Tell us about your business
WEmi:t, LLC is a New York City-based real estate company that acquires and develops high-end single-family residential properties with an emphasis on townhouses and mansions. We focus on restoring and modernizing townhouses over 10,000 square feet into luxury lifestyle properties with impeccable design, customized features and unsurpassed amenities. Our target audience includes developers, homeowners, real estate brokers, architects, engineers, and the residential real estate industry at large in New York City.
WEmi:t stands for “Where West Meets East.” It pays homage to two cultures that have enriched my personal and professional life – West and East, representing the time I have lived and worked in both New York and Korea. We incorporate design influences from both the West and East into our projects.
Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?
Both my mother and father were entrepreneurs and I was raised in that environment with the same mentality. I was trained to become a businesswoman at a young age.
I had a very clear vision when I started my company, WEmi:t. My vision was to reinvent the high-end luxury residential market in Manhattan. I saw that there was an opportunity to be a developer in this niche market and had to take advantage of it.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
I have had three wonderful mentors in my career. My mother was a very successful businesswoman and is extremely wise. Every time I face a business challenge, she looks at the positives of the situation and encourages me to move forward. The second influential mentor in my career was Keith Barket. He was the global head of Angelo, Gordon & Co.’s real-estate group and my former boss. He always believed in my talents and knew I would become an entrepreneur. When I left that position, he told me he knew I wouldn’t be an employee forever but would eventually become a partner and influential member of the real estate industry. My uncle, Sang K. Lee, has also been a great influence in business. He lives in Hong Kong and Shanghai and trusts me 100 percent. He is very supportive of my career and is an investor in my business. He trusts that I will make good decisions and never questions my actions.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Completing the transformation of my very first residential project at 170 East 80th Street, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has been my greatest professional accomplishment to date. I purchased the property in a challenging economic environment and spent the last three years renovating it in one of the toughest real estate markets. There were many times that I wanted to give up due to all the economic challenges but I stayed the course. I never comprised the design of the project to cut costs. It was definitely one of the most difficult projects in my professional career but is also the most meaningful.
What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
The best advice I ever received in business was from my Mother. She said to me, becoming an entrepreneur is the equivalent of deciding to go sailing on the ocean all alone. On the ocean, there will be wave’s everyday. Some days the waves are really big and some days they are small. However, always focus on where you are going and steer your boat in that direction. Eventually, the waves will pass.
What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
I have aligned myself with the top consultants in every aspect of the real estate industry to ensure my company and projects are high-end, customized, and promoted properly.
I develop luxury properties for the high-end buyer that are 100 percent customized so I always hire a team of consultants that are the best in their field and representative of the high-end properties I develop and the services I provide.
What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
I have learned how to be humble, respect others, and talk to people in all types of positions. I have also learned how to truly listen. As a business owner, you have to listen to everything because sometimes you don’t know where the answers are. You need to be aware of what’s happening in all aspects of your business and think big picture and long-term.
Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business?
My best advice to business owners is to align with experts and top consultants. The real estate industry in New York City is a very tight knit community so it was crucial that I positioned myself with experts in every field from brokerage to architecture to public relations in order to develop strong relationships and a comprehensive network of contacts.
Do you have any new projects coming up (or have you just completed a big project ~ reached a milestone, etc.)?
My company just completed its first luxury residential project at 170 East 80th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We transformed a 19th century townhouse into an exquisite 13,000-square-foot modern mansion over the last three years. The property is listed for $35 million. The home’s extraordinary amenities include a one-of-a-kind 20-foot wide and 22-foot high indoor cascading waterfall, pond and sculpture garden. The mansion also features an art gallery on the main floor for private or commercial use; a 2,300-square-foot private spa lounge with a jacuzzi, spa, sauna, massage room and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar.
What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?
I will continue to develop high-end luxury properties in Manhattan and then hope to move into boutique, one-of-a kind hotel development projects.
What’s the best way for our readers to connect with you?
This Woman in Business interview is one of several interviews with bright successful women WE Magazine for Women is featuring in recognition of Small Business Week. If you would like to share your story, visit: http://www.staging.wemagazineforwomen.com/women/women-in-business/ for more information.