Tamar Wagman has a wide range of experience. She started her own foodline, sold the business, and now works in real estate. She was the co-founder of Sweetpea Baby Food. She helped take the frozen organic baby food line right across Canada before selling the business in 2013.
As soon as the pouches got introduced into the market, that was it for us,” she says.
But she’s not mourning her losses by any means. The skills learned as an experienced entrepreneur translate perfectly to real estate. She is able to offer her clients custom, out-of-the-box marketing initiatives thanks to her business acumen and prior experience as an event planner.
She recently told Storeys about her transition from baby food to real estate and weighed in on some of the pertinent issues affecting Toronto’s housing market.
What initially attracted you to real estate as a profession?
I sort of always watched from the sidelines because my dad does a lot of real estate investing. But before I got into real estate I had my own business for 10 years. When I started in 2005, the organic baby food market was just starting to become huge. My oldest girlfriend and I saw a gap in the baby food market and saw frozen being done elsewhere in the world, so we decided to start it in Canada. After 10 years, we were both burnt out and wanted a change. I sat down with my husband and we scoured the Internet for all the careers that worked with my skills and my family. Real estate was attractive to me primarily because after 10 years with my own business, I couldn’t stomach going back to work for someone else. Also, the capital investment for real estate is much lower than it is for selling a product.
Right. Don’t you get support from any real estate company you represent?
Well, you get support from an educational perspective. There’s still quite a bit of capital investment if you’re going to market yourself properly. You have to be able to outlay the money before you see a return on your investment. We ended up selling the baby food business, so I had a little bit to start with.
When you started the baby food business, did you have kids of your own?
I was actually in event planning before I started the business. My business partner did not have kids and when I had my first son, I took my maternity leave and when I went back to work, I just wasn’t happy, so I quit. I was out for lunch one day with my girlfriend who had just gotten a severance package from Ernst and Young and she was telling me about an e-commerce business she wanted to start for baby stuff. I told her, “You should get into baby food, the baby food offering out there is so pathetic.” I was explaining to her my husband’s idea for trays of different portion sizes for people that make their own baby food when I said, “I guess you can just present the baby food frozen.” This is when the lightbulb went off and we went home and googled “Frozen Baby Food.” We saw a gap in the Canadian market and we went for it.
So now that you are in real estate, what do you feel like clients misunderstand about what you do as a realtor?
Many people don’t understand the amount of work that we actually do. I have clients who, at the end of our time together, say, “I had no idea how much work you guys did and I totally appreciate and value you now.” Going in they question whether the commission they are paying is worth the work we do. My clients feel better about that after. They also don’t understand how the commission is structured between you, the co-operating brokerage and the brokerage that you work for. There’s a lot of division of commission that I don’t think a lot of people know about.
What does it take to be a top producer in real estate?
First and foremost, you have to be confident in your ability and confident in yourself to meet people. I think you have to be consistent and persistent. I think you have to be present and I think you have to have tireless ambition.
What kinds of things do you do to keep up with the changes in the industry, to be able to achieve your next goal?
I’m always taking classes, I’m always going to lectures and seminars and conferences. I have a business coach who I speak to every other week and who holds me to my checks and balances and keeps me accountable to my goals for my business.
If you weren’t a real estate agent, would you still be in business for yourself as an entrepreneur?
It kind of depends if I was independently wealthy or not … It was never an option for me to be a stay-at-home mom and even if it was by choice, I wouldn’t choose to be a stay-at-home mom. I like working, so I would probably start my own business in some capacity or join another business. I’m not sure.
What issues or innovations are you seeing that could affect the real estate industry in the future?
My biggest thing in the market right now is the baby boomers actually. I see there’s such a gap in the market for all the baby boomers who are going to be wanting to downsize. Builders in this city are not building anything to satisfy those needs. Those downsizers are looking for condos that are 1,800 square feet plus and there’s no new product of that size coming out, so I see that being an issue in the coming years. I see that clogging the inventory up even more than it is right now.
Now that the province has put measures in place to calm the market, do you think the government has done all it can or that it’s working?
It’s arguable whether they have done all that they can. I think in January and February, we were 50 per cent down in listings from the year before, which was record breaking. In March and April, we came up 30 per cent and now we are seeing that not all that product is selling. Where did all those buyers go? I think we’re in an interesting time right now because are those buyers holding off just because they are nervous about this new plan? Will they come back in the next few weeks or is this the start of a leveling off? I think it’s a very interesting time we’re in at this moment and the next few weeks will be equally interesting. I don’t think (Premier) Wynne has addressed some of the major issues, but maybe we will self-correct. I don’t think her plan is what’s causing this. I don’t think she’s addressed some of the affordability issues or the supply issues. The issues need to be addressed through the process of the Committee of Adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board. However, that’s bureaucratic and doesn’t have a fast turnaround.