Have you ever worried sharing your life trials would lead to clients or colleagues to doubt the quality of your work and your ability to complete projects?
Kateryna (Kat) Tepylo Murphy (She/Her/Hers) is the CEO and Lead Strategist of Social Kat Media. Starting with Toronto’s advertising industry, Kat quickly realized she wanted to change direction. She went through a few internships – one being the root of her business of helping small businesses leverage social media. Kat worked in the sporting industry for a couple years following school before focusing on small businesses full time.
Kat is a mother of 2, married to her high school sweetheart, a HUGE lover of sports and social media, and her family lives in the country with their cute dog. 2023 marks her 6th year of full-time business ownership.
I connected with Kat briefly through a fellow Balanced Good-er. I loved the work she was doing supporting small businesses in their social media needs.
Kat’s work may not be exclusive to the non-profit sector, but her tips for using social media are relevant to all small businesses. I am thrilled to share my conversation with Kat. I hope you will walk away from this inspired to share about your tough experiences, ‘balance’ or ‘juggle’ your priorities, and takeaway some helpful tips on building your social media presence.
Briefly tell me about a day in the life of Kat Tepylo Murphy.
My days can be best described as a beautiful chaos. Every day is different, but they all involve: child wrangling and getting them ready for school and daycare, working on clients’ social media strategy,
SO MANY LOADS OF LAUNDRY, creating reels, writing captions, making graphics, and searching for the latest trends, and emails, emails, and more emails. Then it’s the absolute chaos of 4:30 pm – 7pm, our supper/bedtime marathon. I end the day watching Netflix on the couch.
What’s really jumped out at me is your openness to sharing the joys and challenges of being a mother and entrepreneur. I feel like we quickly clicked when we chatted. Tell me what pushed you to become a business owner?
As a kid I never thought of being a business owner — which is kind of silly considering that my friends and I were always coming up with business ideas: bake sales, garage sales, making cards, etc. etc. I grew up wanting to be a teacher but decided to pursue my creative side by getting a Bachelor of Creative Advertising from Humber College in Toronto. While I enjoyed what I was learning, I quickly realized that I wasn’t a big city person and the advertising industry in Toronto was not my jam. For context, I grew up in a city of 20,000 and now live in a community of 100 houses. The closest city has a population of 2,000. So, a small town is really where I belong!!
The summer after 1st year I did a marketing and communications internship at a non-profit in Ireland which opened my eyes to all that I could do with my degree. I fell in love with social media and the power it has. The next summer I enrolled in the Ontario government’s Summer Company program which provides funding and training for students to start their own businesses. I started my social business then — helping non-profits and small businesses in the Bay of Quinte Region learn how to leverage social media.
A passing of a close friend at the start of my 4th year of university really lit the fire under me that I needed to follow what I loved. I ended up doing a yearlong internship with the Canadian Womens Hockey League. At the end of 4th year, I moved to Peterborough to be with my then fiancé, now husband. With my internship turning into a contract, I realized I could maybe make this into a business. I secured other sporting clients and worked in the sporting industry for a year or two before turning my focus on small businesses.
I think one of the reasons I love what I do so much is because I get to scratch that teaching itch by helping so many small business owners and organizations learn social media and I couldn’t image doing anything else.
You’ve also been very open with your challenging post-partum experiences. I’ve also had some tough post-partum experiences – including anxiety and depression – have these experiences impacted how you run your business?
My post-partum anxiety and post-partum depression have completely changed how I look at the world. In addition, I’ve experienced some absolute tragic losses of people close to me. These experiences have shown me how fragile life is and the importance of pursuing your dreams and not waiting.
After I had my daughter I struggled in silence — all I ever saw online was picture perfect images of what having a baby was like. And I felt like I must be doing something (or all the things) wrong. When I had my son in December 2021, I prepared A LOT for the post-partum period. We had so much support lined up. But thanks to a pandemic wave fueled by a new variant and other factors (mainly intense sleep deprivation and insomnia), I quickly unraveled. I was not okay.
Once I connected with community resources and found trusted friends, I realized I wasn’t alone. So many of us were struggling. But no one talked about it openly.
I started talking on social media because I knew staying silent would help no one. I told people I was struggling. I shared that I started anxiety medication. I unloaded that I went to the hospital on Christmas Day 2021 because I needed medication to help me sleep. And I continue to talk about how hard all of this is — parenting, running a business, etc. There are times where I worry that if I share these things people won’t want to work with me. That they’ll have concerns about my capabilities. But overall, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
My well-being and the well-being of my team members will always come first. Building a team of mostly mothers, we have all experienced the strain of sick kids and generally, life. When team members need to step away for a few days to support their families, it’s a no-questions-asked process. I want to make sure they are okay and that they know Social Kat Media is there to support them. Our company policies directly talk about mental health, including setting boundaries from work and offloading any content to me if they don’t feel comfortable working on a specific topic.
Any thoughts about how this might have played out if you weren’t a business owner or didn’t have a flexible and autonomous schedule?
This is an interesting question – if I was an employee, I would have had a paid 12+ month maternity leave and more time to adjust to motherhood. With my first, I was back working within 2 weeks (while taking care of a newborn) which led to immense stress, sleep deprivation, and overwhelm. With my second, I spent the majority of my pregnancy preparing to take a 3-month maternity leave from my business. There was financial stress to this and business stress having to hire contractors, but it was SO needed.
While having no funded maternity leave was difficult, I do love what I do and actually loved being able to work — because I felt confident at work, and it gave me something to focus on while I was struggling.
While there are struggles with being the parent with the most flexible schedule and therefore the default to stay home with sick kids, it gives me the ability to drop work things when needed to be there for the family.
So as a leader (and Mom) you wear many hats? How do you “balance” it all?
I’ve realized there is no balance and I’ve stopped trying to chase it. I really like the glass and plastic ball analogy from Nora Roberts. We’re constantly juggling hundreds of balls, some glass and some plastic. Some work ones are a glass: a deadline and some life ones are plastic: getting the laundry folded (and vice versa). I drop a lot of balls. But I make sure they’re the plastic ones. We let the laundry pile up. We make sure our freezers are full of quick meals. I move non-critical deadlines at work. I ignore my inbox for a day… etc.
The hard thing is determining what is glass and what is plastic. I often feel like everything is glass, but that’s not the case. I’ve had to learn how to prioritize to a whole other level. There are times when work comes first and there are other times family comes first. And I guess that’s what “balance” is!
One of my personal hang-ups in business ownership is trying to find the time and headspace to map out my social media. You and I both know your social media is such an important part of marketing your business and establishing your brand. Any quick and dirty go to tips for the busy mom and business owner?
My biggest tip is to find out what works for YOU. There is sooo much generic advice out there, and all of it is helpful — but the most helpful thing is finding what lights you up. Play around with different types of content and find what feels good for you and what you actually like doing.
There isn’t just one way to have success on social media — there are countless ways!! If you love stories, focus on those. If you enjoy making reels, focus on those. If photos are your thing, take and post the best damn photos you can.
It really comes down to not comparing yourself to others, which I know is hard. But we need to make social media work for our own unique circumstances, not someone else’s.
Oh, and set reminders on your phone for social media tasks like posting stories or engaging with new accounts!
You mentioned that Social Kat Media has a soft spot for non-profits, tell me a bit more about that.
I grew up in a family and school community that gave back. I spent my high school and university years volunteering on Habitat for Humanity builds, raising money for local charities with winter sleep outs, 24-hour fasts, etc. This focus on giving back is engrained in who I am as a person. I want to help make the world a better place. Social Kat Media donates 5% of profits to important causes. We also work with some great non-profit organizations.
I am really passionate about supporting non-profits on social media because social media is such a powerful tool and unfortunately many non-profits don’t have the resources or expertise to focus on it.
Social media has a lot of negative aspects, so it’s important for me to focus on the good — supporting mental health, lifting up small business owners, and celebrating the good work done by others including non-profits.
Non-profits are notoriously busy with leaders often having an extra full plate. If you could give one piece of advice to these leaders (in terms of leadership/social media/or other), what would it be?
This is a tough one. For social media, my advice is don’t be afraid to step outside of the box. I think there is a fairly uniform thought of what a non-profit on social media looks like. So what happens if we change that up? Social media is such a powerful tool. Experiment with different types of content or topics. What if you made a funny (yet still appropriate reel)? Could you go live from events? Look at accounts outside of your industry for inspiration.
Also, you don’t need to be posting as much as you may think!! So many people get caught up thinking that they need to post daily or even more. Focus on high quality content that has real value to your audience. Aim for a foundation of 2-3 posts per week. Then try out stories to support that content.
What is on your current reading list?
I just finished The No Show by Beth O’Leary (one of my favourite authors) and I’m currently reading 4000 weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Olivar Burkeman.
And lastly, when you manage to find a few moments for yourself, what is your go to self-care activity?
This is still something I am working on… I struggle with self-care because I feel like I always need to be doing something. I do enjoy hot baths, walking in our neighbourhood, reading, organizing, and home decor. I also have an impressive craft room at our new house and want to get back to crafting and DIY!