Discovering the Job You Love – a Talk with Kate Harrison (MEM ’09)

Kate Harrison (MEM '09) and her dad, Henry S. Harrison.

Kate Harrison (MEM '09) and her dad, Henry S. Harrison.

Kate Harrison (MEM ’09) thought she was going into environmental law. Instead, her degree from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies led her to found her own marketing consulting business, Kate L. Harrison Consulting, by way of launching (and selling) a startup called Green Bride Guide, an online resource that connected couples and planners with eco-friendly wedding options, from dresses to favors. Below, Kate talks to us about her journey, and how the grueling experience of founding a company and raising money taught her exactly what she loved to do and gave her the skills to pursue it.

1)      Tell me about becoming an entrepreneur – that was a real detour for you.

I put together the business plan for Green Bride Guide as part of Maureen Burke’s class, Business & Environment Consulting Clinic. That really launched me as an entrepreneur. In the process of building and running Green Bride Guide, I was trying to figure out the market, the technology, product development – how to lead a tech company. I sold it to myweddings.com about four years ago and then worked remotely for them. Within a few months, they sold it to Meredith Corporation and I became a Meredith employee. Now it had been a long time since I’d thought about law. I thought about what I enjoyed most about running a company, and when I went on maternity leave with my second child, I decided to launch my own branding, marketing and consulting firm.

2)      What were the things you learned that you loved in the course of starting and selling your own company?

With Green Bride Guide, the market was new. I was helping other entrepreneurs figure out how to sell their products through that process. That was my favorite part – meeting triple-bottom-line entrepreneurs. I had that scrappy startup mindset. I’d gone through two bad PR firms, and then found an amazing one. Over a half decade I collected some really great affordable resources. I started out working with entrepreneurs—people with tight budgets, people ready to go to the next phase, and essentially served as a plug-in marketing VP. I could look at the landscape and help them do the pieces they needed a la carte – that became a real passion.

3)      One of your latest projects is an adult coloring book with your father – what’s that about?

My father is the country’s leading real estate author (Henry S. Harrison, author of Houses: The Illustrated Guide to Construction, Design and Systems) and he wanted to update his definitive book. I thought the houses were beautiful and a coloring book would be a fun way to make this more interactive for a younger generation. So we did it. We put together the coloring book (Houses, Houses, Houses Coloring Book: Vol. 1: Early American Styles) in three volumes and the first one out focuses on Victorian and Early American houses.

4)      What advice do you have for Yale students considering entrepreneurship?

Life is a river. You don’t necessarily know where things will lead you. In my mind, Green Bride Guide was a failure – I eventually raised $1.5 in venture funding but it was so stressful. I never had the resources all at once, and ultimately the business failed. But all the skills I took from it allowed me to build a very successful consulting company. I work from home, with two kids, working 20-25 hours a week, making a nice salary doing something I love.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, (203)804-1911, brita.belli@yale.edu.

Brita Belli