As a young woman, Anna Kihagi knew she would make her mark on the world around her. As a young child, she attended boarding school where her thirst for knowledge and passion for education was nourished. After an initial career in finance, years later Anna Kihagi went on to pursue her passion for design.
Today, Anne Kihagi is CEO of the West 18th Properties as the owner and operator. Over the last 15 years, her company has acquired numerous properties to their management portfolio. Anna Kihagi’s goal is to improve on the services, provide eco-friendly updates to apartment living, and alternatives to many of San Francisco’s Victorian and Edwardian style buildings. Through her effort to create fresh and innovative ways of doing things, Anne Kihagi has encountered some bureaucratic push back. Striving to create a quality product has pushed her to continue to stand against the status quo, making her an inspiration for everyone. The events Ms. Anne Kihagi has faced have led her to grow from the experience.
This elegant, wise woman has been quoted as saying, “I am stronger and more fit to face any challenge.” Anna Kihagi strives to work daily to create new and innovative ways of producing eco-friendly solutions despite the old-style methods of doing business in the city she loves.
How did you get started In West 18 Properties? What inspired you to do so?
After completing college, I was working on Wall Street in Manhattan. I was used to a fast-paced city that always has something going on. I have always enjoyed interior design, especially for Victorian and Edwardian buildings. I decided to pursue a career in design. My business provides that opportunity. I also see the need to reduce our carbon footprint and become eco-friendlier. I purchased the West 18 properties building. Our building is powered by solar energy.
How does your firm make money?
We own and operate our own rental buildings. We manage our properties the best we can and try to maintain high occupancy at optimal rents. I design, innovate and renovate properties. We also maintain the common areas as well as the landscaping. All of these services help to attract a great clientele over long periods of time.
How long did it take for your firm to become profitable?
We have been doing business in the Los Angeles and San Francisco area for the past 15 years. My goal is not to be profitable necessarily in the 1st year – I recognize it costs money to make major capital improvements to the properties. But in the long run, the properties create a lot more equity than others due to the improvements.
When you first started out did you ever doubt that this would work for you? If so, how did you handle it?
It was rather scary giving up a very high paying job working in finance. However, I knew that if I jumped into my own business, the same relentless spirit that had made me a top performer in finance would carry over.
I do not quit. I never give up. People may think that I am pushy, but I stick it out. Everything will work out if you persist. You have to just keep trying and you will get better. I am very good at what I do, but I am a workaholic. I am constantly thinking about how to improve my business. I could be thinking about improving my buildings or perhaps new real estate market locations for my properties. I might spend weekends visiting open house locations to get new ideas. I never doubted that West 18 properties would work because of my determination and grit to see it become a successful thriving business. Despite all of the controversies that I have endured, from the city of San Francisco, I’ve built a thriving and very successful business.
What is one marketing strategy other than referrals that you use to generate new business?
I think it is all about my buildings. My renovations have leading-edge eco-friendly technology and well thought out designs. Many landlords don’t even bother to paint their buildings. My properties are well maintained. All the common areas such as hallways, rugs and entrance ways are kept in order. We make sure that they are aesthetically pleasing, and the landscapes well cared for. I renovate places the way I would want to live, or where my sisters would want to live. I gauge how well my designs are based upon how the space feels to me, and whether or not my sisters would live comfortably in one of my buildings.
What do you think makes you successful?
I believe it is my drive. I am very good at multitasking, which makes me super-productive. I never quit and I never give up. I surround myself with positive people who are successful, and I follow that flow. I have found mentors and individuals who have offered to assist me with my goals. I read, I am always learning, researching, and I am always in motion. I am persistent. If I don’t get it right, I stick with it until I do get it right.
What does the future hold for you and your firm? What are you most excited about?
I am looking forward to expanding my business. I am spending more time in Los Angeles and I am in love with the more modern architecture. The architecture has symmetrical lines and the designs are magnificent. It has become apparent that designers are creating more outdoor living spaces. Hollywood has new construction in development as well. There is a trend toward renters living as roommates and becoming long term tenants. Designers, builders, and developers are accommodating the demands of these new tenants. They are creating more outdoor living space. They are creating the space to make it feel more like a home that tenants can possibly own. I love the idea. I am very engaged in finding and designing modern architecture. I have been researching real estate with modern geometry and symmetry. It will be unlike the lovely, but stagnated designs of San Francisco.
What books have inspired you that you would you recommend?
The Alchemist by Paulo Chao
Is there a solution to the housing crisis for the city of San Francisco?
I believe that the city of San Francisco is like no other. I love it, but it is very unbalanced when it comes to rental laws on properties. The young generation of college student carries the burden of balancing the housing market. It is very unfair that new tenants have to pay far higher rents than those in rent-controlled properties. There are currently no laws that exist to prevent that from happening. But there is a solution for them. If people can rethink the way they are living. There is a way to be able to build equity and share expenses. If like-minded individuals can come together and purchase their own unit each can share the expenses of maintenance and upkeep of the building. It is a communal lifestyle. Each person will have the benefit of building the equity that they cannot have by earning a paycheck in an expensive real estate marketplace. The average cost of an apartment in San Francisco is between $1700-1800 per month when new tenants pay $3-5,000 per month. We must begin to think outside the box in order to fix the imbalance.