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Onsite in El Salvador: Q&A with BHGRE’s Sherry Chris

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In August 2016, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE) and New Story announced their plan to join forces to build a community of homes in Ahuachapán, El Salvador.

BHGRE CEO Sherry Chris toured the new community and its completed model home in April.

While visiting, Chris was able to meet the grateful recipients of these homes — families whose lives will be forever changed because of the commitments made by BHGRE’s network.

This partnership is the first of its kind for New Story: The charity has never strategically worked with a real estate brand to build one of its communities.

New Story co-founder and CEO Brett Hagler says what makes this campaign unique is the fact that BHGRE is funding the entire community; normally, only a select number of homes are funded, but BHGRE’s decision to invest in building a community is part of its vision to become a long-standing presence in Ahuachapán.

Inman sat down with Chris to learn more about her site visit and discuss the ribbon-cutting ceremony that occurred in celebration of the project.

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Inman: How do you make giving a part of your company and your personal DNA?

Sherry Chris: I have always felt strongly about the importance of giving. I believe that if you openly share, the benefits will come back tenfold, and I try to infuse that way of thinking into our business practices at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

When we developed BHGRE as a lifestyle real estate brand almost nine years ago, we had the next generation of consumers, brokers and agents in mind.

So, I studied companies that were attracting next-gen customers and they all had some things in common — a stated set of core values, a vision to provide exceptional service and a commitment to giving back.

Some great examples of companies leading the way are Starbucks, Whole Foods and Apple.

The giving back piece is so powerful because it allows a business to connect at a deeper level, both with its employees and its consumers.

We all want to make a difference and do good in the world, so being a part of something like this really gives you a personal feeling of pride. However, the most important thing is always how we can impact others’ lives.

Why New Story?

In the fall of 2015, I was in the audience of Inman Luxury Connect to learn and meet with some prospective brokers. Brett Hagler from New Story was one of the speakers. I hadn’t heard of New Story, but as I listened, I had an epiphany of sorts.

Partnering with a charity was already on my radar, but it had to be right fit for BHGRE.

As I listened to Brett, I had a vision of a BHGRE community with homes painted in our brand colors and our brokers and agents providing a deeper connection — gardens, furniture, training and love.

Because of our licensing agreement with Meredith Corporation, any third-party partnership had to be completely vetted and looked at from a risk perspective.

Since working in a third-world country is tricky and can be dangerous, we knew this would be a long process and it was an enormous undertaking. After about nine months of working through the hurdles, we made a commitment.

I knew that New Story was the right partner for BHGRE when they stayed with us for months through the vetting process. A lesser team could have easily walked away, but they never gave up and became as determined as we were to make it work.

What are the do’s and don’ts in partnering with a charity?

Perseverance is key. Do not give up. If you’ve found the right charity partner for you and it’s a cause you believe in, do what needs to be done to make the partnership happen.

It is also vitally import to have your team behind you. Don’t launch in a vacuum. I have the best team in the industry. My team is as passionate as

I am and were committed to making it a success. We had a steering committee of brokers who worked hard every day leading up to the launch and after to ensure this partnership would succeed.

Lastly, sell it every day. I talk about New Story at every office meeting, training meeting and company launch. If it is a cause that you are passionate about, you should share that as often as you can.

Tell us about the site visit.

The site inspection was more powerful than I can describe in words.

Meeting the families, visiting their current homes, seeing the conditions they are living in and getting to know them was amazing. Despite all the hardships they face, the people are still so spiritual, happy and grateful for their new homes. It was truly uplifting.

While I was there we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony where a priest blessed the site and everyone was treated to cookies and orange soda. Close to 200 people came, and many of them walked on foot to see their new homes, meet each other and say “thank you.”

This BHGRE community will help over 80 families, 500 people in total, live a better life. After getting to know them, I know they will create a powerful community committed to helping each other.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with clarifications from BHGRE on its homebuilding community in El Salvador.