Behind the scenes with Olympian Keesja Gofers & her new start-up Kgro

13 min read
Kylie de Boer

Olympic water polo star Keesja Gofers took a few minutes out of her schedule to talk with us about the Olympics, her two-week quarantine after returning to Australia and her new startup, KGro: corporate team building This interview has been gently edited for length and clarity.

GoDaddy: We’re dying to know what the Olympics were like this year.

Keesja Gofers: I guess I have two major takeaways from the 2020 Olympics. The first one is, well, it was just an epic experience. The Olympics is just a one-off, unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But I truly think that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was like no other.

Keesja Gofers playing water polo

There are the ways that are obvious, like the masks and COVID and all the restrictions. But from an Australian point of view, the adversity definitely brought us together, whether that was the athletes or the people at home watching. I just really felt like there was this unified atmosphere and support from back home and just the Aussie Spirit was really, really strong. Maybe because Australians are down-to-earth, but in the Australian building there was no feeling of ‘you're a celebrity or you're a superstar so you're on a different level to the rest of us.’ No matter if you’re an amateur, a professional, famous millionaire, working at Woolworth’s — we were all celebrating each other's achievements, commiserating with each other and just really unified, which was really cool. Yeah, cool part of the Olympics. The second part for my team, our tournament involved losing our quarterfinal and then bouncing back. And even though we knew we weren't a chance for a medal, we were able to bounce back and finish the tournament really strong. For me that was a really cool takeaway — even when you're not playing for a medal, you can still be really proud of what you can do and show how special it is to compete for your country.

GD: How were these Olympics different from the previous Olympic Games?

KG: It was really different in terms of the masks, the COVID saliva tests, spitting in a tube every morning. But obviously the lead-up was really different as well — having to be postponed for a year, lacking that international competition, it was very, very different to what we're used to.

But it was a unique experience in all the right ways as well.

I don't think that there has ever been an Olympics like this one. It was an amazing feat to even put on the Olympics in the first place.

GD: How would you rate your own performance in Tokyo?  

KG: We set out to achieve an Olympic medal. We wanted to be in the top four and to be competing for a medal and so we fell short of that. But we showed that resilience, that ability to bounce back in the games that preceded the quarterfinal. Looking forward, that is a really good confidence boost that we can play really good games — even when emotionally we're so drained. That's something, a huge positive that I’ll take away from the Olympics.

Like all athletes, I look at the positive things that I did, and I look at the areas I can improve on, and I’m always striving to be better. And so that's how I look at these Olympics.

GD: So you try to be objective about your performance?

KG: Exactly and not get too hung up on one good thing or one bad thing, try to see it as an overall picture.

So, so many different learning opportunities in just two weeks of water polo.

To see how I can be better in terms of my playing, in terms of how I can lead by example and what things I can do to not just better my own performance but help other people better theirs.

GD: Do you go back and work on those areas with your coach and your team?

KG: At the moment I'm on a break from training, but as athletes we’re programmed to always want to be bettering ourselves. When I do go back to training I will have these things in mind, I will approach sessions with a focus on certain things, rather than just going through the motions, so that I can get the most out of the time spent in the pool.

GD: I understand you have started a business that combines flower arranging with corporate team building. How did you land on this idea?

KG: Yeah, so in addition to being an athlete, an Olympian, my other passion is floristry. I used to explain this to people as being such a strange random, weird combination. Now I  see these skills as my strength.

In terms of this business, what I've learned is that sport has given me so many skills, so many lessons that the corporate world would love to see in their teams. You know, get that high-performance mindset into their workplace.

For example, in water polo we’re communicating all the time. Half the time, our heads are dunked under the water and we’re struggling to breathe, but we still have to be able to communicate with each other. And feedback is just as important in the corporate world. So things I’ve learnt that can be used for things other than, that can be a lesson learned and applied to things outside of sport.

Keesja Gofers arranging flowers

The way that it all came about — so I was training as an athlete for water polo and then into being a florist as well. During lockdown in 2020, I started doing bouquet-making online and loved doing that, loved sharing my story, loved teaching people a skill that they didn't know. And a former water polo player, Nick Falzon, he was the one that had the idea to bring me into his team, into the corporate world.

That was where I realised that all the lessons I've learned from sport can be applied to the corporate world — including team building, including the floristry. Flowers add that bit of fun, a bit of uniqueness to the offering compared to other potential team-building companies. I did it with Nick’s team and I absolutely loved it. The team also loved doing it, loved taking home a beautiful arrangement. We all got something out of it.

So that's where the idea to go into the corporate world kind of started. In a way, lockdown made this idea happen. So, yeah, kind of a weird way the world works, I guess.

GD: So how do you bring the two together in the workshop?

KG: At the moment it's essentially a workshop about the high-performance mindset, and then the team-building with the flowers is the activity afterwards.

What I found is that it actually can teach you a lot about how you learn, and how you take on new information, how you learn new skills. So, it is, it is done individually. You make your arrangement yourself, but it can teach us a lot about how others learn, how we learn. So, there is an element of team-building, rather than just learning this new skill and taking home some flowers, there is an element of team building, connected to the floristry as well as the workshop beforehand.

GD: And how did you choose your business name?

My business name is KGRO. So, to explain that: my initials are KG, Keesja Gofers. And, you know, the business is all about growing your team's potential, growing your team's output, growing your business revenue.

I've taken off the ‘W’ because as an athlete it's so important that we never stop growing.

We never stop trying to learn, we have that learner mindset throughout our whole life, and that's what I want to try and encourage and bring to the corporate world. To never feel stagnant, to keep on pushing and, you know the limit does not exist, as I say.

GD: So, it's kind of like no ‘W’ means that there's not an end to your growth.

KG: Yes, exactly.

GD: Tell us about building your website. How easy were the GoDaddy tools to use?

KG: So yeah, when I was making the website, I was in hotel quarantine in Howard Springs. Honestly, it is the best place to do quarantine. We got to go outside on the balcony with the sunshine and every second day we got to go to the laundry. That was just a 50-metre walk, which sounds ridiculous, but actually quite novel in hotel quarantine.

I thought I would be looking for things to do but I found myself quite busy. I don't know how, but yeah, the website planning and you know, the ideas, idea development all happened kind of at once. I had done a workshop before, but I hadn't kind of nutted out the exact details of what it looked like, selling it as or like promoting it as a product. So, I was doing that altogether.

Keesja Gofers new GoDaddy Kgro website

So the hardest part for me was, you know, nutting out exactly what I wanted for this to look like. The actual tools and all that were super easy to follow.

I'm not technological, but I found it relatively easy and I have no doubt that others will as well.

I would recommend just getting started and giving it a go. It's not going to be perfect straightaway, so what I would suggest is just jumping on board, giving it a go, putting your ideas into something, and, and then you can always go back and change it. GoDaddy has super helpful videos, there are people you can call, like the call centre is really, really helpful. There's just a lot of things that make it so simple, and the interface and the pre-built site templates and they've taken away lots of confusing things that I'm sure are normally involved in making a website.

So yeah, I would recommend just giving it a go and seeing how you like it, because it is easier than I thought it was going to be.

GD: Did you face any challenges along the way?

KG: I feel like the challenges were nothing to do with GoDaddy and more to do with the business, what was I going to have as the tagline, what pictures was I going to use, you know like, things that were nothing to do with the website.

GD: And were you happy with the result at the end?

KG: I am really happy with how simple Website Builder was to use. The site I ended up with is way more than what I thought I was going to be able to achieve.

Keesja Gofers posting from quarantine

I'm very happy with what my new website looks like.

You're not kind of stuck to how the template is, you can move things around, you can delete things. It's good in that respect, like you can start off with this template which makes it really easy and then you can customise it.

GD: And what are the next steps for your new venture?

KG: You know we're in lockdown at the moment in Sydney, but the next step is to see how I can help businesses and teams to be inspired and to be empowered to achieve. As an athlete, I’m always looking to improve and that's the great thing about the GoDaddy Website Builder — you can go in and change your website as much as you want to. So, I’m looking to keep improving the website, keep updating it as well as improving the product that I am offering.

The overall message that I would say to people looking to start a business, is to kind of just jump in and do it.

You're always going to start at the ground level, regardless of if you do it in six months or you do it now. So, you know, you may as well learn on the fly and put yourself under that pressure and challenge yourself a little bit, to take a risk. What they say in water polo is 'you never score the shot you don't take.' So, you know, kind of take your shot and give it a go. I reckon would be my last thing.

Related: Don't let imposter syndrome keep you from chasing your dreams

GD: Do you have plans to offer some sort of online version of what you do as well?

Keesja Gofers doing a corporate presentation

KG:  I offer virtual keynote presentations, Q&A sessions and one-on-one sessions. At the moment I don't offer the flower arranging online, because the service I provide means I also bring the flowers into the office so there's no sort of hassle for the employees or the team. So, for this you know, I would keep this one until we can go into the office, as that is better.

GD: What tips do you have for others who may be thinking of starting their own businesses?

KG: My main tip would just be to jump in and give it a go, to play around and not to try to create the perfect website, on day one. That's the pitfall I kind of fell into, I wanted to do so much planning and so much organising, but I think you just got to get in there, play around and you’ll find your feet. You'll find what you like and the fonts and the pictures and all that stuff and it will just grow over time. And as I said you can come back and make changes.

GD: Hopefully lockdowns finish soon and you can launch your business.

KG: Absolutely, it's all got to be temporary right now and if not, we'll have to sidestep and make some changes. That’s alright.  I’m so, so thankful to GoDaddy for their support. And anyone who signs up gets that customer service.

For me, GoDaddy’s Dream it. Build it. program was that little nudge that made me think “okay, this a good time to do this.”

You know, I’m not training for the Olympics right now, o why not start this new venture and really put some time and work into it? I hope businesses can jump on board and feel enthusiastic about, you know, helping their team be as productive and as good as they possibly can through one of my workshops. And then as well with the GoDaddy readers, I'd love to inspire people to take that leap and make their own website and promote themselves and sell their product, so that's the other cool thing that I hope I can help with, as well.

GD: That’s great. Don't let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game.

KG: Exactly.

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