Kate Latts is in the family business. The bourbon business, that is. Heaven Hill Distilleries, to be exact, which is the company that her grandfather and his four brothers started after Prohibition ended. Her family is immersed in the business and, as she says, so aptly, “a family business it is not just a job, it really is a living.” Kate is the Director of Marketing for Heaven Hill for her job, but her living is with her husband and two children here in Louisville.
What is your proudest accomplishment at work?
Developing and launching Pama Liqueur in 1995 as the world’s first pomegranate liqueur. We like to say the time was “ripe” to launch a pomegranate liqueur and, indeed, we were in the right place at the right time when all things pomegranate were first becoming popular. What was so meaningful about the experience is that it was one of the first times Heaven Hill concepted and developed a super premium new brand from scratch. Gaining internal alignment was the first challenge. Then developing the product taste profile, name and package came next. Being able to travel around the country to launch and see the brand come to life really was amazing. Today the brand is one of Heaven Hill’s most important brands and has transcended the pomegranate category as a mainstay on every sophisticated bar.
What is your proudest accomplishment at home?
My kids no doubt! Definitely balancing work and being a mom is always super hard, and sometimes I worry will my kids suffer. I am proud, however, that they are amazing young people, and they make me more and more proud each day. Jake, my twelve year old, is serious and playful at the same and is an aspiring piano player, singer, and actor. Pretty cool. My daughter Lindsey, who is nine, is game for just about anything and lights up every room she enters with her bubbly smile and personality.
You work for the family business. Is it hard to not “talk shop” around your family?
Not hard, an impossibility! I grew up in a family business so hearing ”shop talk” at home is all I have ever known. It is what makes being involved in a family business so special and unique. It is what creates the passion.
Balancing work and motherhood is tricky. What have you found works for your family?
Definitely balance can be tricky. For me, I have some great flexibility with my time in the office but, it also means I also am often emailing most of Friday night, hushing the kids in the car when I am on a conference call, or baking cookies at 10 pm for the class party the next day. I wouldn’t say that we eat very gourmet dinners at the Latts household either. I have had great live-in childcare, too, who help with some of the errands and household tasks, freeing my time up to really interact and be there for the kids when I am there.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
That no matter how much you analyze a problem or an opportunity, sometimes you have to let your gut and emotions weigh into the decision making too.
Who is your mentor?
When I worked as a Brand Manager at Procter and Gamble, I had the most amazing and inspiring boss, Kirk Perry. At the time, he was the Brand Manager of NyQuil. Today he is the President of P&G’s Global Family Care Business Unit. He has been at P&G for 22 years now. He truly embodies leadership – he’s smart, strategic, inspiring, encouraging and fair. To this day, I still keep the KLP Operating Principles in my desk as guideposts for my own leadership.
What is best advice you have received in business?
To remember how important it is to understand the impact of the things you do and say when you are in a leadership role. People really look up to you, and you have to be very cognizant of the things you say and how you say them, so as to be constructive and motivating to your team and organization.
If you weren’t in the bourbon business, what would you secretly love to do?
My mom always says that when I was a kid I wanted to be president of Estee Lauder. That definitely sounds crazy, given that I don’t even wear that much makeup. It does sound fun, though. In all seriousness, I love to travel and my husband says in another life I will be a travel agent. I would definitely enjoy the site inspections to all the new hotels and resorts, but I am not so sure I would be patient enough with indecisive travelers.
What is your drink of choice?
Pama and Champagne, definitely.
If you are not drinking your own product, what do you drink?
St. Germaine and Champagne. Delish.
What are your favorite places to go eat?
Seviche and Corbett’s.
What treats or a luxuries do you enjoy?
On a weekly basis, working out with my trainer, Jill Wood, and going to Pure Barre.
Of course I love getting mani/pedis, too.
When out of town, I love to spend an afternoon at the resort spa indulging in a hot stone massage.
What is your weakness?
Really, a serious weakness is my impatience. I can sometimes lose it if things are not going according to plan. This is something I have actually been working very hard on in the past year. Interestingly, I seem to be getting better about controlling my impatience at work than at home. I guess my co-workers act a bit more rationally than my kids.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I love Derby. It is such a fun time of year when the whole city comes together and celebrates in so many different ways. Few cities have festivals like our Derby that come anywhere close in comparison.
Three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends):
- My smart phone and iPad. I just switched this year from a Blackberry to an iPhone and am still having adjustment issues.
What are you reading right now?
I have been in the same book club for almost 11 years and we read about one novel per month. I just finished The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and loved it. Now I am reading Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. It is really good, too, but over 700 pages. Hope I finish in time for the discussion.
A big thank you to Kate Latts, who took time out of her busy schedule for our photo shoot. To link to Heaven Hill Distilleries, click here.
A big thank you to Adele Reding Studio and their wonderful work. Their photographs are truly “the best of the best.” To link to their website, click here.