BIONIC PEOPLE: KATY COWAN
Our latest Bionic People interview is with a woman who really does put the “C” into creative as founder of the must follow online magazine Creative Boom. This is just part of Katy Cowan’s fascinating story. To get the full picture you need to sprinkle in cycling, Japan, Manchester and an angel too. It all makes for a truly inspirational story, and it's our absolute privilege to share Katy's interview with you.
To begin with, and in her own words, here Katy tells us a little bit about herself:
I’m a qualified journalist turned PR professional based in Manchester, UK. I run Boomerang, a PR and digital communications firm, alongside my husband Tom and we specialise in the creative, cultural and innovation sectors. Our clients include BBC and Manchester City Football Club. I launched Boomerang in 2007, and merged the company with Tom in 2009 to offer more digital services.
I’m also the founder of Creative Boom, an online magazine for the creative industries, which I started in 2009 to support others. Today, it attracts half a million monthly readers as well as advertisers such as Adobe, Yahoo and Jaguar.
When I’m not running my two ventures, I love to cycle (I’ve got a decent road bike and all the right clothing – Sundays are for riding, as they say), draw, play with my Canon camera and attempt to perfect my cooking skills. I love to travel, and am always planning my next trip. I’m always filling my home with art and design prints, and am running out of wall space sadly. I have a particular obsession with Japan (I’ve been twice), and am currently working my way through every bit of Japanese fiction I can get my hands on – Murakami, Yoshimoto, Mishima and Kawakami.
Bionic People Interview: Katy Cowan
What drew you to your passion/interest?
Writing is my passion. When I was four years old, I announced to my family that I was going to become a writer, and that’s exactly what I did. Following a long line of journalists in my family, I actually began my career as a broadcast journalist – reading the news on the airwaves for various regional and national radio stations – before moving into PR. Although I love what I do for a living, I wanted more opportunities to write, so I launched my own magazine, Creative Boom, to satisfy that hunger. I love coming up with new ideas, testing to see which content works, and trying to emotionally connect with my audience.
Another passion that Creative Boom satisfies is my chance to help others. I grew up with a family that considered volunteering and kindness as very important. We were always encouraged to help others in the community. Creative Boom allows me to write and to help – it’s perfect, and makes me very happy.
Was there a particular moment in your life that you ‘discovered’ or fell in love with your passion/interest?
I always liked writing stories – my mother still has one of my first drafts. It was about a little girl meeting an angel, and wanting to help her become human – but realising that it wasn’t possible. I was only three or four years old when I wrote that. Pretty dark for that age, don’t you think!
What is the most interesting moment in your life?
The last 10 years have been pretty interesting. That’s how long I’ve been working for myself. It’s been a roller coaster, but an enjoyable one. I suppose the most interesting aspects have been the things that Creative Boom has led to – like travelling to LA for Adobe, writing for The Guardian, going to 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, and getting invited to all kinds of interesting events and exhibitions.
What do you think makes a person interesting?
Intelligence. I like to be challenged and hear different points of view. It keeps me on my toes. And having passions – I love meeting people and hearing about their weird and wonderful hobbies, or the quirky places they’ve travelled, people they’ve met.
I also love a good character. You know, someone who’s funny, has a twinkle in his or her eye, and has some actual personality. I’m one of those friendly daft types that love to spark up conversations with strangers in public – eight times out of 10, most people think I’m crazy and don’t engage. But then you get the odd gem who’s up for a laugh – it’s those people I love the most.
Who are some of the people that fascinate you?
Thanks to Creative Boom, I’m lucky to meet some great people (including you John*), so it’s difficult to pinpoint one person. I can tell you who has been the best to interview – Aaron Draplin was charming, kind and a real character. During my radio career I interviewed Will Smith – he was super, really professional and nice.
(*Note from bioniciconic founder: Yes this made me blush.)
If you could meet anyone (past or present) who would it be and why?
David Bowie. His music was the first thing I danced to, and reminds me of my wonderful parents and happy childhood. I’d just want to hang out with him, enjoy a beer, and talk about people, places, and culture. It would be pretty magical.
What is the most interesting possession you own?
My travel books. I’m forever expanding my library of travel literature. I can’t get enough of the subject. Bill Bryson is a particular favourite. Someone came up to me on a train once because I was laughing so much (discreetly), and they wanted to know what I was reading (It was A Walk in the Woods, if you must know).
If you could make one change to your life to make it more interesting, what would it be?
The chance to travel more. It’s something I’m hoping to make possible in the next year or two. I have a plan, and it’s coming together nicely. Travel expands the mind and opens the heart. Nothing quite beats the excitement of landing in a foreign country, ditching the suitcases at the hotel and immediately running out to explore, armed with a camera and sense of wonder. I will never grow tired of it.
Which brand do you find most interesting, and why is that?
Funny enough, McDonald’s. It fascinates me how they are coping with a changing world attitude on food, health and environment. How will they stay relevant? How will they continue to lead (although Starbucks has just overtaken, so coffee is now king)?
Care to share something interesting you’ve never shared before?
When I was 16, I rebelled and left home for six months. It broke my dear parents’ hearts and caused them a lot of agony. But the experience was invaluable. I learned the importance of having a strong work ethic and being able to stand on my own two feet. I also learned that every experience in life, no matter how bad at the time, is teaching us something, and we should be grateful for that.
What is your all-time favourite piece of art, design or fashion?
Under the Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. It’s one of the most famous works of art in the world, but I love it. When I was young, I used to devour travel books – still do – and was always fascinated by different cultures. Japan has been, and always will be, a passion of mine. The fashion, the music (traditional folk), the food, the people (often the kindest), the literature and the art – I simply can’t get enough of Japan.
Thank you Katy