Today’s Biz Ladies profile comes to us from Jenelle Isaacson of Living Room Realty. Jenelle first decided to venture into business owning after having an “ah ha” moment one day. With the goal to transform the traditional real estate realm into a more creative one, Jenelle has created a company that focuses on developing vibrant communities in the Portland area. Today she shares a bit about her career journey with us. Thanks for offering this glimpse into your path, Janelle. —Stephanie
Photography courtesy of Jillian Lancaster
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Usually when people ask me why I started my own business I joke that it was over antibacterial soap in the bathrooms of my old office. It was my “ah ha!” moment when I realized I wanted to have more control over the experience of my office and it sounded like an exciting and creative new endeavor. It’s the little things sometimes, like having the type of handmade soap and local coffee you like. It’s also the big things like the fact that soap and coffee is sourced from workers making living wages and that you have a connection with your community even in the smallest of details.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
When I started my business I began with defining what my business would feel like. Approachable, warm, joyful, beautiful, and most importantly (at the time I was 8 months pregnant and had a 15 month old already) family friendly! I let those items define what the business would be and how it would grow.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
The best piece of advice I got when starting out was don’t worry about your weaknesses lead with your strengths. I am a textile artist at heart so I use my love and knowledge of art, textiles and interiors to be competitive in the real estate market. I host monthly art shows to reach out to my clients and to drive business. My ability to stage interiors and create beautiful office space helps attract like-minded clients and agents to work with me that value my strengths.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Business has taught me that diversity is important when trying to understand and solve problems. I was at a business summit recently where I was the only woman present. We were discussing creating jobs for Oregonians and all the men were sharing very intelligent and well thought out arguments for more training, technical skills and capital for business. I was intimidated by their very different and vast expertise on local industry and stayed quiet thinking I couldn’t contribute. When asked by the moderator what I thought, I shared that the fastest growing segment of workers in America is women with children under the age of 3. And that we should be supporting their rights to breast feed and job share. Every person in the room later thanked me for sharing that. They hadn’t considered the personal barriers for women workers in that way before. What can seem so obvious for one may be completely new for another. It’s important we listen to outside perspectives to expand our thinking.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Moments of failure in my business have all come from not engaging my community enough in the process of change or decision making. The time it takes to recover is way longer than the upfront cost of slowing down and communicating more.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
My greatest success in business is any time one of my agents tells me that I have, in some way, contributed and made a difference in their business or lives.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
One of my favorite business resources is the Good Life Project podcasts. Artists and business leaders talk about their creative journeys and what a “good life” means to them. Anything by Danielle LePorte or Brene Brown. Creating a business is going to mean you are taking a risk and putting yourself out there. Brene Brown has helped me get comfortable with the vulnerability of that risk. I also love Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki was a building block for me in my becoming more financially literate.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
Top 3 things to consider when starting your own business. (I have four, so pick the ones you like!)
1. Are you able to ask for support and help easily? Going out on your own means you will need to trust and rely on people more, not less. Surround yourself with mentors, join business groups or create a woman’s business group that meets once a month. Every business owner I know shares feelings of being isolated and lonely.
2. If you think you will have employees are you able to listen to people’s commitment under their criticism? Example: employee: “our website sucks.” You: “I hear you are committed to us having the best website we can…me too! Can you help me make it better?” Bringing out the best in others often times means being able to put my own ego aside.
3. Are you good at sales? Your ability to sell yourself, your business, your product or service is crucial to success. Investing in this area in your business will yield the highest returns.
4. Who is your customer and how do you plan to consistently connect with them in a meaningful way?