Ambition Role Model Insight - Karina Kelly


LEO NDRC Partnership Lock-Up

Karina is the CEO and co-founder of female-led start-up Content Llama. She and her co-founder Joleen Looney met while working in financial services and are now blazing a trail in the world of e-commerce. Karina has a B.Sc. and a Masters in Marketing and is a proud Roscommon woman living in Donegal. Having questioned boundaries since she was a toddler, Karina loves nothing more than seeing a change to the status quo. It is in this vein that she is passionate about female entrepreneurship and will do all that she can to help steer that ship for the greater good.

You can read Karina’s thoughts in our first post in our Role Model Insight Series. We’ve borrowed the format from Tim Ferriss’s book ‘Tribe of Mentors’. You can read about the book here and buy it directly here. 

Why are you supporting LEO Donegal’s Female Founder Pre-Acceleration Programme in partnership with NDRC?
I fully support any programme that shines the spotlight on female entrepreneurship and links new adventure seekers with role models and mentors. I am an avid believer that, ‘if you see it, you can believe it… and if you can believe it, you can BE IT’. So any programme like this that brings females with ambition together is fantastic.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
As my family knows, my favourite book is The Enormous Turnip. I have the same copy since I was three years old and still read it!  Here’s the thing, the story is a metaphor for entrepreneurship. It took a whole community to heave that turnip out of the ground. And in the same way, I believe that every successful business is the result of the input from an entire community helping to heave the opportunity into existence - founders, customers, suppliers, and all the advisors, mentors and family members along the way. If you look at your end product you will see a little bit of each of them in it – your idea was but the seed. On more of a business note, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey changed my life when I first read it in 2008.

What purchase of €100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
My Kindle e-reader. I finally converted and it has been amazing. I love hardcopy but the logistics of getting a new book is a real challenge. I am just loving always having a book on hand, it was epic during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
If it had to be one thing it would have to be ‘Please stop using pesticides in your gardens. Do you know what they do? Nature is not a pest. Thank you for your time. Karina.’ And the why is probably self-explanatory.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
My children. Every time.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I get up to work at 5 am Monday to Friday. This is golden time before children or email wakes up. Sometimes it can be hard, but in general, it is my favourite time of day, as although I am working, I am doing so with good coffee and peace.

In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
Meditation which I do first thing….when I’m feeling committed! And linked to that is practising gratitude.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven woman about starting a business? What advice should they ignore?
I would advise them to try to get into some form of an accelerator programme as the benefits are immense. I have been through both New Frontiers and NDRC and they were pivotal in the very early stages of Content Llama. I would advise them to listen to the How I Built This podcast by Guy Raz. I listened and I learned that these women (role models) are just like me. So I started to believe it was possible to build a global business. See It, Believe It…next stop for me must be… BE IT!

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I don’t honestly believe that there is bad advice. If people give advice or recommendations, it is their way of trying to help, based on their experience. All information is good information. As an entrepreneur, it is important that you take this information in with gratitude, analyse it, and choose what to do with it - if anything. You decide. That’s the thing. You own the results, you can’t blame others. Scary and fun all at once!

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?
I am not a social butterfly so you will never find me floating around at endless events.  My advice on that, if you don’t want to go, don’t go (be selective). However, if you do go, then enjoy it, don’t be there wishing you were not, that is a waste of your time. In other areas I will always say yes when people ask for help as that is important to me. It’s what fills me up. Those distractions are what life is about.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I meditate. I do find it difficult when I am overwhelmed. The last thing I feel like doing is meditating as I am too busy. However, that is when the experts say you need it most, and from experience they are right. Along with making sure I get into the sea for a swim or get out for a run or a walk.

What one word would you add to the following for women entrepreneurs?
Be Brave

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