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Fabulous & Fearless Women: Karolina Barnes, ESTILA

Lack of inspiration was the driving force behind our next Fabulous and Fearless Woman’s successful business venture. Meet the lovely Karolina Barnes, editor in chief and creative director of bookazine, ESTILA. It was whilst running an extension of her family business and during her second pregnancy that Karolina was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour and went blind in one eye within 8 weeks. A few years later, and not letting her illness get the better of her, she closed the business in order to find her purpose. Karolina retrained as an interior designer but was left feeling uninspired by the magazines around her, so she decided to do something about it…

ESTILA was born in 2015 and is a beautifully presented bookazine that empowers creatives and designers to share their inspirational business stories. Since then, the magazine has featured some pretty incredible people including renowned designer Matthew Williamson. Karolina shares more about ESTILA, living with an illness and her vision for the future of the bookazine.

Fabulous and fearless women. Interview with Karolina Barnes, Editor and creative director of ESTILA

For those that don’t know of ESTILA – tell us what people can expect from the magazine and why they should read it.  What makes it so different? 

ESTILA is for anyone who is creative and who also runs their own business. We learn best through stories and reading about other people’s experiences. It’s the modern version of a business publication with no jargon. Instead of telling readers what they should do or what the hottest marketing strategy is, we show them case studies which they can get inspired by. While doing that, we also highlight the amazing talent in design, art and creative industries we have on our doorstep. Consequently, the content is timeless and always relevant. The lessons learnt or the tips we give can be applied at any time. This is, I think, where the value lies.

I’ve been also working hard on publishing a magazine that is advert-free, which I recently achieved. As a magazine publishing industry novice, I quickly realised how flawed the industry is and so when you buy ESTILA you get uninterrupted reading experience which doesn’t try to sell you stuff!!

Other major purpose of our existence is to help raising funds for the Brain Tumour Charity. We donate £7 from each yearly subscription to the charity.

Fabulous and fearless women. Interview with Karolina Barnes, Editor and creative director of ESTILA

Where do you hope for the magazine to be in 2 years’ time?

While continuing our readership growth in the UK, I’m planning to expand the concept into other countries. Increasingly we’ve been generating feature interest from designers and brands from other European countries, US and Australia but for our business model to work, we need to partner with local businesses who understand their markets and local problems well. So in future there might be for example an Italian version of ESTILA featuring Italian creatives and designers, helping to raise money for a local charity.

Fabulous and fearless women. Interview with Karolina Barnes, Editor and creative director of ESTILA

You started ESTILA during an extremely difficult period in your life, when you were diagnosed with a brain tumour, which is a very brave thing to do. What have been the challenges of dealing with meningioma as a busy working mother and entrepreneur?

I think the biggest challenge is dealing with the side-effects of my condition on a daily basis. It’s benign and under control for the time being, but headaches, nausea, loss of balance and blurry vision are now part of the way I live. I’ve learnt to accept it but I get sometimes frustrated with the lack of control I have over my health.

Has the diagnosis changed your outlook on life?
Yes, definitely. I think the biggest change and a mindset shift I made as a result of my diagnosis is the perception and appreciation of time.  I never planned for the future before. I didn’t dare to dream. These days I allow myself to do both. This gives me focus and clarity about why I do things now, today. Also, I lost all self-doubt. I now approach things with “I don’t care” attitude – in a good way, of course. I think if you can rewire your brain to do that, you start to look more for opportunities which are aligned to your purpose.

Fabulous and fearless women. Interview with Karolina Barnes, Editor and creative director of ESTILA

You’re also the founder of Atelier of Success, tell us a little more about this and what your vision is?

Atelier of Success is an extension of ESTILA. Through interviewing creatives I realised that they need business support which is more specific to them. I opened Atelier of Success FB group last year with the intension to create a platform where I can introduce creatives to one another and encourage collaborations. Everyone I interview is welcome to our group. There is no specific growth strategy like many other FB groups have. Instead, I want to focus on providing a safe space where like-minded people can share their knowledge and experiences while coming up with partnerships and project opportunities so they can grow together. To me business is about who and what you know and so this is what I try to put across and encourage within the group.

In terms of my vision, I think social media and platforms like Facebook are currently experiencing challenges and changes, and so I’m looking into ways of providing that kind of space outside the social/digital world.

Fabulous and fearless women. Interview with Karolina Barnes, Editor and creative director of ESTILA

What can we do to empower younger generations of girls to get into business?

My opinion on business is that it’s a way of life. Business owners live and breathe it. And so for me it all starts from a very young age. I think to get more girls into business, we need to look the way business is presented and discussed at home but also at schools. For example, I like the “Tycoon In Schools” club for primary schools set up by Peter Jones. It teaches children to work together on a business project from start to finish, from concept to sales. This might not be specific to girls but it definitely gets them more involved. Having programmes like these will definitely open eyes to the opportunities and the lifestyle business can offer.

What do you think makes a woman fabulous and fearless?

I think that a woman who takes charge of her own life and lets her purpose shine becomes fearless and is fabulous in her own right.

Fabulous and fearless women. Interview with Karolina Barnes, Editor and creative director of ESTILA
You have an all-female team and also have 2 daughters… What does feminism mean to you?

My views on feminism are more about what you stand for as an individual, your beliefs and values. I encourage my daughters to be themselves and not let others influence their way of thinking. Once you let your surroundings influence you, it’s very hard to be who you truly are.


What an incredibly fearless woman Karolina is, and it just goes to show that anything is possible if you truly put your mind to it! If you haven’t already, we definitely  recommend checking out ESTILA.

Don’t forget, we’re always on the hunt for inspiring ladies just like Karolina and all of the other fabulous ladies we’ve featured so far. If you know someone, share them on Instagram using the hashtag #livefabulousandfearless or drop us an email, we’d love to hear from you!


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Image Credits: ESTILA



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