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Businesswoman Kat Creasey and Matt Whalley.

How one woman found a gem amidst great sadness

KAT Creasey was in her room again, after another bout of bullying at school. She picked up her jewellery-making equipment. She had turned to the hobby as a salve for the endless taunts about her being different from the other kids.

"I was creative, I didn't fit the mould. I was retro. I wasn't into surfing, I would rather just hang out and make my jewellery," she said.

Then aged 12 and living in northern New South Wales, the hobby that empowered Kat against the bullying she faced soon turned into a highly successful business venture.

With the blessing of her parents, Kat left high school in 2005, aged 15, halfway through Year 10 and focused her energy on building her business.

 

COLLECTIVE: Kat Creasey and her partner Matt at one of their famous pop-up markets.
COLLECTIVE: Kat Creasey and her partner Matt at one of their famous pop-up markets. Contributed

"I had 24 stores in Northern Rivers selling jewellery and it got to the point where it was too crazy for me going to school," she said.

"My parents said I needed to go to a youth centre to learn how to manage books, so I could get myself out further than where I was."

While building her own career, Kat also ran an after-school rock group, encouraging fellow bullied teenagers to harness their musical talents.

With a couple of successful projects under her belt, her career took off when a photo of herself working on a classic car went viral. After building an online following, Kat, now 26, noticed a niche for handmade products.

"People are intrigued with everything that I do; sewing, creating genuine items. I realised there was a void in the market scene where people really appreciate handmade products," she said.

Kat and her partner Matt put together a market dedicated to local and handmade products and natural food. And so the Gold Coast Design Collective was born.

 

COLLECTIVE: Kat Creasey and her partner Matt at one of their famous pop-up markets.
COLLECTIVE: Kat Creasey and her partner Matt at one of their famous pop-up markets. Contributed

These days Kat, the co-owner of the collective, manages a transient retro-style market with more than 80 stalls at some events.

"We've hunted down these people, they've come from everywhere. Some are getting to a point where they're making so much money at the markets that they don't have to work for someone else," she said.

Most of the market stalls have been created using retro vehicles and caravans, with many travelling away from the permanent markets in Coolangatta.

While Kat has always appreciated all things rockabilly and retro, she said the markets started without the theme it is now known for.

"We didn't want to put a rockabilly theme, we didn't think everyone would get it," she said. "But now we incorporate it, but not just the one scene enjoys it. It's opened up a huge array of people like the whole hipster crowd, they love the street food and vendors."

Kat said she had future goals, but was taking her business one step at a time.

"We work six events ahead; we do an event every weekend, sometimes two," she said.

"We're the only ones in this area that do pop-up events. We don't really have goals, we let things happen. My ideal situation would be setting up a warehouse with a tiki bar and diner, and display classic cars, but in saying that I get very bored staying in the same place because I'm too creative."