Kathy started her career in law, but then decided to do what few people manage to do successfully. She made a full career about-turn and started her own business when she opened her own pole dance studio, The Pole Project, in Cape Town in 2012. Under her expert ownership, The Pole Project has since grown to be a very successful business, hosting pole dance champions from over the world and even launching Cape Town’s very first pole dance competition, The Pole Factor.
Starting up a business is an incredibly trying experience that takes dedication, hard work, patience and sacrifice. It is scary because you are taking a big risk, unsettling because you are stepping outside of your comfort zone, but also awfully exciting because you are turning a dream into reality!
I met Kathy a few years back when I joined her exotic pole dance class at The Pole Project. I was in awe when this waif-like creature with multicoloured hair came up to me, gave me a firm handshake and introduced herself as the instructor of the class. No matter how idiotic I managed to look during that first class (and believe me it was bad), she didn’t laugh at me once. In fact, over the coming weeks Kathy continued to guide me very patiently, always offering her support and encouragement.
Over the years I have come to know her even better and realised that what I saw on that first day was just a tiny snippet of the awe-inspiring person that is Kathy Lee (also known as Missy Leekat). I am proud to present her as an ambassador for Fria’s superfoods and hope that a little bit of her magic will also rub off on me.
I chat to Kathy about the joys of being self-employed, her infectious laugh and naming her cats after Japanese beers.
Fria’s superfoods: You have been a freelancer for a few years now. Do you ever miss being someone’s employee in the corporate world?
Missy Leekat: Yes, I miss the happiness and celebrations that used to come to greet me on pay day. Pay day used to be the light at the end of the tunnel, that carrot at the end of the stick. Now it’s all darkness and no carrot.
I also miss working in a team, being able to bounce ideas off colleagues and seeking support from your fellow peers which help alleviate pressure from difficult circumstances. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely at times.
Fria’s superfoods: I’ve spoken to a few freelancers over the years and themes that always seem to come up in running your own business is the need to persevere, to remove the naysayers from your life and to take chances. Would you agree with this and did you experience any of these issues when you launched The Pole Project?
Missy Leekat: Definitely. Starting up a business is an incredibly trying experience that takes dedication, hard work, patience and sacrifice. It is scary because you are taking a big risk, unsettling because you are stepping outside of your comfort zone, but also awfully exciting because you are turning a dream into reality!
Perseverance is key, whether it may be in respect of having faith in your motives and decisions, or in taking chances. For example, it took a while for the studio to kick off – I remember at the beginning, I only had one or two students in each class most of the time! When you are desperate for clients you start thinking about lowering prices and underselling yourself. So I had to keep reminding myself that if I believe in the quality of my studio and my work, other people will too.
Fortunately I didn’t have many naysayers in my life – I was and am still surrounded by people who love and support me and believe in my vision… this has a significant impact on overcoming struggles. I also find that getting advice from people who’ve walked in your shoes before (i.e. other startup owners) is encouraging and helpful – it always helps to know you’re in good company.
I love cake. So much. During the week I generally try to eat healthy, and on weekends I allow myself to go a little nuts. I’m a firm believer of moderation and don’t think you should ever deprive yourself of anything. Especially not cake.
Fria’s superfoods: You are so strong and healthy. Except for the fact that you are pole dancing every day, do you focus a lot on eating healthy?
Missy Leekat: Diet is equally as important as exercise. It’s all very good and well committing to a fitness regime, but you’re not going to see results unless you balance that out with fueling and nourishing your body with the right foods.
I love food and have a gargantuan appetite! Plus cakes and pastries are my weakness. I love cake. So much. During the week I generally try to eat healthy, and on weekends I allow myself to go a little nuts. I’m a firm believer of moderation and don’t think you should ever deprive yourself of anything. Especially not cake.
Fria’s superfoods: I know that you like to be involved in all aspects relating to the running of your business. Accounting, admin, social media … do you have a healthy and quick go-to recipe you can share with us that we can use on the days that we just do not have enough time to cook a healthy dinner?
Missy Leekat: Stir-fried ostrich mince with mixed vegetables in a pesto sauce. Thank you Woolies. (Fria’s superfoods – I was actually thinking more along the lines of making something from scratch…)
Fria’s superfoods: Apparently you named your cats after Japanese beers?
Missy Leekat: Yeah, I am a little obsessed with Japan and everything Japanese. My cats are called Kirin and Asahi… although they are now known as Kikimon and Fatty/Fatso/Fatty Boom Boom. Fatty is a natural (plus size) supermodel, so she is much better with posing for pictures and hence gets more exposure on my Instagram feed.
My cats are the bomb. I think I would love to be a cat in my next life – I’ll be agile, flexible, fiercely independent, and demand for cuddles when I want them!
I’ve fallen on my head a couple of times …..
Fria’s superfoods: All pole dancers have experienced a certain degree of pole bruises or pole injuries. Do you want to share your worst injury with us?
Missy Leekat: I’ve fallen on my head a couple of times, and sprained my wrist from pole. None of them were major though, all my worst and more severe injuries seem to be from non-pole activities e.g. sprained ankle (trampoline), sacral fracture (snowboarding). For someone who loves engaging in so many high risk sports and activities, I’m actually quite a clumsy person really. I’ve been affectionately told that if I had a superhero name it would be “Disaster Girl”.
Fria’s superfoods: I used to inadvertently make farting noises with my back when we did floor work in the exotic classes. I would love to hear about your most embarrassing moment on (or off) the pole.
Missy Leekat: Having tried to persuade some guys from Krav Maga to try out a pole fitness class, only to have them arrive at the studio whilst I am in the middle of teaching an exotic pole dance class. As I stumble over awkwardly in my little bikini bottoms and 7-inch platform heels, I wasn’t quite sure what was the appropriate greeting so I just muttered: “It’s not what it looks like!”
Fria’s superfoods: You always seem to be up for anything. You recently acquired a motor bike, you seem to be quite fond of snowboarding and you often find yourself on Table Mountain during the weekends. I never see you near water though and we have quite a lot of that here in Cape Town. Is there something you are not telling us Kathy?
Missy Leekat: That’s funny, because I love the water! I used to go wake boarding back when I was living in Singapore and Hong Kong… and I would try any water sports. It’s just trickier with the icy cold waters here in Cape Town. I secretly want to be a surfer. I think surfing is the coolest and hardest thing in the world… Rocket scientists? They have nothing on surfers. But I will be going surfing in Sri Lanka for 2 weeks in December so perhaps I shall return triumphant on my return!
I can’t actually think of an occasion where I’ve laughed AT my students… my students are too damn awesome to be laughed at!
Fria’s superfoods: What is your guilty pleasure when it comes to sweets or treats? Is there a guilty treat that you would like me to “healthify” at some point?
Missy Leekat: I can’t stop stuffing my face with nut butters – specifically peanut butter and macadamia nut butter… but I guess that’s not necessarily a guilty pleasure because nut butters are meant to be good for you, right? Having said that, I’m sure they’re only good for you in moderate quantities…
Peanut butter is everything, so my life changed when someone decided to come up with the concept of healthy peanut butter. And then it changed again when you made your Snickers pie. Fria, you will rock my world when you “healthify” Nutella, Red Velvet cake and Oreo cheesecake. And maybe a healthy version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (Fria’s superfoods – challenge accepted! And just so you know, Nutella is easy to “healthify”).
Fria’s superfoods: I think what I like most about you is your infectious laugh. And there must have been numerous occasions as an instructor where you had to fight to keep it in. Can you think of a situation where that laugh almost got you in trouble?
Missy Leekat: Why thank you! On the contrary I think my laugh sounds like a hyena having an asthma attack… before it descends into an evil cackle. You know what, I can’t actually think of an occasion where I’ve laughed AT my students… my students are too damn awesome to be laughed at!
Fria’s superfoods: Why did you want to become an ambassador for Fria’s superfoods?
Missy Leekat: Because I have mad love for your products, and I want to spread and share this love! I strongly believe in the motivation behind the brand – feeding your body with “real food” doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too! I am excited to play a role in growing the brand and getting more people acquainted with these guilt-free treats that simply make your tummy sing.
You can follow “Disaster Girl” and her endeavors on Instagram.
Keen to try out a pole dance class? Give The Pole Project a try.
Feature image picture credit: Diaan de Beer