17 Aug #StandTall: Kylie Leavitt, Managing Director of KsLA Ventures
For three years I lived in a huge apartment building and I didn’t know the name of any of my neighbours, but in today’s world, I’d say that’s fairly common. It wasn’t until I moved and met Kylie who lived two doors down that this changed. She was super friendly from the get-go and I soon realised she had a wealth of business experience. (Seriously, check out her LinkedIn page. It’s impressive!)
After years in the investment banking world in roles in USA and Asia, Kylie is now also consulting to start ups and small business to help them grow and potentially expand into overseas markets.
I chatted to her about living around the world, succeeding in a male-dominated industry and what she’s currently working on.
Name: Kylie Levitt
Occupation: Management Consultant
Home city: Sydney
Websites: Check out one of Kylie’s investment businesses: My Nutrition Adventure
You have one impressive CV! Can you give us a rundown on your career path?
I travelled around Australia after high-school, and ended up living in both Hong Kong and Italy for a year each (working in Hong Kong and studying Italian in Rome). Then I finished my undergrad degrees in USA, back to Hong Kong in 1995 where I worked mainly for US investment banks in regional management roles – until I moved back to Australia in 2009.
After so many years oversees, what made you return to Australia?
After 18 years overseas, including 14-years in Hong Kong, four major market downturns (the tech wreck, Asian crisis, 9/11 and the GFC), four sets of friends leaving Hong Kong every two to three years, and struggling with the pollution there, I decided it was time to move ‘home’, be closer to my family and build a more solid base somewhere more natural and grounded.
I’m sure being a female in a predominantly male dominated industry comes with its own obstacles. Can you share how you overcome these?
Financial services is typically one of the most male dominated industries but it is particularly so in Australia – which surprised me! I really thought we would have progressed more. I actually find Asia is much less “blokey” – so many superstar sisters there!
That said, I don’t dwell on the imbalance – it is what it is! Thankfully nowadays for work I am usually on the ‘buy’ side (i.e. I have something people want), so the ‘blokey’ guys need to suck-it up and deal with it 🙂 Plus, a lot of my time is spent in the SME and VC and entrepreneurial space which is much more balanced gender-wise.
What’s the most exciting thing about working in investment management?
I work more in Corporate Advisory and Management Consulting nowadays and love to focus on “transformational” work – what I love the most is the variety of clients, industries and projects I get to work on… I can honestly say I’ve never been bored once in the last 12 years since I left the corporate world.
I also do some Angel Investing and have learnt a lot of the past few years about investing wisely, what makes good founder team, and how to choose the right investment fit for me. I’m very big on deep ‘domain’ experience, financial literacy, good corporate governance and investor transparency and reporting.
I also know you are a serial entrepreneur with your hands in a lot of different pies. What are some projects you currently working on?
I’m just completing a few Corporate/M&A advisory projects and tend to focus on deals that are in the food space at the moment (though I don’t – and won’t ever – have anything to do with animal factory farming) and as always looking at new opportunities to help companies grow, especially into the China market. So if you are looking to grow into China, feel free to reach out. I work out of a great China focused co-working space called HaymarketHQ, founded by Brad Chan of the Banna Property Group. HHQ is Australia’s first startup hub supporting entrepreneurs to connect to Asia
I also have especial interest in the health and wellness space so am looking at opportunities in the China space there too. One idea we are nurturing is a health and wellness information offering (think Nutritionists and Naturopaths, China’s TCM ethos all rolled into one), leveraging off Australia’s world-class credentials in the space, and expanding to include products / services tailored for the Chinese market and the specific health issues they are facing (incredible levels of stress, fertility and environmental pollution etc.)
What inspires you and keeps you going?
Whenever I do strategy work, I normally don’t take a client if I can’t execute on the plan too – this is critical to the success of the project. I base a lot of my work on a few key organisational management & change approaches such as ‘double-loop / feedback-loop learning’ in my work i.e. continually pushing and pulling information both upwards and downwards, and adapting the organisational plan and goals to the ‘real-world’ environment. I absolutely love untangling puzzles and delivering results for clients that they had no idea were possible!
I also very much enjoy mentoring young, sassy, switched-on women – though I will never invest based purely on gender 🙂
What do you believe it means to #StandTall?
To stand confidently in you own space and know that we are all together on this mortal coil, just trying to do and be our best, day to day. Be kind, helpful, evolved and, as that rock-star woman MO said, “When they go low, we go high”.
Who is someone that has helped you to #StandTall and get to where you are today?
My nana. She was an entrepreneur, risk taker and go-getter well before her time. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to achieve her dreams – I like to think she is with me every day, and that I am realising them for both of us…:-)
Let’s finish with 5 quick ones. What is your favourite…
Destination: Sweden for Scandinavian cool and Thailand for relaxing.
Drink: Campari and fresh blood orange juice.
Quote: Many – mostly from Eleanor Roosevelt! “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product”; “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”; “I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.” And the one we all know, “Woman are like teabags – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
Book: So many! I can’t even begin to choose just one.
Cuisine: Thai or Japanese. Food that uses herbs for flavour rather than western cuisine that tends to use cheese, fat and meat to add flavour.