With all the talk of inflation, heightened interest rates, and a recession looming, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially after pushing through the hardships of a pandemic. If you can find inspiration and motivation to keep pushing through, just take a cue from someone whose mantra screams empowerment and fortitude no matter what life throws at us as Black women.
"We had a conference [recently] and one of our speakers said ‘You are your own economy.’ And I’m of the mindset, after working with coaches and being around people who are moving heavy in their industries, that we are our own economy," said Makeda Smith, CEO of Savvy Chicks In Real Estate, a Plainfield, IL-based marketing agency that offers community, events, coaching, and resources for women in the industry. "The economy may say that we’re looking at increased prices, but what are you going to do to meet the challenge?"
Women are finding financial freedom and empowerment through pursuing careers and businesses in real estate, representing 65% of realtors. (And it's notable that single women, in particular, are leading in homeownership, at 19%, compared with 9% of single men.)
Smith has built a lucrative career in real estate, becoming a multi-million-dollar producer and top-seller in her market. "It's from my hard work that I already put in the industry, being a top producer, that I’ve made an impact in the industry. Now, I’m able to take that same drive and shift it to help women in the business.
She is now working to ensure that Black women in the industry are able to leverage all opportunities to not only build wealth for themselves but also for those in their communities as well.
We talked more with Smith about how she got started, what has kept her passionate about the industry after almost two decades in the business, and how women can tap into a lucrative career despite the current economic climate:
Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
xoNecole: How did you get started working in real estate?
Makeda Smith: I got licensed in 2004, and it was after my husband had pestered me to go and get my license. He thought it would be a good opportunity for me to start a new career. I was coming out of [a career in] customer service. It was a completely different industry, and I wasn’t thinking about real estate until he pushed me. Eighteen years later, I’m still a licensed agent.
We launched our own brokerage in 2011. Then, in 2017, I launched my marketing agency to help women in real estate build their brands. It just came full circle.
xoN: What keeps you going after so many years in the industry, especially with the housing market's ups and downs?
MS: In the early years, [I had] the ability to help a family or an investor to purchase and sell real estate and have that be part of their wealth portfolio. Now, I’m passionate about helping the agents who have just started out in business or those who have been in business but [are] stuck and can’t get over a certain revenue hump. We have the inflation rate and gas prices are high, but people will always need a place to live and there's always opportunities.
Let's say last year, I was working with people who had a price point to where they couldn't get over showing people homes that may have been at $150,000. Those homes are $200,000 and $250,000, so a lot of the agents’ incomes are going up because the property values are moving up. It’s not like 2008 [during the Great Recession].
Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
xoN: It's good you mentioned that because some women might be a bit apprehensive about getting into real estate due to what's going on in the economy right now.
MS: If you’re a new agent coming into the business, it’s no different than when I got into it in 2004. You have to find your lane and you have to go hard in that lane. You have to have a strategy and a plan. Then you have to have a made-up mind that 'I'm going to go for this.’ Figure out how you are going to carve your own space within the saturated market. It was saturated in 2004, it was saturated in 2008, and it’s saturated now.
"If you’re a new agent coming into the business, it’s no different than when I got into it in 2004. You have to find your lane and you have to go hard in that lane. Figure out how you are going to carve your own space within the saturated market. It was saturated in 2004, it was saturated in 2008, and it’s saturated now."
A lot of people are saying that these are times that we will find people leaving the industry, but then you will find out what agents are really made of — those who stay in the industry, who find a way around the noise and distractions.
xoN: How do you carve a niche, though? What actions did you take?
MS: I did not sell traditional real estate. I said, 'Okay, how can I get more listings faster so that I am not doing as much legwork to find new clients?' I began to study and figure out how I could work with a bank like Chase, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who already had a bulk of listings and say hey I’d like to be your go-to agent. If you have any foreclosures in your area, I’d love to be your broker on that.' And that’s how I became a top producer. In 2007, when I made top-earner status, I had to bring my husband on in because I couldn't handle all of it myself.
Then we both made at least $100,000 each. We had never ever seen anything like that in our lifetime.
Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
xoN: Some of us struggle with networking and forging relationships. How were you able to do so with the housing and banking institutions?
MS: It's not as easy as people say. I went to a conference in Dallas and it was geared toward businesses that had assets. I said, 'If I could just get in front of them, give them my pitch, and bring them what I have to the table, let’s see if they’ll give me a chance.' I just started showing up at all of these different conferences. I’d hit up reps over and over again. The one thing I would say that worked is that time when I followed up with Freddie Mac over and over. They kept telling me no.
Then the rep finally came through with that yes. She gave me 50 listings that [they] can give you at one time and I was blown away. I finally heard that yes. I showed up where the people were. If it was me paying for a plane ticket plus a conference ticket and making sure I had money for food even when I was low on cash, I made that investment to show up where I needed to be for my ideal client. That’s how I became a top producer and my husband became a top producer.
"I showed up where the people were. If it was me paying for a plane ticket plus a conference ticket and making sure I had money for food even when I was low on cash, I made that investment to show up where I needed to be for my ideal client. That’s how I became a top producer and my husband became a top producer."
I always say, 'Stop being timid about your business.' Walmart is not timid about selling you their products or putting a commercial in your face. Target is not timid about helping you get into their stores to spend more of your money, so why are we timid when it comes to our own businesses? I don’t care if you are in your first $10,000 or half a million, we cannot afford to be timid about the businesses in which God has given us.
My mission is to help women in real estate have multiple streams of income that not only depends upon real estate transactions but you have digital products, courses Ebooks, and own paid events. Those are things that don’t teach you in real estate school and it's something I wish someone had done that for me. That keeps me going.
For more of Makeda, follow her on Instagram @makedasmithceo.
Featured image by Carl Ankrum of The Media MD