Team. Invite others in who you trust. When trust is at the foundation, everything else comes together so nicely. It’s vulnerable to invite others in. They may not get your vision or they may have a different style than you. It puts you in a different position with different pressures. For me, it’s been the best thing I could have done. It has elevated everything!
Rachel White is a California native and real estate agent turned CEO + Founder of a technology driven mobile app for real estate agents. As an agent, she knew first hand that there was a huge need not being addressed, so she took it upon herself to develop an app that all agents will benefit from. Driven to create more opportunities for all types of people to have a slice of the real estate pie, Rachel’s focus is using technology to impact the daily tasks of real estate agents.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up in a family owned restaurant and I like to joke around that I have a Master’s in Hustle and Grind and a PhD. in Chaos Management. The truth of it is, managing multiple employees and thousands of customers in a fast-paced environment will make you grow up quickly. As I began to have a family of my own, I needed to create more work-life balance and jumped at the opportunity when my mother-in-law asked me to partner with her as a real estate agent. After the excitement of being a new real estate agent wore off, I realized that juggling two careers was not for the faint of heart. I was working with a client and represented him on the buying side of the transaction. Long story short, I failed. We didn’t end up finding him a house. My brain was racing with everything I could have done differently. But the truth was, it wasn’t a failure on my part — the system had failed me. Everything that was wrong with real estate on both the macro and micro levels was just sitting there with its beady eyes staring at me, challenging me. How was I going to respond? Shrink away, run, keep doing the same thing? My degrees in hustle, grind and chaos management took over and there was no turning back.
It may be unconventional but in honesty, it was failure that led me to this career path, because without the struggle I wouldn’t have had the drive to create something different. I wasn’t the most successful agent, I didn’t have the most listings, or the most transactions, but I am driven to help other people be successful. By creating a tool that not only solves real estate agents’ everyday problems but that will be a driving force in democratizing real estate as a whole is what influences everything I do. To give agents a place to turn, to give them access to success and to change the landscape of real estate is why I keep pushing forward everyday.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I love that in starting a business interesting things happen daily. It’s a constant stream of interesting things! But, early on in the ‘idea’ stage of my business I decided to enter a local business competition. I had a business professor reach out to me and encouraged me to apply to the competition. I was drawing up a business plan, making a pitch deck and really working hard at building a strong foundation and vision. The timing was perfect. It was a moment of putting myself, my idea and my work out into the world to be judged. It turned out to be such a pivotal point in starting my company because my idea was validated. I placed and won seed money that was the beginning stages of my business. This was the catalyst to everything and gave me that boost to follow through from idea to business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was a complete tech novice when I first started. I have always been tech-savvy but I don’t have any formal education in technology. So everything was new. I remember hiring my development team and having to Google every techy word they used. It was like learning a new language. For example, when we were developing the aesthetics of the app they mentioned something called the “hamburger.” I was completely lost… “did he really just say hamburger,” I thought as I frantically looked for a hamburger icon. I soon found out that the menu icon is often referred to as a hamburger. I still laugh about it to this day.
It’s these moments that can make you feel unqualified and insecure but it’s all about self talk and self perspective. That’s the self discovery that I love about entrepreneurship. It’s challenging and exciting and pushes me in new ways, which is exhilarating. I could let all these moments stop me but I decided to keep going and view it as learning and not being unqualified.
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?
It would be impossible to name one person. I have been fortunate enough to have some phenomenal women mentors in my life. Throughout the years they have taught me what
it means to be a woman, how to find and claim myself, and how to move through this world lifting up others. I am so grateful that they have walked alongside me and have shown me what success really is. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
There are still many social and individual barriers for women in leadership positions.
For one, I think a lot of women are expected to juggle it all and the thought of founding a company just sounds like one more thing to juggle. How can we possibly find the time to start a company when we have careers, families, education etc. From experience, there’s also often a bit of imposter syndrome at play, which can hold women back, especially in a society that doesn’t necessarily empower women leaders. Not to mention the lack of resources, funding, and perspective when it comes to women-founded business.
Change is also slow culturally — from social expectations to how we talk about women in leadership positions. For example, I often think, we don’t qualify a man’s title using the term “male” — we don’t say “He’s a male CEO.” Yet culturally we still qualify women as “female CEOs.” Language is important and this is a sign that we still have our work to do.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I think it starts with awareness, then action to correct. We have a responsibility to encourage the women around us in daily settings. Building companies that are aware of what it means to be a woman, and how schedules, productivity and availability are different. I started my company because I knew I wasn’t the only woman that was trying to juggle being a real estate agent, kids and a financially stable career. I built a tool that works with and for women.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Well first, because we’re good at it — we are multitasking experts, we know how to pivot and we know how to be malleable and fluid. We’re also empathetic, which is necessary when you’re leading a team or trying to drive change in an industry. These are such important traits as a founder and as a woman.
We need more women leaders pushing the boundaries and challenging the norms in fields that are not traditionally centered around or built for women.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
I think there is this social media image of what it means to be a founder. This fake corporate image of glam and success in the traditional sense of the word. This is so far from reality. Being a founder is late nights after long days; it’s often feeling alone in your vision; it’s intimidating. Being a founder is all these things and more. You will be up against people with more money, education, and time. There will be moments of failure. But that’s all they are…moments. Being a founder is about the success you create in others around you. It’s about how you show up for others, how you facilitate their strengths and work as a team to all achieve success.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
If you feel drawn to being an entrepreneur listen to that. Something is pulling you to the creativity and ownership that is entrepreneurship. The thing I love most about being an entrepreneur is the self-growth aspect. I’ve been able to step into myself in ways I never had before. I’ve done things I never thought possible and it’s so incredibly rewarding. My success is measured by my daily actions, all of which have led me here. I would encourage potential entrepreneurs to listen to your heart and your passion and take action.
There is this idea that a “regular job” as an employee is not as ‘worthy’ as a founder. There are pedestals for CEO and Founders. I’m here to knock that over. The people in your company are your company. I think it comes down to the environment and what practically works for an individuals’ life and goals.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- “Own-ness” Having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish takes time. It’s not just snap your fingers and bam! Clear vision. It’s a more subtle stepping into one’s self which I like to refer to as stepping into your “own-ness” When starting a business there are hundreds of perspectives and people all around you trying to influence the direction you take. For me, when developing the design of the app I had so many different opinions. I shut them out and followed my “own-ness”, my vision and what I saw for my company. Bringing yourself into the equation may sound naturally intuitive, it’s often the last opinion we seek. I’ve tried to make it a habit for it to be the first opinion.
- Community. This may look different for everyone. For some, it’s family or friends but for many entrepreneurs, it’s fellow entrepreneurs that are pushing the envelope. It’s really important to find connections with others who are on a similar path. There are a lot of communities out there that offer support. When I was in the very beginning stages of my company I would listen to “Girl Boss Podcast” on repeat. It’s full of stories of women who are craving their own paths. It was so refreshing to connect and it gave me encouragement to at least try.
- Humility. This above everything else will be the number one quality I would encourage others to cultivate. Being humble allows you to learn from others. People will come into your sphere and it’s so incredibly important to listen to them and their experience. It allows me to always be learning, to be respectful of others’ processes and get to really know who others are.
- Grit. There will undoubtedly be hard times. Prepare for them. Always prepare so that when the hard times come you will be grounded enough to make it through. Hard times can come in so many different forms but if you aren’t emotionally prepared then they can sweep you away. Show up and don’t shy away from what is hard. There will always be a lesson.
- Team. Invite others in who you trust. When trust is at the foundation, everything else comes together so nicely. It’s vulnerable to invite others in. They may not get your vision or they may have a different style than you. It puts you in a different position with different pressures. For me, it’s been the best thing I could have done. It has elevated everything!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My hope is that UNLOCKDBOX will bring more success to others. My mission is to change who enters into real estate and influence their success once they are agents. Real estate is demographically disproportionate. When we change the model of what being an agent looks like we can create more opportunities for agents to make real estate financially stable. Moving from a commission only structure to a structure that is more in-line with the changing times is a natural progression of our industry. By doing this we open the playing field for more people to follow through with getting licensed.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to be involved with changing people’s perspective on what it means to be a leader. I feel like we have it all backwards. Leading by definition puts someone at the front with positions falling one behind the other. I see leadership as a horizontal line, with your team side by side. Vertical hierarchies can be knocked over with ease. Horizontal teams may wobble but they won’t be knocked down!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Barbara Corcoran. She’s a whole force. I would love to be in her presence and learn. I feel like her and I would have so much to connect on. Her honesty is refreshing and pure. She doesn’t sugar coat her struggles. She’s fierce and full of grit. Love that woman!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.