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As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aviva Sonenreich.
Aviva Sonenreich has combined three generations’ worth of experience in commercial real estate with modern marketing savvy nearly absent from the field. With a strong passion for helping people create their own destiny, she uses her platform to share a wealth of knowledge on one of the industry’s most rapidly growing markets. Aviva’s online persona, known as, the RealEstateSource, has amassed over 600,000 followers on various channels, and her expertise has earned her a spot on the Forbes Real Estate Council.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
My name is Aviva Sonenreich. I grew up in a real estate family in Denver, Colorado. My family fled Nazi Germany and started our real estate portfolio in 1964. They had come to America with 40 dollars to their name and slowly started to build a real estate portfolio. My father continued the real estate journey, buying warehouses with partners in the late 90’s and 2000s. The warehouse scope has changed significantly since the legalization of Cannabis and the infiltration of e-commerce into our society. Before getting into real estate, I had a music career traveling to venues and festivals across the country under the DJ alias, Mom N Dad. We were fortunate enough to release singles under major record labels and at one point play Red Rocks. Although the music career was ultimately not the path for me, I attribute many of my skills I’ve learned today to my time in the music industry.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book, Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie had a significant impact on me. Lessons I learned from the book I use daily, be it in the workplace, socially, and in my interpersonal relationships. The book discusses ways to maximize relationships and enhance your work environment. The biggest lesson I took from the book was if you make a mistake, own up to it immediately and apologize. If you are in the wrong, being able to recognize your failure is hugely mature and the person at the other side of the table cannot get more upset with you if you recognize your own faults.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, “Making A Difference” means going the extra step to go out of your way to help others. With that, it means using your influence for the greater good. An example I can think of in my life when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a dear friend and I started a foundation called Feed The Frontlines where we worked to raise money to save local restaurants to feed frontline healthcare workers. I took precious time out of my work that I could have used to make money, to help others. I’ll never forget, on Thanksgiving of 2020 we bought 1500 thanksgiving meals for healthcare workers and when speaking to the restaurant owner who supplied the meals, she told us without this order she would have had to close her doors. That moment will stay with me forever.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
The industry I work in, commercial real estate is a largely male-dominated industry. Maybe 1% of brokers are female. I am working to change the status quo. Having an industrially focused female-owned brokerage is a challenge daily, but I am happy to lead the way to fight the cause. My approach to spread my message has been a global approach. While doing local deals, I work diligently on social media to share knowledge of industrial real estate to my 550,000+ followers on various social platforms. I have realized there is a lack of education in the commercial real state front which has largely made it a white male playing field. By educating others I know I am doing my part to change the future of industrial real estate.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Sitting down to a job interview in commercial real estate, a managing broker looked at me and said, “I am not going to hire you because you are a female, and being that this is a male-dominated industry, you are a liability. With that, you will get pregnant which makes you double a liability.” This interaction stuck with me forever. I realized if this had happened to me, it must’ve happened to many more women just like me. This elitist mindset is what actively suppresses women and minorities in the workplace and needs to be addressed. I work every day to change this so my daughters will not have to go through what I did.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
If you notice something about commercial real estate, there is very little information about it on the internet. I genuinely believe it is one of the most untouched frontiers in the business category. The gatekeepers of commercial real estate have done an incredible job at keeping the information secret. I’ve noticed this for a while now. My ‘aha moment’ was in early 2020 when I was chatting with a friend about the new powerful tool, Tik Tok. We were discussing trends and opportunities. We noticed there was little to no information about commercial real estate on Tik Tok. Obsessing over the concept of supply and demand, it was just then when I knew what I needed to do. It was time to create a community around commercial real estate. Little did I know how impactful this community would grow to become. The world is craving information on commercial real estate and I going to help lead the way to level the playing field.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Hands down the most important thing to implement when starting a business is a social strategy. Social media is everything and it is here to stay. Within my community, if you need a warehouse, you come to me. This could not have been done without Facebook and Instagram. 90% of the transactions I carry out are from digital ads or social media. That is significant. Oftentimes people are embarrassed to post on social media. Once you can work in a field that is authentic to you and that you genuinely love, the embarrassment goes away as you know this is where your destiny lies. My biggest piece of advice is, do not get caught up in being concerned with what others think about you. To succeed in business, you must have blinders on as your blaze your trail to success.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Without question, the most interesting part of my story to date is my rapid growth as a social media influencer in the space. I don’t know how else to say it, but I have the largest following revolving around commercial real in the influencer in the world. When COVID-19 hit and boredom struck, I started to post educational videos online about commercial real estate. Quickly, the videos took off. People were craving this information. I soon learned there was little to no information on commercial real estate on the internet. The gatekeepers had done a great job suppressing information from the general public. I know it is my destiny to change that.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I’ll be honest, I feel like when I make a mistake I try to take the lesson from the mistake and block out the memory. My biggest ‘oh no’ moments defiantly came from talking too much or saying too much. It’s hard to put my finger on an exact time. That said, when people are nervous or don’t know what’s going on they tend to overshare and I have certainly done this in the professional space. As I learn, grow, and perfect my craft I have learned to say less as less is more.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I hit the parent lottery. My Mom and Father are both exemplary role models and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. My Mom is the hardest working person I know. Having grown up poor, Mom has worked her way past the glass ceiling, being one of the top female dentists in the country. My father has taught me everything I know about real estate and it has been so special to learn from an incredible mentor like him. The reason I feel the need to share my knowledge about real estate with others is because I feel so privileged that my father shared his knowledge with me. I wouldn’t be half the agent and investor without Dad.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I’ve been mentoring a Cuban immigrant who lives in Texas. Let’s call him Sam. Sam came to American with no money and no foundation to start his life on. He has since created an extremely profitable trucking company and has purchased his first real estate investment which was a single-family home. Sam wanted to learn more about commercial real estate and we connected. Since our time conversing, Sam has moved his assets into land in an area of Texas he had heard rumors that were going to grow immensely due to the new Telsa factory. Sam was right. Under my advice, Sam took a risk to better his life and the life of his family and I could not be more proud.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First and foremost, the commercial real estate industry, specifically the industrial side needs to go out of its way to hire women and minorities. I have recently hired a female broker onto my team to begin to do my part but the reality is that I cannot do it alone. Second, it is widely known that commercial real estate companies make insane profit margins. The diversity issue within the space needs to be address and budgets need to be allocated to helping diversify the field. Third, industry leaders need to do just that, lead. Give back instead of taking. There are so many powerful figures in the field, we need to come together to help the greater good of the community instead of consistently focusing on ourselves.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
1. Get sales experience. If you can sell a shirt, you can sell anything. The only way to refine your salesperson skills is to practice. Get that practice, study the craft. Refine your skill, practice, and continue to learn.
2. You are not negotiating enough. I just know it. As a commercial real estate advisor I am consistently negotiating on behalf of serious businesses. Their negotiation tactics are no joke. Generally, in business, people think it is rude to negotiate. In all honestly, it is the exact opposite. People respect those who negotiate.
3. Post value-add content on social media. Sprinkle in your personality. Be 100% yourself. Then once you start posting to social media, never stop. Social media is free advertisements for small and large businesses alike. It is imperative that you share your journey on social media and as you progress, go harder and harder. Never in the history of the world has there been an opportunity to market like we have now and we are only just beginning. Use this to your benefit.
4. When the economy falls you will work harder and make less money. 2020 was a rough year for us all. Deals were blowing up left and right and it seemed almost impossible to get anything done. This is normal. This is what sharpens our chops and gives us opportunities to grow and learn. Whatever you do, don’t give up.
5. Follow up more than you think is normal. It feels strange but people really appreciate it. This is a competitive world and the way to show someone that you are serious is by being consistent. Even though it can feel weird to be ignored, do not get discouraged. Continue to follow up. You will win and you will sometimes lose, but people appreciate you putting the time in to follow up.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
My advice to other young people trying to make a difference is that you absolutely can. It won’t be pretty at all times and it is not always glamorous, but it is in those moments when true beauty is formed. You will get yelled at, cussed out, and told you are worthless. This is good. This will give you the tough skin you need to fight for your cause. People will tell you that you are inferior, let them think that. Change requires an incredible amount of hard work but once you get the ball rolling, doing good for others is as addictive as it gets.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Gary Vaynerchuck has had such a significant impact on the world, I would hands down choose him. A business icon with good intentions is hard to find. Gary does it effortlessly and authentically. I can without a doubt say that Gary has changed the world for the better and that is not an easy feat.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!