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Power Women: 5 Questions With Urban Village's Stina Kayser

This limited series profiles Power Women who have helped shape metro Denver's cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles. These women will be honored at Bisnow's Denver Power Women event Dec. 5.

Stina Kayser has been with Urban Villages from the beginning. As an Urban Villages principal, she participates in all levels of company management and strategic decisions. As general counsel, she is an adviser to the board of directors and oversees all of the company’s legal activities, including real estate purchases, sales and financing, landlord-tenant issues, investor and lender relations, entity and organizational structuring, corporate governance, risk management and human resources.

Urban Villages principal Stina Kayser

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Kayser: Urban Villages is a real estate development and property management company that focuses on long-term value creation for all stakeholders — investors, owners, community members. Sometimes, “developer” is a confusing word. I describe our role as conductor of an orchestra. We are responsible for making sure all participants and stakeholders in a commercial project, from landowners to lenders to designers and engineers, work together in harmony to create places that are vibrant and valued. We also often manage the properties we develop, and when doing so use the same level of care and attention to detail as we do for our own homes.

Bisnow: What is the biggest business problem you have faced and how did you solve it?

Kayser: I joined Urban Villages as its first employee in 2004. I worked hand in hand with Grant McCargo, our CEO, to build the organization from the ground up. The experience of having to execute new things and create a company from scratch — doing everything from setting up benefit plans to deal structures — has made me a well-rounded business professional who understands not only real estate deals, but how they get done. I’m most proud of the team we’ve built over the years — a talented group with diverse experience and a willingness to challenge the status quo to build impactful projects that create stronger communities.

Bisnow: What is one thing you think companies can do to address wage and gender inequality?

Kayser: Be aware of and understand unconscious bias. We all have it and it influences decisions like who we hire or reward with advancement. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, question decisions from other angles and look at your own internal data to evaluate whether your team is being rewarded appropriately and fairly for the work they do. People in leadership at every level must work to create a culture that appreciates the importance of diversity because it benefits bottom-line and operational success of business.   

Bisnow: What piece of advice do you give others entering the industry?

Kayser: Be a sponge. Absorb all you can about the projects you are given, even if the task seems mundane. For example, knowing a building’s leases or operations in detail will make you more effective when negotiating financing. Get involved in as many different aspects of the business as you can. The knowledge you gain through due diligence, financial analysis and other detailed work can be surprisingly powerful as your career develops.

Bisnow: What do you do to unwind when you’re not working?

Kayser: Nothing helps me keep focused during stressful times like a good workout — kickboxing, a long run, a killer personal training session. For mind and spirit, time with my husband and friends reminds me to live in the moment, love with my whole heart and laugh often.

Meet Urban Villages principal Stina Kayser at Bisnow's Denver Power Women event Dec. 5 at the Four Seasons Hotel Denver.