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Katie Hamilton Shaffer, President and Founder, Feast it Forward & Feast Network

Katie Hamilton Shaffer: Enlightening People through a Unique Experience of Food, Wine, and Giving Back

When you tie your passion with a purpose, you can bring a significant difference to the world. Katie Shaffer’s journey is a striking instance of the above-mentioned statement.

Katie turned her passion for food, wine, music, and philanthropy into an online video-based media company named Feast it Forward. It connects fans to social and instructional content with a purposeful and simple motto: “Inspiring Living. Philanthropic Giving.”

FiF is a video content, merchandise, and electronic commerce business centered around three core content areas- food, wine, and cause-related content feeding all business segments of the company.

Inspired by her vision, we at Insights Success caught up with Katie to learn more about her journey and how she is changing the way people think about food and wine with a taste of music.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at the company. What challenges you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

From lemonade stands to garage sales, since a little girl, I have considered myself a passionate and relentless go-getter. I am very much the same person I am now as I was growing up – always excited to try new things and never afraid to take risks. While playing soccer through my childhood up until the semi-pro level, being a team player was of the utmost importance – it’s engrained in me and absolutely correlates to how I run my company today. However, what I also found from my experience over the years is when you are a “team captain”, sometimes your eagerness and natural strength to lead can be taken out of context. I had many jobs over the years throughout my journey of getting to where I am today when my “leading” was not appreciated by my authorities – possibly because the spotlight was taken away from them. I still find it odd when I look back on these experiences, but these challenges have helped shape me into the leader I am today. I will forever cheer on my employees from the sidelines and support their wins. 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.

Tell us something more about the company and its mission and vision.

I first launched Feast.Network, our digital platform seeking to entertain and inspire alongside master chefs, actors, tastemakers and musicians. Having filmed original content around the country for nearly five years, in 2018, after nearly two years of construction, I opened my flagship “click & mortar”, The Studio by Feast it Forward. This highly visible live marketing venue in downtown Napa is a film studio + experiential showroom shifting our visiting fans to consumers as everything experienced from the moment you walk in the door is an on-camera sponsor. I like to say it’s a Pinterest house of sorts as this living and breathing sandbox offers brands to engage visitors without market competition alongside a shop-the-look virtual hub and a multi-winery tasting collective. Vintners B. Wise Vineyards, Layne Family Wines, and Acre Wines are official sponsors who act as the “coke can in our movie” when filming. Alongside hosting many community events, when live stream sessions occur in our film studio, 100% of the audience ticket fee supports the charity of choice of the visiting talent. Along came the pandemic and I had the opportunity to take over a vacant property behind our existing location and open The Yard by Feast it Forward. This outdoor event and music venue offers two-story shipping containers for brand activations, instagrammable moments, food trucks, pop-up retail vendors, art installations and stage. Expanding upon our experiential sponsor opportunities, I like to refer to this as a year-round festival-like experience.

Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the industry through your expertise in the market.

I don’t consider myself having made an impact necessarily, but I do believe we are onto something very progressive that could quite possibly change the way businesses and brands interact with the consumer. We don’t fit in a box. I don’t fit in a box. When I think of “industry” or “market”, we check off so many. We’ve merged media, experiential marketing, food, libations, music and philanthropy into a feel-good lifestyle. Everything that inspires me is under one roof within my brand vs a singular career path I could have pursued. That is beyond meaningful. Feast it Forward is the culmination of my joy for living my best life and making a difference while doing so. That said, I think and hope my impact is just that.

If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in your respective industry?

As my company doesn’t really fit into a specific industry “box”, it’s hard to pin down a singular change. However, something I am very passionate about is authenticity and the ability to act on who you sincerely want to be without concern for judgment. Coming from someone that is overly positive, I also admit that we, unfortunately, live in finger-pointing and sometimes toxic society. As a mother of two young daughters, I continually try to instill in them that kindness and being your original YOU is so incredibly important. There a magic behind creating the “you” that YOU wish to be…how special is that? Can a third of the globe genuinely decide the path they wish to walk? Not everyone has that ability, right? While getting deep for the sake of conversation and checking an “industry box”, I would say that the change I wish to bring to all industries is radical candor and the ability to express YOU without judgment. The world would really be a much happier place.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for the company?

So many things come to mind. I do have intentions of opening more experiential Studio venues across the country. It will be a cool opportunity for our vintner partners and national sponsors to have visibility in other markets while the design vibe and interactive partners reflect that culture and location. While our current retail line of “products with purpose” is small, I would love to develop a robust lifestyle product line that gives back in partnership with a large retail store. I am not afraid to dream BIG so I can honestly say I do believe Feast it Forward has the ability to become a household lifestyle brand name with a sincere purpose.

What would be your advice to budding women entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the industry?

DREAM BIG and be fueled by falling down and getting back up. GET UP stronger. FALL AGAIN. WORK HARD. Let the cheering echo louder than the negative comments. Learn to love the dirt and wipe it off without question…but don’t ever question your DREAMS. Be authentic. YOU are the only YOU that will ever exist.