Reflecting on her career influences growing up in Winnipeg, MB, 29-year-old Andrea Tiopo recalls advice her father gave her: “start your own business, do your own thing, be your own boss. That was always instilled in my brain since I was younger. It was very much a non-traditional upbringing with Filipino parents.
“They always tell you to finish school, get a good job, become a nurse, become a doctor or lawyer. But my dad was the total opposite and had always told us from day one just to be your own boss.”
With that entrepreneurial mindset, Tiopo took baby steps to hone her craft and her skills, and to find her true calling — establishing her brand and her name selling real estate in Winnipeg. And now she’s expanding into Calgary’s hot housing market. Here are her thoughts and experiences on what it took to get here.
The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What is your annual salary?
[It’s] anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000.
What is your marital status?
I’m in a relationship.
Do you have any kids or pets?
No, but I really want a corgi and I was looking at corgis all night last night, and I think it’s going to happen.
Favourite TV show?
I’m not a big TV watcher, I’ll be honest, but when I do, it’s typically regarding real estate or interior design or some before-and-after home renovation shows.
Do you own or rent?
So my first property [that is my Winnipeg home] I purchased when I was 24-years old, and I knew going into this purchase [that it] was not going to be my forever home, but it was going to be a property that I could leverage – whether it was for cash flow, through appreciation or just keeping it as a short-term rental or a long-term investment. It’s a duplex I purchased with my sister back in 2017 and, eventually, it will just be strictly an investment property.
And then my second home is in Calgary – so I purchased this home with my partner back in November. And the real estate market has already changed from November to now. It’s mind-blowing just how fast the market has changed, but at the same time, we are going to leverage this property in order to build our investment portfolio – that’s the power of real estate.
How did you come to this point in your career?
I started a jewellery business back [in 2012] when things like Blogspot and bloggers were just becoming known… so we became familiar with this online world. [It allowed me] to showcase a more creative side in business. We started when we were in college, so we had a lot of help from our professors, and we were being really resourceful with tools that we had and were learning.
Shortly after, I started buying and selling vehicles, which not a lot of people know about me. This is something that I think helped curate my creativity, getting into real estate as well. (My dad is in the automotive business, and so he opened up this opportunity for me to buy used vehicles and fix them up.) So I had the experience of what it’s like to market a vehicle, what it’s like to talk to people and deal with the paperwork. And so I got exposed to that at a very young age as well in my late teens, early 20s.
If this is something that I want to do and I knew I can do well, then I just had to get started now.
I was already so into the business side of things – into sales – and I loved fashion and interior design, so real estate was one of those things too. I was young, but at the same time, [I knew] if this is something that I want to do and I knew I can do well, then I just had to get started now. So I ended up getting [my licence in 2015] at the young age of 22. It was the perfect time for me to be able to dive deep and gather as much information as I could until I reached the point of OK – now all my friends in my sphere of influence are ready to start buying properties and I already have years of experience to provide value to them.
How do you think this path has made you better at what you do now?
It’s been a rollercoaster of just learning and trial and error, and just trying to figure out what works for me. But the only thing that I could say to anyone who is looking to also get into real estate is just to have your own brand, and from day one I knew that because I had the experience of blogging, I had the experience of starting my own business. I knew that I had to have my own brand in order for me to be able to scale my business.
I’ve grown this reputation in my city where people know they can trust me – that I can do a good job and that everything is consistent. So having a brand has allowed me to scale my business into a different city more easily than if I had not had a brand.
You mentioned getting licensed in Winnipeg. What other education or certifications did you need to get to where you are right now?
I did take a business admin and marketing course in college back in 2012, and that was definitely nice to have. It’s one of those things you know – nothing goes to waste. I did marketing, so my focus was marketing and I think that alone helped me quite a bit when it came to having a business.
Getting into real estate, you have to take your [real estate licensing program], but beyond that there is constant education that we do as real estate professionals. So every year, we do something that’s called real estate licensing. It’s basically a renewal [with your local licensing bodies] in order to stay up to date with rules and regulations and to be able to service your clients.
Luxury is an experience and a service that I provide to my clients.
I’m also looking at things like social media courses that I can take to be able to utilise in my own business. I’m looking at courses that are going to help provide a better experience for my clients. And so, just recently, I completed my luxury home marketing designation. Having this designation is really nice because it is something that I can use to target my future niche. This is kind of the market that I want to get into…. I’ve also actually went ahead and taken courses in interior design and staging, so all of that is definitely a big incentive for my clients when they hire me, because I do have that experience, and whether you’re selling say like a $350,000 house [or a] $1,000,000 house – you’re going to get the same service. Luxury could essentially just be a service that you provide. It doesn’t have to be – you know, $1,000,000 homes and that’s what luxury is. Luxury is an experience and a service that I provide to my clients.
What experiences helped you hone your skills and your outlook?
So, you know, I actually forgot to mention — I fast-forwarded a little bit, but in 2019 I started TableSpace. So TableSpace is a coworking space and event space [where] Winnipeggers will come, or, you know, from out of province people will come, and use the space – whether they just need an office for the day – and it’s kind of a hybrid between say a library and a coffee shop. My business partner and I, we saw that there was a big need for something like this in the city back in late 2018. We both connected in early 2019 to start this business. And we both come from very different backgrounds. She has a financial background – quite a diverse background when it comes to numbers – whereas I’m very much sales and marketing.
We came together, just knowing our strengths and weaknesses and how we can make a great team. And, you know, our vision towards bringing something to the community was aligned. So this was also pre-pandemic and before the lockdowns, the closures and things like that. But something like that really makes you think of business differently and how you need to adapt. Not just with having an office space. But even in real estate.
I think a lot of people do get in their heads sometimes that failure is such a scary thing. And what if I won’t be successful? Or what if you know I lose this money?
Trying and not being afraid to fail, because I think a lot of people do get in their heads sometimes that failure is such a scary thing. And what if I won’t be successful? Or what if, you know, I lose this money? Or what if… there’s so many what ifs, but in order to just grow and to experience it all, especially at a young age – you’re definitely in a better position to take those risks than to wait until you have a family, or when you have people you’re responsible for taking care of.
So I just say it like this: risks that I took at a young age allowed me to just really get a better understanding of who I am as a person, what I like and what I don’t like, and you know what? What I stand for and what I want to work towards.
What words of advice do you have for those considering pursuing real estate or entrepreneurship?
I really put myself in a position where it was scary. It was extremely scary financially and taking these risks was not easy for me mentally, but I knew that I had to do it – just try and figure it out, because I knew that all these were going to be lessons for what was to come in the future.
Just knowing I’ve gone this far and knowing I’m going to put myself in a good position to be able to expand my business – it’s kind of allowed me to open my eyes to see all the opportunities.
I’m expanding at a time when things are quite busy for me, and I think it’s a point in my business where a lot of it is repeat referrals. I’m in a good position and comfortable, but personally, I love being uncomfortable ‘cause I know if I’m uncomfortable I know that I’m growing as a person and so I’m constantly looking for this state. Life is short. You just kind of have to go ahead and do it. Do what feels good to you.
If you’re unhappy at a place that you’re living, if you’re unhappy in any sort of situation, do something about it. And for me, I’ve always just wanted to expand, and I’ve always wanted to go beyond what I think I’m capable of. And you know, setting big goals for myself is just something that I’ve always done, and so this is just another thing to add to that list.
View this post on Instagram
How do you keep motivated day-to-day?
So it’s tough. Being a business owner or being a real estate agent, no one is out here holding you accountable for sales or holding you accountable to do these tasks. And so it is something I’ve learned kind of recently – to have a morning and evening routine. [It’s so] important, because it’s one of those things where when you’re a business owner, your days are very sporadic and things can happen out of the blue. You get emails, you get calls. Your schedule is never really the same. So for me, having a morning and an evening routine is just what I look forward to when I wake up.
So I wake up and have my warm water with lemon, and I have my coffee as well, and I sit in my [windowed] corner and just journal. I typically do that for at least 15 minutes and just figure out what I’m going to do for the day.
If I have time, I try to carve out at least two or three days a week just to do some yoga or some light pilates just at home, or I’ll go out and actually find classes just to stay motivated and have people around me.
When I’m driving around — and as a real estate agent, you’re constantly, constantly driving around — I’m always listening to things that will help me and my business. So I’m listening to podcasts, YouTube, it doesn’t even have to be real estate related. I tend to listen to other things that maybe could be beneficial for my business in a different way… Gary V, if I ever want to learn about NFTs or crypto, he’s a good guy to listen to. You know I have Tom Ferry on.
But I’m definitely constantly listening and surrounding myself with these types of things just to be able to stay motivated.
What is a typical day or week like for you?
My days are always so different, between real estate and between owning and still operating [TableSpace] behind-the-scenes… and when I’m in Winnipeg, my routine is a little different. But also when I’m in Calgary, I’m constantly planning what needs to be taken care of.
So, I have a new listing coming up that I’ve been preparing for. It’s a big listing that requires a lot more preparation. So with staging, with getting painters in there, with arranging for snow removal – cause there is a lot of snow in Winnipeg. These are kind of the more administrative tasks I’m taking care of while [in Calgary]. And out here, I’ve only been licensed for a month now. I still have yet to build up my database, schedule showings.
Right now, it’s all about connecting and networking with people and just learning as much as I can from people, and learning as much as I can about [the market] I’m going to be selling in. So, whether it’s driving around or meeting with agents, just finding cool places to go – that’s kind of what my Calgary looks like right now, when I’m not on my computer.
But for the most part, when I’m in the city, I wake up, do my morning routine – so my journaling, my lemon water, copy all that has to be done.
I will do my administrative work typically Mondays and Tuesdays – that’s when the emails flood in, that’s when I take my calls. Then typically Tuesdays, Wednesdays [are] when I’ll take on showings and other things like that.
I’m constantly running around, so sometimes I just need a little bit of alone time. I try to spend my Friday nights just on my own and reflecting.
Once or twice a week, I’ll check in on TableSpace and take care of things that need to get done. That could look like making sure that the offices are ready to show, handling any sort of higher-level management questions and tasks. I’m constantly seeing what we need to do to better our business.
It does get very busy, so at least one day a week, I just try to be home and reflect, and that’s been my big thing beyond my crazy schedule with showings, with listing appointments, with inquiries and emails. I’m constantly running around, so sometimes I just need a little bit of alone time. I try to spend my Friday nights just on my own and reflecting.
Then Saturdays and Sundays, I’m usually out showing clients’ properties, or I will do things with TableSpace. So my schedule is very much all over the place. But that’s just the way it is when you’re a business owner.
You may also like: This is How She Does it: This Toronto midwife makes $97,000/year.
And what are your typical work hours like?
They really range. It could be anywhere from some days when I don’t have anything going on, and it could be a four-hour workday, to a 16-hour work day. But collectively within a week I’m working quite a bit, because when I’m not working physically, and out there showing clients properties, doing research, I’m learning — so there are other things that play into it as well. For the most part, they could look like 12-to-14-hour days on days that I’m really working and scheduling.
Every real estate agent knows there are some days where you feel like you’re employed and other days where you’re like OK – what am I doing with my time?
But, you just have to make the best of your time. I always say to myself, there’s always something that needs to be done. If I’m not showing properties, if I’m not in a listing appointment, I’m doing something else that is going to help me with my business. I’m working on my website, working on my branding, working on marketing materials or social media content for the week or how to get more leads.
@andreatiopo What a year! Assisted 45 families in their real estate journeys while navigating small biz owner life & purchased 2nd home in Calgary with my 🤍 #2021 ♬ TO THE MOON – Jnr Choi & Sam Tompkins
What is your biggest expense?
Marketing and investing in my brand are my biggest expenses – a professional website, professional photography are all things that contribute to my marketing expenses.
What area of finances do you wish you were better at?
This kind of goes back to my upbringing as well, but I wish I just learned more about finances and investing and, you know, actually numbers on how to run a business. It’s never too late to learn about this, and that’s definitely one area right now that I think would be very beneficial to learn. Just because of the way the world is going and the rate of inflation is going right now – just crazy. I think that we need to be smarter with our money and be educating ourselves on how to invest our money properly – whether that’s real estate or stocks or crypto.
And what does your future look like from your vantage now?
My big goal for myself is to start a team in Winnipeg and still continue my real estate business. Also, to grow the TableSpace community. Eventually, once I start building my brand in Calgary, I would like to start a small team here as well. I am very busy, but at the same time I also want to make sure I am carving out some time to be able to give back and to provide value to people that are also going through the same things, and have conversations like this, to be able to help as many people as I can to get them to where they need to be. I think that is another passion of mine besides real estate.