Kate Holden spent years being told she was too “extra.” Too driven. Too opinionated. Too much of a risk taker. Too flamboyant. Too much. That made her feel like a perpetual outsider – until she became an entrepreneur. Turns out, when you’re running a growing business, being “extra” is a good thing. And when Kate met a group of passionate, unconventional thinkers and disruptors who were just like her? She knew she’d finally found her people.
My ideas have always been outside the norm. One of my most vivid memories is being called to the principal’s office in grade 4 for wearing makeup (I’ve always LOVED makeup). What I remember most, though, was my mom’s reaction. She sighed and asked “Why are you like this? Why do you have to be so…different? You are always pushing the boundaries. Just fit in.”
In my early days as a business owner, I got that same kind of reaction – a lot. Selling wine in a heavily regulated province, I’ve faced a lot of “you can’t do that.” I’m always pushing boundaries, but it was hard going it alone, and I wasn’t sure how to scale my business in that environment.
Joining EO changed everything. I went to the EO One Canada conference in Edmonton and witnessed the power of all those incredibly committed entrepreneurs in one room. I thought “wow, these are my people!” Instead of constantly having to defend my ideas, I had found the support, tools – and the confidence – I needed to get people on board and get things done.
It was so empowering. Going from constantly being on the defensive to being seen as a disruptor with a unique (and valid) perspective was a game-changer. I was understood for who I was. In that first year of membership, I learned I wasn’t dreaming too big – I actually wasn’t dreaming big enough.
I went from defending myself to understanding myself: it turns out I’m the very definition of an entrepreneur. I’m always pushing myself and others to do things bigger, faster, better – and my fellow EOers are the same.
EO has taught me to think differently. I’ve learned it’s better to collaborate than to push my ideas through. I’m better at managing conflict and confrontation, at ensuring people feel heard in their contributions. I’ve found common ground with my business partner, who is not a fan of taking risks. And while I’ve always had high standards and expectations, I’ve learned to channel them in a way that has the most impact. The more time I spend around individuals who strive for excellence in everything they do, the more I consistently continue to push boundaries and raise the bar.
I’ve also started thinking more strategically and holding myself accountable to my goals. I’ve learned that I need time to plan and be creative, which isn’t possible if I’m just putting out fires every day. Now I’m more intentional about carving this time out for myself in everything I do.
EO has also opened my eyes to looking at my competitors. I’ve taken what they don’t do well and do it brilliantly. Instead of just selling wine, we’ve created wine packages, a wine experience with sampling, stocked gifts, offered wine education and, of course, upgraded our e-commerce site. It’s been a huge differentiator. We continue to disrupt an industry that is highly regulated and very traditional in all kinds of innovative and exciting ways.
Did your EO learning help you get through the challenges of COVID?
Yes, by encouraging me to stay ahead of the curve. For example, when we first launched online a few years ago, nobody else in the industry was doing e-commerce. When COVID hit, we were set up perfectly, and that part of the business really took off. If I wasn’t always looking forward, I would have been in the same place as all the traditional wine stores: falling behind.
I set an intention to come out of COVID ahead, and that’s exactly what we did. During the pandemic, I took advantage of every resource, speaker and member conversation. The ideas and resources were there – I just had to apply them to my business.
I want everyone to look at EO and think “why wouldn’t I join” or “why wouldn’t I renew?” To the people who say they don’t get anything out of it, I challenge them by asking what they’ve put in. They say EO isn’t like a spa. It’s more like a gym, but I would say #GWTP (Get With The Program). Nobody’s going to do it for you. The harder you work, the more gains you’ll achieve and the more returns you’ll see in every aspect of your life.
There are so many programs you can do, so many smart, passionate people you can talk to. The learning, growth and development is non-stop, infectious and inspiring. The connections and friendships I’ve made with members from other industries – people I wouldn’t know otherwise – are mind-blowing and life-changing. EO has opened me up to experiences far outside my comfort zone and I’ve broken patterns and boundaries I never knew I had. There are no limits to the journey I am on now. Without EO, I wouldn’t be the same person.
Here’s my advice to other entrepreneurs out there who want to be great. Community matters. Relationships matter. Growth matters. And the best thing you can do for your business and for yourself is to surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better every day.
Kate Holden, President, Winnipeg Chapter & Member Products Director, EO Canada
Owner, De Luca Fine Wines
In business 13 years
EO member for 5 years
Posted on 2022-05-11