Managing Director, Vitalise Ventures
Adjunct Professor, Duke University
Stephanie Knight doesn't waste time with conventions—she is eagle-eyed when it comes to cracks in the business and consulting space. As the visionary Founder and CEO of Vitalise Ventures, and the innovative mind behind Kurated.ai, Stephanie's career has been a whirlwind of problem-solving.
With astute ingenuity, Stephanie addressed the challenge of expanding her client base while maintaining the limited personnel capacity of Vitalise Ventures. She solved the inefficiency problem of top firms like McKinsey using a unique collaboration and apprenticeship approach to traditional consulting.
Her laser focus on trends such as AI drove her to educate chat AI users and businesses on the importance of brand and storytelling. Stephanie keeps no secrets hidden and leverages her brilliant mind and problem-solving skills to equip society with tools it isn’t aware of but needs.
In an increasingly asset-driven and result-oriented world, Stephanie Knight does not concede her individuality to competition—instead, she carves out space for herself. A valiant achiever, Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Kurated.ai, Managing Director of Vitalise Ventures, and Adjunct Professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
Stephanie was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company for several years before she set out to chart her path with Vitalise Ventures, a consultancy and training company that innovatively uses a unique apprenticeship model for its broad range of clientele to provide strategy, team development, and training services.
“I am a consultant and educator. That's the most concise framing of it, but the core of who I am is a management strategy consultant and a generalist at heart.”
Stephanie embodies the qualities of a critical and strategic thinker, an efficient communicator, and an inquisitive intellectual, always drawn to challenging yet fulfilling endeavours. Her dual roles as an educator and practitioner have enriched her thinking and enabled her to apply instructional expertise to her consulting work.
Forging a Career Path
After several years at McKinsey, Stephanie began contemplating her career trajectory with the potential goal of becoming a partner at the firm. She took some time to reflect and ask herself the necessary questions: was she ready to invest two years of her life to reach this destination? Was this a good time to do so? The answer was no. After considering her broader life and variables like family relocation, she realized it was not favourable for her to journey toward a partnership. She made the pivotal decision to move across the country and continue pursuing the question of her next career stop. Amidst the uncertainty, one thing remained clear in Stephanie's mind: her desire for independence.
“I was quite determined to try to pave my own way, not just figuring out where on a corporate ladder I could fit and how close to the top I could get using the McKinsey springboard, but instead wanting to go and chart my own path.”
Throughout her career, Stephanie has been able to keep consulting, critical thinking, and curiosity at the nexus of her work, and Vitalise Ventures has played a role in that. Stephanie was initially confident she wanted to do one-on-one consulting, and the lack of capital and high stakes of hiring employees supported this vision. This approach afforded her greater autonomy in determining project scope, client selection, and project timelines, enabling her to focus solely on ventures aligned with her core competencies while carefully screening potential clients.
With time, however, Stephanie discovered that without the extra help to conduct a plethora of tasks associated with delivering a complete strategy engagement, she was limiting herself to smaller projects. She wanted to take on more significant work without involving more people, but no existing model would fit both needs.
So, she created her own.
A Revolutionary Consulting Model
Models such as search funds and Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) have a compelling apprenticeship component built into them, where entrepreneurs can receive training before acquiring and managing businesses. Support and openness are the crux of these spaces. Taking this into consideration, Stephanie wondered:
“Why doesn't consulting work that way? Why couldn't it work that way?”
She spotted an inefficiency in the work arrangement in which top consulting firms like McKinsey operate. Upon joining a client organization, external consultants invest a substantial amount of time. Their duties extend beyond simply interacting with and interviewing clients for data collection. They also strive to understand the client's priorities and culture. Moreover, they undertake the necessary security protocols to access sensitive information and meet key individuals. A lot of time and energy is spent acquiring information before it is used.
With Vitalise Ventures, Stephanie proposes an alternate apprenticeship and collaboration approach. Her strategy, communication, and critical thinking would function in partnership with the client company’s consulting engagement, allowing the client company more control over their execution and generating top-tier results with a quarter of McKinsey’s rates. The client could also choose younger generations within their organization to receive hands-on training in top firm tactics from ex-McKinsey leaders like Stephanie.
“We've now apprenticed, up-skilled, and trained that part of your core workforce to continue moving through their work and communicating at this top level. We've delivered on a core strategy or operations excellence engagement. And arguably, we're going to have better execution on the outcomes and the recommendations that the consulting engagement came out with because those key owners and change agents are in your organization.”
What's not to like? Stephanie’s model teaches the client organization to fish rather than catch the fish for them and leave them well-equipped in the long term. Through Vitalise Ventures, she skillfully chiselled away at the problems of the conventional consulting model to create a dynamic masterpiece.
Carving a Space Around AI
A pertinent topic on Stephanie’s radar has been the emergence of publicly accessible artificial intelligence in recent months. She has observed that, on the one hand, generative AI has democratized access to a substantial amount of information and can offer insights, summaries and analyses at the click of a button. Tools such as Microsoft Copilot and the ever-evolving ChatGPT are giving unprecedented potential to productivity. On the other hand, however, Stephanie notes that artificial intelligence’s bustling creations come to a halt when data needs to be distilled into a compelling story backed by a clear strategy and insight. The speed of decision-making, actionability of narratives, and overall judgment still lie in the hands of the business.
“There's a variety of folks that I've gotten to work with, coach and mentor over the past few years at data science companies, health care companies, retail, oil and gas, finance, etc. And all of them need to curate down their stories better.”
AI is equalizing access, not execution, and more businesses and individuals need to learn how to use it for higher-level goals. To bridge this knowledge gap, Stephanie founded her second business, Kurated.ai. The educational technology company teaches professionals how to use communication tools such as PowerPoint, email, and reports to bring their audience onto a learning journey and effectively convey their narrative.
Ultimately, Stephanie cleared a path for her business by identifying a problem and forming a solution to leave its users more prepared for today’s fast-paced world.
Stephanie Knight is a strategic visionary who has touched the ceiling of impact as an Adjunct Professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Founder of Vitalise Ventures and Kurated.ai, and former Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co. Both her businesses solve unrealized problems while ensuring great benefits for their clients. Vitalise Ventures empowers individuals, companies, and the next generation with expert training with her consulting, and Kurated.ai educates the growing AI user population about storytelling with AI-generated data. Stephanie’s brilliant mind and speedy execution are superpowers in the clutter of an increasingly result-oriented and data-driven world.
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