“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Such is the attitude of forty-eight-year-old Chaya Ruchi Gross, a Satmar wife, mother and grandmother. Gross is also the founder and CEO of Dynamic Kitchen Design & Interiors, a company with annual sales reaching seven digits located in Spring Valley, New York. Gross, who usually takes on around fifty projects a year, designs kitchens and bathrooms. Her house, which she moved into two years ago, “functions as a ‘virtual showroom,’” where she presents different types of custom cabinetry and other items that she designs and sells.
For nearly a decade prior to starting her business, Gross taught high school as a single mom, raising five children alone. Her success in the classroom led the principal to promote her to curriculum advisor. The administration, however, did not feel comfortable with an unmarried woman taking the position. As a result, her contract was revoked, leaving Gross unemployed and humiliated. “It was quite a blow,” says Gross. “I looked forward to the promotion, and was excited about implementing some ideas I had for the school. But I took a very short time [to deal with the disappointment]. I turned to God and embraced the decree . . . I knew that this too shall pass.”
In order to help his daughter, her father “created” some work for her in the family’s wholesale cabinet company, soliciting calls to general contractors and securing appointments for sales meetings. With much determination and siyata d’Shmaya, she landed a huge deal with one of the largest contractors in New York City. But Gross soon realized that conducting visits to job sites and interacting with men in “hard hats” did not suit her. She took courses with the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and SEN Design Group. Then she launched Dynamic Kitchen Design & Interiors, hoping to design and manage projects for local customers. With her family’s support, Gross gained access to many areas of the industry, enabling her to use her talent, hard work and resolve to make the business work.
Gross stated that the biggest challenge in getting started was “gaining customers’ trust and belief in my capabilities, and managing as a single parent.” As the sole supporter of her children, Gross says, “God was my partner.” She offered her first three customers a great deal in order to establish herself. From there, it did not take long for customers to recognize her integrity and work ethic. In those early years, Gross also struggled with learning from her mistakes. “Most cost me money,” she says. “Some lessons can only be learned through trial and error.”
“Instead of spending money on marketing to bring in new customers, I spend it on my old ones and they pitch for me,” says Gross. “It’s a win-win situation.”
A few years later, after remarrying, Gross took a two-year sabbatical, and upon returning to the business, it immediately blossomed. Involved in the business, Gross’ husband handles deliveries, deals with installers and serves as an “all-around incredible support.”
Before completing a job, Gross ensures that the customer gets at least one item that he or she wants but can’t afford. She attributes her lack of a need to advertise to this practice. “Instead of spending money on marketing to bring in new customers, I spend it on my old ones and they pitch for me,” says Gross. All of her customers approach her purely through word of mouth. “It’s a win-win situation.” Gross realized her success “when customers would still smile and greet me on the street after I finished a project for them,” she says.
In managing a business, burnout is inevitable. Sometimes Gross struggles with finding the stamina to keep going when work gets tough. “I talk to God when I am feeling overwhelmed, including asking the Almighty for help with a design, an installation issue, et cetera,” she confides. “I have also come to realize that it’s okay to turn down a customer or ask someone to call back in two weeks if I feel that in my [current] state I cannot fully be there for him or her.”
She credits the JWE for motivating her to keep going. Prior to the first conference in 2013, Gross was feeling burned out from all the pressure she was experiencing at work. After being coerced by friends to attend the conference, she returned feeling empowered. Now she serves as a JWE city leader, supporting other women entrepreneurs and getting supported in return.
Recently, Gross’ youngest child got engaged. “With tremendous siyata d’Shmaya, I have more nachas than I could have ever hoped for,” she says. “I thank God every day for my little successes and pitfalls. Whatever success I have is never truly my own.”
Avigayil Perry lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her family and writes for various Jewish publications.
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A Business of Her Own
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Growing a Tree of Knowledge: Nechama Salfer by Avigayil Perry
The New Entreprenuer by Bayla Sheva Brenner