BABE #288: RA’EESA MOTALA - Broker, Lee & Associates
Just as you would hire a lawyer to represent you in legal matters or an accountant to assist with financial matters, today’s babe reminds us that it’s just as important to hire a broker. A real estate broker specializing in tenant representation, Ra’eesa focuses in particular on business owners in spaces including corporate headquarters, manufacturing, mid-tech and nonprofit. She takes great pride in providing her clients with thoroughness and care as they navigate lease negotiations, acquisitions, sales and relocations. Ra’eesa is dedicated to helping support and elevate businesses through conscious decision-making. Her dedication to various additional organizations showcases the true passion behind this babe’s hustle.
Babe you admire and why?
I think it comes down to the qualities, values and admiration I have for the women in my life. They have each played such a crucial role that it’s difficult for me to choose just one. All have contributed something different and are unique in their own amazing way.
How do you spend your free time?
Cleaning out my inboxes (#goals) and reading good books. I’m currently reading “Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind,” and it’s fascinating.
Favorite fictional female character? Why?
Princess Leia. She was the badass rebel princess we all needed growing up. She was proof you could be a good leader, a strong woman and a fighter.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
All the coffee, but a turtle mocha from Caribou Coffee has a special place in my heart.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Cheese fries covered in Sriracha and a sprinkle donut.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
Krav Maga. It’s always been a goal.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
What’s something most don’t know about you?
I love to clean; it’s weirdly therapeutic.
Tell us about your hustle.
I am a commercial real estate broker. I specialize in tenant representation (business owners) and help them with lease negotiations, acquisitions, sales and relocations. My focus is on corporate headquarters, manufacturing, med-tech and nonprofit spaces. As a cofounder of marketing and small business consultancy noise m8kers, my goal was to help women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses and nonprofits. We do this through the creation of a platform for businesses to promote themselves and generate interest in financial investment by creating and executing socially impactful impressions and events. In making decisions that support women, our climate and the fight for gender equality, we create opportunities and add value back into our communities.
What does your typical workday look like?
My workday varies based on what I have scheduled. I try to get to my office early, unless I have a morning meeting. Most of my day is spent prospecting and building my pipeline, while working on current client transactions. I also work with our marketing genius on our strategy and other efforts to promote our business (we are working on trademarking our strategic approach and have a podcast launching this year). I try to use my lunch time to run errands, catch up on work or meet informally with clients. After work, you’ll find me at a networking event, board meeting or the gym. I’m currently training for the MS 150-mile bike ride, so spin class or long rides are key these days. I usually end my day making dinner and getting ready for the next morning or working on projects for non-profits and noise m8kers. Based on where I need to be present during the day, I adjust my gym and errand times. I’ve become great at multitasking certain things, but also know there are times I need to be present in the moment.
What makes Lee & Associates different from other commercial real estate providers?
I think what differentiates us at Lee & Associates is our entrepreneurial spirit. As an employee-owned firm, we’re all personally invested in growing the business and striving to build lasting legacies. We stay focused on the core areas in which we have built expertise. We don’t believe we’ve grown too big where our customers are just a number, but we do the have the national reach of larger real estate firms. The value, transparency, accountability and innovation we bring our clients really can’t be beat. It is my goal to create the best experience for our clients and grow their business with them. It’s a team effort and we are always on their side.
What inspired noise m8kers?
noise m8kers was inspired by my passion for businesses and nonprofits that work for a greater cause. The leaders of these organizations make sacrifices for what they believe in and hope to accomplish. We live in a world where we take so much for granted: water, food, climate, shelter. I think if we stand back and start making conscious decisions on how we live, we take small steps that lead to greater change in our world and set the table for generations after us. It’s my passion to support and connect organizations that ignite this change.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I believe that being a woman has been my greatest opportunity. In a predominantly male-dominated industry, it has allowed me the ability to come into a situation with a different and unique perspective. As a client, it’s always easier to remember the one woman they interviewed outside of the nine men. We can do more to create equal opportunities, however; there is a distinct gender discrepancy in the workplace. When we give women the opportunity to showcase their skill sets by hiring, working and promoting them, we can start to break the barriers of unequal gender ratios.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
The gender ratio is disturbing. For example, I’m on the only female broker in an office of six brokers. However, I do see it evolving—just not overnight. It’s going to take time to change the gender ratio in our industry. That’s going to start with us eliminating discrepancies between male and female roles, first. It’s also going to take firms realizing the value in having women on their teams and creating environments that allow mentorship and growth.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
There are so many, but I think one I get a lot is why having a broker is important. [The answer is], for several reasons: For example, you would hire a lawyer to represent you in legal matters for your business and you would hire an accountant or CFO for financial matters. Why wouldn’t you hire someone who specializes in the real estate aspect, rather than leaving it to fate or luck? Having representation that understands your market and industry is so important, and in some cases it has helped companies stay in business.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work?
I once had a client send me a picture of his penis in an email, and later try to make it sound like I asked for it. After I walked him through how I had not asked for it, he defended his actions by claiming it wasn’t his fault, and it was hard to work with a beautiful girl.
What’s your biggest strength in your role?
Being a woman and open to learning from my mistakes is what I consider my biggest strengths.
Are you involved with any other side projects?
Outside of Lee & Associates, I am the cofounder of noise m8kers and the president for the Twin Cities Film Fest. I sit on the board of directors for FilmNorth and NuLoop Partners (a public and private forum made up of city officials, developers, business owners and councilmembers). I am also on the committee for the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Hello MSP, and the Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Association (MNCAR). I also sit on an advisory board that awards women-owned businesses with a grant to assist with financial equity and have spoken at multiple conferences in the last couple of years. Currently, I am working with the United Nations Minneapolis Chapter with the HeforShe project that will celebrate gender allies in Minnesota. I am also a judge for Technovation that works with both local and international groups of young girls in STEM.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Being a woman is one of your greatest strengths. Build a personal board of directors of women (and men) you can go to for advice, mentorship and working through tough situations. It’s important to recognize you don’t know everything, but instead be open to wanting to learn. Do a little more today than you did yesterday. It sounds ridiculous because we all do so much each day, but I think when you start to prioritize and understand your goals, it becomes easier. Never walk in thinking you have a glass ceiling, because no one can take your worth away from you. You might get nine rejections, but don’t give up, because that tenth one might just be the call you were waiting for.
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