Clarissa ‘CC’ Gilmore, a Georgia native, and Danielle ‘Dani’ Stevenson, a New York native, are co-founders of League Realty & Associates located at WeWork in Colony Square. Their agency is focused on empowering new and aspiring real estate agents in the Atlanta area and beyond through knowledge, information resources, and access to strategic partners in the industry. Their story is unique and we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the duo about their successes, their challenges, and the advice they have for women seeking to break into their industry.
How did you two meet?
CC: "I had gone to a separate brokerage, I was working there, came back, talked to Dani, and we formed an accountability partnership. We have been stuck at the hip ever since."
Dani: "We also met through a familial relationship outside of work. CC left the brokerage, came back, and we became accountability partners. We shared a common vision and common core values so it was very organic. Within a year of being accountability partners we became owners of a brokerage."
What made you all get into this industry?
CC: "For me, real estate offers opportunities to grow financially, bigger than anything else. I could see there wasn’t a ceiling maximizing my income; there was truly an unlimited income potential. I was in a corporate office environment, and I have two children. I wanted to be able to do more for them. Do more for myself, be more, help people, and employ people. Not just be employed by someone else. Being in this industry would allow me to do that and be a part of other people’s growth."
Dani: "I was a paralegal for 20 years in corporate law. I was an Executive Assistant to the CEO of the largest black owned asset management firm. I had reached the highest level of being in a support role and I had started to feel like I had outgrown it. I was 44 years old. I ended up being let go and it was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t have a college degree and still had managed to build a life on an almost six-figure salary. I was financially motivated and I had a skill set that transferred to this industry. I had no desire to be a brokerage owner, but we decided to pour into other agents and build the type of agents we wanted and it led me here."
What challenges have you faced building your own business? Are there any advantages to having your business in Atlanta?
Dani: "The challenges amongst the minority black community is that the market is heavily saturated and is in a bubble. It was difficult for us to break into the markets because we did not have a presence and there was a lack of trust. Getting into the commercial-side, which is white male dominated, definitely presents challenges. We also knew that we couldn’t just walk into a bank and receive funding so we’ve had to self-fund everything. There is also the perception that there are not many spots at the top for minorities causing people to be hesitant to give you information. They see you as direct competition. Those have been the main challenges that we have faced."
CC: "We have always built our business model around collaboration, not competition. We have always believed and will always believe that. You figure out who actually wants to help and work with you, and who just sees you as competition. That’s not what we’re about. We want to be disruptors in the industry to change the narrative. We as a people should have that goal."
Dani: "Less than 1% of real estate brokerages are owned by minorities, especially women and partnership minorities. We don’t know of another independently owned, double minority brokerage in Atlanta. There’s no frame of reference for us, which is somewhat of a challenge but also allows us to carve the path."
What keeps you motivated?
Dani: "Not having a fallback plan. I’ll be 48 in April and I’ve been in this industry for almost 4 years. Most people my age are in a place in life where they’re winding down building investments, looking towards retirement, and may not be sure what the future holds. My timeline has accelerated. I’m brand new in an industry that will sustain me for retirement. Not having a fallback plan is what motivates me to be successful. Discipline kicks in when motivation is low."
CC: "What motivates me are the people that are depending on me. This includes Dani, my kids, my mom, my agents, and the business. I can’t let them down. I won’t ever let them down. Whatever I must do to keep going, I’ll do it."
Dani: "We have the opportunity to build something tangible to leave behind for our families."
What advice would you give to other women, especially minority women who want to break into this industry, partner and be successful?
CC: "If you know anything about the 7 Principles of Highly Effective People: Begin with the end in mind. That’s something we have as a core value in our company. If this is where you want to go, you have to think about it to get there. We knew this was a good business relationship, we vibed, once we figured that out, we knew we would have a brokerage. We didn’t know exactly when but we knew to think about it. When that opportunity came for what we were trying to do, we could move forward and we didn’t have to think about it too long."
Dani: "I’d say tenacity is important. Ego can get in the way; people want to have exclusive ownership. If you lead with the spirit of cooperation, you will get a lot further. We freely share info with others, we’re intentional with the relationships we form, and as minority women, we partner with other minority owned businesses. Be intentional and change what you want to affect."
CC: "We’re not exclusionary to anyone but we are intentional about who we work with. If you want to help change, we welcome everyone."
Dani: "Our hashtag is #YouCanSitWithUs!"