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Aleksandra Scepanovic: “The key is hard work and a steady development of belief in oneself”

In my mind, the most important key to achieving the American dream is to realize that no one key fits that lock. The American dream is an elusive notion of success without a recipe other than the one that suggests hard work and a steady development of belief in oneself. For me personally, the two, […]

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In my mind, the most important key to achieving the American dream is to realize that no one key fits that lock. The American dream is an elusive notion of success without a recipe other than the one that suggests hard work and a steady development of belief in oneself. For me personally, the two, combined with a willingness to learn daily, and a desire to take mistakes for the sake of learning more — are essential to the achievement of the dream.


As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aleksandra Scepanovic

Aleksandra Scepanovic is Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group, a leading residential real estate firm specializing in premier Brownstone Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods including Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights, as well as Williamsburg, Gowanus, Chelsea and other sought-after locations.

The firm was founded in 2007 by Scepanovic and her partner Erik Serras, who identified a need to build a technologically innovative infrastructure for sales and rentals in key Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Scepanovic is responsible for business development at Ideal. Since founding the company, she has helped develop its foundation and technological edge, set its mission and implement a clear vision. Today, Scepanovic continues to formulate Ideal’s strategy, identifies and monitors the markets, works at upholding the company’s values, oversees hiring and marketing, and assists her partner in setting Ideal’s direction and building its culture by creating an exciting and supportive environment for brokers to work.

Earlier in her career, Scepanovic worked as an editor and media analyst in her home country of former Yugoslavia. Her firsthand experience of reporting from the war zones of the Balkans robbed of their beauty, and the country’s horizons riddled with broken “Swiss cheese-like” buildings, left her not only longing for peace, but also with a belief in architecture as a symbol of perseverance and the human need to rebuild and move on.

She came to New York with a strong desire to design and create, which led her to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. The program awakened her inner eye for detail and invigorated her passion for architecture and interiors. She incorporates this experience into the real estate industry and continuously utilizes her project management skills and a designer’s eye to take her business to the next level.

Ideal has offices in Brownstone Brooklyn and Manhattan and a staff of over 250 highly-trained real estate brokers and salespeople.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas born in what is now known and referred to as former Yugoslavia, at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilizations. Growing up, I was fascinated by history, while the beauty of time and place around me drove me to spend my college days studying archaeology. During this time, however, the early 90’s happened to my country, and I found my calling to take me to Bosnia, still part of Yugoslavia at the time, engulfed in a war. The war entirely shifted my perspective — I felt that focusing on ancient history was not as relevant and rewarding as the need to record and report on the history that was unfolding in front of me. My firsthand experience of reporting from the war zones of the Balkans robbed of their beauty, and the country’s horizons riddled with broken “Swiss cheese-like” buildings, left me not only longing for peace, but also with a belief in architecture as a symbol of perseverance and the human need to rebuild and move on.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?

While on a trip to New York, I heard the city calling. After spending years reporting on the front lines of the war, I needed a secure place, place free of emotional trouble and physical danger, for a fresh start. The end of the Bosnian war saw me engaged in media analysis, the professional path I continued in New York City. New York, at the turn of the 2000’s, quickly brought back the sense of my pre-war years, and left me completely enamored in interiors and architecture. I ended up overwhelmed with a desire to create and rebuild, and soon decided to enroll in one of the city’s leading interior design programs, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The program strengthened my passion for the built world, which eventually led to my leap into the exciting world of New York City real estate.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

I stayed on in Sarajevo in Bosnia after the war ended and a few years later I traveled to NYC to visit a friend. New York City was enchanting, breath-taking, alive… in strong contrast to the tumultuous region I hauled from. It didn’t take much for me to develop a desire to make the city my permanent home. At first, the city took some getting used to, but consistent cultural shocks aside, it is now possibly more my home than I had ever imagined it could be.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

There are a number of people I owe eternal gratitude to for making the move a possibility. Suffice it to say that they are forever in my thoughts.

So how are things going today?

Today, I am a co-founder of Ideal Properties Group, a leading real estate brokerage that focuses on premier New York City neighborhoods. I was working at a boutique brokerage firm in Manhattan with my partner, Erik Serras, in our earlier years in New York, and we found ourselves spending more time in our home borough of Brooklyn — a borough which we felt was widely and undeservedly so underserved by the city’s real estate brokerages. We recognized the potential, and decided to branch out on our own to form Ideal Properties Group.

When we launched Ideal, the real estate market was collapsing in the wake and aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. While this was a challenging time — where confidence in the market was low and our money was tight — we focused on our belief in Brooklyn and with that enthusiasm, we were able to build a successful firm. We now have over 250 employees and four offices throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. Ideal is slated to continue its growth in Brooklyn and Manhattan, remaining one of the very few mid-size independent real estate brokerages in the city.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

First and foremost, I am working on instilling the values of hard work and qualities such as persistence, eternal curiosity and a willingness to learn (particularly from one’s mistakes) in my young daughter… in hoping that the new generations will outdo us in every possible way — from learning better and more about our own environment and our people to wanting to work to protect them. She is learning to be in the state of a permanent giving mode.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?

My last direct exposure to the US immigration system is well behind me, and any challenging aspects of the experience have been scrubbed from memory. The American immigration system often faces criticism; however, it is consistently trying to serve the steady streams of people wanting to call the country home. Any simple answers seem to elude.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

In my mind, the most important key to achieving the American dream is to realize that no one key fits that lock. The American dream is an elusive notion of success without a recipe other than the one that suggests hard work and a steady development of belief in oneself. For me personally, the two, combined with a willingness to learn daily, and a desire to take mistakes for the sake of learning more — are essential to the achievement of the dream.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

The US remains a beacon of democracy, somewhat recently scarred from the governmental turmoil, but nevertheless a leader of the democratic thought. That fact alone fills me with optimism for the years, decades and centuries ahead.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Lately, I’ve been thinking back and remembering George Soros, and his contributions to the philanthropic causes that earned him the famous nickname of a “bugaboo of European nationalists.”

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

The best way to get in touch with Ideal Properties Group is by giving us a quick follow TwitterInstagramFacebook, and LinkedIn. If you happen to be in NYC, look us up in one of our offices!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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