Profile | Kate Dezarnaulds

Founder Profile | Kate Dezarnaulds

Kate founded WorkLife back in 2017 in her hometown of Berry. After driving from Berry to Sydney and back again at least 882 times the commute was getting old, but there was no way she was ever going to give up the idyllic tree change lifestyle her family had worked so hard to create for themselves.

She also had well and truly outstayed her welcome sitting in the window seat at her local cafe spacing her two coffees and avocado toast over 3.5hrs on the days she was “working from home”. When she finally made it back home to the office her builder husband had built her in the backyard she was eternally distracted by the temptations and tasks of the kitchen, laundry, lounge and garden. By 3.15pm she could add to that list the arrival of the 3 kids and tradie husband. Working from home was not working. 

The cost benefit analysis on all that time, petrol and parking of the commute had also started to weigh on the bottom line. Emboldened by the enthusiastic response of Berry locals to the idea of local coworking space- she opened WorkLIfe’s first space in the gorgeous heritage weatherboard cottage that now forms 50% of the footprint in Berry. As time moves on, and there are more and more people looking for better balance, less commuting, more productivity and a great community closer to home, the business expanded to Kiama and Coledale. After sadly losing the Kiama location to COVID, Kate and the WorkLife team are expanding again in 2023. 

Jess Frost, WorkLife’s Community Manager sat down to interview Kate about how she makes her WorkLife work these days. 


All right, tell me your local life story. How long have you called the South Coast home?

We moved from a terrace house in Alexandria in Sydney to Berry 12 years ago this January. I suffer badly from the 7 year itch and need to reinvent myself & my life to keep things fresh and exciting. 


What drove the move?

We had just had our third child Phoebe, who was a hurricane of a human from the word go and the juggle of the inner city with small kids and a tiny house was wearing thin. We had also just made it through the GFC with my husbands building business and for some self-punishing reason I had chosen to make my career in finding funding for festivals, events and arts organizations. Life was mad and we needed a change. We looked at Bellingen and Moruya as potential locations and then got a little less courageous about being 6hrs away from friends and family- so when we spotted our renovators dream weatherboard farmhouse in the paper one weekend we jumped at the chance to check it out. By the time we had walked in the front door we were gone- we had made two offers on the road back to Sydney and had bought it before we got back home to our still-not-finished house in Alexandria. It was a busy few months of madly renovating, working late nights at the Sydney Festival and then landing in Berry in time for the beginning of the school year. We thought we would be here while the kids were in Primary School- but we all thrived here, they are passionate about horses, surfing and mountain biking and so there is no chance we are heading back to the City. The kids are 12, 13 and 15 now- for raising a family life really is better in the country.. 


What does your work life balance look like now, especially compared to your old life in the city?

Rubbish! You can take the girl out of the city, but it turns out you can’t take the city out of the girl. It’s a real misnomer to say that country life is quieter. I am running a business, looking after our menagerie of animals and kids, renovating another bloody house, rolling from one fabulous weekend bbq to another and volunteering left right and centre for local community groups. My work/life balance is all about Work/Life satisfaction- and my life couldn’t me more full or more fulsome than what we have built here on the South Coast. 


It sounds like you’ve nailed it! Now working for yourself. It’s a bit of a journey. When did you take the plunge?

My first big jobs were with Sotheby’s, the art auction house in London, Hong Kong and then back in Sydney. Working for myself was a transition that was really triggered by having kids and needing flexibility to juggle them and to be getting on far fewer airplanes. I joined the board of Art Month Sydney, picked up responsibility for the funding and partnerships for that festival and was having so much fun I didn’t want to go back to my proper job at the end of maternity leave. So it was an accidental start. Since then I have worked as a partnerships consultant – for 7 years I was the Head of Partnerships for the ideas event TEDxSydney- and somewhere between the arts, startup businesses and not-for-profits I found a career I was really suited to. 


So what has been hard about your journey working for yourself?

I realise now that I run WorkLife that there is a big difference between being a sole trader/ consultant and the risks and stress of running a bricks and mortar business with staff. But i’ve only learnt that the hard way- when I started I thought “i’ve worked for myself for 10 years, how hard can it be?”. Ooh- covid taught me that it is MUCH harder. 

The other thing that has been hard is to recalibrate what your idea of success looks like. I always thought i’d be running a big gallery or festival by now. Or maybe even have started a career in politics. Instead i’m pottering away at this grass roots community level well outside of the big cities. I love my life- but turning 40 a few years ago, realising how much of my dreams I had sacrificed at the alter of having kids – especially compared to my husband whos career dreams have been completely unimpeded by family life- it was difficult to accept where I was at- and make it something that challenged and rewarded me. The combination of expanding WorkLife, being the President of the Berry Chamber of Commerce, a Director of Flexible Workspace Australia and on the Shoalhaven Arts Board has taken a few years to assemble- but these days the combo is more exciting to me than the prospect of running a gallery. The politics bit I think i’ll leave for my retirement. 


And why do you love what you do?

The community of members we have here at WorkLife are awesome. Coming to work every day is a combination of interesting chats at the coffee machine, being inspired by the women that work for me and getting creative with our roster of events. We are making a real contribution to the economic diversity and vitality of the regional communities we operate in and I take real satisfaction from watching everyone live their very best lives out of the cities. 


Now I know you are a very busy lady- but do you have a side project or a hobby you can share with us?

I have a few! I love horses, my kids ride and my happy place is galloping down 7 Mile Beach beach on my rescued racehorse Jewel. I love art- so my weakness is building up my WorkLife and HomeLife art collections – these days principally from local artists that we show here. I also have a real passion for regenerative agriculture. During COVID we had to sell our Berry farm to keep the businesses going and moved the kids down to a 280 acre degraded sheep farm on the Snowy River in Dalgety. We have a 30 year plan to regenerate that country- and maybe set it up as a commune/ festival venue/ scientific or creative residency/ land art installation site. There’s always a “what’s next” plan- and this is my one for when the kids leave home.  


Now think of your bookshelf at home – what’s on there that you love and would recommend to people?

I love my bookshelf- I keep every book I have loved and use it as an aide memoire for my life! 

Other than my collection of art books (my first degree was Art History and Theory)- those that are springing to mind is Aboriginal academic Tyson Yunkaportas ‘Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World’- it’s so unique as a literary experience and really drove home for me how indigenous knowledge systems and ways of being are so incredibly different from the linear and hierarchical systems of Western thinking- it really changed how I think. 

The other one is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I think I can divide my life into before I read this book and afterwards. The characters will stay with me forever. Its traumatic- but the way it charts the important balance between friendships and work to create a life of meaning and purpose really inspired me. The love between the four males friends is something so beautiful and rare to read about. 


What about a favorite piece of furniture in your house – something that you love or has a special memory attached to it?

I have two armchairs from my two grandmothers that I have had reupholstered many times. Both chairs are lovely to read in and remind me of them. Both very different ladies- but I like having the family furniture with history and meaning rather than modern copies of things.  


Now, when people come to visit you on the South Coast, what’s the one thing that you think they should eat locally?

Easy. South on Albany’s famous Oysters with pink eschallot and finger lime vinaigrette. John & Sonia run the most incredibly warm restaurant and the food is faultless- every time. It’s my favourite date night or special event location.  


What’s your best productivity hack to get the most out of each working day?

This is a never ending project for me. One of my greatest ways to procrastinate is to read about productivity hacks. The irony is not lost on me. Thanks to recently finishing Atomic Habits- I am firmly back on the band wagon with habit stacking- where you couple something you already have as a habit with something you need to do more of. For eg. i’m notorious for always having Zero km’s to empty in my car. I hate getting petrol. So now I only let myself eat chocolate when I fill up my car. And only let myself if I do it on the way home in the evening, rather than in the morning when i’m already running late. It’s genius. So i’m in the process of building a whole new set of habit stacks for this year- like only drinking during the week if I am out on a date night- or catching up with a friend. Let’s see how I go…


 What’s the best thing about working from WorkLife?

The positive peer pressure! Seeing so many other people around me busily getting on with things inspires and shames me into putting my head down and executing. That and working out how to turn most of my foibles into a tax deduction- art from WorkLife and wine from SocialLife are operating expenses these days. Don’t tell the tax man. 


Now if tomorrow is your dream day, give me a snapshot of what it looks like to be living your best life. What are you doing?

I’m down at the farm in Dalgety with 20 friends and my kids. After a swim (in Summer) or a ski (in winter), I manage to squeeze in a sunset horse ride with my two girls. For dinner we shuck our way through 5 dozen Pambula oysters and cook paella over the open fire down by the river. And I manage to resist the temptation to doom scroll on my phone when I finally fall into bed. 

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