By: Kate Uesugi
I had the pleasure of getting to chat with Leah Reidy, the Showroom Director at Kit and Ace, about her career and being a woman professional in the DC area. She shared with me about how she got her start and what she’s learned from the journey.
Leah Reidy started her career at the Advisory Board Company. She worked in consulting as well as strategic planning and marketing. She had always been interested in health care, as she was a Pre-Med student in college. During her 7-8 years working at the Advisory Board Company, she became invested and interested in the startup community around the DC area. She began to work at 1776, with a local startup. It became her “side hustle”, as she worked at 1776 at night while keeping her consulting job during the day. After working for the Advisory Board Company, she eventually found Social Driver, which is a local tech and digital agency, through her involvement in the DC startup community. There, she ran strategic account and tech teams.
When it comes to Leah’s current position, however, she was looking for something a little different. She was looking for an opportunity to be an entrepreneur and run a business from top to bottom, something that she became well acquainted with in the startup community. She was drawn to Kit and Ace because she wanted a brand that really inspired her. She felt as though this was a company that invested in developing people, and did things differently. She was overall drawn to the company and, in January 2016, she became their Showroom Director.
It may seem like Leah made a huge leap from being in consulting and working with startups to being in retail. She even admits that she didn’t have any retail experience before working at Kit and Ace. However, she points out that there are more similarities to the two careers than people see. She utilizes the different skills and knowledge that she has gained over the years in her current position. Before Kit and Ace, she considered going to business school. Then she realized that she can get the business education and still get paid for it, through her work.
Leah loves that she gets to work with people who have strengths in many different areas. She finds it incredibly interesting. Since the company is only two years old, she enjoys that she gets to test things out and do things differently from other corporations. She also just personally loves the brand and feels like the products actually fit her lifestyle. Her favorite part of the position, however, is that she gets to connect and meet new people in community everyday. This is a vital component to her position and she utilizes the strategic connections and relationships that she builds consistently. Additionally, her ability to connect what her team has been able to do and the business acumen that she has developed has also been incredibly important to the job as well.
Being able to see her team grow, learn, improve and gain new opportunities is an especially rewarding part of her position. However, there are many challenges to the job as well. She says that one of the most challenging parts would be making sure that she’s not owning too much. Being afraid of people failing with things that were delegated to them is also a huge hurdle as well. She notes that, even though sometimes things aren’t done how you would do them, they may be done even better in the long run.
Leah ended our conversation with some great advice for those trying to break into the industry. “Think outside the box,” she told me. Many times, people pigeonhole themselves into one industry. Every industry has similarities. Take consulting for example: it draws from outside of the industry in order to improve a different one. When it comes to women in the industry, or in business in general, Leah believes that there is a real problem with passive aggressive competition or the fear of someone being better. As a boss, it is important to foster development, instead of fearing that they will take your job and place later on. “It will only make you a greater leader.”