Don’t Be Afraid to Take Giant Steps: How one woman went from small town kid to NYC Real Estate CEO by 30

10/12/2016 12:51 pm ET

I’ve always wanted to conquer everything from school to sports, to just plain old life. (Weirdly, being a conqueror isn’t what little girls are expected to dream of) I always wanted to be successful and do big things and I knew that there would be obstacles to be conquered along the way. So I worked hard at school and even graduated college early but when I finally saw the finish line I had no idea what I wanted to do. A 20 year-old girl with only her college degree in hand, I left my native Ohio for New York City to accept a job in pharmaceutical sales - my ticket to conquering the city I always dreamed of.

I immediately fell in love with the city but I just as quickly realized pharmaceutical sales wasn’t for me. I quit – which was a giant step and the first of many leaps I would take. I was leaving a secure job for the unknown but I knew I was making the right choice. Always hustling, I immediately got a job in retail to pay rent. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (funny how hindsight is the only way you can see these things as great choices). One of my store clients worked in real estate and asked me if I’d be interested in an entry-level position. I jumped at the chance and got the job—my second giant step. I was entering a field I knew nothing about for little pay to start but with great possibilities, so I accepted the challenge.

I was hooked from the start. Real estate suited me and challenged me. Eventually, I found my niche in real estate when I discovered affordable housing. Real estate brokerage rewards people for their hard work. Affordable housing, in turn, helps people “afford” homes, allowing them to create better lives for themselves. Moreover, I saw a challenge in affordable housing; it was ripe with possibility but very much a boys club. I fell in love with the industry and once again I set out to conquer.

I immediately set out to break into the boys club but they definitely didn't make it easy. I was often told that I was just too nice for this industry, that I couldn't hack it but then finally at the end of my third year I closed my first deal - it didn’t help that getting deals to go through in affordable housing can take months, even years. I had crossed the finish line and finally, people were taking notice.

Three years after that I was ready to take a leap and start my own brokerage firm. That was the biggest giant step I ever took. In 2008, during the economic downturn, Dane Real Estate was born. Starting my own company was the scariest, most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It still is to this day. I am proud to say we had our biggest year to date in 2015, closing 15 deals—and even prouder to say that Dane has made an impact in the world of affordable housing closing in excess of 11,000 affordable housing units and facilitating over $1.5 billion in transactions.

This was not what I imagined leaving Ohio nor was it easy or straightforward but to be honest, where I am today is so much better than what I dreamed of back then. Those first few years I struggled to make ends meet, even surviving on leftovers, but I always knew my passion and determination were going to help me conquer. Listening to my gut has afforded me opportunities I never even imagined. I love what I do and most importantly I am loving my journey. And I am not done yet—not by a long shot. There are definitely more giant steps in my future.

My journey hasn’t been conventional or easy but it has left me with plenty of insights for other young women (or anyone that's willing to listen):

Maintain a “Conqueror” Mentality

As I said, I’ve always wanted to conquer everything that crosses my path. Don't be afraid to be a conqueror and definitely don’t be afraid to take on the boys. This mentality has been invaluable to me. Even when I doubted myself or others doubted me, I would remember I had come to conquer and that is exactly what I needed to do.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Giant Steps

Taking risks is scary, terrifying even but don’t let your fear keep you from making leaps. Sometimes the only way to move ahead in your career, in business or in life is to take a giant step and you have to have the confidence in yourself to be able to do that.

Hustle Every Day

No matter how tired, hungry or defeated you’re feeling, you have to keep hustling. It may take everything you have to make that extra call or send that email (after the last 50 went unanswered) but you have to do it. Dig deep for that extra bit of hustle –it will make a huge difference in the long run. Trust me.

Find Your Niche

Narrowing my focus to affordable housing was crucial to my success in real estate. I was able to develop an expertise that made me competitive in a field where I was the underdog. Building your expertise and making yourself competitive is essential, especially in a contentious job market.

Find Your Balance

Working hard is vital but don’t let yourself get burned out. Fitness and working-out give my day the balance I crave to be my best. You cannot run yourself into the ground and expect to successfully run a company or your life. You’ve got to take care of yourself first both mentally and physically, no matter what life throws at you.

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