- The couple behind Team Divas Real Estate are already known in their community for political activism; by mixing in political events (like postcard-writing parties) with more traditional client appreciation and fundraising events, they're engaging current and potential clients.
When you hear about a political event like the Ides of Trump, which involved sending postcards to the White House on March 15, do you mostly ignore it — or are you considering how you might leverage something that your clients probably feel pretty passionate about, one way or another?
For Kim Colaprete and Chavi Hohm, the married lesbian couple behind Seattle’s Team Diva Real Estate at Coldwell Banker Bain, it’s clearly the latter. The two are well-known in their community for being politically active real estate professionals, and they use their passion for public policy to help shape their business events calendar throughout the year.
“We totally understand that not every real estate agent in this country or even in our own community feels comfortable doing this,” noted Colaprete. But for the two Divas and their community — it works.
The ‘Ides’ party
Before they’d heard anything about the Ides of Trump, Colaprete says that they’d been brainstorming about some kind of letter-writing resource they could provide for clients.
“We had this whole conversation about how it would be really great if we could just develop postcards that have some kind of Diva design but don’t necessarily have our name — postcards that are very self-identified with our community that we could distribute to our clients and then give them information about how to contact their representatives,” Colaprete explained.
“We were going to make the postcards and mail them to all our clients for free — here’s 10 postcards, contact information for your legislators and issues we’re worried about. We still intend on doing that, but to kick off that idea, we actually decided to have this big party; people could come to our house and write the postcards, and we’d bring back our photo booth guy.
“The photo booth thing is great; it’s branded, people ask to get copies of the photos and he prints out the photos himself so they can take them home,” Colaprete added.
“Hardly any of us wrote postcards to the President,” noted Hohm. “Most of the postcards were directed to local representatives, both ones who we support and ones who we don’t, and thanking both Republicans and Democrats who took stances in favor of issues that we care about. It wasn’t just about writing nasty postcards to Trump.”
“We also made sure it was kid-friendly,” said Colaprete. “We printed up quick little messages on issues that we thought were important and had the addresses for all the representatives locally and nationally — people just needed to show up and write postcards. We made it real easy.”
“The whole idea of just getting involved in a local issue you care about is really the key point. It’s not necessarily about Republicans and Democrats,” Hohm added.
Turning passion into events
“We’ve always been pretty political,” said Colaprete, noting that the Divas team and business model had always been structured around supporting local nonprofits and community involvement.
From a business standpoint, the two started incorporating their activism in 2012 when marriage equality was a big issue. They throw an annual event called Divas Take The Hill, which is a pre-party for Pride as well as a fundraiser for a local LGBT organization.
“We decided to start hosting more house parties this fall,” Hohm explained. Apart from Divas Take The Hill, the team throws a post-holiday “Holidaze Hangover” party every January, and this November they had a voting party at their house, too. They even posted a blog and a video on YouTube explaining how others could do the same.
The photo booth also made an appearance in November, where people could get pictures taken with their ballots (or a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton), and after establishing ground rules for debate (boiling down to “be respectful”), they distributed voter guides, facilitated debates and talked about the pros and cons of both national and local issues.
The Divas also brought in some clients who had particular knowledge of local transit and education issues (for example). “One of our clients works at Seattle Transit,” explained Colaprete, “so she’s not an expert on transportation issues, but she knew a lot about the transportation issues. She could answer a lot of the questions that people had.”
Another client had a background in education, and others are active in local politics and arts.
Hohm notes that their political activism has allowed them to pull in guests whom they might not otherwise have snagged, and so when she and Colaprete challenge the local Realtor association stance on education funding (for example), it often leads to an opportunity to collaborate. “When you say you’re a Realtor and you’re going against the grain, people are suddenly like, ‘We would love to talk to you — how can we help you?’
“We just have a bigger voice than I think your average real estate blogger does, so it gives us a little bit more clout when we’re like, ‘Hey, will you come to our house party and talk to our clients?’ People are excited to have an audience that’s passionate about those issues.”
Making it part of the mix
“We already have a base of people who trust us and are interested in what we’re doing, and we just throw a lot of parties, so it kind of melds together pretty easily,” said Colaprete.
And those parties aren’t just about postcards, either.
The January “hangover” bash is one example — “it’s very traditional; we hire caterers, love up our clients, send out postcards, do Facebook invites and email marketing,” said Hohm — but it’s clear that the team has a plan that involves a variety of events.
“We like throwing these big events and then having the client parties,” Colaprete said. “We try to have a big glamorous fundraiser, a client appreciation party that’s smaller, and then we do these more intimate events to have this focused time with our clients where we do letter-writing or voting.
“It’s always a mix of different events — some people don’t like the huge crowds because it’s just not their gig and they just like our house parties, and some people come to every event we throw,” she added.
Of course, it helps to know how to throw a good party.
“We always have a photo booth or someone doing video — we always have the party essentials,” Colaprete noted. “We make sure we send out the information via Facebook, and if it’s a big event then there’s always a personal invitation mailed, too.
“And we also do a lot of personal phone calls to people — you always have that top tier of people you want to reach out to, even if they can’t make it.”
Don’t neglect hosting duties when the party gets going, either.
“One thing people don’t think about because they’re so busy running around chatting with people — sometimes a lone person shows up at the event, and it’s really important to be the social networker,” said Colaprete.
She likes to introduce guests to one another by informing them that they live in the same neighborhood and have common interests, or perhaps one client is thinking about remodeling while another just remodeled.
“For us, it makes our community stronger when we can spread those connections,” she said.
Involving the clients
Colaprete and Hohm are also careful to give clients ownership over more politically oriented events.
“This year we’ll be creating a Divaland Voter Guide made up of a committee of our clients,” said Hohm, “a good cross-section of more conservative and liberal people, so this way people feel like they’re involved in this process.”
The team also had a client design the postcards that they provided for the “Ides” party earlier this month and organized some clients for the Women’s March earlier this year, one of whom designed “these really funky, weird Diva signs,” said Colaprete.
They’ll probably put together some “Divaland Takes A Stand” yard signs for Pride season this year and plan on mobilizing to get out the vote this fall.
“All the issues we’re concerned about are issues that impact not just us but every client that we work with,” Colaprete added. “There are very few issues that we are active on that don’t touch our clients and impact our clients in some capacity, both locally and nationally.
“What we’re trying to do is really be with our community and be a leader on some of these issues.”