Female Feature Friday: Kifer Sparks Agency
These two mamas are taking the Austin Real Estate market by storm! We had the pleasure of designing a logo for them and are so happy to be apart of their small business journey! Be sure to check out our interview with the duo behind the Kifer Sparks Agency.
Let’s get the skinny on (small) business
Name and Occupation:
N: Natalie Kifer - Broker
J: Jennifer Sparks - Broker
Founders of Kifer Sparks Agency.
Briefly describe your business:
N: We are a boutique real estate company focusing on residential homes in the Austin area.
J: We have lived in Austin for 20+ years and we really love this city. We have a strong passion to help people find their right home here.
How did KSA come about and what were you doing before its creation?
N: For years, Jen and I worked together at a different real estate company and always shared a vision to create our own. We wanted to focus on all things Austin, not just home sales. From helping build great schools by serving on local PTA’s to immersing ourselves in the culture of the city by exploring all there is to do, our vision is to grow our brand as well as support the people in our growing city.
J: I had a career in technology sales & communications but developed a passion for real estate when we started looking for our first house. A full scale renovation on our home in Hyde Park motivated me to get my license 10 years ago. After 10 years at other boutique brokerages, and over a year of planning, I’m thrilled to have finally launched our company.
Why real estate?
N: I have always had a passion for learning about how our city is growing and changing. Real estate was sort of a natural progression for when I was trying to find a home that fit the needs of my family.
J: My husband & I were uneducated about real estate when we started searching for our first home. We allowed ourselves to be led by our realtor which resulted in a purchase that didn’t reflect our original goals. This experience, and the subsequent experience with a fantastic broker, led me to my career in real estate. I have firsthand knowledge of positive & negative experiences in real estate & I am driven to ensure that my clients find the best home for their family and lifestyle.
How did y’all get connected?
N: We met through friend groups at the elementary school our children go to.
J: And, it turns out that I knew her husband & his family in North Dallas. Our partnership was fate!
Why is small business so important to you?
N: I want to focus on building a brand that is meaningful and reflects who we are. By starting our own company, we have the ability to take it in the direction we want it to go.
J: I agree. I wanted to be in control of our brand, our team, and our impact on our clients & our community.
What was your first real job?
N: I was a lifeguard and hostess starting at 15. I did that all the way through high school and college. After college, I worked as a special education teacher before moving into real estate.
J: I started working at the GAP when I was 16. I worked there through high school and college before getting an internship at the state capitol.
What motivates you to keep going on the less than awesome days?
N: My kids and my family. I want my children to see me working hard, and I also want them to see that I never give up. Even when I am stressed or things are not going my way.
J: Definitely my husband & kids. I want them to be proud of my accomplishments and inspired to work hard to achieve their goals.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
N: Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but just start. You can make changes as you go. Also, never turn down a meeting with someone wanting to help you or give you advice. Learn from others who have done it before.
J: Have a plan to support your passion. And just do it.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into real estate?
N: I think sometimes people have this idea that real estate is easy. If you are going to go into real estate, know the first few years are tough. Learn from them and don’t let them get you down. Push through the tough days. If you can survive the first few years, you can make it in the business.
J: Meet with as many agents and brokers and other industry professionals as you can to learn as much as you can. In addition, make sure you create a daily schedule to ensure you are focused on the priorities necessary to build a business.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and what/how did you learn from it?
N: Not being more confident in myself my first year in the business.
J: When I first started in real estate, I was super nervous to talk to other agents because I was afraid they would know I was new. I tried to ensure all communication was in email. I learned very quickly that this is a relationship business between the agents as well as the clients, and that it is so much easier to build rapport and work together to ensure both clients win.
What has surprised you most about running a small business?
N: It’s much more time consuming than I thought it would be. Every day I am having to learn something new. From learning how to write a blog to learning how to run a website, it has been a major learning curve. But I LOVE IT.
J: We have a core strategy, but every day we think of new ideas. There is so much that I want to do, I could easily work 16 hours a day right now. Honestly, I am 100% ok with the long hours and I am enjoying all of it. I am so, so happy that we took the leap!
Who have you looked to for advice and mentorship?
N: I try to reach out to every person I know that has started a company and ask them for advice. Hearing other people’s stories has been super beneficial.
J: I’ve been meeting with 2-3 people a week and have found it really helpful to hear about their struggles, best practices & successes.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in small business?
N: I love that my children see me starting this company. I love that they see great days and tough days. Even though they sometimes like to make me feel guilty about it, I love that they see me working during soccer practice. Being a mom, trying to grow business is a constant balancing act. Some days I perform better than others. But at the end of the day, they see me proud of these accomplishments. I hope it will encourage my daughter to take risks.
J: It’s exciting & scary at the same time. I’ve gained a personal confidence that I didn’t know was possible and I’d love to give back to other women considering entrepreneurship. I’ve been talking to several other female business owners about starting a group to share ideas, struggles and support each other. I’ve received so much help & support, it’s important to me to give back.
What’s next for KSA?
N: Grow - we want to hire other agents who share our same vision to help us grow the business.
J: Continue to establish our brand & grow our team. We have big plans!
Let’s get the skinny on Austin!
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO AUSTIN?
N: I moved here when I was 18 to go to college. I grew up in Atlanta and wanted to go somewhere similar to UGA but far away, so I chose UT. My parents literally put me on a plane and I never looked back. I still remember walking through security at the airport and refusing to turn around to see my parents because I might not have gotten on that plane.
J: I moved to Austin at 18 to go to UT. It was the only school I applied to (a little risky now that I look back) ;-) I never really went home after that year. Now having been here for almost 20 years, I still feel lucky. Austin is the only place I want to live and I’m glad to be raising a family here.
BEST TACO IN AUSTIN?
BEST QUESO IN AUSTIN?
N: La Fonda San Miguel.
FAVORITE MARG IN AUSTIN?
N: La Condesa.
FAVORITE HAPPY HOUR IN AUSTIN?
N: District in South Austin.
FAVORITE KID FRIENDLY ATTRACTION IN AUSTIN?
N: Zilker Trail of Lights, and we love going to UT games with the kids.
J: UT games, Treaty Oak Distillery, Zilker Park.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A BUSINESS OWNER IN AUSTIN?
N: Austin has such an amazing vibe for start ups. It’s a very supportive community.
J: We are lucky to have so many connections in the startup community - we have mentors & friends that we can go to for ideas & advice.
TELL US 3 OF YOUR FAVORITE AUSTIN SMALL BUSINESSES.
WANT MORE #GIRLBOSS INSPIRATION?
Be sure to check out our interviews with:
And my personal journey with Sip Dine Design