I quickly got in touch and arranged to meet with Jason and Kate Lindsey, the husband and wife team who run Petridish. I was keen to let them know about the work I was doing with local mums in business and in turn, hear more about how Petridish worked.
As I sat down on the couch in their office, I couldn’t help feeling that there was "something" about these two. They were completely down to earth and yet, they had a sort of savviness about them. I could tell they knew a thing or two about building a business. As I spent more time coming and going from Petridish, watching their renovations expand and their community grow, I wanted to know more about their path to creating Petridish. I invited Kate to talk to me about her journey.
I love going to visit Petridish. Every time I go there I find there’s something new happening. From interesting workshops or new plans for their ongoing refurbishment, Petridish is constantly changing and growing. As I nestled in on a sofa with Kate, a cuppa and a biscuit, I couldn’t wait to understand how one gets to a point in their life where they decide to buy a heritage building and create a shared working space.
Kate is originally from Christchurch and her first job was working as a receptionist at a building firm where she trained to become a building consultant. Straight away the gaps are filling in. After all, surely you’d have to have some experience or knowledge in the building industry to confidently renovate a heritage building and do it so well. It turns out that Jason’s family also has a history of building management so when you put two and two together, the answer is Petridish.
Eventually she did the traditional kiwi O.E. and bumped into a lad from Nebraska in Italy. Enter Jason. Truth be told, the young couple only spent a brief amount of time together during their overseas adventure but remained in touch. Later Kate travelled to America to take part in Camp America when she was 25. It was a chance for the pair to reunite after years of phone calls, messages and instant messaging. Destiny took its course and the result was a Vegas wedding and the beginning of a life together in Venice Beach, California. Jason was working in the field of film production and Kate worked for a party planning company that organised high end celebrity events.
Soon the next chapter of life unfolded with the arrival of their eldest daughter Sam. Kate switched jobs and began working in the film industry like Jason. Before long she had worked her way up from receptionist to associate producer, working on music videos and commercials. At this point in their story I was already star struck by what Jason and Kate had achieved together in the states. When you’re sitting on a sofa in a city at the bottom of the world, the glitz and glamour of California seems so far away, it was hard to imagine. And while yes, they were rubbing shoulders with all sorts of famous people, the truth is, Kate and Jason were building a home life just like anyone else. When Kate got pregnant with their second child, she decided to leave the high-pressure work and long hours behind and enjoyed mum life. The neighbourhood they lived in was filled with families and they enjoyed the community there. I could tell this was important to Kate, that where she lived had that sense of connection and togetherness.
With a school start looming for Sam, New Zealand called Kate and Jason home. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to uproot your small family and take the plunge of resettling on the other side of the world, effectively rebuilding your life. Thankfully, for Kate at least, Christchurch was home and familiar. The discomfort of change holds many people back. Not for Jason and Kate though, from what I can tell, they are the sort of people who decide what they want to do and then do it.
At first Jason travelled back and forth to the states for work but eventually they decided together that Jason would be at home and it was time for Kate to sink her teeth into a new challenge. She sat down at the computer, brought up the TradeMe website and started looking at jobs in order from A-Z. She didn’t get far. Under A there was a position advertised - ‘Air Traffic Controller’.
“That’s what I do now, it’s my main job” she told me.
I had to blink a few times.
“Wait”, I told her trying to be sure I understood,
“You’re an air traffic controller?” I asked slowly.
So many questions entered my mind but the first and most burning one was;
“What was it about being an air traffic controller that drew you in?”
Her answer couldn’t have been more perfect
“Well” she said, “it was something I knew absolutely nothing about”.
I mean, wow. Personally, I was blown away. In my opinion, it takes a huge amount of courage to jump into an industry and job field you know absolutely nothing about, powered only by the strength of your curiosity. So many people would write off a job opportunity like that due to a lack of confidence that they could ever master it. And it is, indeed, a job that requires mastery. The training is intensive and at the end of the day the job requires a person who has very specific capabilities regarding their ability to keep track of simultaneous information. So, to summarise, Kate has a kick ass brain and a kiss ass attitude all while being one of the loveliest people I’ve met.
We can all thank Kate’s decision to train as an air traffic controller as the reason she and Jason now live in our amazing city of Dunedin. Despite being from Christchurch, Kate had only visited Dunedin once before when she was 19. She remembered the city as dark, wet, cold and grey. But, on arriving here to begin her career in air traffic control, she was captivated by the city's charm. She was soon on the phone to Jason to tell him, “I think you would love it here”.
And they do. Both Jason and Kate talk about Dunedin and its potential with passion and fire. As a ‘go get em’ kind of couple, it’s no surprise really, that when a heritage building came up for sale in Dunedin three years ago, they took the leap to buy it. Looking back, Kate could see that she had almost always lived in locations with a strong sense of community. That’s what they wanted to bring to Dunedin with Petridish and it shows. They’re always talking to people, bouncing ideas and collaborating. It’s refreshing to see them, as business owners, working so freely and openly with other businesses. They are approachable people, open and caring. I guess they’re a living example of how when you are confident about what you’re doing, there’s no need to fear competition or be guarded. It gives them and their space a real magnetic quality.
Thanks Kate for taking the time to talk to me. Hearing about your journey and all the plunges both you and Jason took together really left me feeling inspired. I love that I’ve been able to come and talk to you about my own ideas for building community and the support you’ve shown me. We had a great chat about balancing motherhood, our passions and our work. I guess that’s another blog, but I will finish with the quote you gave me in regards to mothers or perhaps anyone wondering if they should go after their dreams;
“Go for it. Back yourself. If you don’t, you’ll never know”.
Awesome Kate, bring it.
Hey, think Kate sounds like a cool chick? Wanna meet her and other Dunedin women in business? Check out this new group she's co-founded called 'Women in Business - Dunedin' for all the details.