Kassie Smith is paving the way for women in real estate. We were lucky enough to sit down with Kassie and learn more about how she made her own way in the male-dominated Commercial Real Estate Industry. Read below to learn more about the projects Kassie has been involved in, what the biggest struggles are that she has had to overcome, and how she is making her mark on young professionals in the real estate world.
1. Tell us about your professional journey. How did you get to where you are today?
a. My journey has been kind of interesting… I started in Las Vegas with my first company in 1995. I actually had a previous career as an entertainer with a degree in performing arts from the “Boston Conservator” as a singer / dancer and from there spent a short time in NY performing. A childhood dream! I quickly moved to Las Vegas to work in the large Las Vegas Shows on the Strip and had a successful career for 5 years but during that time I decided it was time to go back to school at UNLV for architecture and construction management. Once I finished, I was fortunate enough to quickly see the huge growth in Las Vegas and opened my first company in 1995 which was a full real estate development services company that I grew to employ a team of 48 people and manage up to 35 projects a year of all sizes. My company grew quickly because of the boom in Real Estate development, very lucrative time for us all, and we garnered a great reputation. I opened several divisions and we were involved in the development on the strip with hotels, Government projects, Healthcare expansions and the Home Builder Market. My most famed project was the ground-up development of Lake Las Vegas Resort, which lasted 7 years. That got me hooked on Luxury Resort Development.
After selling that company, did you start your current venture, KS Global?
a. In 2008 when I sold the company, I had positioned myself to go into full development. I was partnering with other developers who had the capital to joint ventures on a global scale. Unfortunately, the 2009 downturn of the market affected our projects and many of the developments we had been planning for, were shelved. This was one of the most difficult times in my career and was a real turning point. I worked with other investors, went to auctions to acquire, renovate, and repositioned distressed assets. The next few years were spent stabilizing and getting projects back to large projects such as MGM City Center and luxury high rise residential developments. In 2015 my second child graduated, and I decided it was time to move to California and focus strictly on development on a global level. I really found that my love would be hospitality and the luxury sector. This market doesn’t fluctuate as much because although the affluent made up a small part of the market at the time, they were consistent with their travels and spending. We began rolling out projects, focusing on ground-up development and joint venturing with other developers which is still our secret recipe to success! I understand service-driven development and how to create revenue not just get projects out of the ground. My team and I also renovate and reposition hotels but what we really find most rewarding are the ground-up projects, geared towards 5-star resorts and hotel projects. From my Las Vegas Mega Project background, I never get intimidated by bringing expansive development projects out of the ground. The Master Planning is the most exciting time with the team.
3. Throughout your career, what has been the toughest hurdle for you to overcome?
a. In 2008 I sold my company, ready to transition with partnerships and joint ventures set up to start rolling into new, big projects. Then, the downturn of the market happened and that was just really devastating for everyone. Las Vegas was one of the hardest-hit areas and it did take them the longest to come back. The three large projects we were working on were completely shelved. With that said we really had to re-invent ourselves and wear many hats until things stabilized.
4. What has it been like for you as a Woman working in a male-dominant industry?
a. Well, that is a great lead-in from the last questions because THAT is the second biggest hurdle in my career. Ha! Right now, we are knee-deep in projects from the last 18 months that we are just trying to get underway. Early in my career, I realized I was in a man’s world as a developer, I have really had to put on my big girl pants. I notice my personality has changed a lot too, as a woman you have to be aggressive to what you want and who you are in business. Confidence takes you a long way to be taken seriously as a developer, but then you better be able to deliver. I have learned how to navigate it and really love what I do and who I do business with but it does take guts and risk.
5. As a successful and influential woman in real estate, how have you been a leader to and helped to develop aspiring women in the industry?
a. That is my greatest joy, to be honest with you. Years ago, one of the boards I sat on was a national Woman’s Leadership Board. I mentored three students here and I really loved it. I have tried to take that mentorship role with me in every stage of my career. Through the years I have done a lot of speaking on women’s leadership and anytime I have the opportunity to hire and/or be involved with young entrepreneur women, I take it. It is such a joy to see their excitement about the start of their careers. Let’s face it, Real Estate is a really exciting career and I love to share this with young professionals.
6. What does a normal day look like for you?
a. I think everyone is extremely hard-working right now. Everyone’s week starts on Sunday. I will work 12 hours per day at the drop of a hat, but I think that really is the type of world we have created. Being able to answer emails and send files from our phones and get on meetings virtually from anywhere, has made things easier for me. I will wake up and answer emails from bed at 2am from across the world if needed, but this is typical for everyone. I try to get up and work out whenever possible, but it really is just opening your computer and getting started. Now that we go back out to in-person meetings is great! I still have 2-3 Teams meetings along with the in-person ones so it is a busy time. Everybody is busy and my day is no different. There is very little downtime in general.
7. What is your favorite part about your job? What is your least favorite?
a. My least favorite is what I am trying to do now, which is fund raising for our projects. The most exhilarating and exciting part is standing on our job site and really watching the project come to life. That is hands down my favorite part! Other than that, I love sitting with our development teams and envisioning our next project. I am a team-oriented person, so I love bouncing out-of-the-box ideas off everyone.
8. What is next for you? Do you have any new ventures on the horizon?
a. We do! This has been a slow burn but since 2015 I have been trying to launch a soft brand. We have come together and figured it out… The Stirling Club. I have done a ton of global travel in 2022 throughout Europe looking at projects, options for a private club and luxury hotels for the brand. Europe understands the Private Membership Clubs, especially London. We hope to open our 2nd club in 2024 in London. Ultimately this venture is my dream and my Exit someday. Stirling One is the extended brand which is a private club, villas or branded residences and lifestyle product. Originally Stirling One was just going to be a destination club with travel experience but that wasn’t exactly what we wanted to do so we went back to development. Now, we are going to have an actual club, Stirling Collection, which will include luxury villas and hotels. We focus on wellness within our resorts like most in the industry, however we have a twist that we are introducing within Stirling One brand. Again, this is a soft brand so if we are working with a hotel, they will keep their flag. There are actually a lot of companies that do this but we want to culminate everything with properties, the private membership club and furniture collection – Stirling Lifestyle. We launched that at the furniture market in Las Vegas and the response did really well at market. So that is all really exciting!
9. What are you most excited for in 2023?
a. It seems like the last 24 months have been a real learning curve… almost like going back to college. I have always been a developer at heart, comfortable with the design and construction aspect of things but these last few years, I really had to roll up my sleeves and figure out how we are going to get these projects funded. Finance is not my background, nor did I ever want to be too involved, I have some talented people on my team, but I still need to understand it and drive it right now. I quickly realized that I cant sit around and wait for the money to come to me – The rest of my team and I have to go out and get it and structure it. It is my obligation to get these projects underway and l know how to make them successful creating multiple revenue streams. I have come to a point where I know exactly what I need to do, and I am doing it. I am really looking forward to getting all these projects out of the ground with my team in 2023!