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DriveWise BC’s Kate Harris

From ski instructor to family business CEO

- Words by Angela Cowan Photographs by Lia Crowe

Now an owner and CEO, Kate Harris has certainly worked her way to the top of DriveWise BC the old-fashioned way.

“I started when I was about six or seven cleaning the offices,” she says with a laugh. “I grew up with it.”

Kate’s parents, Arthur and Pat Harris, began the driver’s education school nearly 50 years ago, and it’s grown with the family ever since. Now with offices in Kelowna, Kamloops, Nanaimo, Victoria and recently in Vancouver, the company offers progressive and interactive programs to beginning drivers all through the province.

“Our driving world changes every day, and it’s our job as driving educators to change along with it,” Kate says.

While she’s had a long history with the company, Kate stepped away for a short time, moving to Whistler just after graduating high school to become a ski instructor.

“I wanted to try something completely new, and I worked my way up into the adult program and was getting private requests,” she says. “And I had my kids in Whistler, but then we decided we wanted to be closer to our families.”

Kate eventually rejoined the DriveWise BC family full time, and it was about a year ago she made the decision to buy out her parents and take on the top role, a move somewhat prompted by the COVID-19 situation.

“I was a part owner 10 years ago,” she explains, “and the push [to take over] was to say, ‘Okay Mom and Dad, it’s okay for you to retire.’ They deserve it. We were spending so much time as a family at our cabin, and it made them realize there’s life after work.”

Kate was also able to steer the company in a new direction to respond to the limitations put in place by the pandemic, and helped create and evolve an entirely remote Zoom-based driving education program.

“We took the most difficult situation we could have been faced with—which was the COVID-19 pandemic—and turned it around to create an entirely new business model,” says Kate. “We were the first program in BC to be licensed to do the complete e-program, and now we have people from all over the province taking our program.”

The 7 sins


Whose shoes would you like to walk in?

For those who know me well, this is easy: Julie Andrews! I have loved her and loved her movies since the very first day I saw The Sound of Music. When I was little, I wanted to be her one day, and would line up all the kids on the street as the Von Trapp family and sing songs! I’m sure all those kids still remember, and I know my friends still know most of the songs as well.


What is the food you could eat over and over again?

Pickles, chocolate and peanut butter, ice cream, steak and watermelon! Love them all, and in no particular order. They can all be a favourite “meal” of mine.


You’re given $1 million that you have to spend

selfishly. What would you spend it on?

I love shoes, so shoes for sure. And I love to travel. I think I’d buy a bunch of shoes, and then take my family on many vacations. Maybe even buy a thatched roof house in Bora Bora. Okay, now that sounds amazing!


Pet peeves?

Poor drivers. I guess I’m supposed to say that, but it’s true. We live in a country where our driving skills are tested at 17 years of age and then not again—in most cases—until 80 years old. This system contradicts our rapidly changing roadways, laws and environment. I’d like to change it.


Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?

Easy. Maui. I’ve been travelling there for years and love it so much. Going back very soon! Second would be our cabin on the ocean in Sooke (on Vancouver Island). It’s rustic and simple, and some of my best memories have been from this little spot of ours. Relaxation at its best!


What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?

Not much of a secret, but definitely my three boys. They are now 25, 23 and 17 years old. Wow! Time goes very fast. They’re hard workers, extremely community oriented and have volunteered since they were 16. But most of all, they’re happy. The happy part is what makes me most proud!


What makes your heart beat faster?

Love and finding the one to share that deepest and most intimate connection with. To be best friends and in love at the same time is a feeling I get to experience every day. I feel so incredibly grateful and blessed. When you still get the butterflies, you know it’s meant to be! Thanks J!

Check out Kate’s company DriveWise BC online here.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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