Mike Holmes never set out to be a TV star and media mogul… it just turned out that way. As a profile in Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail recalled, Holmes started off as a contractor in his hometown of Toronto, leading construction crews since he was 19. A twist of fate put him in front of the camera and his world changed, transforming a blunt, opinionated homebuilder into a television phenomenon whose fame extends far beyond his native Canada.

In his first (and most iconic) HGTV series, Holmes on Homes, he rescued harried homeowners by repairing the shoddy work of crappy contractors and amateurish DIY jobs, exuding so much personality it could be barely be contained within a TV screen. More shows followed, making Holmes a constant presence on television and, in the process, a bona fide celebrity; among his many accolades, Holmes is a 2012 recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and in 2015 was named Patron of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Yet that success has not come without some bumps along the way; to find out more about his journey from Canadian contractor to hammer-wielding hero of home repair, here’s what really happened to Mike Holmes.

Here’s how Mike Holmes came to be on HGTV

Mike Holmes’ foray into television was not by design. Holmes was a full-time contractor when he was hired to do some building work on the set of a Canadian TV show that shared tips on DIY home repair. While working, noted The Globe and Mail, the ever-opinionated Holmes began telling the people who hired him that they had it all wrong. Holmes went into one of his trademark rants, explaining that encouraging homeowners to do their own DIY renos was a bad idea, since they usually did a lousy job. In fact, he pointed out, a huge portion of his business came from repairing the botched home-reno experiments done by people who had no idea what they were doing.

After Holmes apologized for his "diarrhea of the mouth," his screed gave the producer an idea: Holmes should star in his own TV show, repairing homeowners’ DIY disasters and the shoddy work of shady contractors. Holmes on Holmes debuted on HGTV Canada in 2001; by 2004, the show was averaging 250,000 viewers an episode, a considerable number for a Canadian specialty channel. The beefy, tough-taking contractor had accidentally become a TV star.

Mike Holmes ditched his original producer for not thinking big enough

The success of Holmes on Homes kept growing, as did the popularity of its star. Already a hit on HGTV Canada, the show was eventually picked up by HGTV in the U.S., expanding his reach considerably. By 2005, Mike Holmes should have felt like he was on top of top of the world — yet he was dissatisfied. As Mike Quast, the TV exec who’d first discovered Holmes told The Globe and Mail, Holmes had become disenchanted with his producer.

According to Quast, Holmes invited him and crew member Pete Kettlewell to his home for a meeting. Holmes laid out his vision to expand his brand; the TV show, he explained, isn’t the be-all and end-all, but one prong of a larger enterprise, all with a goal of educating homeowners about the importance of hiring skilled tradespeople to ensure they wouldn’t be begging Holmes to fix lousy work down the road.

During that meeting in Holmes’ garage, the idea formed for the Holmes Group. Quast designated himself vice-president of business development, with a goal of building Holmes’ brand, while Kettlewell became vice-president of production, responsible for managing the TV show.