Haute Spot

Don't Let Realty Television Fool You. There's Much More To Barbara Kavovit Than Meets The Eye
By Dawn Watson - September 20, 2019

Probably best known to Bravo fans as the guest-starring friend of Luann de Lesseps on “The Real Housewives of New York,” this lady’s backstory is definitely deeper than the spray tans she’s famous for on the show. In fact, the entrepreneur has been in the public eye for decades. And she has the (household) goods and the books, blog and how-to videos to prove it. 

Yes, just like her TV persona, the Founder and CEO of one of the only female-led construction companies in New York City is a tough-as-nails broad who has built her own contracting empire. But the self-made success is more than that. She’s also one smart cookie with a slate of achievements that towers just as high as some of the Manhattan skyscrapers her firms have helped to construct. 

The Wainscott- and Manhattan resident credits her father, Joseph, for first “putting a hammer in my hand when I was 9 years old” and her mother, Sheila, for encouraging her to follow her entrepreneurial dreams. But the State University of New York at Oswego graduate with a degree in finance is quick to add, “I really thought I was going to run a Mergers-and-Acquisitions department.” 

Instead, she became a trailblazer in the male-dominated building and construction fields. Named one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Business” by Crain’s before her 30th birthday, she is also the creator of the Barbara K brand of ergonomically designed tools for women, which has been sold all over the world and featured by numerous national news shows and publications. 

The media has not only brought attention to her achievements. It’s also given her fuel for success. Kavovit’s “aha moment” for her line of tools came from reading newspaper coverage about New York women in construction, and a certain “Sex and the City” episode. 

“Remember when Samantha bought her apartment and tried to put her curtains up? That was one of my eureka moments,” she remembers. “I didn’t want to be a damsel in distress. I thought a lot of women could relate to that.” 

So, she set out to build her own niche — tools for women — and a line of hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, etc., that were attractively packaged, came with do-it-yourself guidebooks and could get the job done right. 

“I created that category. It didn’t exist until then,” she reports. 

A home repair advice column for the New York Post followed, as did two successful female-focused DIY books. “Room for Improvement” and “Invest in Your Nest” featured advice on construction, design, real estate and finance. 

“I’m not a journalist,” she is quick to point out. “But I do have a love for expressing myself with words on paper. As long as I have an editor,” she laughs. 

Recently, the entrepreneur, writer and sometime reality TV star also tried her hand at fiction for the first time. The book is called “Heels of Steel,” and it follows the journey of Bridget Steele, a Bronx-born, tough-as-nails, sexy construction company CEO who is determined to be the first woman to get a contract to build a New York City skyscraper. 

“It’s based on my story,” she admits. “But it’s fiction.” 

Though Kavovit has hinted that she’s probably not coming back to the reality of “RHONY,” her storyline might just continue on the small screen anyway. Networks are already interested in “Heels of Steel” for a series, she says. And there’s a sequel already in the works for the book. 

Of course, she’ll still be a fixture here on the East End, where she’s been coming out since she was 2 years old, and where she bought her first house, at the age of 25. The pull of the beaches, the clambakes and the sunsets are too strong to deny. 

“I’m the proverbial Hamptons person and I try to spend as much time as I can out here,” she says. “If I could, I’d easily drop my hard hat off in May and stay until … as long as I possibly could.” 

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