By Maegan Carrasquillo, Staff Writer
As a Community Development Consultant with her own company, Steps Inc. Consulting, Nicole Wheatly, works throughout the city of Chicago within distressed neighborhoods to create a comprehensive planning process for revitalization. As a consultant, she would collaborate with different REALTORS® and often felt a disconnect.
“We didn’t always get good follow up from certain agencies. We saw those individuals who could afford homes in the $100,000 to $150,000 value falling below the line and never obtaining homeownership. After seeing that be a consistent trend, I felt it was my job to go out and get my license. Like ‘No child left behind’ I needed to make sure there was no community member being left behind in homeownership,” Nicole explained.
She obtained her real estate license to fulfill a need in another line of work as well, but soon found she was exceeding all expectations she had set for herself. “I never expected to do all that I’m doing with my license. It never crossed my mind. I thought I’d help a few people here and there, but it has become a very big piece of our business now.”
Originally, as a consultant, she’d help families by partnering with U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development counseling agencies, assist in repairing their credit, ensure that they had everything ready to be credit worthy and were prepared to purchase a property. With her real estate license, she could support them from the moment they walked in the door all the way through closing on their home and beyond.
So, what made her choose EXIT? Nicole had already known Marki Lemons-Ryhal, Associate Broker with EXIT Strategy Realty, for quite some time. Marki was a client at another business of Nicole’s, Sensual Steps Shoe Salon, and they connected by supporting each other’s businesses.
“Marki just has this amazing personality. You gravitate to her no matter what. I love to be around people who add to your energy rather than zap it and she is definitely one of those individuals,” Nicole shared. Though she knew Marki, had heard about EXIT and the Formula, she still made it a point to interview with different companies to do her own due diligence. “I narrowed it down to two, but when I looked at the training that EXIT Strategy had, AND with Marki being there, I knew that was the best choice for me. I could learn from an expert in the industry, bring on other people and earn residuals. It was a real wow moment and the best decision I’ve made. When people reach out and try to recruit me, I thank them for contacting me but tell them I don’t wish to waste their time as I have no intention of leaving. I am so happy and satisfied with where I am.”
After only a few years with EXIT, Nicole received back-to-back Bronze Awards in 2020 and 2021, crediting much of her success to skills learned at the start of her career working for a Fortune 500® company saying, “I learned about signature service; teaching clients how they are top priority and providing exceptional service. It’s been a transferable skill that’s important in every job I’ve had. More recently I’ve had a client come to me because their previous agent wasn’t providing proper service. Regardless of whether my client is approved for $100,000 or $800,000, they’ll receive the same top-notch servicing and know they’re important to this entire process.”
And she takes notice of when others provide that same support, like her Franchisee, Nick Libert, who shows it not just with his clients, but with his agents as well.
“I have to tell you that as much as I loved receiving those Bronze Awards, it means just as much to me when Nick sends me a text to say, ‘Great job on that sale!’ I know he’s super busy so to know he took the time to individually stop and recognize me, I have such appreciation for that,” she admitted.
What started as a means to help fill a void, has taken Nicole to new heights, allowing her to fulfill some longstanding dreams like purchasing, in full, her own office space in a prime location. She and her husband are also buying a piece of land with plans to build a home this year.
Already a published author, successful consultant, and powerhouse female entrepreneur, Nicole never imagined how prosperous real estate could be but with EXIT by her side she’s confident this blessing of a journey, as she calls it, will only continue to prosper. “I’ve worked and worked since I was 15 years old, so I’d like to start working a little less,” she says. “My goal is to find a really great agent who can work with me and help with some of the business we have because really, I only see it going up from here.”