The inspiration for this post was the look on one of my contractor's face - this mixed expression of irritation and audacity. I couldn't help but audibly and visibly chuckle in front of him; after arriving 40 minutes late for our scheduled meeting, he had brought me a contract to sign the morning of work and casually slid in "hey I forgot to add in some materials, so it will be $400 more."
I will admit: it is of poor form to laugh in someone's face - especially in business forum. But this took the cake.
"I'm canceling the electrical work. This is why I asked for my estimate in advance. You can do the floors today, but I'm not paying for this electrical work until I've had time to look over what extra materials you are trying to charge me for."
The colors his face turned. Y'all - mixed expression of irritation and AUDACITY. Like... he was SURPRISED.
Understand, this is not the first or last time I will get sub-par service while working on a real estate deal. And if you are a single young black female in real estate, you will - beyond a shadow of a doubt - experience it as well.
So! Here are my top three pieces of advice for young black single females who have started their journeys in real estate.
1. Before it is anything else, business is a mindset
If you google "how to start a business" (don't hold me to this because I'm not googling it), you're probably going to get hundreds of articles about starting an LLC, apprenticing within your field, how to apply and qualify for a business loan, etc etc. What you're not going to find is the proper mindset to have for taking on the task of starting a business.
As black women, however, the second you begin to pursue entrepreneurship, each and every individual that you encounter will start to form an opinion about you - and in the business world, "young, black, and female" usually don't tip the odds of power dynamics in our favor. This means that your mindset within your business already has to be developed before you fill out any pre-approval application, step into any bank, or meet with any realtor.
Your personal self worth will manifest in the standards of what you will and won't accept. Set your standards and boundaries and make sure they're carried out throughout your interactions with people.
What are your negotiables and non-negotiables? If you're looking for a 4-plex because you have a plan, are you willing to look at duplexes? Triplexes?
Whose advice are you willing to listen to, and whose advice do you need to filter out? When do you need to humble your inner voice, and when do you need to elevate it?
This brings us to advice number 2.
2. Know Your Sasha Fierce
This one I've had to hard-earn. I've learned this lesson the hard way over, and over, and over.
One of the most popular examples of creating an alter ego is Beyonce' s Sasha Fierce. Beyonce has talked about why she created Sasha a few times, telling Oprah "when I hear the crowd and I put on my stilettos, Sasha Fierce comes out. I have my ballads and more vulnerable tracks for me, and Sasha Fierce is for the fans."
Girl. You need a Sasha Fierce. Every woman who has conducted her first real estate deal is shaking her head up and down right now. The second you step into any room to discuss real estate, each pair of eyes and the brain they're connected to start making assumptions. Every human mind does it. But it is absolutely critical that you tip the scales in your favor.
I, as a person, am naturally goofy. I've been called ditzy more times than I care to admit. I also can get really awkward in social situations and sometimes have to ask if people are joking or being sarcastic. None of that can enter the room with me when I walk into a house.
It is so critically important to set austere expectations at the beginning - no matter how outside of your actual personality that is.
And this doesn't just apply to general contractors or renovations, but to all aspects of real estate. If you think you should qualify for a better lending product (what do I mean by "lending product?" I mean the type of mortgage loan your bank is willing to finance for you) tell your bank that you're walking away and WHY you're walking away. YOU, invesister (catchy? Thoughts? Ima keep it), are the patron. You are the client, and you know you can take your business elsewhere.
3. Be Your Biggest Cheerleader
This one is so, so hard. And every time I say or think it I get the strongest desire to reach out and hug someone. But you absolutely have to be your biggest cheerleader.
Because of the demographics you fall into, you're going to run in to the scenario that EVERYONE - whether they love you or hate you, admire you or conspire against you - will project their beliefs onto your potential. The people who love you will try to protect you from getting hurt, and the people who hate you will want to see you fail. But the fact is that the only person who's opinion will determine your level of success is your own. It is your opinion that has a direct correlation with your potential.
That doesn't mean you don't have people in your corner - quite the opposite. As you work on your business (see advice number 1), you'll realize that birds of a feather flock together. You'll look at how you spend your time because you'll realize it's valuable. You're gonna need help. You're gonna have questions. As you start to ask those questions, you'll find the people on your journey who are going to take you where you need to go.
Let me know if you agree, disagree, feel some type of way, or what! Also, let me know if you've been tried by someone in real estate. I love a good clap back story. Every time a lender, contractor, or realtor disrespects you, it's an indication that there is an expectation to receive our money in exchange for less than quality work. WE, as the investors, are the clients, so every story about women in real estate gathering up people for recalibration makes my heart sing. You love to see it.
Til next time.