Real estate is one of the best careers for women who want to create their own destiny. It’s one of those careers where you can be your own boss, set your own hours and see the rewards of all your work. From the outside looking in, real estate agents have it easy. Make no mistake though; it’s a lot of work. Mari Obstbaum could tell you all about that. From staying up late at the dining room table to find new clients, or researching all the data on a listing to know its true worth — Mari Obstbaum has never backed down from a challenge.
Obstbaum is a successful realtor who has grown her business exponentially through face to face networking and social media. But that didn’t all start out of nowhere.. Obstbaum’s mother has always been the go getter and the bread winner in her family, the one who taught Obstbaum and her sister to be self sufficient to not rely on another person when it comes to goals and finances.
Luckily enough this upbringing resulted Obstbaum into a highly motivated young girl.
Saved her first grand at the age of 12
Being independent was the main reason that got Obstbaum experience her first entrepreneurial journey. Obstbaum was only 11 when she was charging her grandmother’s friends, next thing she knew she saved her first grand at the age of 12. Earning money at such a young age has taught Obstbaum how to save money but also how to spent money not. Not long after, Obstbaum started another business.
Meanwhile Obstbaum participated in NMUN (National Model United Nations) in college, and won the distinguished delegation award at the UN building representing the Italian republic after competing in NYC among 52 international groups. All went good, until she wasn’t sure of her career path and decided to go full force into medical device sales. In order to get ahead, Obstbaum went on to work full time in pharmaceutical sales during full time school and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Obstbaum was offered a 250k/year job in medical sales, but took the leap to try her hand in real estate full time. Making all these decisions led her to win the rookie of the year award within 3 months of obtaining her license, and on top of that she just received the top producer award for 2018.
‘’I utilize hard work and determination along with genuine interest in interpersonal relationships and emotional intelligence to get the job done. In the past year (6 months of which were part time) I have built my real estate portfolio to over $7,000,000.’’
You started to save your first grand at the age of 12. How did you do that? What tips you can give to someone who wants to save serious money?
I have always recognized the value and security that comes with saving money, but most of my tools came from watching my mom live below her means. I was not the kid who received an abundance of gifts from my parents, so when the recession hit, I wasn’t phased by it like my friends were. I learned to save all of the money I received from family on birthdays and on Christmas. I also gave my grandmother’s friend’s facials at $20 a pop at that age, and kept everything in my safe.
”I would advise anyone who has trouble saving money to utilize a money saving app.”
I would advise anyone who has trouble saving money to utilize a money saving app. I like to use clarity money, because you can give yourself a daily budget based on your income. This puts into perspective how much you’re making daily/hourly, and makes you second guess spending a day’s worth of pay on a pair of jeans or a purse.
Thinking in the future is also a great way to train yourself to save money. Would you rather have materialistic things now that will be out of style in the next year or so? Or would you rather save that money for an investment that is going to give you financial security down the line? Even today I recognized that I’ve been spending $10/day on Starbucks in the morning, and typically around $12/day on lunch. That is $616/month that can certainly be reduced by making my tea and oatmeal at home, and packing a lunch.
We also live in a society which promotes a ton of “treating yourself”. Of course everyone wants to enjoy their hard work, but if I went on a shopping spree every time I had a closing, I wouldn’t be where I am right now as far as financial security is concerned.
How and why did you reject a 6 figure job and start working for yourself?
I worked very hard to get my foot into medical device sales by working full time as a pharmaceutical sales rep during full time college courses. I did everything in my power to make my way to the top, and received a very lucrative offer to work in surgical sales. Although I had reached the goal that I set for myself in a very short amount of time, I knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to ever be satisfied while working under someone else. I have always had big dreams of being extremely successful, and I did see some kind of ceiling in that industry. It was not an easy decision in the least to leave a job with benefits and a fantastic payment plan, but I didn’t want to keep jumping from job to job anymore in my pursuit of “the top”.
”I have always had big dreams of being extremely successful”
I had always thought of doing real estate, but wanted to utilize my degree first before making the leap. I obtained my license while working full time, and found that it came very naturally to me. It is a career that is all about what you put into it, and I knew I had a lot to offer with my hard work and dedication. I can’t lie and say it’s been all rainbows and butterflies, but that decision was ultimately the right move for me. I can now be in charge of my own schedule and I don’t have to answer to anyone (other than my clients), and I have been able to prove myself in a short amount of time.
What should one keep in mind when rejecting or quitting a 6 figure job to start working for yourself?
Definitely consider what type of person you are, and what you’re willing to give of yourself. I know so many realtors who obtained their license and haven’t been successful, because they don’t have the personality for it. I know that sounds a little harsh, but you truly have to be a self starter to work for yourself. That means working every single hour of every single day. There is never a time that I’m not thinking of how to grow my business and/or putting my plans into action.
”Working every single hour of every single day”
I had to and still have to grind every day to maintain my business. Many people say that I work too much or have no life, but it is worth it to me to put that amount of effort in. I think the people who have active minds and are constantly thinking of the next step typically have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
I just had one of my colleagues ask for advice, since she is not producing, and I told her she needs to be a little tougher in this business. You cannot take things personally, and you have to push on after rejection. If I let the amount of rejection I’ve faced affect me, I would be stuck in stuck and wouldn’t move forward successfully.
What was it about real estate that drew you to it?
I have always had a bit of an issue with authority since I was a kid, so I liked the idea of being my own boss. I am the type of person to get things done without frills, meaning I don’t need to put exclamation points and emojis on every email, and I don’t think I should have to. When I was in medical sales, I was constantly called out for not being polite enough over email. In my opinion, I was straight to the point and was trying to get the job done in an efficient manner. To be honest, had I been a man, I don’t think I would’ve gotten flagged for that.
I like that real estate connects you to people on a constant basis. I love meeting new people and being friends with everyone. That is also a huge factor in being successful in this business. You have to be open and welcoming to people from all across your network.
What sacrifices have you had to make during life as an entrepreneur?
I have sacrificed a ton of my time for this business. You are not on your own time, so if someone calls me I’m there and available. My boyfriend actually asked if I could block off at least 2 days a month, so that we would have uninterrupted time together, but it is not feasible for me. I would say I maybe have 1 day off a month.
You also sacrifice being a good friend sometimes, because if I have plans I may have to cancel at the last minute to do a showing, meet with a buyer, etc.
I spoke to a realtor the other day who hasn’t been producing well, and she was complaining that people wanted to see her listings without a day’s notice. She felt inconvenienced by the business she was getting, and that is very common in this industry. I don’t think that that is the right way to look at the situation. I see anyone requesting to see my listings as a positive opportunity, not a nuance.
What 5 steps would you advise and give our ladies who starting their own business(or as a realtor)?
Step 1: Always connect with your network via social media, text, call, etc.
Step 2: Go above and beyond. I do this by going door to door for every listing, to show people that I am hard working and that I care about my business.
Step 3: Be nice and humble. I can’t count how many people I meet that are very condescending and rude in this business, and there is truly no reason for it. We can all build each other up and help each other succeed with kindness, and not everything needs to be a cutthroat competition.
Step 4: Get out of your own head. So much of being an entrepreneur is a head game. If you constantly feed into the doubt that you’re not going to make it, you won’t make it.
Step 5: Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing. If you are going to sacrifice basically all of your time and the security that comes with a 9-5, and you are still miserable with your job, you may want to go another route.
When you come across a strategy that you want to add to your business, how do you go about adding it?
I am constantly thinking of new ways to grow my business strategically, but I really have to focus to weigh the pros and cons of any new strategy. For instance, I thought that hiring sign spinners for my open houses was the best idea in the world, until I realized how much it would cost per open house. I then compared that to how much I would spend on social media advertising and other forms of marketing. I strategically spread my marketing funds, so that they are not all used in one avenue. It’s an investment in yourself, so you have to be smart and spread it out.
What’s the latest strategy that you’ve added to your business?
I like to mix old age marketing techniques with new/high tech strategies. I recently hired a videographer to take video footage of my listings for social media. This sets me apart from other realtors in the area, and I can utilize my social media following to boost my listings and help my clients in a unique way.
What’s a challenge you’ve faced in Real Estate that you didn’t expect? And what challenges do you think any other realtor need to go through to become a successful realtor?
I’d like to flip this question and state what has pleasantly surprised me about the business. When I first started, I really thought that I would be at a disadvantage due to my age. There are tons, and I mean TONS, of seasoned realtors in South Florida, and I didn’t know how I would compete. This is why I started passing out postcards door to door, because I wanted to portray myself as a hard worker, and not a lazy millennial.
I have been surprised to see how many clients I’ve earned because I am young and have a ton of energy. I think people appreciate someone who is on top of everything and who exudes a sense of urgency and excitement during the process. I am always happy to help a new client, no matter what their budget is, and I am never bothered by having to do a showing, open house, etc.
”I get a lot of calls/texts from men who act like they want to see a property”
The one challenge that I still face, is that I get a lot of calls/texts from men who act like they want to see a property, but they have an ulterior motive. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to vet out clients, because I didn’t trust their intentions. It is unfortunate, because this has forced me to be very suspicious of male clientele.
In that same breath, though, I don’t think it’s smart for women to constantly dwell on their setbacks. Women are just as capable of men in the business world, and we need to learn to push forward and prove ourselves, rather than fall victim to male dominance. My old co workers would always complain about the fact that their male competition would get through the door much easier than them. Do you think these women were successful? No, because they were stuck in the revolving though pattern that men are superior and have more opportunity. I don’t entertain this at all, and never have. I have just as many redeeming qualities as my male counterparts, and I won’t let them get in my way.
How do you distinguish yourself as a realtor?
I distinguish myself as someone who is always working as hard as I possibly can for my clients. I am also someone who has always recognized the importance of emotional intelligence and the importance of being persistent, but not pushy. I present myself as a professional, but I do like to make the process fun for my clients. While there are a ton of realtors who have attitudes about just about everything, I have always had an easy time remaining positive in difficult situations.
As a woman in business, it is not always easy to stand up to the men who are trying to project their power over you. I am a strong believer in “fake it till you make it”, so when I was intimidated in the beginning, I just acted like the most confident person in the room. Now, over time and some success, I have become a very confident person who is sure of herself and her abilities.