This entrepreneur grew up working in the exhaustive list of family businesses from laundromat services to petrol stations. She opened her very first business while in high school and became a self-made multi-millionaire by 25. By the time she hit 27, she was financially stable to retire and relax. It was a road destined for real estate-preneur, Kirsty Dunphey.
Rewind to the year 2001, Kirsty opened her first real estate agency – M&M Real Estate – at the age of 21 in Launceston, Tasmania. When she started out in the property world – that’s become somewhat like a cult that the now 32-year-old “can’t seem to get out of,” she was living in her first $20,000 one bedroom investment property, single, and commitment free.
In 2002, Kirsty was named the National Winner of Telstra’s Young Business Woman of the Year Award. Two years later, M&M Real Estate was ranked the 24th fastest-growing company in Australia with revenue of $2.4 million in BRW‘s Fast 100 list.
“I saw my age as an advantage, recalling her years at M&M Real Estate. “We wouldn’t have received the amount of press coverage if I wasn’t,” she says. “I had no commitments in my life apart from get that business up and running”.
What was the secret to her success? Innovation she says. “Finding an interesting take on a business to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market will help you”. “It’s a bold move but it works,” she adds.
“At the time, there were 19 other real estate agencies in Launceston and [Launceston] didn’t need another but we were doing things differently”. Instead of printed real estate adverts, M&M had them showcased on flat screen monitors.
“Figure out what your point of difference is going to be,” says Kirsty. Following what others are doing is a no-no. A firm believer in “worst case scenario” plans, Kirsty recommends start-ups to have a plan B. “I’m not a big believer of getting everything you have on one thing”. “I’d rather take a calculated smaller risk, start small and build it up,” she says.
Networking is something she swears by. “Take them out to lunch and pick their brains,” she says. “I’ve asked a lot of people for guidance and if you can’t find a mentor, you’ll find it in a book somewhere”.
Kirsty believes any service based industry is rewarding “if you’re prepared to get off your behind and try hard”. That was definitely the case for Kirsty when she decided to sell the agency in 2007 for an amount that would allow her to retire. That however, wasn’t on her check list but a book titled Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can, was.
Really Sold was her next venture. Sick and tired of real estate agents writing headings like; ‘Location! Location! Location!’, Kirsty created a massive online data base with over 25,000 different headings, phrases, and catch words, which basically helps real estate agents to write better ads.
With M&M Real Estate behind her, she is now director of Elephant Property, a small property management consultancy based in Launceston and Hobart, she established in 2008. Last year, the company was awarded Property Managers of the Year Award by Real Estate Institute of Tasmania (REIT).
What’s next? “The aim is to get Elephant Property to be self-sufficient without me, and it’s heading in that direction,” was Dunphey’s concluding forecast.
*This story first appeared in Shoe String StartUps March issue. Re-edited for online.