Twenty years ago, Michelle Michell was driving along the Princes Highway in Sylvania with two girlfriends and saw a shop for lease. “It was a lovely, old-fashioned, classic Australian building. We had already decided we wanted to start a business together, but we didn’t know what it should be. When we saw the shop, we knew that was the place for us.” They leased the premises and started scouting and saw a gap in the real estate market.
On 1 March 2001, Elders Sylvania was born.
“My background was in real estate. I’d been in property management since I was 18, so it made sense to stay in that industry. The Elders brand was a good fit for us, so we became an Elders franchisee right from the start. We liked the bold red of their branding, which suited our style. They gave us lots of support, both when we were starting up and right through to today. And they stood for the same things we wanted to stand for. Integrity, high morals and standards, and good honest country values. Elders set the standard and helped us live up to it.”
As newcomers to the area, Michelle and her colleagues had to make their presence known.
“We wanted to stand out from the crowd, so we did things to highlight our points of difference. It was pretty unusual to have an all-female team back then, it still is actually, so we branded ourselves as the three ‘Charlies’ Angels’ at one point. Or we’d have coasters made up with ‘Wanted’ signs and pictures of us in cowboy hats. Just fun things that made us get noticed.”
Their unconventional approach worked. Within two years, Elders Sylvania took market share in the area. “People gave us a go, and they saw what we could do for them, so they told their friends, and it went from there.”
For the past ten years, Michelle has run the company with Troy Colman, who entered real estate in 2005. Business has thrived, but it’s taken a lot of hard work.
“I’ve had two children during my time running Elders Sylvania. Troy has four. It wasn’t unusual, a few years ago, to see a staff member walking the babies up and down the road in a pram trying to get them to sleep so we could get our work done!”
Twenty years on, Elders Sylvania have swapped the timber-framed windows and bullnose verandah for more modern premises. But the old-fashioned country values remain.
“A lot has changed in 20 years,” says Michelle. “Back then, we didn’t have a website, so it was all about hitting the streets. Now we work across the whole Shire, but back then it was very much about your local area and face to face connections.”
Michelle says that property management has changed the most. “There’s a lot more regulation and a lot more work involved now. Agents and property managers have far more responsibility than they used to.”
But with all the changes, some things have stayed exactly the same.
“We work as hard as we always did. We do a ton of sponsorship, including support for Sylvania Primary School and local community groups. Some of the connections we’ve made go back almost the whole 20 years. I recently sold a property for someone I helped 18 years ago. I’ve sold some properties three times so far! If you do a good job and you work hard, people remember you and they come back. They know we’re very genuine and extremely honest.”
Michelle’s office has been with Elders right from the start, giving them the support to grow their business the way they wanted.
“Elders has always led by example. They stand for integrity and trust, and that’s helped us create that culture in our office. The support has been second to none, always.”
Happy birthday Elders Sylvania – and here’s to another 20 years!