Kate Crowle is the developer, designer and owner of St. James 1868, an upscale wedding and events venue in downtown Milwaukee’s Westown neighborhood. The $8 million historic renovation of the former St. James Episcopal Church wrapped in spring 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The venue has been operational for more than a year now, but the public was invited to finally celebrate its grand opening at a Kentucky Derby-themed party earlier this month. Through all the ups and downs, Crowle says she found a way to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
“Business owners learned to deal with the newly unexpected during the pandemic. I created and own a special event venue that would have debuted in April of 2020 if it were not for the public health emergency. I learned to pivot to make the best of a situation and that I cannot plan for everything. Creativity, thick skin, some flexibility and a laser-like focus on goals also helped with some of the obstacles. But most importantly, I learned how to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
“I was not expected to succeed with the St. James as a first-time, female developer in a male-dominated industry. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I didn’t realize how lonely it would feel just because I didn’t fit the mold. I was told, that as a woman, I would never make the business succeed on my own. Even after opening, people asked who my male partners were. I learned years ago feeling uncomfortable in my situation is OK and may serve as a source of motivation, so I stuck with it.
“I planned to unveil the St. James 1868 as a place to bring families and friends together to celebrate life’s milestones. It didn’t happen on time, but it’s happening now, and the wait was worth it. I’m proud of the business I built and of the team that helps me deliver an exceptional experience for couples and their families. I celebrated the St. James 1868 grand opening a little late, and that’s OK. Being an entrepreneur is uncomfortable, but I think that means you are doing it right.”
St. James 1868