Julie Andrews, marketing manager for Logan Homes, joined Cape Fear CREW in 2013.
“At the time I was working for a local master-planned community, and for me, it was just a really great opportunity to join in a networking organization that could help provide an opportunity to learn from other women,” said Andrews, who is this year’s president of Cape Fear CREW, which stands for “Commercial Real Estate Women.”
CREW Network is a national organization that started in 1989 “to bring together women involved in the many aspects of commercial real estate to exchange information, develop business contacts and help each other succeed professionally,” according to CREW’s website.
This year’s version of a study that the national CREW organization conducts every five years showed that women occupy 36.7% of the commercial real estate industry.
“This percentage has remained between 35-37% over the last 15 years,” a news release on the study stated.
But the study also showed a reason to think that the percentage could grow.
“The study saw a 5.4% increase in women respondents 39 years old and younger, indicating a growing generation of young and emerging women professionals in the industry,” according to the release.
Women are paid less in the real estate industry, especially minority women, the study showed.
CREW Network CEO Wendy Mann said in the release, “CREW Network remains committed to creating a more diverse, equal and inclusive industry –but we can’t do it alone. Industry leaders must address these issues as a business imperative –and take action now to make this important investment in our companies, our employees, and the future of our industry to remain a competitive and attractive employer.”
Members of the Wilmington area’s chapter of CREW come from a variety of real estate and industry-related professions. This year, Cape Fear CREW is celebrating a decade of supporting women in the industry.
“Obviously, this has been a unique year and provides unique challenges and opportunities. But I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished this year: We’ve had over two dozen events, reaching over 700 people, even in a pandemic,” Andrews said. “We’ve had some really great networking opportunities, both virtual and in smaller groupings this fall.
“And then the event that we’re always most proud of is our Awards of Excellence event.”
Cape Fear CREW was able to host its second annual Awards of Excellence in February, before the coronavirus pandemic shut such events down in March.
The awards focus on the rapidly growing Cape Fear region’s commercial real estate sector, recognizing excellence and leadership.
The organization is currently taking nominations for the next awards event, in hopes of being able to hold an in-person ceremony in April at the Wilmington Convention Center.
In the meantime, the organization plans to feature more small-group gatherings, such as “net-walking,” cocktail hours and more.
In 2010, attorney Dana Pellizzari joined commercial broker Lynn Harris and two other industry professionals, Jennifer Presnell and Beth Quinn, to launch Cape Fear CREW.
Now the organization has 65 members, including men.
“It started off slow, but as of the last two or three years, we’ve really experienced quite a growth spurt, and I think part of that is due to having the Awards of Excellence program for the past two years,” said Harris, one of the Wilmington area’s few female commercial real estate brokers. “I think that made people aware of our existence.”
For the future, Harris said she hopes to see “continued growth and that our existing members will continue to see the value in our networking and remain members.”
She said she believes one of the biggest benefits is the organization’s referral network.
“We do a lot of member-to-member deals,” said Harris, who is with Wilmington-based Century 21 Sweyer & Associates.
One of those deals involved Big Sky Design, owned and founded by Cape Fear CREW member Jennifer Kraner.
The commercial and residential interior design firm founded more than two decades ago was relocating from Masonboro Loop Road to Bradley Creek Station, a retail and office complex at 5815 Oleander Drive.
“Four of our members worked together on that project,” Harris said. “Being able to do member-to-member deals and to generate business amongst other people in this organization is such a huge opportunity, depending on what your needs are.”
Gale Wallace, president-elect of Cape Fear CREW, said she was familiar with CREW because she was a member when she lived in Ohio. “Personally, I was looking for a group I could belong to that really focused on commercial real estate in one facet or another,” she said.
In Wilmington, Wallace is director of project management at Clarendon Properties, a real estate and development firm that creates hotels and dental offices, among other projects.
Clarendon is mainly involved in development and represents itself in real estate deals, “but quite often, we’ll have some of our commercial Realtors reach out to us because they’ve got a piece of property that might be good for development or vice-versa, they send somebody who is interested in investing in maybe a hotel. … So those relationships have really, really been extremely beneficial for me personally and our company as well.”
Andrews said CREW is also involved with the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“We recently established a scholarship at UNCW and have been speakers at Business Week for many years,” Andrews said. “Our goal is to continue to educate and mentor young women and to make sure they know that a career in commercial real estate is possible and a great option.”