I owe a lot of who I am to my father. I have his sense of humor. I have his dark, curly hair. I have his nose.
I have his entrepreneurial spirit and drive.
My dad is the one who told me to “try” real estate in the summer of 2014. We were at Chipotle on Ogden Avenue, and over two burrito bowls, he brought up the idea. I cocked my head at him, trying to picture myself as a realtor. I was a journalism student at the time, and real estate was so completely opposite from what I was studying.
On a whim, I took my dad’s suggestion and ran with it. By the fall, I was licensed at Coldwell Banker Gold Coast, and I had a brand-new blog and brand called Melanie Stone Chicago. I worked my butt off renting out apartments for friends and fellow college students. I sold my first condo in early 2015, and after I had a taste of the buying and selling world, I knew I had to make that my focus. MSC grew and grew.
In the summer of 2016, another man entered the picture. His name was Andrew — an engineer, a brilliant mind, a generous Southern boy. At first, I shyly shared with him about my work. I didn’t want him to think I was too obsessive or too driven. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t fun.
As we grew closer, I learned that Andrew wanted to support me (and MSC!) in every way. He’d help me glue-dot my MSC MAGs, proofread my email newsletters, set up and decorate my WeWork offices, pray for me during seminars, document my expenses for tax season, calculate my closed transactions, and talk on the phone with me when I was nervous before a meeting or appointment. He even wrote the hiring plan and agreement when Courtney joined MSC.
Just as my dad was the one who inspired me to get into the real estate industry, Andrew is the one who encouraged me to keep going.
It wasn’t until this year that I started to wonder about having my own firm. I loved (and still love!) Coldwell Banker, but I couldn’t help but feel that genetic, unrelenting, entrepreneurial itch.
My dad was all for it. He said I could provide more flexibility for my clients in a boutique and female-led company, set a new standard for what home marketing can look like, and do it all with integrity and class. To him, it was a no-brainer. Andrew agreed, but as the more practical one in our relationship, he urged me to find out what exactly it would take and how much it would cost. Taking his advice, I set up a few coffee meetings with male colleagues who own their firms. I asked questions and took notes.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Andrew proposed to me. It was a wonderful, glorious day, and in the weeks that followed, I simply enjoyed our engagement and put my idea on the backburner. Courtney and I were also quite busy with our clients — it very obviously was not the right time to leave Coldwell Banker. Plus, I was more than content there: CB is filled with so many talented and kind people, from agents to upper management. My office had always supported every endeavor of mine.
If I was going to take a risk and open a firm, I needed a catalyst.
Summer turned into fall. I sold my Gold Coast one-bedroom, we rented out Andrew’s West Loop condo, and together, we purchased our perfect home in Lincoln Park. I moved back home to Hinsdale until our wedding in early December. It was a season of transition and anticipation.
I woke up one October morning to a flurry of texts from realtors, some from Coldwell Banker and some from other companies. Andy, my beloved managing broker, was leaving CB, and the news was officially out.
Andy was the one who brought me into the Gold Coast office when I first started in real estate as a young, credulous 21-year-old. We bonded at our first meeting over our shared faith, and over the years, we developed a relationship much like a father has with his daughter.
My manager’s surprising departure was gut-wrenching, but it was also just what I needed: a catalyst. Instead of freaking out, I was cool and calculated. I picked up my phone to call Andrew.
“Andy’s leaving,” I said hotly. “And so am I! I’m starting a firm.”
Andrew, my then-fiancé, cheered me on. He knew I could do it, and he knew the One living in me could do it. I giddily hung up and called Courtney, my lead agent and another main character in this story.
The words tumbled out of my mouth as soon as she answered the phone, and right away, she was totally on board and bubbling with ideas. Courtney became my teammate in February 2018 and since then, she has flourished in the industry. I trust her with everything, and our clients absolutely love her. She has something I don’t have, which makes us the perfect match. (Facts are facts: She is a 2 on the enneagram and I’m a 3.)
That week, the two of us spent hours on our laptops, researching state guidelines, plotting out dates on our shared calendar, and brainstorming what the future could look like.
I had exactly two months before 2019, and there was a lot to do: sign up for the online course, pass the online course exam, pass the state exam, apply with the IDFPR, purchase errors and omissions insurance, change the name of my corporation, change my own legal name, re-brand literally everything, take new photos, and write a killer blog post to tell the world why I’m doing this (I hope I’m doing a fair job so far.)
November and December went by in the blink of an eye. I passed the state exam two days before we left for our wedding in Palm Beach, and as soon as we got back to Chicago after a few blissful days as newlyweds, it was back to business. My new husband was a rock. Andrew didn’t complain when I spent our entire flight to and from Georgia for Christmas on my computer, he didn’t hesitate to take over all of my business accounting and tax filing, and he didn’t grumble over the many sleepless nights before my launch.
Today marks the start of something new. I never thought I’d say goodbye to MSC or to Coldwell Banker, and I never thought I’d start my own real estate firm. But now, it’s official: Welcome to Melanie Everett & Company, Chicago’s newest independent real estate firm.
I have many people to thank, so this post is about to get a little bit longer.
To my dad, for giving me his entrepreneurial spirit.
To Courtney Funkhouser, my trusted agent and dear friend, for coming on this crazy journey with me.
To my mom, for brainstorming with me and always inspiring me.
To Sarah, for graciously helping me with my re-brand of all things print and digital.
To Victoria, my old roommate (throwback to our Lakeview days!), for designing my beautiful and classic new logo.
To Courtney, my oldest and best friend, for taking my new headshot and branding photos.
To Mike, my business coach, for telling me I can do this.
To Laura, for creating the most adorable custom illustrations for me.
To Chris, my lender, for referring me (a mere 21-year-old!) my first buyer.
To Hunter, who taught me everything I know.
To Andy, my only manager, for mentoring me.
To my Coldwell Banker family, for building me up as an agent since October 2014.
And lastly, to Andrew, my husband, for marrying me, for loving me, and for always pointing me back to Jesus Christ.