My name is Kortney Wilson and I'm a mom, a house flipper, a real estate agent and an HGTV TV host. But it didn't start out that way. I moved from Canada at 18 to pursue a career as a country music artist and I was fortunate enough to get a major label record deal and publishing deal within a couple of months. It was unheard of for it to happen that fast but I always say that it was the beginning of the end of my music career. Although I had several deals over the coming years, a stint on an ABC soap opera and a bunch of fun touring gigs, I always felt like I was a minute away from breaking wide open before I got the wind knocked out of me and I had to start back at zero. I now feel like each of those times that I was defeated, was preparing me for the life I have now and the path I was always supposed to be on. I turned my microphone in for a real estate license in TN and decided that if I put a tenth of the energy into real estate as I did the music industry, I would see the growth that I personally needed to be content. And so I did. A few years later, I have a successful real estate team, a new design company and a hit show on HGTV.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
My kids were the driving force in all of that. I wanted to be present for the 3 of them and I wanted to be able to make enough money for our family to travel and have experiences together. Nashville was an up and coming market. My husband had a knack for finding rundown houses and I had a knack for saving money which meant figuring out the designs by myself. I really couldn't afford to hire a designer. I read magazines, got inspired by my surroundings, and found inspiration in the craziest of places. I was making about 30k a year at the time and after flipping one house, I had almost matched my salary in just a month. My husband and I continued to flip while I grew a real estate team on the side. That took off right away, partly because I had a background in flipping and and understanding in design. I could see through the worst of projects and appreciated the best of features and my clients loved that I could speak that language in addition to contracts and offers. I learned to listen to them. One of the first questions that I still ask today is "How do you like to communicate?" because I feel like figuring that out on the front end (no matter what business you are in), is the key to a successful transaction. It wasn't easy but it was easier than being an artist. I had been promoting myself as an artist since I was 13 so I had an upper hand in business knowing how to promote who I was without feeling guilty or weird about it.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest hurdles as a real agent is standing out and defining what my team does best. What are our strengths and weaknesses are and figuring out how to we grow while maintaining a level of service that feels individualized. I have recently felt some of those growing pains and decided to pull back on adding more people to my team and instead get our systems in place and find the right people. I think in the beginning, I was enamoured by young entrepreneurs who were able to grow fast but I realized a couple of years into my own business that growing fast comes with a new set of problems. It's true, slow and steady wins the race.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I'm not reading anything except architectural plans as I head into another season of our TV show, Masters of Flip on HGTV, but when the smoke clears, I would love to read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I have been fortunate enough to have my family's support. At the point of which I was ready to move on from music, I felt that my parents were worried that I would regret it. There was a little bit of pushback from them but they trust me and that was short-lived. I recognize now, having been surrounded by so many cool and successful people that this is often not the case. For those that didn't have family support, that drove them to push harder and believe in themselves. They had something to prove and trust me, athough I've had my family's support, there were many naysayers in my path. The more people who doubted me, the more I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable. When my husband and I landed a TV show, all of those people became supporters overnight. And that's alright. Some people are late to the party and those who doubters are also people who may see themselves in you and don't want you to get hurt.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
When I came to the realization that success could be defined by just taking the chance and going for it, everything became clearer to me. I mean, what is the worst that could happen? I fail? I have had lots of failures that I have lived through and survived but with each one came some pretty cool experiences. Some scary, some crazy fun and others that taught me lessons for my next venture. Those that don't take chances will never even have the chance to fail. I'm proud of my failures in some weird way because it means that I did something.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I would have bought a house the minute that I could have. Having equity in something gives you a ton of choices and ultimately led to borrowing that equity to get started in house flipping but that could have equated to anything really. Another income producing property or a start up business.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Take chances and don't think of it as a destination. The good stuff is what happens along the way. The people you meet, the stories that you will laugh at down the road and the experiences you will have are what you will take with you. Get involved, give back and most of all, be persistent.