A lot of components have fallen into place for Kathryn Constantine as the vice president of Brown Wood Inc. who continues to make her mark in the industry.
“When I first began working in the wood products industry, I was often asked ‘whose wife are you?’ the assumption being that I could only be on a plant tour or attending an industry event as a spouse, not as an actual industry person. Here it is, 28 years later, and not only do I sit on the KBIS Advisory Council for the National Kitchen & Bath Assn. and chair the Associates Committee for the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn., but this year, I became only the second woman in the history of the KCMA to be asked to become a member of the Board of Directors,” Constantine said.
That’s quite a resume for someone with initially no plans to work in the industry. With a background in Early Childhood Education, Constantine sought a change from her daycare job when the opportunity arose. “One of the parents happened to be the president of Brown Wood, and he suggested he might have a place for me within his company.” Following an interview with Terry Gross, then the manager of Brown Wood’s The Gavel Co. division, “I officially became a ‘Gavel Girl,” starting my career in customer service for The Gavel Co.”
She’s been forging ahead ever since. Following the purchase of BWI by current business partner Gross, in 2015 Constantine became a minority shareholder.
Along the way she has helped the company to grow and develop new products, including the popular stock line Designs of Distinction. “At Brown Wood, I’ve always been able to try new approaches, look at new markets and experiment with product ideas.”
The creation of a line of batch one, handcrafted custom products is one such example. “I hope to take our product line into this new landscape with a line of furniture components that appeal to the new ‘Maker’ market,” she said.
With a bright future ahead, BWI is also hard at work on behalf of the industry. A member of multiple associations, BWI donates to the New England Student Woodworking Design Competition, Woodlinks USA and local schools. “We also support the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as well as Tedfund.org, a local organization that helps send 100 low income children to summer camp.”
Away from work, Constantine enjoys wine, books and bonfires and golf. “I really enjoy the challenge of golf. It’s also a great way for my husband and I to spend time together, disconnected from the demands of our careers.”
Education: BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, Northeastern Illinois University. Certificate of Financial Decision Making/Corporate Finance, University of Illinois-Chicago
Number of years at the company: 28
Number of years in the industry: 28
Word that best describes you: Optimistic
Best advice: Don’t be afraid to fail
Business mantra: Find something to do, do it well, and it will become your passion.
Who have you tried to emulate and why? I can’t say there is one single person. There are so many good leaders out there, all with their own unique strengths. I don’t think any of us do everything well, so why limit yourself to one inspiring person?
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