If you aren’t checking in with yourself and putting your wellbeing as a priority, it doesn’t matter how successful your business it because either you will be so burnt out that a big mistake is made or you won’t be present to enjoy your success. Value yourself first and thriving while growing a successful business will come.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Catalina Gaete, the founder and CEO of Catan Pisco, award-winning pisco handcrafted from organic grapes in Ovalle, Chile. Catan represents the traditional spirit of Chile while making the spirit modern and meaningful for generations to come in the United States.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, my family felt strongly that the only careers we should pursue were ones that were of service to others. I could be a doctor, I could be a teacher…but my dream to own a business was not an option. I got a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, worked in the field for two years and I knew this wasn’t “it.” I went back to school to complete my Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) which was the closest degree to an MBA I could think of without disappointing my family’s work philosophy. I knew this just had to get me closer to where I belonged and it did. I landed a job with a small business start-up and it gave me that feeling that none of my past jobs had. As the years passed while working in the business field, I worked to figure out my own business plan. I wanted to find the perfect product that sparked a passion inside of me so that I could then finally start my own business. I was actually on a road trip with my now-husband when it hit me: I would bring pisco to the United States and this beloved spirit of my native Chile would be on every bar in the country. Catan Pisco launched 2 years later.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
I came to the alcoholic beverage industry understanding it as a consumer but not as a maker. State-by-state licensing, legal red tape, importation, you name it and I’ve had to learn about it, usually while trying to get something done! I’ve learned the most by asking for advice, research to determine what would work for my business in particular, and making decisions that feel most authentic to making Catan Pisco a household name.
There’s also no right way to be a maker in this industry. Every business can look big on social media and this can cause people to come out of the woodwork with ways to “help you.” But we’ve run into a lot of people who want to treat us like a company that has been around for 20 years and is selling millions of cases despite my telling them where we are at in our journey. I’ve learned that my path to success is going to be working with people who listen to who I say I am so I can have partners that strengthen my efforts, not take advantage of them.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I am focused and determined to a fault. Even as a little girl, checklists were how I navigated the world and my goals. Challenges are simply road markers on my path to success and I never lose sight of my end goal. This tunnel vision could be seen as stubborn but I surround myself with people who truly believe in me so I see it as a positive. Chasing down a dream and becoming successful is no different than running a marathon- you’ve got to train and every single challenge represents a training day.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Learn the language of your industry. Every industry has a different language and culture. Being well versed in what that was for the spirits industry would have put me in a better position to have more advanced conversations with partners early on and sped things up and, quite frankly, made me look more sophisticated. Starting a business is like traveling to a foreign country. You might not be fluent the second you step inside the burner but you would certainly brush up on the culture and learn a few words.
- Do your own taxes! There is nothing more valuable than investing the time in learning every single inch of your business. This empowers you to fix anything that might go wrong. Even if it’s not “your thing” (like taxes for me!), learn how to do it because it’s your business and you are the one to reap the benefits or downfall from the details.
- Celebrate every little win…very very hard! Challenges will always seem so much bigger than anything positive that happened to you on any given day. It can seem like there are a lot less wins because it’s easier to see the endless to-do list, the roadblocks in your way, that person who if they just understood how great your product was would unlock a huge door. This is why when you DO have a win, you’ve got to celebrate it HARD! You’ve got to celebrate those wins and tuck the memory of them away on days that are tough because you ARE getting somewhere.
- Forgive yourself for doing something other than working. You must train yourself to have family time, personal time, spiritual time. The first year of Catan Pisco, I would feel so guilty if I wasn’t working- what opportunities was I missing, how would I ever be successful if I wasn’t grinding or hustling 24/7?!. But the reality is that the number of hours are not necessarily indicate success if doing the right things. Which is better- 6 hours of productive work or 20 hours where you might be in the office but spinning your wheels on the same things you could have done in 6 had you been in the right head and energy space? Be all in wherever you are.
- Learn from the mistakes of others. I’m all for failing forward but if I can learn from the mistakes of companies similar to mine, I will. For example, I have seen a lot of companies rebrand in the early days before they know who they are and they’ve run the risk of losing any brand awareness they have earned. This caused me to put a lot of time into learning who Catan was before we launched. We learned our brand, developed our voice, got clear on our values so we didn’t have to use time and resources to walk anything back post-launch. We couldn’t rush our product to market because developing our pisco recipe, finding a vineyard, and creating and shipping the pisco can’t happen overnight. I’m proud that we were intentional with that time and applied it toward creating a solid brand.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Have a lot of grace for yourself. My first year I was not focused on me and the cost was my health. Repeat after me: I am as important as my business, if not, more so. If you aren’t checking in with yourself and putting your wellbeing as a priority, it doesn’t matter how successful your business it because either you will be so burnt out that a big mistake is made or you won’t be present to enjoy your success. Value yourself first and thriving while growing a successful business will come.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I was an Executive Assistant for Steve Rizzone, the CEO, the first business startup I worked at. After looking at my resume, he asked why I wanted to work for him. I explained that the only way I was going to be a successful CEO in the future would be to learn from one. The day he offered me the job was my first day of CEO training. He believed in me which caused me to believe in myself and I know I wouldn’t be Catan Pisco’s CEO without the experience of working with Steve.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
I want to have children with my husband. I believe in balance, but I don’t believe in personal compromise. People have told me that “you can’t have it all,” or “once you start a family, you can kiss your business and goals goodbye.” And clearly, those people do not know me at all. I am all in with all my goals, both personally and professionally. I truly believe I can have it all, and I strive to achieve this daily by actively practicing some advice that my 5th-grade teacher, Ms. Davis gave me: “Be where your feet are.” When I am with my family, I am fully present with them and when I am working on making Catan Pisco the most popular spirit in the US, I am always all there and all in.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I am constantly having people tell me that they remember the first time they tried pisco and that it was Catan. They remember where they were, who they were with, what the experience felt like. These are such special conversations and I hope that Catan Pisco being an infinite memory in the lives of our consumers, is my legacy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
It’s already started, my friend- #ThePiscoMovement! Through the pisco in their glass, Catan introduces people to Chile and it’s our hope that by connecting these drinkers we will create more conscious consumerism and cultural awareness of this beautiful country. The more we know and understand about different countries, the more we can contribute causes and cultures we believe in through purchasing power. The vineyard and winery in Ovalle, Chile where Catan is produced employ over 100 people. The reality is that the more bottles we sell, the more cases we move, the more we can grow production with our Chilean team which not only impacts the financial well-being of the people we employ but has the potential to shift the economic landscape in that community. By using #ThePiscoMovement, our drinkers can see that their choice of Catan Pisco doesn’t just mean a delicious drink: It also means pisco with a purpose.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@CatanPisco on Instagram and Catan Pisco on Facebook!