Niki Evangelou and Natalie Wade, Co-founders of The Cat’s Mother
How did you begin your career?
Niki: My personal journey in the industry started as an apprentice at Small Green Shoots; a charity that champions young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering an alternative route into the workplace. Despite getting excellent opportunities to work for other music-related companies, quite early on, I had quietly decided that I’d prefer to go freelance and do my own thing. Though I never dared say it out loud, it was during the development of The Cat’s Mother that I realised this was my passion and opportunity to support other young women, just like me.
How has Small Green Shoots impacted your vision for the creative and music industry?
Natalie: Small Green Shoots champions young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering an alternative route into the workplace. Working at Small Green Shoots, we could tell there was a difference between the way the boys’ careers developed and the way the girls’ seemed to.
What challenges have you faced in the industry?
Niki: The music industry isn’t really linear; there are no clear progression routes and a lot of it is about who you know. Coming from our background, we were particularly well connected, so Nat was that person to us. After training us up in the office, she’d prepare us for interviews with people and made connections with organisations where we actually wanted to launch our careers. Again, we noticed the difference between boys and girls. Although the girls were initially easier to place (mostly in admin and personal assistant roles), their progression was a lot slower. They didn’t ask for pay rises or reviews and the boys accelerated faster.
So what inspired you to found The Cat’s Mother?
Niki: Some careers are almost male-exclusive – digital, sound engineering, production… the list goes on. Nat was a big fan of getting us in front of people to learn about the job, how they got their positions and their roots to professional success, but she struggled finding successful women in some roles and we couldn’t keep relying on personal favours. It perpetuated the problem! But that’s how The Cat’s Mother was born.
How was the Cat’s Mother born? And what does the project aim to do?
Niki: After a lot of consultation, meetings and fact-finding, we found that executive women in the business wanted to give their time and expertise, they just had less time to offer. Designing the Cat’s Mother model, we kept this in mind.
We operate with a very simple 3-step process. Using the hours kindly contributed to our voluntary bank, we:
1) Match up a young person looking for guidance and expertise with a Cat’s Mother that they’d be suited to based on their interests and individual need.
2) Then we reach out to that Cat’s Mother with 3 ‘agenda’ questions provided by the young person – which helps to shape the meeting.
3) Lastly, the Cat’s Mother gives me a time, place and date that’s convenient for them and I do all the organising to make a 30-minute informal business meet happen.
BUT…We have one golden rule: You can’t see the same Cat’s Mother again (but that doesn’t stop you from being able to see a different one). Running in this way not only encourages young people to make the most out of each opportunity while they can, but also takes the pressure out of the situation for our Cat’s Mother because they don’t feel the need to engage in any long-term mentoring. When we say that it is a low-commitment offer, we really mean it. It’s about small interventions rather than long-term transformations, and throughout our careers, we’ve witnessed (and experienced) first-hand just how transformational these can really be.