With a daughter about to turn 16 and eager to start driving, it was serendipitous that I was about to interview Kate Wells whose life has revolved around driving education. Kate’s parents owned Young Drivers of Canada for over 35 years, switching over to the DriveWise brand eight years ago. Kate started working part time for the company at age 16 and full time as soon as she graduated.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” Kate says as we settle in to chat. “I grew up with this industry in my blood.”
As our conversation meanders, I find that the passion is rooted in running a business.
“It’s exciting when you can actually steer your company in the direction you want to go. My dad is a huge role model for me. I’ve learned everything about the business from him. My parents are still involved; my dad jokes that he might retire at 80. He just loves it and remains one of our best instructors. Being hands-on as owners is huge for us. Our company is very personable, I know the people who teach our courses, which goes along with our dedication to customer service.”
Asked what part of running the business gets her fired up, Kate says, “I think it’s the controversial part of my job — I like to live in that danger zone. I never step over the line but I push it. Like taking on the government for a bad move. My dad taught me that in this industry you have to pick your battles but never burn bridges.”
Beyond her business persona, Kate is also a mother of three boys — “And that’s why I own a horse,” she laughs. “I grew up riding but when I got married and had kids I stopped and didn’t ride for 20 years. Two years ago I got back into it when I bought my horse, Ernie. The best lesson I’ve learned since the age of 40 is to not feel guilty about spending time on yourself. It’s been a struggle, but I think we have to honour that for our own needs too.”
She adds, “When I ride it takes 100 per cent of my focus. My mind does not shut off ever. At night I’m constantly thinking about what needs to be done, but when I’m riding my mind can only be focussed on that. When I’m cantering up to a jump, I can’t be thinking about work, I have to be focussed on that jump.”
When it comes to fashion, Kate explains that her day-to-day fashion is really secondary to her riding gear. “I always want the top boots and breeches.”
To her, good style is about fun: “I may not be the most stylish person in the world, but I’m always having fun. If I could pass one thing on to my boys it would be that. To be free spirited and enjoy what you’re doing in life. It’s not all about money; you have to go to that job every day. You also have to be able to live with yourself and be happy with who you are and the choices you’ve made.”
Uniform: “I really have two ‘uniforms.’ First, is my everyday, business casual work wear which consists of summer dresses, jeans and T-shirts, sandals or flip flops. Second is my equestrian wardrobe which I absolutely LOVE! Italian riding boots, beautiful breeches and shirts and sweaters to match. Victoria Saddlery is my absolute favourite place to shop. They keep me looking up-to-date in the equestrian world!” Favourite pair of shoes: “My Sanuk flip flops!” Favourite Daybag: “One that can carry all my riding things…yes…spurs, boots, crop, breeches, belts and the list goes on. Oh! And a bottle of wine might be found in there too!” Favourite jewellery piece or designer: “I love my pearl earrings. They are simple and classy and my sister gave them to me. Fashion Obsession: “I love clothes, both day-to-day clothes and riding clothes. I am obsessed with breeches (riding pants) and belts.” Accessory you spend the most money on: “Any horse accessories, and nothing is ever cheap in this category. Just purchased my brand new saddle from Italy … it’s an Equipe and I am totally in love with it!”
Necessary indulgence: Nails and eyelashes. Scent: Flowerbomb by Victor and Rolf. Beauty secret: “Now here’s a good question, Kate’s beauty secret? Well it involves having fun, showing my true self and being natural. I am just who I am, nothing fancy, just me! I feel beauty is best seen near the ocean and at the barn!” Must-have hair product: “I have been known to have the odd Brazilian blowout done to my hair and maybe some balayage. I love my hair stylist, Colin Scagliati, at Vibe Hair Salon!”
Life & Style Inspirations:
Favourite Artist: “I grew up with my Dad bringing home Bev Doolittle paintings. I loved them because there was always something hiding in the picture that you’d have to find, and she used horses in her pictures as well.” Film or Movie: “Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a die-hard The Sound of Music fan. I love musicals like Grease, Annie and, of course, Mamma Mia — I know every word to every song! My friends can attest to this and sometimes cringe when I have a mic in my hand!” Favourite local restaurant: “I am a My Chosen Café girl. I have lived in Metchosin most of my life and am there most days that I have to cook. When I’m classy Kate, I’ll go to Il Terrazzo.” Favourite Cocktail/Wine: “After my recent trip to Mexico, I am a fan of lime margaritas. My favourite wine is Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.” Album on current rotation: “Anything I can sing to! And believe me when I’m with my friends, we are singing! Grease, Abba, Pink — I love it all!” Last great read: “I found local author Chevy Stevens and I have read most of her books.” Favourite Flower: Plumeria flower from Hawaii. Favourite city to visit: Maui (Kaanapali), Hawaii. Favourite Hotel: Sheraton Black Rock in Maui. Favourite place in the whole world: “This is easy! It’s my family cabin at Gordon’s Beach in Sooke. It’s a long row of funky cabins on the ocean and one of the only places I can actually relax. Beach fire, cheese, hot dogs and wine; that’s the best evening for me!”
- Story and Photography by Lia Crowe