Opening Doors For Other Women In The World Of Property
By Marina Gask
Best-selling author, property developer and mum of three – at 39, Nicole Bremner, founder of property company East Eight (east-eight.com) is all of these and more. But her real passion is helping other women to thrive in the world of property. A former banker, in her book BRICKING IT (Rethink Press), published October 2017, Nicole recounts how she went from at-home mum and struggling entrepreneur to property developer with a multi-million pound portfolio. Perhaps unsurprisingly the book was an Amazon bestseller in three categories. And Nicole’s expertise and knowledge have been gained in the very best way – through practice.
Nicole, how did you become such a success story?
“I can’t say it’s been easy! Five years ago I was a struggling entrepreneur. With three young children at home I was determined to find a way to make a reasonable income and still have time for the school run. I tried a whole host of entrepreneurial ventures including Brittique, an online retailer for up and coming British designers. But while none made a real difference to the family’s finances, I realised I could never go back to a corporate career. My small taste of entrepreneurship had whet my appetite and I knew I needed to be my own boss. The corporate world, particularly banking, moved too slowly for me. It took years and a lot of trial and error to find my true niche. It’s been quite a journey to get to this point.
What training did you have for your career in property?
I’ll happily admit that when I started out in property I knew nothing. Like many people my first property development project was my own home. I learnt by doing it. Having a background in banking has certainly been a massive advantage, as I’m undaunted by the world of investment, but apart from that I knew no more than the next person. However I soon discovered I had a passion for it.
What attributes would you say are vital to be a successful property developer?
It’s certainly not for anyone of a nervous disposition. To me the property journey is like childbirth – if you remembered in detail the emotional rollercoaster you went on, you wouldn’t do it again. Many people renovate a property and never want to do it again. It is difficult, things don’t go to plan and you need to rely on so many external parties that it’s hard to keep things to a schedule. So it’s important to be calm and resolute. But also to make good alliances and learn from the clever people around you. Having a knowledgable and confident business partner, Avi Dodi, has been a game-changer for me. Our meeting in October 2013 was the biggest turning point in my property career. I learned about development finance and joint ventures; the two tools that have allowed me to scale up my business like nothing else.
Why are you keen to encourage more women into property careers?
“It’s a career choice increasingly popular with women due to the flexible, family-friendly nature of the work. And I believe women can make the best property developers. At East Eight we mentor a number of women starting out in property. Increasingly attendance at my speaking engagements is female. I’m a mum of three young kids and women want to know how I’ve done it and what it takes to manage the balance between home and work life. I really want to open doors for women who may have felt intimidated by the male dominance of this business”.
Why do you believe women have the potential to make better property developers than men?
”In many families it’s the woman who makes the bulk of the financial decisions because she’s intimately acquainted with the family’s needs, now and in the longer term. If a woman knows exactly where the household finances are going, she’s the one who can make informed decisions about property investment that will give the family the best potential outcome. We’re an all-female team at East Eight, and I’m proud of that. While not specifically targeting the female market, I believe we have a deeper understanding of women’s relationship with property, whether it’s the one they live in or the one they’re planning to develop.
What is your number one tip for any woman contemplating a career in property?
Connect with people in the property world on social media. Everything I’ve learned in property I’ve learned by leveraging people; teaming up with people more experienced than me and learning from their experiences. My other tip is not to be intimidated at the thought of crowdfunding, which can produce great results in property development. In 2016, at East Eight we embraced online crowdfunding with partners Simple Crowdfunding (www.simplecrowdfunding.co.uk) as a way to open up our projects to a larger pool of investors, and enable the smaller or first-time investor to get involved with our schemes. I’m passionate about investors with smaller available funds having access to the types of deals generally only available to larger investors and developers.
How are you helping women to pursue their interest in property?
Last year we launched online property auction site Duomo (www.duomohq.com) in partnership with a prop-tech company called Bamboo Auction. And what we’ve noticed is that a large percentage of Duomo’s clients are women. It’s my belief that women prefer the online approach as it means avoiding the aggressive male environment of a property auction. Women are often the decision-makers when it comes to buying property and this provides them with their own way of doing it. And hopefully Duomo is making that a whole lot easier.
As well as East Eight and Duomo you’re a popular speaker and a regular panelist on Property Question Time (PropertyTV) as well as a member of the Women in Property and Business Network. How do you find the drive to keep it all going?
When you’re one of four children brought up by a single mum, as I was in Sydney, Australia, you have a determination to beat your circumstances and not have to scrimp and save the way my mum did. When I got a job as a receptionist and research assistant at a stockbroking firm in Brisbane, the experience opened my eyes. I found myself working alongside people who drove nice cars and lived in the good suburbs. I knew then I wanted to make serious money. I didn’t want to struggle and count every cent like my parents had to. It gave me the hunger to succeed.
What lessons have you learnt from your journey to success?
You learn every time a business fails, and in my case there have been a few failures! The emotional fall-out can be extreme of course, as well as the loss of time and money. But you put what you learn into your next business – and it helps you succeed. Everything I’ve done along the way has contributed to the knowledge and confidence I have now. It’s been hard-won. But so worth it.