They just might be the real estate odd couple. Justin loves his cars, and Rachel was a former wrestler. Together they are the unstoppable force of Follett & Co, a boutique agency by the seaside in Brighton. In their LBRE (Life Before Real Estate) Justin worked in IT project management and web development, and Rachel was a marketing sensory scientist. These days, they have two sons, plus a cat named Mini and a guinea pig named Patch.
Why Mercedes Benz?
J: I developed my appreciation of cars from my father. He was a mechanic in the army. When I was young we’d go together on veteran car rallies throughout Australia. He’d work on cars at home and I fell in love with them.
Do you mind your husband having such an expensive hobby, Rachel?
R: I think it’s good for him to have a passion outside of real estate, and he works hard for it.
And wrestling … really?
R: I was looking for a way to keep myself fit and I walked into this kick-boxing gym in Auckland (Rachel was born in New Zealand). The gym happened to have a WWF (World Wrestling Federation) ring, and I decided to give it a go. I loved it. I found it really challenging and empowering, and I loved the theatre of it all.
What were your first jobs?
J: While I was studying at university, I had a job at David Jones selling pens.
R: Mum and Dad had a fabric and sewing shop. They set up a catwalk down the middle and as a teenager I’d model their seasonal clothing. It was all very 1980s: shoulder pads and block colours.
You became a sensory scientist Rachel?
R: Yes, I studied sensory science and marketing at Otago University. I worked for various companies such as Fontana, training panels of people how to describe taste, texture and smell.
Did any of this help you in real estate?
R: It has helped me to understand different people’s points of view, because that’s what I did in terms of the market research; you had to look at how different people saw different products, and work out ways to market to them in different ways. I think that’s what I bring to the real estate with Justin; that ability to look at different viewpoints without putting my own view on top of it.
What’s it like running a family agency amongst a city of large franchises?
J: It’s very rewarding being able to build our own brand without being constrained by franchise rules and regulations. We wanted to do things differently. Because we’re a boutique agency, we are both very personally focused on each sale.
Is there much friction, working together?
R: (laughs) We do have different points of view on a lot of things, but that’s what makes our brand strong…we are a combination of our different strengths and weaknesses. Justin is very, very good at negotiating, whereas I enjoy the client relationships; the joy of meeting people during which is often a stressful time for them. There’s a lot of hand holding.
Your most memorable sale?
J: It was a substantial home in Brighton East late last year; we created a new suburb record at $5.3 million.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
R: Starting our own business five years ago. Everyone says it’s hard work, but unless you’ve done it, I don’t think you really know the resilience you need to open a business in such a competitive environment.
J: Yeah, we’ve worked really hard and built our brand, and while people thought it couldn’t be done, we did it and were successful, by surrounding ourselves with people who were on the same wave-length and were supportive.