Kelly Molson talks openly about her experiences with grief and miscarriage. She explains how these personal challenges affected her work life and how she balanced running an agency alongside this.
Kelly is the Managing Director of Rubber Cheese, a design development agency which has been running for 17 years. ‘Unfortunately in the current climate’, Kelly jokes, they ‘specialise in tourism and attractions, developing booking platforms, and management systems for clients.
‘My co-founder and I started the agency when we were around 24, with just the two of us for a number of years, before growing to around 7-8 people.
Meanwhile in her personal life, Kelly explains that, ‘my partner, Lee and I have been trying to have a family for around 7 years now, unsuccessfully. We had a miscarriage and the only chance we had at becoming parents was IVF.
We have been trialling this route for around 4 years now. We had one successful round, but we lost our twin girls at 18 weeks. Then last year, in 2019 we had our final round of IVF and we got pregnant again, our daughter had a rare combination of genetic conditions so we had to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy. At the beginning of 2020 we found out we had conceived naturally, but I miscarried around 4 weeks ago.’
When asked about the commitment to IVF whilst balancing an agency, Kelly suggested ‘you never really get the full picture of IVF when you first start. I naively thought that I would do it, and then continue to work around it, thinking “I’ll arrange meetings around going to the clinic.’
‘During one round, I went into the clinic 11 days in a row. It was a two and a half hour round trip. But it wasn’t planned, I would go in on the Monday and they would tell me that I needed to come back the next day. Committing to meetings was impossible.’
‘We had pitched for a project, alongside 40 other agencies, and had got down to the last 5. They gave us two dates to give the pitch on, and I didn’t know which I would be able to do. I had to tell a prospective client why I couldn’t give a date. I was worried about how they would feel about the agency as a result. Luckily they were amazing and kept a slot free for us on both days.’
When asked how she balances leading an agency whilst dealing with grief, Kelly simply admits, ‘it isn’t easy. At first, I didn’t talk about it at work, I didn’t feel like people needed to know and worry about us. But really that made it more difficult and I ended up sitting everyone down to tell them.’
‘During the first round of IVF, when nobody knew, I was overloading myself trying to keep everyone happy and trying to be there to answer questions. But, once I had told them, I gave myself permission to ease up a little bit.’
‘My biggest issue was making sure that everyone had enough of my time, and that my problems weren’t bigger than any business-related challenges they were facing. You can’t take all of your problems to work. You can’t make the day about you; it is about your team and your clients.’
‘It made us as an agency think about times to hire, or clients we took on and whether we actually had the capacity to do it.’
‘After we lost our girls in 2017, I went back to work after 5 weeks in an attempt to keep myself busy. I went back to work on the Monday, and we also had a new starter joining us on the same day. I couldn’t string a sentence together, let alone do the on-boarding process, so my business partner took over. It really affected how me and that team member bonded.’
‘Having the agency has given me the upmost flexibility with the whole process.’
‘Telling everyone what was happening meant everyone was aware of what I was going through. It has helped us develop a relationship where everyone can be open about their own challenges.’
When asked how to deal with the reverse, an employ who is vital to your agency dealing with devastating personal life events, Kelly said that she ‘had an employee who needed to move back home to spend time with a terminally ill brother and so Kelly worked out a way that her employee could work, remotely from home.’
‘We did everything that we could to support him. Having had our own loss, it has made me so much more empathetic to anyone in the team going through something similar.’