Kristy Albrecht of WAVE Electronics shares a life-altering love that has shaped her life in AV and underscores her optimistic outlook in times of crisis
How did you get into this industry? The short answer is love. No, not the love for the music or the smartness of the devices, or the amazing sound that comes out of those speakers and gives me goosebumps or the control of the lights — the dimming and the timers and the mood setting (which is my first love of this technology world). But real love…real human love, between a man and a woman. The special kind of unconditional love — the you-set-me-on-fire love, the we’re-gonna-build-an-empire love, your-brain-gets-my-brain love, and our-hearts-became-one-heart love.
I was a young woman back then, only 23, and he was 28. It was love at first brainstorm; he came to work on our computers. I was a loan officer assistant at Chase Manhattan Mortgage, now J.P. Morgan Chase. I’ll never forget that day waiting for him to arrive. I knew that he was coming to address our computer situation, whatever it was, at one of my bosses’ home offices. I was really looking forward to meeting him, Jason Spuzzillo.
I remember feeling like I needed to wear the most perfect outfit that day. I wasn’t anticipating love but for some reason was compelled to dress for success. I answered the door, “You must be Jason.” That day we shared so many ideas back and forth on business. It blew my mind because I didn’t think anyone thought like me or could go on and on about what could be. We ended up doing that for years — what I thought would be a lifetime with him. Sadly, it only got to be five short, but very fulfilling years.
He was into all this stuff that I didn’t even know existed — the lighting control, the whole-home audio, the rack in the closet. This was 2003. My first venture was lighting control: Vantage Lighting Control. The sexy keypads with multiple buttons on each one, precisely engraved. The kind that I got to tell what to do with a computer program. I was mesmerized, and he taught me to program it all! I was in control, loving every scene I created.
Chase was paying for my courses at UNLV (University of Nevada Las Vegas), which was a huge perk when you have to pay for your own college. I got down to my last few classes that required daytime attendance. That’s when he said you should come work with me. Actually, he probably said “for me.” And, I sort of hesitantly accepted. I know now it was the best decision I ever made.
I started working in the office managing accounts receivable, payable, payroll — anything he needed help with, including growing and creating a viable, sustainable company. The intellectual chemistry we had was incredible, second to none. Jason always had a way of making it happen. When my apartment lease ended, he said “you’re moving in with me.” So, he came and loaded me up in his 6-foot trailer. And just like that, we moved in together and began to share a life.
He was so passionate about everything: business, life, ideas, me. We were going to set this world on fire one way or another. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always perfect, but looking back it was definitely perfect enough.
We got involved with some amazing projects. Nothing feels better than landing 5- and 6-figure contracts, well, almost nothing. We were electrical contractors first, so we got our foot in the door early. Then came low voltage — the fun stuff, the things that brought these giant, magical homes to life. Music playing everywhere, lighting to set the mood, theaters to impress the movie buffs. We brought entire 10,000-plus-square-foot homes to life with a touch of one button. It was so fulfilling, inspirational and kept us wanting more.
We got engaged in December of 2006 in New York City, but unfortunately, never actually got married. Time ran out. We did have a beautiful baby boy, Nicolas, in 2008. Oh 2008, you were certainly rough. It started off phenomenal! We were excited about the arrival of our baby boy, and we had several monster contracts on mansions in a highly sought-after golf course gated community in Henderson, NV. Nicolas arrived March 1, 2008. We were head over heels for him and Jason wanted nothing more than to be an amazing Dad to his boy.
Then it all came to a screeching halt.
Little did we know, Jason would only be present for eight weeks of Nicolas’ life. He passed away April 30, 2008. Heart complications. He was 34. I was 28.
I’ll never forget walking into our office that early morning to share the news with our guys: their fearless leader is no longer with us here on earth. I had no idea what they would do or say or want for the future of M West Corp. Inc. Much to my surprise, they were all on board to complete our projects. We continued and made it through 2008, 2009, 2010, ‘11, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15. Naturally, the teammates changed, but I was always on a mission to make it and to make Jason proud.
I went all in Vegas-style, baby. I did whatever it took to make the company work, grow and thrive, and it did for many years. We grew to a 7-figure business. I learned so much. And I’m still learning every day.
I got married in those years and built my dream home at the time with America’s Builder. We were a vendor partner of theirs, so we were granted permission to run our own Electrical and provide and install low voltage. Naturally, I had miles and miles of wiring running through it, panelized Vantage Lighting Control, boasting sexy engraved backlit keypads and motion sensors, an obscene amount of audio zones playing the sweet sound of music through Monitor Audio Speakers, all the while controlled by RTI with multiple large touchscreens throughout the home and iPads housed in iPort sleeves and wall mounts, along with QMotion motorized shades on a schedule to match wake up and evening activities. I loved that smart house.
But all good things must come to an end. I was forced to make a personal relationship decision: keep fighting or take flight. If you know me now, you know I’m back in my home state of Illinois, which means I choose the later. I gave it all up. I’ve been back in Illinois now going on five years. Nicolas and I are settled, and it feels really good. It took a long time to get to this place in our lives. Until very recently, I wasn’t even sure I’d ever feel safe and secure on my own, but I do now. Despite all the challenges, I know I’m right where I need to be.
I’ve been at AVAD, now Wave Electronics, for two years. Nicolas and I are adapting and thriving here in our new town in our cozy home. I love my role at Wave: it’s exciting being on the other side of the table and being able to relate to our dealers because I spent so many years in their position. I understand what it means to be a supplier and be a partner in their business. I work hard every day to make sure they receive the service and compassion they need to keep their businesses growing and profitable while serving their customers efficiently, as I wanted mine served.
I realize there’s sadness about this story. That’s not the message. The message is that you can do it, whatever your “it” is. We as humans can overcome adversity. Commit to it, let it consume you. You can get knocked the f out – you just gotta get back up. If I can do it, you can do it.