In 1908, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) was founded with 100% male membership. While there were technically no national regulations against women joining, the industry was largely male at the time, and local boards vetted candidates as they saw fit.
Two years later in 1910, Corrine Simpson became the first woman to join NAR as a broker in Seattle, pioneering the entry of women into real estate. Slowly but surely, more women would follow Corrine’s footsteps until, in 1938, the Women’s Council of Realtors was formed.
Corrine’s entry into NAR not only signaled to others that industry inclusion was possible, but it also created a living example of a female initiative in a world of mostly male professionals.
The “First Lady of Real Estate”
Corrine would pass away in 1929, but her mark was made: In 1948, Ebby Halliday, the “First Lady of Real Estate,” began to rapidly build her empire and find major success as a REALTOR.
Ebby believed that buyers “have no idea what they want until they see it,” and hypothesized that they make decisions based on emotions rather than thought. Her hypothesis would prove to be true, and by 1958, she had grown her real estate empire to a valuation of nearly $12 million (over $100 million today).
Ebby became the first incredibly successful and highly respected woman in real estate and would redefine the possibilities for women in that industry and entrepreneurship as well. Halliday’s success and accomplishments would forever change the industry, catapulting expectations of what an average woman could be capable of; leading the way for major change in leadership opportunities that evolve further over time
Carrying the Torch: Rachel Urso
Rachel Urso isn’t your average real estate agent. But then again, she’s never been your average anything.
From advertising to public relations to trend-setting websites, she’s raced her way through life, breaking down barriers, discovering her passions, and realizing something that most people never do: When work stops challenging you, it’s time to move on.
From her earliest days as an intern at a tiny boutique ad agency in Houston, TX, her career accomplishments have proven her hunger to be the best: “I won an Addy Award (the nickname for an American Advertising Award), at the age of 20.” Urso said in a recent interview. She’s enjoyed nearly two decades of success in the real estate, finance, and public relations industries and shows no signs of stopping.
No Hesitation, No Backing Down
Urso got her start in an advertising culture similar to that of Mad Men, but she never let intimidation get in her way, choosing to learn the rules and then outplay the competition.
“They taught me a lot about probing and sales, etc.,” Urso says. “It was a men’s club kind of game. I grew thick skin and was able to play with the big boys and go golf and smoke a cigar and ask for the order and not look back.”
Learning that decisiveness at an early age has powered each and every one of Urso’s business moves ever since. Her most recent came when she left the bright lights and big city atmosphere of New York City and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, with her mind focused on real estate.
She cut her teeth as a Keller Williams’ agent, hustling to make happy clients before becoming one of Charleston’s top-selling agents out of several thousand in the metropolitan area.
From there, she went out on her own and started Rachel Urso Real Estate. In the years since her firm has soared into the top 1% of agencies in the Charleston metropolitan area.
“We have 10 agents right now and I’m looking to grow it to 200 and open two more locations,” Urso says. “We happen to have [so much] culinary and culture and architecture that drew me here.”
A Meteoric Rise
Whether she’s leading 10 agents or 200, Urso employs the same strategies that saw her rise to the top in a swift fashion during her 20s. She took on a magazine job in Atlanta and was then plucked by Condé Nast and relocated to New York City.
Merging her expertise in advertising and finance, she became Fashion Retail Director of Brides Magazine, with a base of some 5.5 million readers. By the time she was 25, she realized that corporate life wasn’t for her, abruptly resigning to the shock of her family and coworkers.
“I had the life that everybody would say they wanted, and I just didn’t care for corporate,” Urso recalls. “It was cutthroat. I just said, ‘This is not for me, it can be run so much better.’”
After more magazine work, Urso pivoted to the other side of the aisle, opening up a public relations firm in New York and becoming the voice of fashion shows and designers, getting them great looks in magazines, newspapers, and tabloids.
Landing in Real Estate
A couple of ventures later, she got curious about house flipping and found it to be not only a great money maker but an incredibly fun pastime. That road led to Charleston, but Urso was never one to slow down. Even when she was flipping houses, she still had a few PR clients in her back pocket as well as Celebrity Baby Trends which she sold to a woman in LA when she opened her own real estate firm.
Ultimately, she consolidated her efforts into building an amazing real estate agency, where she can lead other agents to similar success and clients into the homes that fit their needs.
Rachel Urso’s story is not unlike those of other successful women in business. The only distinction is that she doesn’t just talk about it, she proves it with everyday actions that exhibit inspirational leadership.
As she continues to share her strategies and insights, she’ll continue to make waves in the real estate world.