What inspired you to start your business?
In 2004, I had developed a large and diverse clientele. A major client, still to this day, ALDI was growing exponentially. I was designing and furnishing their distribution centers across the country and needed to build a team around me, in an effort to not miss a beat and respond to their steady growth. My employer at the time was not interested in investing further, so I did what any driven, woman entrepreneur would do….started my own business and get things done right!
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
Recently I read a recap of an interview with Sam Zell, the real-estate magnate. One of his quotes just grabbed me, and sums it all up, “If you don’t know that you can’t, then almost anything is doable”. There are no truer words for a driven entrepreneur. I didn’t ever think KDI could or would fail. I didn’t know that I couldn’t furnish spaces across the country. I didn’t know that I couldn’t create the most beautiful, welcoming environments. I didn’t know that my designs would be anything but awesome, and develop clients that become friends. I didn’t know that a team surrounding me couldn’t handle anything that came our way. I believed in the vision, because it was the right thing to do. Follow your heart, and plow through any challenges or doubts, keeping your vision square and on the target.
What three traits define you?
Pre-Covid: Honest, Focused, Caring. Now: All those things, but I believe a trait I have mastered based upon the challenges of our current situation is Flexibility.
What women inspire you?
Passionate professionals — those who have overcome adversity and, in the face of challenges, shined given their approach to business while never losing sight of the human element.
As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?
What’s in the pipeline? Without networking pre-covid style, how are we able to tell our story? How can we reach more people? Is everyone on the team happy? What more can I do during these trying times, to motivate and assure the team.
What are the biggest obstacles you see for young female entrepreneurs?
The tough climate out there right now. However, if you have a vision, a game plan as to how to promote that vision, solid support from family, and are able to put those blinders on, go for it and do not look back. Try to find the happy medium between growing your support staff and growing sales. If the scale tips too far in one direction and not the other, it can be challenging. The trick is to find that balance.
What do you love about being a business owner?
As the owner, I can steer the boat but need everyone to row with me. I love that I can create a culture of trust and support on the team, and the outcome is a great experience for clients, it’s such a win-win!
What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?
HR. I’ve never been one for conflict, and have always led with my heart. It has gotten me into trouble, and yet I don’t regret the fact that I can sleep at night knowing that I have given it my all, and I truly care about the team. Hard actions rip me apart, I can’t say I’m tough in that department, having to say good-bye to people that we have fostered a work family bond.
How do you define success?
Success, to me, is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say “You Did It!”. Whatever “it” may be. You have goals in life, and the experiences that you grab along the way have contributed to your success. The ability to support others in life, through employment and projects, and volunteering to help someone in need makes my heart swell and looks like success to me. The most important and grounding base of success though, is family.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
My parents were both very integral in my entrepreneur spirit. Not sure that they officially ever sat me down to profess advice, but by following their footsteps, I realize that grit, determination, heart & patience all play a great part. Also, always do what you say you’re going to do!
What are you reading or listening to now?
I tend to fluctuate between genres of novels. I just finished “The Secrets She Carried” by Barbara Davis which was fantastic. Great storyline about a heartache, reconciliation, and love. Before that I had read Final Option by Clive Cussler, which was an awesome nonstop action thriller. Next, I think I’m going to now switch it up and start “The Ride of a Lifetime” by Robert Iger, lessons learned from 15 years as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. I hope this will fuel my fire to write a new page in the playbook for handling the challenges we all are facing these days.
What’s the best way to start your day?
I absolutely love getting up to a snow-covered backyard, the forest glistening with frosty white coating, deer roaming, my English Setter, Blue, unaware of the wildlife around him, all while sitting in my favorite chair drinking my cup of coffee and chatting with my husband.
What do you like about your workspace?
Since our studio is a reflection of what we do, our recently remodeled (4 months prior to Covid, good timing) space offers lots of heads down private space for teammates needing focus time, along with café for bonding (safely 6 feet apart), library with oodles of samples and collaborative/huddle spaces. What I like most though, are the people, and their strong bond.
Fill in the blank:
When I face a challenge, I… take it straight on!
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… relax, be patient, but not too patient.
The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my family.
The best thing that happened to me last week was… I got to spend 48 hours with my grandkids.
To get my creative juices flowing, I… simply close my eyes and dream up the next vision.
KDI Design, Inc.
KDI is a woman-owned and led furniture dealership providing office furniture including seating, desks and other office accessories.