Not just a business owner, practising vet, board member, and social media presence, Dr Kate Adams is also the new Bondi Vet. By Kerryn Ramsey
When Dr Kate Adams bought Bondi Vet—the practice made famous by the TV series—she felt like it was the worst house on the best street. It had an amazing reputation and a widely recognised brand but nothing had really been done to promote the practice. The current owners were keen to pursue other interests and Dr Adams could see an opportunity.
“I realised I had purchased a practice that was established but under-developed,” says Dr Adams. “I knew I could grow the business.”
In early 2018, Dr Adams bought out both partners and became the sole owner of Bondi Vet. Never one to let an opportunity pass her by, she had a meeting with WTFN, the producers of Bondi Vet, where the idea was floated that she be part of a new TV series.
Towards the end of 2018, she received the news that a new series had been funded and was to be aired in many countries, including the US, Canada and the UK. Dr Kate Adams was to star in the new season of Bondi Vet.
Based in Perth, Dr Adams had completed a marketing degree before graduating in veterinary science at Murdoch University in 2007. Her first job was at a small animal practice in Midland, WA. A relationship with a farmer saw her move to Narrogin, wheat belt country in south-east WA.
“I became a farmer’s girlfriend for a while but that didn’t really suit me,” recalls Dr Adams. “Even though I loved it there, I wanted to do more with my life so I moved to Sydney.”
Not long after the move, Dr Adams had an unexpected epiphany at the age of 25. “I suddenly realised I didn’t like the veterinary profession anymore,” she says. “The profession was in a transition phase between old-school vets and the millennial crowd. While I enjoyed working with animals, I felt there was a lack of opportunity and professional development available. I was also working long hours and doing lots of on-call work.
“I looked at my life, extrapolated my future, and realised I would be in my forties and not able to afford a family or a house. I felt completely burnt out, four years after graduating. Even though veterinary science was my number one passion, I threw it all in.”
Dr Adams undertook a master’s degree with a graduate certificate in public administration. After completing half a master’s in data analytics, she ended up working as an analyst for the intelligence community in Canberra.
“I loved the work,” she says. “I also remember my first day, walking into an air-conditioned office where you got to leave at 4.30pm and were paid superannuation. The job was fun, exciting and I got to work in a team with a real manager and have a lunch break! I thought I had found the best job ever.”
Dr Adams worked her way up the corporate ladder, eventually becoming chief of staff on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Even though the work was confronting, she discovered a passion for helping people. She could see this was meaningful work.
“I liked the energy that came from working on task forces,” says Dr Adams. “All these amazing people came together with an important job to do. It was very high energy, and I really liked the atmosphere.”
In 2014, Dr Adams decided to change tack again and go into private finance. After moving from Canberra back to Sydney, she took a job with a capital-raising firm.
“It was all about raising money for early-stage start-ups and IPOs,” she says. “It was fun, I learned a lot and made plenty of money. Then a weird thing happened. My father had died and I was sitting on a beach in San Sebastián in Spain when it suddenly hit me—I wanted to be a vet again.
“The only reason I left was because of the industry, not the animals. I felt I owed it to the profession—one I saw struggling—to return. I intended to take what I had learnt during my other tertiary studies and in other industries and improve the veterinary profession. I planned to own my business, work reasonable hours and create an environment of respect and excellence.”
The new Bondi Vet
Dr Adams returned to Sydney, took a part-time job at Bondi Vet and before she knew it, she had purchased the practice.
“What I love about being a vet is being able to communicate with people and help them understand their pets better,” she says. “I was wondering how to do this on a larger scale when I became the Bondi Vet.”
To expand her brand, Dr Adams built a social media presence. She started by making videos for YouTube and Facebook, as well as increasing her Instagram engagement. By the time she stood in front of the TV cameras, she was used to appearing on screen.
Season one of the new Bondi Vet series finished filming last January. It went to air on Channel Nine on October 11, 2019 at 7.30pm and is televised every Friday. One episode that’s very personal to Dr Adams featured her own dog, Benny. “I honestly didn’t know whether he was going to make it or not,” she recalls. “In that particular episode, I was on the patient side and I think it will really resonate with viewers.”
At present, Bondi Vet consists of Dr Adams, three other vets and five support staff. Between running the practice, making the TV series and building her social media presence, Dr Adams is happy to admit there’s a little chaos in her life.
“I never want people to think everything is always running smoothly because sometimes it’s not,” she admits. “It’s all a matter of prioritising what you need to do and learning to delegate. You simply can’t control absolutely everything.
“My support staff and nurses are absolutely amazing. These women not only undertake nursing tasks but they take photos, edit blogs and handle whatever is thrown at them. They had to get used to having cameras in their faces all day and they’ve been fantastic. Now they’re like seasoned pros.”
Dr Adams is also heavily involved with CannPal, a medical cannabis research and development company for companion animals, where she sits on the board as a non-executive director. While there has been a little uninformed pushback that it’s nothing more than pot for pets, the company is currently in the research phase with promising results.
“CannPal is being developed as a pharmaceutical product for treating pain in pets,” says Dr Adams. “Just 20 years ago, pain relief for pets was not considered as important. These days, pets are increasingly looked on as family members and they are living much longer. I can see CannPal becoming extremely beneficial for treating conditions like osteoarthritis in cats and dogs.
“While there’s a stigma attached to medical marijuana, once people see a legitimate, well researched product, I think it’s going to be of great benefit to the veterinary community.”
Two events collided in 2016 that led Dr Adams to create a non-veterinary business. One, she wanted to learn code and build an e-commerce business. Two, she was standing in line at the post office wondering why it was so hard to send a thank you card. You have to buy a card, visit the post office, stand in line for ages to buy a stamp and then post the card.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could just get on your phone and do all this in 60 seconds?” says Dr Adams.
And so Thankly was born. Users can sign in and send a handwritten thank you card and a small gift in under 60 seconds. After the website was featured in Marie Claire magazine and on the Smart 100, it went gangbusters. It was such a success and grew so quickly that Dr Adams sold the business in August 2019.
“Thankly was my baby and something I held very dear to my heart,” she says. “I built the whole thing myself and it was my first crack at something way outside my comfort zone. But I had my vet clinic, the TV show and CannPal to focus on. I didn’t want to spread myself too thin so I sold all my shares in Thankly.”
For now, Dr Adams is enjoying the new TV series and hopes the public can embrace a female ‘Bondi Vet’. “Chris was very loved and left extremely big shoes to fill. But there’s a female Dr Who now so maybe it’s also time for a female Bondi Vet. I just hope I represent the veterinary community in a good light and that other vets are proud of me.
“I’ve also got a few other little shows on the back burner. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do The Bachelorette.