Women’s History Month is drawing to a close, so we wanted to share one final interview with one of real estate’s leading voices: Lauren Hardy. Lauren is a virtual wholesaler, fix and flipper, and absolutely vital to the explosion of opportunities in cities like Nashville. This is what she had to say about getting started and staying successful during her decade in the industry.
Q: How did you get started in real estate?
A: I’ve kind of always been in real estate from college on. I started in commercial real estate and I thought I was going to be a commercial real estate tycoon or more specifically a commercial real estate broker. However, it was year one of the great recession which made it a horrible time to get into commercial real estate. So I started working in corporate real estate.
I worked for Subway Development doing franchise development. And from there I worked at Irvine Company in their construction department. It wasn’t until I got pregnant and I really wanted to be self-employed that I started flipping houses. So that’s where my journey with residential real estate started.
Q: Who are some of the women who have inspired your career?
A: So there was a woman named Cheryl Osborne that I looked up to. She owned a construction company, so it wasn’t so much real estate, but she was a general contractor and she had a lot of accounts with the Irvine Company.
She started it when she was 25. She was someone who I aspired to be like. At that time, I actually thought I might get into construction. But flipping houses came first and it seemed to be a quicker path to self-employment. So I chose house flipping instead.
Q: What were some of the skills that you admired in her?
A: Her story–she reminded me of myself. She started the business after she had her first child and I was in that same position. She started from nothing. She started her business from her kitchen table and that was me. I started with nothing and had no money and kind of got off to a slow start.
She also was very kind. I wasn’t the most important person at the Irvine Company but she still took the time to talk to me and teach me things. She didn’t act like she was too good for anyone, even though she was very successful, very respected, and very busy.
Q: Becoming an entrepreneur after having children must be hard. What are some of the unique challenges that come with that?
A: So when I first started my business, I had a full time job and I was doing this on the side. I had a one-and-a-half-year-old and then got pregnant with my second child.
So it’s funny because investing with a full time job actually wasn’t as hard because I got to put my kid in daycare and go away somewhere. So I would go to my full time job, which wasn’t super busy. So if it was slow, I could do stuff on the computer for my side business.
But what really surprised me was when I quit my full time job and I thought I would have all this time. I thought that it would be no big deal to have both of my kids at home and I would just start this business.
Well, the exact opposite happened. It is really hard to work around young children, much harder. It’s actually easier to have a full time job and meet those demands and then just squeeze in whatever work you can on the side, because little babies and toddlers will interrupt you every five minutes.
So that was a huge shock to my soul. I really underestimated how difficult that would be and once my business started growing, I needed full time child care pretty quickly. Initially, I was trying to avoid it. And there was a lot of guilt. I mean, the whole reason I became self-employed was to not have my kids in childcare. But I quickly realized it was impossible.
Q: Does that ever get better?
A: It’s never really gotten easier. My kids are now 9 and 12-years-old and I still get in a panic about Christmas break, summer breaks, and spring break. Even though they’re older and they’re not interrupting me every 10 minutes like a toddler would, now it’s every 30 minutes and that’s still really tough.
So it is really challenging, but I can never get those years when they were little back. Because I’m an entrepreneur, I am able to take off and go volunteer for their Valentine’s Day party and join them on school field trips. If I had my full time job, I would have never been able to do those things.
Q: What’s something that you wish you’d known when you started?
A: I wish I would have known to think and trust myself a little bit more instead of trusting other people. You’d be surprised how inherently smart you are. Only you know what’s good for you and often your gut feelings are right.
Often I see women discredit how smart they are and how valuable their opinions are. And so they stay quiet in meetings while a lot of men talk over them and often even silence them. I know I’ve been in meetings where I’ve been silenced. If you talk to a lot of women, they’ll say they’ve all experienced that too.
But a lot of my mistakes were actually the result of following advice from someone else. If I would have listened to my gut, I would have gone in the right direction, or at least in a better direction. And I think anyone reading this needs to know what’s best for them. You’re a lot smarter than you think!
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a real estate investor and entrepreneur?
A: I get to have control over what I’m doing for a living. If there’s something that I absolutely hate doing, I get to fire myself from that job.
If there’s an industry I don’t feel like participating in or a niche I don’t want to be in, I get to leave. I also love not having a boss. I mean, that’s the best. I think we’ve all had a nightmare boss at one time and I think that one of the perks is that I never have to work with anybody I don’t want to. I don’t have to be in any kind of abusive scenarios or situations for very long.
I mean, you might have a client that sucks, but you can finish out the job and then never speak to that person again. So I love that freedom.
Q: What challenges have you faced as a woman in real estate? How have you overcome them?
A: I never really think, “Oh, I’m a woman therefore I’m the underdog in this industry.” I think that attitude in general is why you feel that way. To me, if you don’t think about it, it doesn’t exist. So it doesn’t exist for me. Just because this industry is male-dominated, that doesn’t really make any difference to me at all.
I will say, I’ve noticed a difference between men and women. It just seems that men will speak and say really bold statements with confidence. And they’ll say it whether or not the statement is supported by facts. They speak their opinions more boldly.
But I’ve noticed that women are more careful when they speak up. It’s almost like they need to have 10 facts before they’ll speak and say something. And that’s really important to remember if you’re in a male-dominated industry and you have a bunch of men chanting these different statements, these different things: “Oh, do this. This is what’s working right now. The economy is this way, this is what’s going to happen.”
You’re going to believe it because they’re just louder. Whoever is louder tends to get listened to. Remember that; they’re not necessarily right, they’re just louder. So again, go back to facts and listen to yourself.
That’s especially true in the world of influencers. There was a reel going around that’s so funny and it’s the perfect example. It’s this guy doing an Instagram video and he’s like, “I’m 22 years old and I just bought a $14 million dollar house in Montana.” And the guy behind the camera goes, “Cut! Younger age and more expensive property.” And the guy’s like, “Hey, I’m five years old and I just bought a $22 million dollar castle in Montana.”
So in the 10 years that I’ve been in this business, I’ve realized that some of my biggest mistakes have been because I was listening to somebody else who was very loud, who had an agenda. So you always have to wonder what’s in it for them. What are they getting out of it? Do they get some kind of financial benefit by getting you to partner with them on this deal? You just have to look at what’s in it for them and make sure that it’s also good for you.