“We learn from failure, not success.” – Bram Stoker
Nobody succeeds at everything the first time around. Both failure and success are a part of life. Without failure, there is no success. Every failure is an opportunity to discover a new way towards the goal. If you fail at something, it does not mean you should give up. However, it implies changing the term “up” to “back” and making it “give back,” which indicates restoring something in a different way. Longing to make her aim obvious from all sides, Katie Hamilton Shaffer, Founder & President of Feast It Forward & Feast.Network, is the perfect illustration of the term “giving back.”
“I don’t mind failing because I am not afraid to try. You’ll never know if you don’t try. Taking risks can offer rewards, but failure will allow you to continue to grow and find that right path. I am proud of failure; people should really embrace that more. ” – Katie says.
The Journey to the Goal
Katie moved to Napa Valley just over 20 years ago to pursue a career in food and wine. In 2004, Katie co-founded the Erika Van Giesen Foundation, which was supported by Erika’s Dream, an annual epicurean event. With the funds raised, she assisted in the establishment of Katie’s Clinic at Children’s Hospital Oakland in 2006, which continues to serve Rett-affected girls and their families throughout the Western United States to this day, as she came across Rett-affected her mentor’s daughter. This charity gala was a great way to raise money. In 2009, she assisted in the establishment of Wine, Women, and Shoes, a culinary and wine-themed event that would go on to become a nationally popular fundraising platform. Later that year, she launched her first wine label, Toolbox Wine Co., with the goal of creating affordable, high-quality wines. A few interactions that year at Erika’s Dream led to her taking a leap of faith to make her dream and vision a reality.
With the debut of Feast.Network, a digital platform aimed at producing entertaining and inspiring content with chefs, actors, tastemakers, athletes, and artists, Katie began to dream with her eyes wide. After nearly five years of filming original content across the country, in 2018 after nearly two years of construction she opened The Studio by Feast it Forward. This highly visible live marketing venue is a film studio and experiential showroom that converts video network viewers into consumers because everything you see the moment you walk in the door is an on-camera sponsor—essentially a sandbox for brands to engage visitors with a shop-the-look virtual hub and a multi-winery tasting collective offering glasses, bottle sales, and flights throughout the expansive property. Organizing various community events, when live stream sessions take place in the film studio, 100% of the audience ticket money goes to the visiting talent’s chosen charity.
Trying to Do New Things
Beating the boys on the field, becoming an artist, performing in front of crowds, and entertaining like Martha Stewart are all goals Katie had set for herself when she was growing up. Culinary school was out because they didn’t have a soccer team, so an art degree was followed by a brief spell in Nashville to pursue a singing career and then a year on the semi-pro soccer circuit. When it comes to following her passions and attempting new things, she is somewhat of a nomad. All of these encounters have led her on a quest to find what has captivated her the most. When she relocated to Napa Valley, her goal was to bring everything that had inspired her together rather than focus on a single career path. Over the years, she has been struck by how extraordinary things can be accomplished when amazing people gather together over fantastic food and wine. Feast it Forward is the culmination of her desire to live her best life while also making a difference.
While the current retail line of “products with purpose” is limited, she plans to work with a large retailer to establish a substantial lifestyle product line that gives back. She believes that Feast it Forward has the potential to become a household lifestyle brand with a genuine mission.
Katie states, “I can spin a lot of plates, but I also occasionally have to scrub the garbage can. Leading my team, seeking & closing sponsors, reaching out to new partners/collaborations, payroll, inventory, weeding, watering, cleaning you name it. It’s a lot, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything else. ”
Perhaps it is the competitive nature that comes from being an athlete and knowing that you won’t always win, but you’ll always give it your all. When you operate a business, Katie believes you must be like Gumby, always adaptable and willing to be pulled in a hundred different directions before returning complete. When the pandemic hit, Katie began construction on the empty parcel behind the existing showroom property (The Studio by Feast it Forward) to create The Yard by Feast it Forward. Despite struggles staying afloat and arduous construction demands, her vision came to life once again. The Yard features two multi-story IPME shipping containers for brand activations, eye catching moments, Control Entertainment sponsored LED screen, food trucks, pop-up shop merchants, art installations, and an entertainment stage for this outdoor event and concert venue. With the environment and climate in mind, thanks to Heavenly Greens, they provided artificial grass for this mindful and expansive space. The epidemic has had a significant impact on our lives. She considers herself fortunate to have been able to grow lemons and make lemonade from them.
Being a team player was critical, it’s instilled and directly ties to how Katie manages business today. Throughout her journey to where she is today, Katie has had numerous jobs where “leadership” was not welcomed by superiors, probably because the limelight was taken away from them. When she reflects on these problems, she still finds them strange, but they have helped to turn her into the leader.
“From this, I guess you could say I learned quite early on that coaching my own “team” was what I was truly meant to do – THIS IS SUCCESS.”-says Katie.
Believe in Yourself to Grow
Katie advises the new generation to dream big and let themselves fall down and get back up. Let the cheering outnumber the unpleasant remarks. Learn to appreciate dirt and wipe it away without hesitation, but never doubt your dreams. Be yourself. You are the one and only person who will ever exist.
“Creating a culture, a lifestyle, as they say, people may not remember what you said but how you made them feel — I want our company to be just that. A feel-good lifestyle. “-says Katie.