Athena Dean Holtz- Featured Woman
A cult survivor, her business sabotaged, this month’s Featured Woman has the heart and spirit of a true stand-her-ground, trust-in-Christ warrior! I love an underdog story and someone who we can all emulate when life nails us between the eyes! Her courage and true faith is a winner in any story but especially to those she serves!
She has spent the past 25 years in the book publishing industry, as co-founder and former owner of the pioneering custom publishing company in the Christian book industry, and one-on-one as a freelance publishing coach.
She was blessed to spend a year as a radio personality on “Always Faithful Radio” a live radio program for women on AM 630 KSLR in San Antonio, TX where she served as broadcast missionary under Commission to Every Nation; having moved to the Pacific Northwest, she can now be heard weekly on AM 630 KCIS.
She is also a cult survivor, twice over. Once before she became a Christian she got sucked into and escaped from the Church of Scientology. After her salvation experience in 1986, she was lured into a legalistic, toxic, abusive Christian cult called Sound Doctrine. Ever since she walked away from this traumatic experience she has not been afraid to stand up and tell her story. It’s created an immense backlash online by her abusers, but she has nothing to hide. She’s learned a lot from that experience and God has taught her a great deal about why she was vulnerable in the first place. He has also given her great insights into deceivers and those who have been deceived as a result. I strongly encourage you to read her books on Amazon. (you can find them at the bottom of this page.)
Athena is a speaker, author, blogger, radio host, publisher and pastor’s wife. She loves coaching new authors through the publishing process and seeing them shine.
1) What exactly is your business and what made you get started?
I own and operate Redemption Press, a custom book publishing company located in the Seattle area. I got my start in the publishing business 30 years ago while I was involved in a ministry for Vietnam veterans and their wives. We had a book we’d developed as a resource for our national organization, but had a hard time finding a traditional publisher for the project. We weren’t famous enough to justify a royalty house taking a risk on us to publish an “unknown entity.” So, we ended up working with an editor who helped us rewrite the manuscript, design the cover, layout the text, retain the ISBN number and get the work copyrighted, and then printed 10,000 copies for $1 apiece. We sold all of those copies in less than two years when we were approached by an agent to take it to the next level by pitching it to a traditional publisher. Multnomah Publishers bought the rights in 1986 and sold 40,000 copies before allowing us to buy the rights back. To date, the book has sold over 150,000 copies and helped untold thousands of Vietnam veterans and their families.
That successful self-publishing experience launched me into a business I had no idea would be cutting edge. As people started asking if I could help them do what we had done with the Nam Vet: Making Peace with Your Past book, a publishing house was birthed aimed to help authors publish, affordably and professionally. I became the pioneer of the independent publishing movement in the Christian market and was the first publisher offering these kinds of services invited as faculty to Christian writer’s conferences across the country. The company was a phenomenon that took off, only to land in the hands of some very dishonest people eight years later. By the time the company’s 20-year anniversary rolled around, I had walked away from a hostile takeover. Just 2 years later they closed their doors and I was asked to start a new company to help hundreds of abandoned authors. In January of 2014, I founded Redemption Press with an entirely new business model that honors the author above the publisher. It’s been an amazing opportunity to have a second chance to develop an effective way of equipping authors to find their voice and reach their audience.
2) What one thing do you do every day to move yourself forward and stay focused? Where do you find your inspiration?
Being a Jesus follower, I start every day with some quiet time with Him where I seek His wisdom and His guidance in all I face for the day. Making sure I am staying in step with the Spirit of God helps me move forward with courage and strength.
3) What do you do regularly to take care of yourself?
I generally take Mondays off with my pastor husband. After he preaches on Sunday morning we either head for the sailboat and get away for 36 hours before I return to the office, or take the motor home out for a night or two. This is like a mini vacation each week and is refreshing and restful.
4) How do you keep yourself emotionally balanced while you are pushing forward?
I try to find a bench, sit a while and ponder His goodness. I unwind and refocus so I don’t kick my Type A tendencies into overdrive. I’ve found that when I let that take over, I usually fall out of step with the Spirit. Intentionally focusing on Him helps me stay balanced emotionally when I can tend to push too hard in an attempt to get things accomplished.
5) What’s the best part and the worst part of your job?
The best part is empowering others with a message to share and seeing them step into their destiny with their book in print and their platform developed or expanded.
The worst part is facing times that are slow seasonally when I’m not prepared in advance to ride it out. I tend to get stressed out and start to resent giving up my paycheck to make sure everyone who depends on me gets paid. It usually doesn’t take long for me to readjust my attitude to one of gratitude for the opportunity I have to own my own business and make such a huge difference in people’s lives … but those moments when I have a difficult time seeing the forest for the trees because of cash flow challenges are definitely the most wearing on me. That being said, it is the difficulties and challenges in business that I find the most refining and growth producing – if I allow them to be!
6) What failure taught you the most and what was it?
Allowing the wrong people into management and ending up 12 years later having lost my company to a deceptive and manipulative toxic leader (and woman-hater) taught me how important it is to have a council of wise (and safe) peers who are part of the company’s major decision-making process. Because of my own vulnerabilities, I believed the words of a con-man and lost everything. I now test everything and make a point to check up on myself regularly to make sure I’m not opening the door to deception in little ways that could end up in big losses.
7) If you had to do something different, what would that be?
To be more thoughtful, not so easily sold, more prayerful. I am easily excitable and can jump too quickly without doing my due diligence. This has cost me dearly on more than one occasion.
8) If you had advice to give to someone else who was thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, what would that be?
Make sure you are willing to let the idea go, be open to surrendering it completely, to make sure it’s really His will for you. Ask God to show you if you have some wounds or issues to deal with that the opportunity could divert you from and end up being a distraction sent your way by the enemy. I know I have many times used my zeal for success and workaholicism as a drug of choice to numb the pain I wasn’t allowing God to deal with. Don’t do that. It will only lead to heartache.
9) What did you have to overcome personally to be able to do what you do?
When I lost my original publishing company and started blogging about my experience, there was an entire website formed to smear my reputation and sully my character. Five years later, they continue to try to discredit me online. I had to overcome that stigma and have the courage to start again in the same industry. I have been privileged to watch God provide for the new company without angel investors, lines of credit, or any other financial backing. So far, each year we have ended in the black which is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. All that the enemy stole from me has been restored over and above anything I could have asked or imagined!
10) Any last parting words?
Ask God to help you honor Him and trust Him with the work of your hands. Ask Him to open the doors He wants opened for you and shut every door that is not from Him. Most of you reading this publication are likely high-powered “get it done” kind of a women, so ask Him for extra grace to be willing to leave those doors shut instead of trying to kick them in! Remember, a God idea is always better than a good idea. I pray His perfect will for you and your business, and may He accomplish all He desires through you, in Jesus’ Name!
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