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I Changed My Entire Life in One Year and You Can Too

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By In Her Shoes Guest Contributor: Tricia Lee

I started 2015 with one objective and one objective only: to close down my salon, Polish Bar Brooklyn, and start an entirely new career. I was going to change my life over the next 365 days, come hell or high water. After almost 10 years of running the Brooklyn famous brand of beauty service salons, I was dog tired. I didn’t want to do the day-to-day operations anymore. I couldn’t imagine shoveling my storefront sidewalk after another snow storm. Now don’t get me wrong, Polish Bar was everything I worked for. One thing I’ve learned in my years of business, is that even your wildest dream can turn into your worst nightmare. I didn’t feel like I was growing. When I thought about how I wanted to progress, the salon was never a part of that conversation. When I really evaluated what I wanted to do, how I want to live, what I wanted my days to feel like, I thought about three things: freedom, peace, and prosperity.

As I considered what was next for me, one thing that came to mind consistently was the fact that the only people making money around here (downtown Brooklyn) were property owners and real estate agents. So it hit me…I could do this. I could sell this neighborhood. Actually, I could do it better than them. I’m a part of this community, heck I’ve made a huge contribution to all that is trendy and cool about this place. That’s what business owners do, they shape the neighborhood. No one can sell this place better than me!


Tricia Lee at her Prospect Heights Polish Bar Brooklyn location in 2010

A lot of my friends jokingly call me the mayor of Brooklyn and guess what? They are absolutely right. I can make almost anyone fall in love with at least one neighborhood in Brooklyn, just give me an afternoon.

I signed up for a real estate course and knocked out all 20 classes in under three weeks. I scheduled my state test and had my license by summer 2015. In the fall, I started with the number one firm in Brooklyn, The Corcoran Group and went to their biggest office. I was told to start out on a team to get my feet wet. That was a joke and within 21 days, I jumped ship.

I knew quite a bit about real estate. Many of friends and clients were owners or developers. I had owned, bought, sold, leased, subleased, you name it. Delving into real estate on my own was a bit more scary, but it felt most comfortable for me. While continuing to run my salon, I went into the realty office early in the mornings, worked on my marketing, leads and started to craft my real estate brand. No different than I had done with my previous business, creating action plans.

It helps when you take what you are currently doing and find a way to maximize it with your new career – even if it’s a totally different world. You may be a lawyer and decide to open a daycare. Well guess what? Your colleagues have kids, they know people with kids and so does everyone in their network. That’s your customer base right there in your current office.

When I announced my salon closing, I shared ALL the news with my client base and my announcement included my next steps. I had various closing events and started to chronicle my journey via social media – the good, the bad and the ugly.
If people couldn’t relate to beauty and didn’t care about real estate, everyone could relate to starting over. I was flooded with calls, emails and comments. I had never had this much client engagement in all years of press. Black Enterprise did a three page story about me changing lanes. My network had a constant reminder of my new business and I became a source of information. Referrals came in immediately. I already had really strong relationships with key people in the communities, so building on those connections came naturally. My salon clients became my brand ambassadors and I couldn’t have done it without them.

Now I have to be honest, servicing over 40K people in 10 years hasn’t done my new business too shabby. Being recognizable in several of Brooklyn’s hottest neighborhoods has its perks. But, at the end of the day it comes down to service, consistency, knowledge and reliability. People give you an opportunity, but you have to earn it to keep it. In addition, I really honed in and made tons of sacrifices.  I missed all the parties, nights out, and date nights were few and far between. I also had to miss a few holidays and family time. Last year, Thanksgiving was just a day to catch up on paperwork.

I worked seven days a week to make this happen, I was closing one business while building another. Let’s be clear, changing your life might mean a few lonely holidays and a lot of sacrifices. This is where most people lose interest, but it’s also where the magic begins.

While you need to be hard working, being an entrepreneur forces or allows you to develop the ability to multi-task. It came down to creating a concept, selling an audience on your brand, building brand loyalty, successfully marketing, servicing and showing up to be the face and voice of your brand. Thankfully, I had 10 years of practice.

Real estate is the original forum of entrepreneurs because you don’t generate sales that you don’t earn. That’s why people are in and out of real estate so quickly. They realize it’s truly entrepreneurism, and they walk. Yes, you align with a brokerage, but you completely work for yourself. It was a natural fit for me.

Fast forward to present day, I went on to serve as lead in agent first year sales at Corcoran with record-breaking first year numbers. So much so I was sought out by new real-estate tech firm, with unicorn status, Compass. Known for hiring real estate’s best and brightest agents, Compass has become my new partner in entrepreneurial crime. I was brought on board for my savvy business strategy and my total of 20 homes sold in the first 12 months.

“Tricia Lee will undoubtedly have a phenomenal real estate career, we wanted to partner with her and back her business. She approaches business in a fresh way, she’s an entrepreneur, that’s what we are all about at Compass.”

– Compass Co-Founder, Robert Reffkin

I chose Compass because I believe they are shaping the future of real estate. I wanted to grow my business somewhere that is authentic to my brand and my voice. I could have chosen any firm, but when Compass asked, “How can we help you do what it is that you do better?” I was sold. I’m a true entrepreneur and they speak my language fluently. I’ve finally found my home.

* Tricia Lee has sold a total of 20 homes as of this feature, and put two more deals into contract this week. Follow the day-to-day life of this beauty boss-turned-real estate mogul on social media @lovetricialee.

As a New York City storyteller, filmmaker, digital content creator, and PR strategist, Renae Bluitt created "In Her Shoes" to empower and enlighten women committed to realizing their dreams.

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