In the first event of Fordham Real Estate Institute’s new series, Bess Freedman, CEO of Brown Harris Stevens, sat down with her mentor Barbara Corcoran for the kickoff of the school’s “Titan Talks.”

In March’s Marketing and Branding Month, we’ll go deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, and more. Top CMOs of leading firms drop by to share their newest tactics, too. And to top off this theme month, Inman is debuting a brand new set of awards for branding and marketing leaders in the industry called Marketing All-Stars.

How do you brand yourself when you’re down to your last $350? According to Barbara Corcoran, the answer can be found — where else? — at Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic New York City department store.

“When she had $350 she went into Bergdorf Goodman’s and bought the flashiest coat she could find. That way, everyone would know who she was when she walked around NYC,” recalled Bess Freedman, CEO of Brown Harris Stevens and a member of Fordham Real Estate Institute’s Executive Advisory Council.

Freedman sat down with Inman to discuss her recent interview with Corcoran at the launch event for Fordham REI’s new “Titan Talks” series. The interview series, held on the school’s Lincoln Center campus, brings together a wide range of leaders, from developers to athletes and beyond. The idea is both to bring attention to Fordham’s real estate programs and to inform and enlighten the students who attend there.

According to Ryan O’Connor, chair of the Real Estate Institute, the “Titan Talks” series was developed as a direct response to student feedback. While they loved the curriculum the program offers, students were looking for opportunities to “get out into the tangible, built world and speak to and learn from the titans of the industry. Titan Talks came out of that.”

The plan is to conduct three or four of these events per semester and the capacity is a little under 300. So far, “the demand from students and the public is astronomical,” O’Connor said. 

Besides the event speakers, O’Connor’s goal is to “make this not just an insightful experience but include a networking opportunity. Before and after, there is an opportunity to sit, meet and have conversations.”

Corcoran was tapped to be the first series guest because of her relationship with Freedman. 

“Barbara was my first boss in real estate,” Freedman said. “In fact, I have her book from when I started at Corcoran as a manager. She inscribed it, ‘Make sure you take care of my people.’” Freedman displayed the book from the stage during her interview with Corcoran.

Some of Freedman’s favorite takeaways from the day include the following:

  • Early on, when she started in the real estate business, Corcoran’s partner, Ray, left her for her secretary, Tina. “A lot of women are validated by the men in their lives,” Freedman said. “There’s a line in the book that says, ‘I didn’t know what my value was without Ray.’ Barbara gave herself a day to be sad, then went back to work.”
  • Corcoran called herself a “dunce” when she was in school, but her mom always told her she could, not that she couldn’t. “That belief helped her soar.”
  • When asked how they were able to bring Corcoran in for the event despite her busy schedule, Freedman said that “Barbara wanted to do it. She said, ‘Anything to help young minds grow and learn.’ She’s a special lady.”

“Barbara grew a multibillion dollar company on her own without anybody’s help. She’s a unicorn. She inspires me, and I think she inspired a lot of people that day,” Freedman said.

Although they can’t yet announce their next speaker, O’Connor and Freedman both look forward to continuing to bring industry and cultural heavyweights to Fordham’s students through Titan Talks. 

“These are very busy people who are coming in,” O’Connor said, “but what I’ve always found after being in the industry for 15 or so years, is that there’s a philanthropic bent to a lot of people and a desire to pay it forward. They want to impart that wisdom and experience to the next generation.”

Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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