I’m really all about kindness and treating people how you want to be treated, so that’s the movement. If you see that there’s a need, you help. For example with COVID-19 some of our tenants are struggling with rent. One of our tenants actually could have paid her rent, but she needed the money to pay for her son’s chemotherapy instead. So it’s all about how we can step up to help. We waive rents so tenants can pay for these things like chemotherapy, food and other essential things. Especially in these types of times it’s not as important to get rent in on time it’s about our tenants taking care of themselves and others. I just think that we need to be kind, and operate with kindness.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Wyatt.
Melissa is an innovative and forward thinking serial entrepreneur, real estate developer, coach and mentor who has spent decades honing her skills through multiple startups. She is the powerhouse behind MW Enterprises, LLC, a privately managed and diversified real estate company focused on building generational wealth for the next generation, uplifting women and people of color in real estate and making transformation changes in the communities in which she invests. Melissa also founded the Foundation for Second Chances in 2004, a community based organization which utilizes hands-on education, mentoring, health awareness and community service to maximize the potential of youth.
Her latest projects include Funky Brothers, a farming project that pays homage to her grandparents, the history and plight of Black farmers (who own less than 2% of US farmland) and food deserts in communities, such as the one she grew up in, Bakersfield, CA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
To make a long story short, I got the idea of investing in real estate when I figured out that I didn’t own enough shares in the stock market to make a big enough profit to create financial change. I started researching how the top 1% of people made their money, and it was either through a business or real estate outside their primary home. So with that knowledge I began to dissect and learn as much as I could about real estate investing. Every weekend for a year, my son and I went to Barnes and Noble. He would be in the Japanese anime section, and I would be in the business section just reading books every single weekend to learn as much as possible about real estate investing.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I remember when I was going for my second or third deal. The owner was a guy who did not want to sell to me because I was a woman. I really thought “Wow, is this what it’s going to be like?”, and from that point forward every transaction that I did no matter who it was with, I knew that I had to be strategic. I didn’t think that those barriers still existed anymore in that aspect.
I learned that I really had to have a plan of action of what I wanted to do. It also taught me where I need to step up or step back and let people on my team take over. I use a few different agents so I needed to figure out if I needed a male agent for one deal or a female agent for another deal. This is not ideal, but there are still people out there who won’t sell to you because you’re a woman. That was one of my biggest learning lessons because you really have to be smart, and people can derail your future if you let them just because of what they perceive about women in business or women in real estate.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on adding a second story onto our headquarters, which is really exciting because it will be a community space. It is centered around co-working, networking and creating a communal space. We will be able to host events there, too. I’m really excited about this space because when I am talking to new clients about investing or development, I can take them to our space, and they will be able to really see the brand and the type of products we create without having to go to one of our construction sites. They will be able to come here and see firsthand what we actually do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Number one, I’m a Black woman. I’m a Black female investor and developer, and that is very rare. Another thing is that my entire management team is women; my project manager is a woman, my PR team is all women, my interior design team is all women. My management level team is all women, and we are all women of color. So I think that really says something about how we operate and about our company. In addition we create amazing projects.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My grandparents; I love my grandparents and they were so influential. They were Black farmers and they owned their own land and their home. So that taught me at a really young age that we can actually have ownership over real estate. When I really started to look into investing in real estate and how I was going to do that I think my grandparents were the inspiration that kept me going. Whenever I felt like I was hitting a wall, just knowing how hard they worked to acquire their own land when in those days people like them faced a lot of barriers in regards to ownership. So now we’ve had their land in our family for 70 years. My grandparents had the tenacity of bulls and they never complained, but just got it done. It didn’t matter what people thought of them or what trials and tribulations they faced; it was always about getting it done and providing for their family and that is what they’ve done.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
I think the problem is that women who are in managerial positions in companies don’t own anything. They are just going to a 9 to 5 job every single day but they don’t actually have ownership. For me that’s upsetting because they are the people that keep the wheel rolling and women need to start owning more. Women need to be more vocal when they are working in these companies and demand part shares or ownership. And you kind of see that changing a little bit. I’ve seen some concepts where some companies want their tenants to be part owners. I would like to see more women speak up to their firms about having part ownership.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
One is definitely that the board/upper management or who you answer to, needs to reflect your tenants or employees, whomever you are serving or wanting to serve. The second is having patience and education. Real estate is one area that if you work in it, it won’t really change that much. For example, the tech industry changes all the time, but real estate hasn’t really changed that much in the past 100 years. So it’s very important to educate yourself on what’s out there and what you can do. Three is to be a go getter. Don’t let someone’s no stay a no. Find a way to turn that no into a yes. As women in real estate we tend to go with the status quo, but I don’t. I have always been in male dominated industries, so if someone tells me no I don’t let it stop me.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Honestly, getting respect is a big challenge faced by women executives. Also, we have to go all in and work three to four times harder than our male counterparts to get stuff done. I think people don’t actually see the value that women add to any company or any project.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
Creating generational wealth is one, that is why I do it. Making transformational changes in the communities that we build in is another. And three is getting people really excited about how they can build a future in real estate all the way from carpentry to owning a skyscraper. We love getting people excited about ownership.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
One, I still think people of color don’t get the same opportunities as our counterparts and that definitely needs to change. Secondly, there’s definitely not enough education; you don’t see a lot of people studying project management, finance, or real estate development especially when you’re talking about women and people of color. There’s not enough mentorship out there, and teaching to help people understand that real estate is not that hard to break into; it’s just about staying the course. Just because you have one hiccup doesn’t mean you quit, you have to have that tenacity. And three is lending and financing, which is really hard for women and people of color because we’ve had disparities in those areas for years. And those things don’t just go away overnight. I think financing and lending is probably the most important thing because if you don’t have a penny saved it’s really hard to get into the market. I feel like that needs to change, and it is with crowdfunding and all these types of investments vehicles. But I think having more opportunities regarding those three things will definitely push for the industry forward. Even with legislative packages and laws that say we don’t discriminate against any race, creed, gender there still is that discrimination.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
For me, it’s about partnership. When I talk to people I tell them you can’t do this alone, you need partners. And it’s about treating your partners right. When you see injustices in this field of work, we need to build a coalition so we can talk about it. If there is a deal to be had, I don’t need to own one hundred percent of the deal, it’s important to partner with people and talk about what you both can bring to the table. And that will open up pathways for more people to enter into this industry. And with this they will be able to create that generational wealth for their families. It’s about creating a legacy and bringing people on board so they can also build this wealth up for their family.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Number one would be mindset, when you get into real estate it’s all about changing your mindset. Because at the end of the day this will ultimately be some of the biggest purchases you ever make in your entire life. Number two would be to make mistakes. I always say that your money mistakes are your best learning lessons, when you lose money you will actually learn from that. Number three is now taking what you learned from your mistakes and applying it so you can be the best investor or developer you could potentially be. Four would be bringing someone up. You take that leadership and you start to mentor and lift others up with you. You bring people up in the pathways that you took, whether you struggled with it or you got an opportunity. It’s our responsibility to reach back and offer help to individuals that are interested in this area. And the last would be giving back. You have made it through all of this and you have to be able to give back so that’s where our transformational change comes in. We want to be able to have our foot down and transform the communities that we have projects in. Not just buying real estate and without a connection but buying to make change in those communities. I think those five pieces of advice all together will make you the best investor or developer you could possibly be.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m really all about kindness and treating people how you want to be treated, so that’s the movement. If you see that there’s a need, you help. For example with COVID-19 some of our tenants are struggling with rent. One of our tenants actually could have paid her rent, but she needed the money to pay for her son’s chemotherapy instead. So it’s all about how we can step up to help. We waive rents so tenants can pay for these things like chemotherapy, food and other essential things. Especially in these types of times it’s not as important to get rent in on time it’s about our tenants taking care of themselves and others. I just think that we need to be kind, and operate with kindness. It’s important to keep the idea in mind that people are struggling and people are suffering and hurting, and need help. My movement would be about getting behind kindness and helping others. Kindness always goes a long way.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow us on Instagram @mwenterprisesllc, on Twitter @MWEnterprisellc, and check out our website here.
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!