Even when it is a challenge, you should wake-up every day and say “I can do it; I can do it”.
Entrepreneur, owner, and founder of West 18th properties, Anne Kihagi has changed the face of real estate properties that she has amassed over the past fifteen years. Her company provides property management services developing and designing eco-friendly apartment living to the properties in San Francisco’s Victorian and Edwardian style homes.
It has not been an easy ride for Anna Kihagi as she did to battle to change the status quo of the City of San Francisco. As a relative newcomer to the city, the good ole boy system stayed firmly in place. Lady justice turned a blind eye when tenants breached their contracts and profited by subletting their apartments for thousands of dollars over their rent-controlled units. Anna Kihagi’s properties were vandalized and she was portrayed as a villain.
Anna Kihagi refused to live in the shadow of other people’s judgment. As an inspiration to all, Anne Kihagi faced this injustice with elegance and grace. She saw the experience for what it was and stood tall. She is quoted as saying ” I am stronger and more fit to face any challenge”. Due to her poise and wisdom gained from the experience.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I own a building on 18th Street. Many times, when people ask for the address the “west” 18th is missed. When thinking about a name for my business, it just seemed as though the name West 18th would eliminate that issue. It was simply a good idea.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am up very early in the morning. My day begins around 5:30 am. I give myself about an hour and a half for a quiet time to organize my thoughts and strategize for the day. I use my mornings to do my writing. When you’re dealing with real estate, there are many issues that may arise that will interrupt the day. I address those issues immediately. When that is accomplished, I am free to take action on any requirements from my property managers or perhaps address permit requirements. Many times, I strategize with my architects on a development project. It is very time consuming and requires a lot more planning. I also make time to keep in touch with what is going on in the rental market. I keep up on what rents are going for in different zip codes throughout San Francisco as well as Los Angeles. On weekends, I track what is going on with pricing within the real estate market. In the evenings, I prepare organic foods to dine on which also takes a lot of planning.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I don’t really need to create a lot in my business as many times, once you find a design that works, it’s effective to keep it for a while. I have been a real estate manager for a while. What I do is decide if a property that I have acquired is a good fit for my portfolio or if I have to switch things around. Every day has revolved around making sure that the buildings are well maintained. We have painted all our buildings. I have taken a lot of thought and care to provide lovely common areas. We pay attention to the details of each property. We have clean landscapes, hallways, carpeting, and anything that has to do with the common areas. Painting buildings in white and off whites are a part of modern design and architecture in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I spend many of my weekends going to open houses to keep on top of what is going on with the latest architecture and designs. This is how I capture new ideas and incorporate the ideas to suit my style. It is my inspiration for creative ideas for my buildings.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I use to think that I liked old buildings, and I still do. But I found that I am in love with modern architectural lines. I am spending more time in Los Angeles and love the new architectural buildings. There is a lot of new construction in Hollywood. When you think of the geometry of these buildings most of them are symmetrical and beautifully designed. Everyone is designing for outdoor space which I believe is a must. Most of what is being designed and built is catering to the generation of the current renters who tend to be roommates. They view themselves as renting for a lot longer. You have to make the homes almost feel like something that they could own. So that is what I really love. In San Francisco, there is not much that you can do with the buildings here. It tends to stagnate. I am much more engaged in the with new buildings that I am looking at, currently.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
What makes me most productive is that I can multitask very well. I am able to do more than one thing at a time. It is a good thing and not a good thing. People think I am not paying attention when I am. Having the ability to multitask makes you super productive. My mind moves really fast. As I am speaking to someone, I am already thinking about what the next question is going to be. It is a frustrating habit but it gets people to cut to the chase when talking to me.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to take time to enjoy your path. I work so hard. I was always the last person out of the office. I am a workaholic. You really don’t need to work so hard. You forget to make time to play.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
What I know to be true is that rent control is a broken system. I believe that eventually that will be proven to be true. I believe there is a way to help people with a moderate income but rent control is a completely broken system. I wrote an article about the average rent costs in San Francisco. The average person pays $1700-1800 per month in rent. The discrepancy between new renters and rent control tenants his huge. Rent control may have been a good system but it has had its day. It will probably stay around for a long time. I am sure more people want to be in rent controlled places than not. I find it very frustrating that new tenants have to pay very high rents. In San Francisco, we have people who have been living there for 30 years. New tenants are paying between $4000-5000 per month. I think it is wrong to have people who think they are entitled to live in a place for so long. This is a huge disservice to new tenants. They will never be able to afford to purchase their own homes.
In a true economic model, yes – some people would have to move to the places they could afford. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it is made to be. It is not true that we can all live in Beverly Hills.
If some of the tenants had to move because the city was expensive, the average rent would be lower than what these new tenants are being forced to pay. College students are most affected by rental costs as they bear the burden of paying higher rents. Their only alternative source of living well is either through communal living or tenancies in common. I plan to do an article on this topic.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think people give up too quickly. I think we quit before we succeed. I am a big believer in listening to Joel Osteen on the weekends. His message is one of redemptions. Every challenge that comes your way happens for a reason. You are supposed to learn something from every challenge that comes your way.
Even when it is a challenge, you should wake-up every day and say “I can do it; I can do it”.
I am relentless, I do not quit. In my case, it can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing, but I just tell people to please stick it out. Everything always works out for the people who push and do not give up. Just keep trying. The more you try the better you get. One thing to realize is that you are so damn good. I am good at what I do. People may think that you’ve done something wrong, but I’ve worked so hard. I am a workaholic. I don’t have a life. I think about real estate; I think about my buildings and how I can improve them. I remodel places that I can live in or that my sisters can live in, which is how I gauge if I have done a good job. I lived in my own building for years after I sold my own condo.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Again, I would have to say to be relentless and don’t give up. Aspire to be around people who are doing well. If you do, you will automatically do well. You just get pulled by the tides. Then you realized that you’ve found a mentor. Then you have people who admire you and want to help you for whatever reason they decide. Perhaps God or some super-power has sent them your way for them to want to help you with your goals in life. Every one of us is here for a reason. Every one of us has a purpose. We all have to find our purpose in life. Some people have found their purpose, some are still looking. I am in that process right now and I surround myself with people who can recognize my mistakes. I can pick myself up and keep going.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Dealing with the city of San Francisco has been a big challenge. This place is unlike any other city in America. The rules that work everywhere else don’t seem to work here. If you take it personally, you’ll miss the main message which is that you have to fit into their way of doing things. If you don’t comply, you are treated as an outsider. Sometimes you have to learn to fit in. I do not like to be a conformist. I don’t care to fit in. Life needs to be shaken up with change. The biggest challenge I had was getting into a fight with the city of San Francisco. They played a very dirty game in a very prejudice judicial district. The outcome was not in my favor. Where the laws are applied, I should have won. It took me a while to get the mental strength to get over it. But I know that all these challenges are put there for a reason. It is not a big deal. Once you realize that these challenges are destined to happen. You realize that you are meant to get to the next level. You cannot get to the next level in less you overcome challenges. Once you realize that it will not break you and that you are built to withstand this. Your body is almost like the creator. Joel Osteen would say the creator has built you to withstand your environment. I am stronger and more fit to face any challenge due to the acceptance of this experience.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am directing my advice towards college graduate students in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I want you to think about using your communal style of living and go out and buy some buildings and trust that you can always find someone who can sponsor you. There is so much great energy in San Francisco. I want to see some solutions that work. Consider buying a unit to build some equity and share the expenses of the building. Try to think of ways to build equity because money cannot be saved from a paycheck. It is one way we may all be able to live in San Francisco together.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I give to the Osteen ministry. They send emails to contribute to the ministry and they will send you a book or a recording. I get so much benefit from listening to his recording. I like contributing to his ministry. He is like my therapist. It helps me get the mental strength. That is the best money that I spend.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Everyone should have Quicken or whichever financial planning tool you can get. I have recently begun listening to Dave Ramsey. I would recommend that everyone spends at least five hours of your time listening to him. It is very important for any business, but it applies to any individual as well. You need to capture where you are spending your money. You would be amazed at how much you spend at the end of the month. One of the most important tools to have is a financial tool. They are free online.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Find what you love and follow it.
What is your favorite quote?
Just Do It! by Nike
● You cannot get to the next level unless you overcome challenges.
● Aspire to be around people who are doing well.
● For every challenge, wake-up every day and say “I can do it, I can do it”.
● You need to capture where you are spending your money. You would be amazed at how much you spend at the end of the month.
● One of the most important tools to have is a financial tool. They are free online.