Women in Business: Krissy Lefebvre, Co-Founder, All-Star Chef Classic

Before heading up Ludo Management, Inc. and co-founding the All-Star Chef Classic, Krissy practiced law for 10 years, focusing in the areas of intellectual property, mergers & acquisitions, and entertainment transactions. Krissy held positions from in-house counsel at STAPLES Center Ownership Group to VP of Business & Legal Affairs at Management Plus Enterprises-a boutique sports and entertainment management firm representing clients, such as Shaq, Oscar de la Hoya, and Pamela Anderson-among others. Since 2009, Krissy has served as VP of Ludo Management, Inc., the sole management company representing chef Ludo Lefebvre. In her role, Krissy developed and executed the concept for the pop-up restaurant tour known as LudoBites, was responsible for developing and co-producing the Sundance Channel series "Ludo Bites America," and secured a publishing agreement for a cookbook based on the LudoBites concept. Currently, she oversees all aspects of the marketing and PR for Chef Ludo's brick and mortar restaurants in Los Angeles-Trois Mec and Petit Trois. Both have received numerous awards, including Esquire Magazine's Best New Restaurant, Food & Wine Magazine's #1 Dish of the Year, LA Weekly's Best New Restaurant, and many more.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in a military family and we moved around a lot in the first 10 years of my life, before my parents got divorced. I think military life for a kid forces you to find a role for yourself. You change schools, friends, and homes very often. I think you either sink or swim.

In retrospect, I realize I had the gift of being exposed to many different cultures and people - I learned to make each situation work. Also, I was an athlete as a kid and started competitively swimming at age 6. Sports instilled dedication in me from a young age, which is so important for any leader. If you are not dedicated, how can you expect those who work for/with you to be dedicated?

My mom also told me very young that I could do anything I wanted in life, as long as I do it gracefully. The message stuck with me, though the gracefulness is questionable. Good thing I didn't want to be a ballerina! I always remember to never set limits for myself or let others set limits for me.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at All Star Chef Classic?
I have had a few careers. In the time between college and law school - and into the first year of law school- I was the Director of Marketing for the arena football team in Miami. I learned about sponsorships, promotions, audience engagement, and filling seats. After law school I became in-counsel at Staples Center, where I had the opportunity to learn about events from the legal perspective. The job that taught me the most was working as in-house counsel at a boutique sports management company - Management Plus Enterprises - where I was given the opportunity to be hands-on in every aspect of Shaquille O'Neal's career, both on and off court. I learned how to build, market, and legally protect a brand. The combination of both legal and marketing experience was the perfect precursor to conceptualize All-Star Chef Classic. Of course, joining my husband chef Ludo Lefebvre in the creation and operation of LudoBites for three years gave me the hands-on food industry experience to complete the necessary skill set to create and produce a major food event.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at All Star Chef Classic?
Fortunately, we are going into our second year - which means we survived the first! The first year of any event always includes a significant learning curve. Additionally, we created a completely new format for a food event and built a massive amphitheater-like restaurant on top of a parking garage called Restaurant Stadium. It was so amazing to watch my vision come to life. It was such an emotional moment to stand inside Restaurant Stadium for the first time after it was built and oddly just as emotional when they took it down at the end of the weekend. We experienced many first-year hurdles, but my team, the entire team at AEG, and 1540 Productions really just put their heads together and committed every ounce of their souls to the event. I am grateful and fortunate to have such amazing partners and team members. Sometimes you encounter unexpected hurdles like when a vice-presidential motorcade comes through town creating a major parking backlog and there is just nothing you can do. Know what battles to fight.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Don't be afraid. I think it is most important to find people you like to work with because you will be spending a lot of time with these people in your formative years. Starting a business is never easy, so make sure you really want to do it. Have goals and then create a clear path for reaching them. And, again, make sure you work with people you like - no one is successful alone.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Honestly this is really difficult, especially now that we have children. You have to make tough choices and prioritize. My family is the most important thing in my life, but beyond All-Star Chef Classic, I also run my husband's business, which sometimes makes me feel responsible for our successes or failures. I want our business to be filled with successes so that we can provide the best life possible to our children. First and foremost, I make sure my children are happy and healthy. Making time for my marriage is incredibly important and is not to be neglected. It is no different than a career - you must be dedicated. Since Ludo and I work together, we set "couple" time once a week where we just go out spend time together as a couple. It might be a yoga class, a bike ride, trip to the beach, but it can't be about work. Every other breathing moment is dedicated to working. My roots get longer and darker than they did before I had children, my time at the gym is definitely less than I would prefer, but family comes first...then business, and then me. I love having a home office because most times I can just work in my sweats all day, which saves the time and hassles of getting dressed up, putting on make-up, and going to the office. But shhhh, don't tell that big executive on the other end of the phone that I'm still in my pajamas!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The work/life balance, plain and simple.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been extremely fortunate to work with mentors who really took me under their wings and gave me opportunities (well beyond me at that time, I imagine). In turn, I am trying to do the same. I want to provide my employees the same kind of opportunities. This means trusting, sharing everything, and providing guidance without being over-bearing. You can only learn so much in school. Real-life and hands-on experience is how you learn a trade or craft. I hope to develop many young people into true leaders and this starts by giving them that opportunity.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
A couple come to mind right away. The first has made an impression in my life since an early age. I respect that she always did what she wanted, but when I was young it was truly from a "performer" standpoint. As I have watched her career, she has become a self-made, multi-national brand. It is Madonna. Not unlike the Lady Gaga or Beyonce of today, but from a performer-turned-brand standpoint, Madonna definitely had the most impact on me. Guess my age is obvious. I also have the utmost respect for Hillary Clinton. She has her own goals, but first and foremost supported her husband's goals and her family, then subsequently followed her now true aspirations. I feel a certain familiarity with her; I chose to leave my legal career behind to develop and support Ludo's career. Now that hands-on experience has helped open so many doors for me to grow a whole new career for myself. Whether you agree with Hillary's politics or not, there is no arguing that she is by far one of our world's greatest leaders and has opened the door for so many women.

What do you want All Star Chef Classic to accomplish in the next year?
Looking at the immediate future, which is All-Star Chef Classic 2015, my #1 goal is to execute the event flawlessly. We have doubled in size from our first year by doubling the amount of events during the weekend, doubling the number of chefs, and increasing our attendance numbers proportionally. Looking toward 2016, I would ultimately love to broadcast the event. It might be traditional broadcast, web-based, or maybe something else, but this event is truly the All-Star "game" equivalent of a professional sports league and our All-Star chefs deserve that kind of platform and caliber.