In June of 2011, Korts & Knight, Kitchens by Alexandra Knight opened their showroom in the New York Design Center in midtown Manhattan. Head Designer, Alexi Knight, was literally born to work in the Kitchen & Bath Industry. Her parents, brother, cousin and uncle have all owned high-end, custom cabinet showrooms. Growing up in this professional environment equipped Alexi with the "tools-of-the-trade" necessary for entering the high-fashion world of Kitchens.
With over 15 years of Kitchen Industry experience, Alexi has worked in prestigious kitchen showrooms from California to London. She has worked with, and has intimate knowledge of, the nation's top cabinetry lines, including Arc Linea, Bulthaup, Val Cucine and Rutt Handcrafted Cabinetry.
Alexi's award winning kitchen designs have been featured in numerous Trade and fashion publications. Her most recent projects include a fabulous $20 million dollar penthouse for a Russian entrepreneur and a kitchen for a member of the Television show 'Law & Order: SVU.'
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in the high end kitchen business, and have spent my entire life being in kitchen showrooms and kitchen cabinetry factories all over the world. In fact, my mother started her design business in 1975. Watching her be a strong President of a major kitchen design business, with four Bay Area showrooms, allowed me to see what a strong female leader could be. At a young age, she told me that when she was a student at Berkeley, they burned their bra's to make a change so that their daughters could grow up to be leaders in whatever field they wanted. Being surrounded by so many talented people at the top level, allowed m e to learn so much, and begin my career with knowledge that surpassed anyone in my age group.
My mother and father showed that they believed in me 100% when they opened a showroom with me in New York City. With their love and support, I knew I could do anything, and that the Knight empire would continue to be strong in the United States.
I continue to rely on my family, as well as other industry designers to hel p me to ever expand my design skills; and the scope of my projects grows larger every day.
I live to be an expert in my field, and this is why I wake up excited to come to work every single day.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position as Vice President/Director of Design of Korts & Knight, Kitchens by Alexandra Knight?
Growing up part of a family business, it was very interesting to see how other companies do things, and how their procedures and policies might differ from ours. From working with the large kitchen factories in Germany, to luxe kitchen showrooms in England, I was able to see a different perspectives in regard to how a business could be run, and how clientele should be treated, both from a retail level and a corporate level. I combined those skills, along with experience I gained from both San Francisco and New York kitchen showrooms to build a business in the New York Design Center that reflected the best parts of each of my previous employers. I believe that I have built a business that allows us to design for our clients in a flawless way, and deliver a product that leaves our clients 100% happy, every single time.
The culture of my showroom is always happy and upbeat, and I strive to lead not just my professional life, but also my personal life that way. Life is too short not to smile your way through it!
What have the highlights and challenges been as Vice President of the New York Division of Korts & Knight, Kitchens by Alexandra Knight?
Creating a name not only for Alexandra Knight, but also for Korts & Knight, has been the highlight of my position. Seeing various projects in print, and being acknowledged for our talents and skills has been such a thrill. I continue to build strong relationships with new clients and old clients alike ; and I really enjoy the connections I have with them more than anything else.
It has certainly been a challenge to be self-employed. S o much pressure and responsibility comes with it , more than I ever imagined. There were so many new roles that I had to learn, from being a boss and having to train people, to dealing with the day to day business activities like insurance, taxes and paying the bills, to designing advertisements -- it was really over-whelming at first.
My first year in business was spent just trying to learn all of the new roles, all the while, designing and selling kitchens too. It was a switch to have to work that hard, and try to find time for all of your friends and family too, and not just work all the time. As I approach my 4th year in business, I feel confident in being a Vice President of the company, and I am able to make strong decisions every day. I am so proud of my business, and I don't mind the hard work that comes with it. But I make sure to take some time out to be in the sunshine too, otherwise, what am I working for, if I can't enjoy it?
What advice can you offer women who are looking to get into business?
Surround yourself with people that support your dream and want to see you succeed. I could not have grown this business the way I have, without the daily support of my fiance, my friends and my family. Every single person in my life is willing to pitch in with whatever is needed, and they want to see me be a success. Knowing that I have that support, makes me certain that I can achieve even bigger dreams. Oh, and be ready to work...a lot!
You might have to give up some of your personal time in those first few years, and do a lot of jobs you are not used to doing, but it's worth it. As a new business owner, I've learned that you do not have the luxury of unlimited time, so learn to value your worth, and be stingy with your time, so you can make it all happen!
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It is so important to maintain a work / life balance. Otherwise, you will definitely get burned out. You have to schedule a date with yourself for the gym, or to meet friends for dinner, otherwise you will feel like a slave to your business. It was key for me to update my electronics, such as my phone, notebook and laptop, so that I can work wherever I am. If I am on vacation, I bring a mini-laptop and some client files, and I squeeze in a little work at the beginning or end of the day, so I don't fall behind.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
For my company, being in the construction business, women are sometimes dismissed by men on jobsites as not knowing much technically. I am typically able to establish quite quickly that I am competent in this field and know what I am talking about. My advice is to stand up for what you know is right, be firm, and don't back down. Always trust your gut, and the right outcome will happen. But most of all, be friendly, and not bossy. I often see women in the workplace that are overly aggressive or bossy because they want to show they are in charge. You will get a lot further with everyone you work with if you are nice and respectful of everyone you encounter. In turn, people won't hesitate to do you a favor if you ever need one. It's always best to be professional in every situation, and not burn bridges. How you behave at the start of your career may catch up with you later - the world is very small, and your actions and behavior follow you. Be at the top of your game all the time, and you will be respected and have a very successful future.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentoring has allowed me to not only share my skills with people, but has opened my eyes to brainstorming for the best way to do things with those I am mentoring. A fresh set of eyes on something is always better than not. I am a natural caregiver, and always want to make sure everyone has everything they need to be happy. Being able to arm people with skills they need in order to grow in our field is a wonderful experience that I really enjoy.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are many woman that are the top in our field, that I aspire to be like. Kelly Wearstler is an interior designer who has expanded her business to now include a line of decorative home goods, a clothing line; she has published several books; she has been on several design TV shows; and she has also designed many collections for other companies. She is a wife and mother to boot, proving you can do it all. I admire that she is always expanding her business, and branching off to different sectors. It seems for her, design is everywhere. My future holds very similar plans, although I plan a slightly different direction than Kelly.
What do you want Korts & Knight, Kitchens by Alexandra Knight to achieve in the next year?
We have worked very hard as a company to develop a brand and a style for Korts & Knight. Likewise, as Alexandra Knight the Designer, I have been developing my own signature style. I want to be recognized not just for my name or my product, but I want people to seek me out for my design capabilities--because they must have an Alexandra Knight design!