Profiles

Keely Colcleugh

By Above the Glass On October 26, 2017
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Business Name:

Kilograph

Website:

www.kilograph.com

Social Media Handles:

@kilographstudio

Contact:

info@kilograph.com

Location:

Los Angeles, CA

Short Business Description:

Kilograph is a creative studio specializing in visual solutions for the built environment

Keely Colcleugh is the founder of Kilograph, a creative visualization company. Using her background in architecture, graphic design, and virtual reality, Keely helps communicate and bring to life design visions for her architecture, real estate and retail development clients. She is one few women paving the way in a world dominated by men with tech backgrounds, and created a company for which no business model existed – doing it all with a small baby at home. Keep on reading to learn how Keely has accomplished so much, and the ambitions she still has for Kilograph.

1
Background

What is Kilograph?

Kilograph is a creative studio servicing all aspects of the built environment, including architectural design, branding, visualization, and virtual reality.

Before you started your own company, what did you do?

Prior to Kilograph, I held various positions as an architect, a graphic designer, and a visual effects artist before merging them into a unified career path.

What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated industry?

One of the biggest problems with the architectural visualization field—also known as “archviz”—is the dearth of female leadership and mentorship. When I started Kilograph, the industry was relatively new and, as such, I wasn’t afforded the luxury of rising through a traditional workplace structure with a clear trajectory or roadmap. I seized the opportunity to respond to a need for high-end marketing materials to brand and sell real estate assets, created a new business model, and figured out what worked, and didn’t work, for me as a woman, a creative, and a business owner.

Did you have any formal business training before launching?

No but that would have been a great idea in hindsight! I have been learning from some great advisors, as well as from my own missteps, every day.

 

What was your biggest fear before launching Kilograph?

My biggest fear in launching Kilograph was the idea of failing and returning to a rigid definition of who I was and what I did. I had never seen a woman (with a 6 month old baby) start a ‘tech’ firm before. It felt irresponsible and impossible.

 

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2
Your Glass Ceiling Turning Point

What inspired you to start Kilograph?

Lots of different career paths, a confidence in my skills and interests, and the observation that there was a need for architectural visualization skills in Los Angeles.

Did you start with partners, or on your own?

On my own technically…but I was very lucky to have the constant encouragement of some good friends and my husband’s support (lots of it!).

How did you find your first client?

I had friends at a prominent LA architecture firm and they had a deadline coming up. They were short handed and needed some renderings.

Is there anyone in particular who influenced your journey or is a mentor?

If so, how did you meet that person? I didn’t meet a mentor in my current field until I had been running Kilograph for about 3-4 years. She is an Australian woman who started the largest architectural visualization company in her country, has two young daughters and two booming regional offices. She retained her creative pursuits throughout the growth of her company and never lost the curiosity and artistic integrity that defined her. This is something I struggle to balance.

 

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3
The Business of Your Business

How did you finance your business?

Bootstrapped 100%. Every rendering we did went to our office rent or saving for the next computer, render farm, staff member. We have continued this way for the past 7 years and so far so good! It is possible.

What were the first 5 steps you took to launch?

Close eyes, take deep breath, jump in, learn how to swim, repeat!

What kind of growing pains have you experienced?

Finding the right people to fit into the office culture is always hard, but learning how to be a great asset to our clients has been the biggest lesson. The minute you wake up and realize you are in client services and not just making art it all seems to go better and the challenge shifts. It becomes about finding solutions and working with people. It is inherently collaborative.

What obstacles have you faced that you were most surprised by?

Settling on a clear and simple mission statement for the company. We always want to do more and tackle more and it has been incredibly difficult to simplify.

Where do you want Kilograph to be in 5 years?

The go-to creative agency for innovative architectural communications in North America.

 

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4
Inspiration

Where do you find inspiration?

The streets of LA, every single day.

Do you have any business role models?

I have pieces of many companies from various industries. In such a young field there are not a lot of North American companies doing what we are trying to do. Is Google a good answer? 😉

How has branding played a role in your business?

It is critically important. We help build our client’s brands and see the impact of great branding on sales and marketing. We feel strongly that in such an increasingly visual culture your brand IS your business.

 

 

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5
Personal

What unique challenges do you face specifically as a female founder, and how do you overcome them?

Confidence. I think many female leaders struggle with their own voice in the room. I have a lot to say (maybe this isn’t specific to female leaders alone…) and my mind runs a million miles a minute. Figuring out what information I need to convey to keep the ship afloat and what I should hold back is part of this.

How do you balance work and personal life?

I’m fortunate to have a partner who pitches in 100%. I am taking more time for my family and myself now than I have been able to for the past number of years. We travel and I am an avid (though terrible) cook. It all allows for great reflection and I bring more back to the business when I am renewed.

 

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6
Experience & Insight

What is the best thing about running your own business?

Knowing that you can control the outcome of your own efforts. The responsibility you feel with a project is a success.

What are you most proud of?

My staff. Every day we have a stand-up where the office talks about what they are doing that day. It is a moment of incredible pride to see these ambitious people ready to tackle the world and excited about their responsibility.

At what point did you think, “I made it”?

Hasn’t happened yet!

What advice would you give to people who are just starting out in business?

Take a business course, get someone you trust to run your books, know your clients. Be creative.

 

 

Photography by: Emmanuelle CHOUSSY

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