Founder and owner of Living Room Realty, Jenelle Isaacson is a Portland native and an active real estate agent, developer and investor. She created Living Room Realty to service other top performing brokers who were looking to align themselves with a progressive company that embraced technology and the highest ethical standards in their field. She and her agents aim to deliver world-class service to their clients and communities. The mission of Living Room Realty is “Developing Vibrant Communities”. Jenelle strives to do that both within and outside the company. By helping define a strong culture and value system for the company, Living Room has attracted the brightest talent in the industry. This impressive boutique company’s east side office has the seventh largest market share in the city and Living Room Realty closed over 242 million dollars in sales in 2013 alone.
In 2012, Jenelle was named one of Portland’s 40 up and coming business leaders under 40 by the Portland Business Journal, and in 2013, was one of 25 women who received the Orchid Award for being a woman of influence for her business and civic contributions. Her company is the only Real Estate company to be awarded the Silver certification by the City of Portland’s Sustainability at Work program. Living Room is the first real estate agency to receive B-Corp status on the west coast and the 2nd in the nation. In 2014 they were the recipient of the Rotary’s Oregon Business in Ethics Award. She has been a guest speaker on OPB’s Think Out Loud, a panelist for Cascadia Green Building Council events, and was invited to Salem to speak with Oregon’s Secretary of State, Kate Brown, to assist in passing Oregon legislation to recognize Benefit companies.
Jenelle’s passion is for issues of women in leadership and business. Jenelle serves on the Rock n Roll Camp For Girls’ Board of Directors and is an active member of Portland EO, a local chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Network. Jenelle is the mother of two daughters and when not working; Jenelle loves; modern design, reading, running, swimming holes, Portland’s local food scene, and travel.
Why did you become a realtor?
I never thought I would get into real estate. It was something my grandfather and my stepmom had done, and it was a second career for both of them. I went to art school and I thought I was going to be an artist. I wanted to try all the facets of being an artist and trying to sell art. I got sales job at Twist, which has a lot of contemporary artists and jewelry artists. My stepmom thought I was really good at sales that she suggested I go into real estate. My motivation to get into real estate was that it might create an opportunity for me to pursue my art without working in the industry. And I had just bought a house, which was my biggest motivation.
When I got my real estate license I was working at Twist, playing in a band, and making art. The biggest challenge I saw my friends faced as artists was trying to find and maintain a creative space. So when I was able to buy my house, I wanted to empower others that had the same challenges I did. Knowing where to put your kiln, a drum set, or knowing where to build your darkroom—those are substantial investments—and being at the whim of a landlord, trying to maintain a creative space, and not having that stability to really have the room to make a living for yourself, I realized this is where I can make an impact in my community. Since I was playing in a band, I would play a show and after I would just chat up everyone there, telling them how they could buy a house. Most people I knew didn’t have the means or know someone who bought a house to have access to a realtor.
Why did you decide to open your own business?
At the time I was working for the top real estate brokerage in Portland, maybe even the country. But no one was telling the story of how people really live in Portland. And it goes back to the community of artists I was a part of. No one was telling the story about how they lived. That community was being reached. The brand and marketing made them feel alienated. I wanted to create a brand where they could see themselves in the company. I didn’t want to talk about the houses. I was in it for the people and their stories. It’s after understanding someone and their story that you can present them with the place that will fit their lifestyle the best that they can move and grow in. People are dreaming of a two bed and two bath, their dreaming of a story of what that brings to them.
Your company is a B-Corp. What is a B-Corp?
B-Corp is a third party certification that comes in a looks at the three arms of your business—how you treat your employees, how you treat the environment, and where you stand for social causes. It’s ingrained into the charter of my company, so if we were to go public or get big or get sold, it’s reassured that there are things we care about more than profit.
Why did you choose to become a B-Corp?
When we were building the company, it was something that was important to my team and I. They are really motivated by the why of what they’re doing, helping people, and building a vibrant community. I have people who are dedicated to taking the compost home each night and people who have learned to go completely paperless. Every day they put in efforts that go above and beyond running a business, they really care about the community. It also says to the community that we did this, it was hard since the certification is rigorous, but we did it and we care about the community. And it’s an encouragement to other local business that you can be profitable, and take care of the environment, the community, and our people in an impactful way. We’re the second real estate company in the country, and first on the west coast, to become a B-Corp.
What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?
There’s actually two pieces of advice that go hand in hand. A female mentor of mine said to me “Why do women wake up in the morning with an opportunity ahead of them and ask if they’re qualified?” Generally men don’t do that and women think they need some sort of permission. We need more women to step up and do it. And in tandem with that not to hold myself back thinking someone has something or knows something that I don’t. Because in the end whether we have gifts or we don’t, 99% of it is just doing it. I keep that in mind every time I ask myself if I can do something.
Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
I see a lot of growth for our company. We’re just at the beginning of watching Portland become a real international player as far as a city. A lot of people are moving here, and I see a lot of growth and opportunity for my brokers as we establish our company as Portland’s premier agency. A place I see a lot of opportunity for growth is our tenant placement. And I think for Living Room—and the real estate business—that we are going to be a lot more involved with not only our buyers and sellers, but with renters as well.