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Bisnow Honors Seattle Power Women: Part 1

Today we bring you the first installment in our eight-part series on Seattle Power Women, recognizing 30 influential players in the industry. We're profiling each of these women over the next two months and then honoring them Nov. 3 at a special awards reception.

Ada Healey, VP of Real Estate, Vulcan


Ada Healey says real estate is "kind of in her blood"—her father was a general contractor and her family developed two buildings in Downtown Atlanta in the early 1900s, the Healey and William-Oliver buildings, the latter of which is named for her great-uncle and grandfather, and which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Before joining Vulcan, Ada worked for nearly 10 years at ING Clarion, holding positions in asset management, acquisitions and portfolio management, and she also spent several years at NYNEX Properties (now Verizon Communications) and in the insurance industry with the Sedgwick Group, London, and Metropolitan Reinsurance Co in New York. She's proud of her role and Vulcan’s role in strengthening communities. She tells us it’s incredibly rewarding to walk through South Lake Union today and see a thriving neighborhood teeming with all kinds of people—workers, joggers, parents pushing strollers—in stark contrast to the sleepy industrial area Vulcan first started developing almost 15 years ago. Seattle is incredibly active right now, Ada says, with dozens of projects underway by scores of developers. Everyone's competing for talent, tenants, financing and more. She says a Vulcan Real Estate tagline sums up her advice to women starting out in the field: Start Early, Think Big, Work Together, Look Ahead.

Mollie Fadule, Founder and Partner, Cephas Partners


After a change in heart during her junior year of college, Mollie Fadule dropped pre-med for a career in finance, accepting a position as an analyst at UBS Investment Bank in New York. Then she transitioned to the buy side and joined the Real Estate Principal Investments group at Merrill Lynch, which focused on acquisitions/dispositions and asset management of opportunistic real estate. In 2012, she became a founder and partner of Cephas Partners. She tells us the most rewarding part of her job is the opportunity to interact with unique individuals across all facets of the industry and from various geographies and ethnic and cultural backgrounds. She says she's proud of her accomplishments of the past two years, during her battle with breast cancer. It's been an experience that has changed the way she approaches goal-setting and decision-making—in a very positive way, she says. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry: Take chances, fail, admit your failures and learn from them. One’s reaction, response and recovery from failure can be an incredibly powerful path to success, she says.

Wilma Warshak, Managing Partner and Founder, Washington Real Estate Advisors


Wilma Warshak started her career as an architect, soon taking an interest in development. She worked as a broker to see how deals got done, and found being in brokerage was like coming home—she's been a broker ever since. She says the most rewarding part of her job is working in collaboration with smart, interesting clients. One of her proudest moments, she tells us, was when she left a major brokerage house after over 20 years—where she was the top-performing industrial broker in the Northwest—to open her company. Every single client chose to come with her. That felt like true validation, she says, that those companies, composed of major institutions and high-net-worth families, would take that chance. You never know the depth of your relationships until they're tested, she says. The greatest challenge facing the industry, Wilma says, is also the greatest opportunity—that the benchmark continues to rise. Most successful brokers know how to sell and negotiate, but now there's so much more. Brokers need to understand the real estate beyond the basics. Understanding finance, permitting, construction and environmental issues are all part of the dynamic. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry is that it's an exciting business, but not for the faint of heart. If you can align your true skill set (not what you fantasize being, but what you are good at) with your true interest, then you will win.

Lydia Bennett, Founder, CREWest Coast / Saratoga Commercial Real Estate


Lydia Bennett's first real estate job out of college was with a regional commercial real estate developer. She loved the varied roles involved with real estate, including project management, sales, financial analysis and working with people. The excitement and satisfaction gained from finishing a real estate project, especially one that has a positive economic impact on the community, is another reward. Lydia started Saratoga Commercial Real Estate in 1994, selling it 12 years later when asked to work on a 220-acre waterfront redevelopment project for the Port of Bellingham. In 2013, she left the Port and formed CREWest Coast, to provide development advisory, consulting, brokerage and commercial real estate instruction. Finding solutions to CRE problems provides great professional satisfaction, Lydia says, but she also enjoys meeting all the cool people of every age in every category of business, and getting to work with them. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry: Don't be afraid to take risks, ask people you admire for advice, continue to educate yourself, always work towards a mutually beneficial outcome for everyone, and, most of all, have fun.

Laura Miller, Partner, Gibraltar


Laura Miller tells us her family is “in the business,” so she grew up living and breathing commercial real estate—and the ups and downs of real estate cycles. Her first career was in the restaurant industry, starting at age 17 busing tables, then working up to management and eventually opening her own restaurant. She realized that wasn't right for her, so she turned to real estate 16 years ago, choosing a focus on retail- and restaurant-related work. She says she feels fortunate to have found a career she simply loves. She loves working with local business owners and landlords who have passion, including startup business owners with a desire to start their own business and the vision, drive and dedication required to see their dreams come to fruition. A recent, very rewarding project was with Brian Clevenger, a 30-year-old, very talented local chef, and now owner of Vendemmia. Brian came to the table with a great passion and impressive knowledge of how to run both the front and back of the house, and a very limited budget to launch his project. She helped Brian find a home in Madrona Refuge for the first of his many great restaurants to come, including the much-anticipated Raccolto opening soon in West Seattle. Laura's advice for women getting started in the industry is to create a well-thought-out and polished business plan and look into the various attractive lending opportunities available to women-owned businesses, then hire a broker to represent you in the process.

Tiffini Connell, Managing Broker, West Coast Commercial Realty


Tiffini Connell's family has been in the real estate industry for more than 30 years, and she worked on and off for them when she was younger. After graduating from the University of Washington in the early '90s, she went into marketing, with her first job being an assistant marketing director for a real estate firm. Tiffini spent the next 10 years in marketing and consultant roles, focused on healthcare, construction, real estate and retail, before joining her family’s commercial real estate brokerage firm in 2004, focusing on retail. She says the most rewarding part of her job is playing a role in creating part of the fabric of communities, since retail and retailers are so interwoven into everyone's daily lives. The Puget Sound region in particular is known for a high quantity and quality of independent operators (whether franchised or homegrown), and she says she loves working within this deep, diverse pool of small and midsized businesses. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry: Find a mentor and be willing to work hard. That's not a woman-specific comment, she says, because it’s a tough industry for anyone to break into. No deal is the same, no principal is the same and no property is the same, so the more experience you have, the more effective you will be, and that takes time, putting in the effort and strong mentors.