When Anna Desideri Ferrante of Nesconset arrives to do kitchen and bath design measurements for contractors or her customers, the reaction is usually the same.
“’You’re the one coming out to take a look?’” she said they ask. “I usually respond, ‘Yes, it’s me…heels and all.’”
Ferrante, 55, said the surprise comes from the fact that she loves to regularly dress up and wear makeup whether working in her showroom or out in the field, so she tends to stand out in the male-dominated field of construction where guys in jeans, T-shirts, flannel, denim jackets and work boots have traditionally been the norm.
The married mother of three adult sons is president and a design specialist at Kitchen & Bath Designs on Commack Road in Commack, a business she now owns that was started by her brother, John, in the late '80s in East Northport. In 1991 the Commack location was added, then in the “early 2000s” the East Northport showroom was closed as a result of the recession, Ferrante said.
AT A GLANCE
Kitchen & Bath Designs, Commack
What it does: Provides kitchen and bathroom design and remodeling products and services
Leadership: Owner and president Anna Desideri Ferrante
Annual Sales: $1.5 million to $2 million
“In 1990 I came on board and began working for [John] in the office, learning the order processing and purchasing end of the business,” Ferrante explained. After the Commack showroom opened, she spent the next 17 years “shadowing” her brother and the company’s team of designers and installers; learning every aspect of the business, from sales to design and construction.
Ferrante had also gone to business school in Westchester before working for her brother, so when he retired in 2016 she decided to purchase the company.
With a love for all things glamorous, Ferrante says she features some things among her kitchen and bath offerings that might not be found in other showrooms. A fire engine red sink pops up as you enter, and there are blinged-out backsplashes and cabinet handles that catch the eye too. There are more toned-down looks for those who prefer more subtle décor.
“I still design and manage projects while running the business,” Ferrante noted. “It’s a one-stop shop. Some clients choose to have us install their project, others supply their own contractors,” she added.
Q: What is it like being in a male-dominated business?
Tough, which is what we need to be. Women-owned construction businesses are not something you see often. Even though we get to play with tile and draw pretty kitchens and baths, it’s not just that — that’s the fun part. We also need to be knowledgeable in the technical and construction side of things as well.
Q: Where do your products come from? Who makes them?
We are selective in the quality of our products we choose to showcase and are mindful of our clients’ varying budgets. We say the products we carry are globally sourced, however, some of the most popular are from Canada, Spain, Italy and right here in the United States.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge in business right now, and how are you meeting it?
Growing this business in an oversaturated market. We have been here for 32 years and we’ve watched businesses come and go.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?
Being too nice, stretching myself too thin, and trying to do it all. I still struggle to delegate and take things off my plate; it’s something I’m still working on.
Q: How do you get customers?
The majority of our clients come to us by referrals and word-of-mouth. We still use the traditional avenues of advertising, such as local papers, but we’re also building our presence on social media.
Q: How many hours a week do you work?
I spend about 60 hours a week at the office and do my best to keep work and home life separate. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks. I have people who rely on me and that weighs heavily on my mind all the time.
Q: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
That it’s all mine. It has always been a goal to own my own business and I worked hard to make it happen.
Q: What do you hope your business will look like in five years?
We hope to continue to build beautiful spaces and strong relationships, not only with our clients, but with other contractors and members within the trade.
Q: What’s your advice for other women who might want to own a business in your field?
Don’t let anyone hold you back and tell you, "No." It’s tough but not impossible. If you have the passion for design and construction, I say go for it, and don’t stop dreaming.