- Figure out your brand's purpose and values before creating a logo (or even a name). Brand consistency can help put your brokerage at the forefront of your market if you've nailed the basics.
- Find the right space and craft an office look and feel that supports your brand.
It takes nine months from conception to birth to have a baby. If you had to build a business from the ground up in less than nine months, how would you do it?
West + Main Homes is a brand-new brokerage in the Denver metro area — broker-owner Stacie Perrault Staub decided in January to “take the next year to develop a brand totally from scratch,” and she presented the results in a session at Inman Connect San Francisco (ICSF).
Conceiving West + Main without a name
Staub said that her business was kickstarted by an unforeseen event: shortly after she left her old brokerage, it sold, and many of her former agent colleagues reached out to her looking for work.
She had already been working with a graphic designer from that company, who fortunately was an independent contractor and didn’t have a noncompete agreement. Even though Staub didn’t yet have a name for her new venture, they were able to start generating concepts together.
“Luckily we kind of share a brain, and we really share the same design aesthetic, so it was fairly easy for us,” Staub added. “Once we nailed down our brand values and our identity structure, then we were able to plug in ‘what does our color palette look like’ and look at fonts. That was before we had a name — but we knew what we wanted it to look like; we just didn’t know what we wanted it to be called.”
They landed on the arrow to indicate movement forward, and Staub says the name embodied what they wanted the brand to signify — so West + Main Homes was conceived.
“We started with who,” Staub told the audience at ICSF. “Who are we creating this brand story for? Our agents and their potential clients.”
And speed was the essence of the exercise.
“When I say I had to move fast — I had to move fast,” Staub told the ICSF crowd. “We created the logo; then the next day we crated the sign program, and we had it in a yard the day after that.
“I couldn’t overthink it,” she added. “I had to just go ‘Yes, let’s do it, I love it — send it.'”
Finding a space
Staub knew that she definitely wanted an office space — and a retail storefront at that. “I’ve always felt like there’s a really great opportunity for real estate agents to not hide in their tower.” she told Inman. “Being in the storefront allows people to walk in and feel comfortable without getting in an elevator to go up to a fancy office. We wanted our office to feel accessible and like there’s something exciting happening here, not just another number on a door.”
So she looked for an up-and-coming retail neighborhood instead of a pricier one, allowing her to stay within budget but still find the foot traffic and square footage she needed.
“People pop in all the time looking for a boutique and wondering what we’re selling,” she told the audience at ICSF. “Our space definitely reflects our brand, even though it was the fugliest bright pink thrift shop when we took it over.”
It’s an open space with lots of furniture for lounging, which Staub says she’s constantly rearranging, and there are private areas for meetings. It’s flexible, allowing West + Main to host meetups, music events, pop-up shops, agent classes and Realtor events and more.
“You might find our agents hanging out on the front porch with their kids drinking a beer,” she said on stage.
Staub told Inman that finding a space that needed some work was “actually our opportunity, because a lot of people had looked at the space and weren’t able to see past” that “fugliness.”
“It was the fugliest bright pink thrift shop when we took it over.”
“We picked the ugliest space available and knew that with minimal investment we could make it beautiful,” Staub said.
The big fixes?
- Getting rid of the pink walls. “We just painted everything white because we wanted it to be a really nice, clear space and feel almost like an art gallery or a boutique,” Staub explained.
- Removing the carpeting. “We took out all the carpet and painted the concrete floors, so it looks very ‘now’ — it could be a restaurant or it could be a retail space — and it’s easy to take care of.”
- Building a few walls and a private office. “Just in case someone needs to have a meeting or take a phone call, there are doors you can close, but for the most part we kept it open,” she said.
- Furniture and artwork. “I felt like I shopped nonstop for two months for furniture and artwork,” Staub explained. “We wanted to create a lounge-y feel, so there’s lots of different seating areas and environments in our office.”
She also held both a launch party and a ribbon-cutting event. “We turn everything into an event that we can talk about,” she told the ICSF crowd. “Ribbon-cuttings are so traditional — but it was packed.”
Staub started with “a team of advisors — I have a lawyer and an accountant and a business advisor who’s almost like a business coach,” she told Inman.
Other than that, it’s very much a small operation behind-the-scenes — but Staub is growing intentionally.
“I really felt like I had to create the systems and know how to completely do them before I train someone else to do it,” she explained. “Now that we’re looking at opening a second location, I am bringing on someone who can be the office manager of both locations, and that will help a lot with the day-to-day.”
But right now, Staub says, it’s just her, a brand manager, and a marketing intern. The brand manager, Madeline Linder, handles “everything that you see creatively involving the brand — all the print collateral and everything online beyond the website.” Linder manages everything from banners to property fliers to signage to greeting cards, door-knockers and stickers. “She is like an ad agency of one person — she’s amazing,” Staub said.
Staub uses Google Drive to house the collateral for agents, so everyone can access it in real-time. And she also hires marketing interns for each semester — paid ones — and teaches them everything she can about running a real estate office.
Refining the brand
“Another thing I couldn’t overthink is the launch,” Staub told the ICSF crowd. “I was at the Alt Summit in Palm Springs and I was stressing over this stupid announcement that I was starting my own brand.”
Her friend Marguerite Giguere suggested that Staub take a picture of the business card, put it on Instagram “and be done with this conversation.” That way she could put the rumors to rest about what she was doing.
She used a Real Estate Webmasters template to get her website up and running quickly.
Had to get the website up quickly. “I didn’t want to just throw up a landing page,” she told the ICSF audience. “They got my IDX going, and everything happened really quickly.”
She had templates made for new agent announcements, which she shares on social media, and started hosting open houses, classes for agents and launch parties for new listings, intentionally doing something a little bit different with her marketing collateral.
“Consistency of the brand is super important,” Staub noted. She wants people to know where their emails are coming from when they receive one.
Her goal is “thinking outside the box and giving agents the opportunity to spread the word of the brand,” she said at ICSF.
The brokerage’s presence today
As of Staub’s ICSF talk, West + Main had 22 agents, a brand manager and an intern. She’s also looking into opening another office location, and she told Inman that she was going to hire an office manager to take care of both offices once they’re up and running.
“I think it’s been really exciting to be able to run our brokerage like a startup and feel like the agents are helping us form the company and direction of it,” she told Inman.
“And they’re also shareholder-investors, so that feeling like they have ownership in it has made all the difference and helped us to grow really quickly,” she added. “That’s an opportunity a lot of brokerages overlook.”