How Oprah Winfrey helped me become an entrepreneur, long before we met.

For the average female entrepreneur with an idea and a dream, often sitting in an isolated environment trying to work out how to make it happen, someone like Oprah Winfrey can be inspiring, but can feel a world away from our reality.

Starting out as a talk show host in Baltimore on People are Talking, then moving to 25 seasons of The Oprah Winfrey Show and now owning her TV Network OWN, Oprah has touched billions of lives and inspired women all over the world to try something and achieve more. Including me.

I remember watching The Oprah Winfrey Show in high school whenever I was home sick or on holidays. I so looked forward to it. I loved the way she could relate to anyone and validate them as important human beings, and how she brought issues into our lounge rooms and dinner table conversations, that were often otherwise too taboo to mention.

I learnt that anyone could achieve anything they worked hard at despite their economic status, especially with education, and that people could recover from great tragedy and setbacks to continue to live fulfilled and joyful lives.

But Oprah was MILES away from our little suburb in the south of Australia’s capital city, Canberra. To me, she may as well have been on Mars, only ever to be seen and heard through our TV set.

So when I gathered a group of amazing women together for a night out one beautiful weekend in Wanaka, New Zealand where I was living at the time, I was completely dumbfounded that our universes collided some 25 years later. There in front of me in the little cocktail bar of a small town was this woman I’d been so inspired by, but for some reason hadn’t fathomed was actually real.

Yet there she was, sitting quietly and alone on a long couch, while the group she had arrived with visited the bar and sat nearby.

There was only one thing to do. Take a big deep breath, and the hand of my friend Deva, and walk across that bar to meet her (despite being dressed in ‘rockstar wannabe’ theme!).

What happened next felt like a dream. Time slowed right down, the rest of the room disappeared, and for a brief time it was just Oprah, Kim and Deva sitting on a couch exchanging pleasantries and connecting, women to women. She reached out and held our hands, speaking softly and offering her gratitude for welcoming her to our town.

She was so normal, so equal, and so unlike how I had imagined her to be, given how much she has achieved and who she is. Oprah Winfrey, achiever of great things, known by so many the world over, was just another human.

Boom! My brain exploded with the realization that without any of the layers of celebrity, achievements, and labeling we are all just people, and we can all achieve great things.

Oprah the human, enjoying New Zealand during the filming of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Oprah the human, enjoying New Zealand during the filming of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

My time chatting with Oprah was limited (enter security guy who asks us politely to move on), and I had wanted to tell her what sort of an impact she had on my personal growth and path in life. I felt like giving her a big high five, and reassuring her that her efforts have not been wasted; that we women have been watching and listening and are being brave, even in the face of great difficulties from external forces, our own inner fears, and the challenges of balancing family and career. I wanted to let her know we started to believe in ourselves at a young age when we’d see her on the television, and that the seed was planted long ago for us to achieve great things now in our adult lives. We will then pass this to our children, and the cycle will perpetuate eternally.

I’m encouraged to see the world is becoming more and more supportive of women creating their own businesses, being innovative and solving problems to improve our way of life and reduce human suffering.

The passion behind my company Marketing Mate is to help others to plan better marketing for their business or philanthropic pursuit, because better marketing means greater success in what you’re doing, and less wasted time and money. This can only have positive flow-on effects to many more people through the work being done.

Those days at home watching The Oprah Winfrey Show when I was just a bright-eyed teenager have so much to do with what I've now created, the fears I have overcome, and my ongoing pipeline of creativity. Meeting Oprah personally and recognizing her humanness has opened my mind even further to the possibilities available to all of us.

So Oprah, I do hope you get to read this blog one day and know just how important you are to me and so many women entrepreneurs around the world. I hope you remember meeting me and my friends that incredible Friday night in little ol’ Wanaka, hilariously dressed in our rockstar outfits after having enjoyed a fun karaoke session, at the cocktail bar Gin and Raspberry.

Fellow women entrepreneurs or those wanting to take the leap, I highly recommend going for it. There is a plethora of groups, accelerators and incubators with a focus on supporting female entrepreneurs. You won’t have to look far to find one that suits you for some serious support, motivation and inspiration.

Kim Knight
Proud founder of Marketing Mate