I'm Kate Mitchell, a caravan & camping industry specialist, a dog lover, and adventure seeking online marketing guru... Welcome to my page! Wanna get to know me? pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and enjoy my story...
It’s hard to pin point, but I’d say most of my adult decisions have been leading up to moving my business online, away from a bricks and mortar office. I’ve always found it hard to stay in the same spot, and I’ve found it even harder to be surrounded by 4 solid walls for 40 hours a week… I hope you enjoy reading my summary of the past 11 years, but if there’s anything else you’d like to know, feel free to contact me!
Would you like your business to be part of my journey?
If there’s something you’d like me to experience on my trip (especially pet friendly), let me know. I’m not asking for freebies. I’d like to experience everything from a genuine consumers point of view!
As a second year Business student at QUT (Queensland University of Technology) I finally got itchy feet and decided to take my first trip overseas. It was well planned and mostly funded by the Australian government as I set myself up to do a year of student exchange in International Business & Public Relations at CBS (Copenhagen Business School).
I was also employed by the International Cultural studies department, and orchestrated my first book launch with both Danish and Japanese cultural considerations.
I planned this stint so well I was able to take the summer holidays off to witness the Australian Soccer/Football team make it's first appearance on the international stage in 30 years, in the Soccer World Cup, in Germany (Welt Meister). We stayed with my brother’s host family in Goppingen, took the train out to the cities where the games were played (Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, Hamburg (to see Italy play Ukraine) & Munich), stayed awake as long as we could, then caught the first train home in the morning.
My favourite quote of the trip was my brother calling out to the train announcer as 100s of (mostly) Aussies were laid on the station floor wrapped in flags as blankets, “shut up! Some people are trying to sleep here”.
This was also the year I explored as much of Europe as I could afford as a student. It was also the year that being near broke introduced me to the sport of free online poker to fill my days and distract me from spending real money on real beer.
Back in Brisbane, Australia, I continued my studies and gained part-time employment working for a large financial organisation, QSuper, assisting in the logistics management of around 500 seminars per year.
Successfully completing my studies I was offered a full time position with QSuper in the Seminar's department. I also gained experience working within the Market Intelligence, & Marketing departments, and was finally offered my dream job of managing Public Relations. I absolutely loved my QSuper team, such a diverse & at times, hilarious group, but while I never took my position there for granted, I knew working in a large organisation was not for me.
This was also about the time I took my free-online-poker-skills to Treasury, Brisbane, and became a regular in their (what I now understand as being some of the worst international rules) cash games.
This was one of the most soul searching years for me. I felt I was stuck in a corporate trap. I felt every time I received a pay rise I needed better shoes, and I couldn’t see a way out. So I resigned. I sold my apartment. I left my amazing boyfriend to the corporate world he loved so much, and I moved home to my parents. I was still too young to write a book about "living with your parents at 30" but don't worry, that comes later.
It was there that I re-united with my parents, and for the first time as an adult really understood what is was they did.
My parents have owned and run Armidale Tourist Park for almost 17 years (they purchased the park at the same time I left home in 2000). I had never seen Caravan parks as a legitimate business option, or even a legitimate place to stay. But they changed my mind on all fronts.
While this was my first teaser into the Caravan Industry I didn’t stay long, as I felt there was more for me to discover before running a business in a small town.
I went on a holiday to Melbourne to visit a mate, and ended up staying 3 months. I couldn’t leave, it was such an amazing city. I started to play poker at Crown and actually made enough money to play again and then some. I also had the opportunity to manage an art exhibition at Melbourne Central on behalf of State Trustees for artists with a mental illness or disability.
While I’m not completely superstitious, I do believe the universe has a way of pushing you to places you need to go. The day after my exhibition (and the end of my contract), I was to attend my grandfather’s funeral in Heywood, Vic. It was a sad event, but drew our whole family together, Grandad had family and friends come from all over Australia. It was a great way to pass his legacy of 'drawing our family together' onto the rest of us. We have all notably stepped up to the plate of making this happen, with my family get-togethers up there with my favourite social events.
This also coincided with my parents pre-planned international trip and their needing me to look after their business back in Armidale. So I followed the path set before me, and on return of my parents, I took the chance to get my travel visa to Canada, and hopped on a plane to Vancouver.
At 28, I was a highly qualified and experienced PR professional, respected among my peers, I’d run half marathons, and mini tri’s, I’d dominated as a soldier in the Australian Army Reserves Catering Corps, and was a mean poker player, but all this meant nothing in a ski town.
I joined the herds of over qualified personnel to work alongside a Mathematician, Aeronautical Engineer and a Radiographer to do vegie prep for a favourite Whistler-Blackcomb owned bar & grill. All these degrees certainly didn’t stop us being called idiots by our stressed out Gordon Ramsey wannabe boss, as we scraped together $10 per hour as a wage.
Taking all my sporting talents to the slope I felt I could (and would) dominate this sport, old snowboard or not. That didn’t happen and I sprained my wrist on my first run and caught an emergency ski-do down the slope.
While spraining my wrist was a bit of a bugger, it triggered a meeting with one of my favourite travel partners after complementing each other on our matching pj’s in a Vancouver backpacker’s, and spontaneously taking a ‘yes’ trip to Vegas. We were contestants in a hypnotist show, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, sky dived over the flats, played poker in the low stakes games, and a whole lotta things that probably aren’t appropriate for a blog. FYI same sex married was not legal in Nevada at that point.
I did get back to Whistler, and I did eventual get the hang of snowboarding, but it wasn’t without 30 days of sore butts, knees, and egos.
That summer I wasn’t having anymore of earning $10 an hour, so I went to the city to get my PR career back. That dream lasted about 2 weeks until I realised it was going to cost me 30% of my salary to purchase suitable corporate attire, and the other 70% on city rent. So I got a job on a Ranch and wore the clothes I had, and saved as much as I could. I then found a better job as a head cook for a hunting lodge (hey, I had a little bit of catering experience, combined with event management and access to YouTube, I was totally up for the challenge). It was a lot easier to save, and on completion of the stints I'd be find a casino around either Calgary or Edmonton and play poker against oil-rig-cashed-up-bogans. By far the most consistent environment (for me) to make a buck or two. So I said goodbye once and for all to ski jobs and went back to Whistler with enough capital to concentrate on the social and sporting aspects on the dream life that is Whistler.
I continued working in stints for the hunting lodge, playing cash games, and taking time off to snowboard and travel.
I took six weeks off to discover Central America and did my PADI dive course, diving with dolphins off Little Corn Island as my highlight. I then spent the last eight weeks of my Canadian visa in the Yukon, just south of the Artic circle, only accessible by small plane, working for the lodge and for the first time experienced 24 hour sunlight, and by the end of the summer the Northern Lights (there was even a pack of wolves howling in the background... no joke).
I then moved back to Armidale to use my tourism experience, equipped with my qualifications to write a book about "living with your parents at 30" (I never wrote the book, but it was fun to joke about to take the edge off it being my reality), combined with my small business management and public relations skills to work with my parents and make their business kick-ass.
And that we’ve done.
I also joined the Economic Development & Tourism Committee for the Armidale Dumaresq council (now Armidale Regional Council) this year, as we endeavored to push Armidale forward.
Representing my business at Industry events, I have development friendships and positive working relationships with Caravan Industry professionals from all over Australia.
This year our business proudly won the Best Inland Caravan Park as awarded by the NSW CCIA.
I was keen not to forget I had mad snowboarding skills so I spent the full month of February snowboarding in Niseko, Japan. This might still be the best month of my life.
This was also the year Maggie & Max joined my family and I worked hard to eliminate each social issue they inflicted, as they were presented.
We took home the Best Inland Caravan Park award again this year, and I continued to fall deeply in love with the Caravanning Industry. I continued to go to industry conferences, and meet with driven professionals from the trades, parks and corporate sectors. I found the one thing everyone had in common, despite being some of the most intelligent, forward thinking professionals I'd met, was their down-to-earth mentality.
This was the year it was determined Maggie & Max were to come to work in the office, to eliminate the “barking dogs” complaints from guests. This was probably a determining point for their dependence on me as their (poorly trained) owner. Which will contribute to my decisions later on.
This year I was asked to sit on the Armidale Business Chamber board which I did with big ambitions. It was also the year my colleague and country music singer, Melanie Gray, asked me to be a publicist and tour manager for her debut tour planned for 2016.
2015 was also the year my best friend, Angela, got married in South Africa (with not much time to plan), I jumped on the plane and was the maid of honour at one of the most spectacular residences in Durban. I then took the time to travel solo to Capetown, experiencing driving a car through their crazy city, wine tours, diving with Great White sharks, going on an overnight Safari and checking out the poker scene.
I let Melanie Gray dictate my travels this year and we toured from Armidale, through outback NSW and Queensland, and up to the Top End, performing and gaining fans all the way. Melanie Gray release her debut EP, was nominated for several NT music awards and well and truly engrossed herself in the NT music scene.
It was this year that I joined the Future Leaders committee of the Caravanning Industry Association.
It’s probably at this point that I reflect on how good the caravanning industry has been to me. I don’t know too many industries that have set aside resources specifically to create a forum for people under 40. It’s super cool. But maybe more importantly, this industry has allowed me to take time off when needed, to explore Australia and the world, and encourages me to do so. I knew then that no matter what my future held for me, I wanted to keep my feet in this industry.
This year I went back to Japan and snowboarded in Hakuba, enjoyed the nightlife of Tokyo and tried my hand at poker, playing both cash games and tournaments, in Macau. Macau was by far the hardest casinos I have played in, with the militantly sober Chinese players able to read me like a book. That didn't stop me walking away with a few wins, but I certainly wasn't quitting my day job just yet!
When I returned to Armidale in 2012, I told my parents I would work for their company for a minimum of five years. That five years is coming up and I know it’s time to move on, away from Armidale. Though not from the caravanning industry.
So here we are… at a cross road with some serious decisions to make. We’ve established: I’m a guru when it comes to PR, online marketing, content creation, online marketing and event management. The Corporate life is not for me. I have two very dependent pups whom I love dearly. I love the caravanning industry. I love to travel.
So my solution is take my business online, and to the road, with my pups. I’ll be working with small businesses and musicians to train staff, develop their online marketing strategies, and develop their websites. I will be searching for the best pet friendly activities in Australia while doing so, and experience these activities with my best mates Maggie & Max. I will be trying out caravan parks from a consumer POV, and I will be using caravan parks as my office.
While some aspects of my trip/lifestyle change leave me feeling apprehensive, I look forward to making my full time job a full time adventure. I also look forward to using this as an excuse to catch up with mates around Australia who I haven't seen in forever!