Prestige’s ‘Empowered Women’ series dive into the world of strong women who are leading by examples in their own ways. Here, Vinita “Pook” Lekhavanija shares how she manages her different roles as lawyer, managing director of LKN Group and partner at Mia Restaurant.
Vinita “Pook” Lekhavanija, 37, has the kind of determination that only comes after a childhood tragedy. At seven, Pook lost both her parents to the gas explosion that shook New Phetchaburi Road and claimed over 90 lives. From a young age, she learned how to fend for herself, and her 1-year-old brother, with the help of her aunt.
Faced as well with traumatic family inheritance cases, the kind that manifest themselves when one’s parents depart too soon, Pook knew she was the only one that could take care of the future. Upon graduating from high school, she went straight to Chulalongkorn University, where she received first-class honours and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Law. She then went on to the London School of Economics to obtain her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Policy. By the time she earned the title of lawyer, she had already been fighting real-life court cases.
“Even as I was studying in London, I remember flying back and forth to Bangkok to fight the cases. After 11 years, we finally won, in 2010,” she remarks.
“I may be in property development today, and I own a restaurant business, but I’ll never forget my roots. I am a lawyer by training,” she adds. Once Pook had won the case, she realised she had all this land, and thus began her career in property. Today she is the Managing Director of LKN Group, a successful real estate company.
Pook has a mind driven by logic; her creativity coming later. “Even though I didn’t come from a real estate background, having a legal background has helped because being a lawyer trains you to use reasoning more than your emotions. I never do things just because I want to do them, I do things because they make sense; because the market needs it, because they add value.”
And while she may have an eye for beautiful things, and her artistic talents obviously shine in all her projects, it’s her drive, consistency, and persistence that got her to where she is today. “Goals before emotions,” she explains. “It takes discipline to say ‘even if I’m sad, I still have things to do’. I can do those things now and be sad later.” Good habits also help, and Pook has a strict exercise regimen, working out solidly six days a week, after she finishes her work of course.
Knowing where you fall short is also an important factor. “Going from a legal background into real estate meant that I wasn’t versed in property when I started,” she says. “I knew I had a lot to catch up on. Knowing what you don’t know keeps you alert, and makes you determined to learn it… quickly. This wasn’t a problem for me as lawyers have a very high endurance level. We can consume a lot of information in a short amount of time.”
She goes on to say that she reads around a book a week, with highlighter in hand, just like the days when she was a student. Reading is her therapy, and she always tries to go further afield, out of business and law and into self-development. She admits she’s learning every day. “In this fast-changing world, when you stop learning, you backslide.”
“In 10 years’ time I’ll be working less for financial success and more for something truly meaningful that I am very passionate about. the projects may not be as big, but they’ll be closer to my heart”
Pook is also the owner and partner of Mia Restaurant, a modern European fine-dining destination that was one of a select few venues in the city to receive a Michelin plate award in 2021. Always humble, she takes no credit for the award, applauding her Michelin-calibre chefs and partner for truly winning the title. Pook works more behind the scenes in the restaurant, handling the accounts and legal domains.
“The restaurant hadn’t even peaked yet before Covid hit. We’d only been open for six months. But we had a lot of customers, and it’s not the end just yet,” she says optimistically.
Speaking about both her businesses, she explains: “What I’m most proud of is that I was able to build businesses that were strong enough to not have to lay off a single person during this pandemic. I’m glad my staff feel safe and are able to support their families during this time.”
With a strong financial foundation that can support the lifestyle she’s accustomed to – which, she explains, is one important dimension of success – Pook already knows what’s in store for the future.
“In 10 years’ time I’ll be working less for financial success and more for something truly meaningful to me, that I am very passionate about. The projects may not be as big, but they’ll be closer to my heart. I feel most powerful when I am standing up for something I truly believe in, something I believe in so much that I am willing to stand up for it on my own.”
For Pook, it all comes back to education. “I would not be where I am today without my education. It’s the foundation of everything. I’m already working on setting up a charity that focuses on education. Education has the potential to change the futures of children, and of nations.”
Jewellery: Gems Pavilion
Photographer: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Photographer’s Assistant: Somboonkiat Wonghom & Kiattisak Janprai
Stylist: Chittawatr Buramyakorn
Stylist’s Assistant: Thitikorn Homnaul
Makeup Artist: Nontalee Wongpeng
Hair Stylist: Kitphisuth Kanchanakawinphong
Editorial Coordinator: Kanyaphat Somwong
Location: Alexander And James
This story was first published in the August 2021 issue of Prestige Thailand.
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