Quiana Watson almost got burned by the tea — but knows better now

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Growing up in the small town of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Quiana Watson was always drawn to the idea of life as an entrepreneur. Watson was the second-oldest in a lineup of six kids, and it’s not hard to imagine why she might want to eventually become her own boss with all those siblings around.

But it wasn’t until she went to college and started to explore the hustle and bustle of Atlanta on short trips with friends that Watson began to develop a vision of what her life could be like as an entrepreneur in a thriving metropolis.

“That was the first time I really saw people being entrepreneurs and making their own moves and their own decisions,” Watson told Inman. “And specifically, seeing more minorities in those spaces.”

That spark of inspiration propelled Watson to get her real estate license, eventually start her own company, star in a reality TV show and now serve as an Inman Influencer.

Watson has learned a lot about what to do and what not to do along the way, and she shared all the details with Inman.

Big dreams

Watson studied marketing at Fayetteville State University in her hometown, and fell in love with the creativity of the discipline from the get-go. At the same time, she was also developing an attachment to the big city a six-hour drive away: Atlanta.

“They would have all these events in Atlanta back then,” Watson reminisced. “So we’d come with our friends and just hang out and go to parties and the mall and really enjoy the culture of the city.”

The city, with twice the population of Fayetteville, had her enraptured, and after her college graduation, Watson decided to make the leap. With about $5,000 in savings, she moved to Atlanta without a job lined up, but with plenty of hope for the future.

“I figured it would work itself out,” Watson said. “I always tell people that story — it’s like, the amount of audacity you have in your young age when it’s like, I have nothing to lose; let me see if it’s going to work. And things worked out for me.”

Watson got a job that she initially thought was with a big marketing firm, but was actually with a telemarketing firm. Still, it helped her pay the bills and gave her some professional work experience.

While out and about in the city one evening, Watson happened to meet a group of women who were real estate agents. After they struck up a conversation about careers, Watson was sold on getting her real estate license, too. The year was 2007, and everyone now knows what was coming down the pike — the 2008 recession.

“When the market crashed, I had to really evaluate what I wanted to do and how I was going to maintain,” Watson said. “Because I never sold a house — I didn’t sell one house. I was going to the office every day, I didn’t really know what I was doing, and everyone was like, ‘Just use your network.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I’m not from here, and I don’t have a network of people who are buying houses.’ So I went into property management at the time.”

Property management allowed Watson to get her feet wet in the industry, gain some experience, build her network and, ultimately, move up the ranks until she was in a managerial position. She worked in property management for about five years before reactivating her real estate license and starting to work as a sales agent part-time. When the last rental building she was repping was sold about a year later, she decided to make the leap to representing buyers and sellers full-time.

“I came in full-time and just applied those principles [from property management], which was a lot of reporting back-end systems and all that, to my business and really understanding the power of follow-up in sales,” Watson said.

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Courtesy of Quiana Watson

Learning the power of social media

Watson quickly realized that using social media in her business could give her a huge advantage. One day when showing some houses, she decided to start filming herself for social from her car with thoughts about what was happening in her day, and the off-the-cuff tactic helped her gain some captive followers.

“I just organically grew an audience of people that were like, ‘Wow.’ They were entertained, but also educated about what really happens in the real estate space,” Watson said.

Over time, the broker has amassed nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram and over 16,000 on YouTube.

These days, Watson said she feels like it’s important to show her personality to her audience and prove that she can be relatable while also serving as a trusted guide through the transaction.

“It’s like, y’all, you have to also understand how to be personable,” Watson said, after relaying how it’s not uncommon for her to bump into a high-end client at a party on occasion. “Because the new age, as I like to call it, of entrepreneurs and the new people who are coming up and looking to purchase a home, they are looking for relatability … So I always post a little bit of what I like to say is not really ‘personal,’ but you know, that I have a life outside of real estate.”

Watson likes to throw some market updates and some of her brokerage’s listings into the mix when producing content. She also makes a conscious effort to try and motivate other entrepreneurs who may be following her on social.

“I think it’s important that we share the ups and downs of entrepreneurship,” Watson said. “A lot of times, it can feel lonely because everybody just looks like, ‘Oh, they woke up, walked into a house, closed the deal, and nothing happened in the middle.’ And I kind of break down those barriers, like, these 15 things took place and this is how we progressed to the closing.”

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Courtesy of Quiana Watson

Building a brokerage

Watson started her real estate sales career with PalmerHouse Properties and after a few years moved to Compass. But she only stayed with Compass for just under a year before realizing it was time to spread her wings and create her own company. It was in 2020 when Watson paused, looked at where she was in her career and decided to make a change.

“I evaluated my business model and was just like, I feel like I can really do this independently,” Watson said.

The broker now has 22 real estate agents working at her firm, Watson Realty Co., in addition to several staff members, while she leads the firm’s direction as she continues to actively assist clients with their homebuying and selling needs. Watson has also developed niches in luxury and new construction, which in part came out of the strong relationships she’s built with local homebuilders like Nick & Brothers and Built By KJ.

But establishing her own company wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Out of a desire to scale, Watson realized at one point that she had grown too big, too fast — and it was too much to handle.

“I’ve done it the wrong way, which is why I said ‘I closed the door,’” Watson told Inman, after earlier clarifying that she is not accepting new agents at this time. “I was so overzealous at one point, I want to say I had close to 60 agents.”

That figure was just too much for a broker-owner still active in the market with clients, Watson realized. It wasn’t that she was letting people who weren’t a good fit into the company — it was just that everyone who came through the doors really wanted one-on-one time with her, and it was impossible to deliver at that scale.

“It helped me recognize where I wanted to be in the marketplace and to focus on working with developers and keeping my company small until I hire an associate broker, which would stand in the gap for me,” Watson said. “And make clear expectations when people were to come in that this is who your point of contact will be, this person is going to be — it would not and could not be me.”

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Courtesy of Quiana Watson

Too much tea

In 2022, Watson also elevated her public profile by appearing on The Ladies Who List Atlanta on OWN. The real estate reality TV series aired for one season and followed Watson, along with five other top female real estate professionals in the market, while they juggled their professional and personal lives.

The experience wasn’t exactly what Watson had expected.

“For me, my experience on reality TV was indifferent, to say the least,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t know why I was naive enough to think, ‘It’s just going to be about real estate.’ And at the time, I was so brand conscious and, What’s professional? What’s not? I don’t want people to see me arguing with people … and who’s minding their own business. So even being on TV was a shock for me…”

She ended up quitting the show prematurely and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

“I always tell people, be very careful what you say ‘yes’ to because every opportunity for you may not be the opportunity for you, so to speak, depending on how you run your business.”

Watson said she’d be open to doing reality TV again (though not willing to drop everything at the next mention of an offer), now that she better understands how it works in practice and can go into it with clear eyes.

“I have no real complaints; I just know that I will be very cautious — and I’ll tell anyone who is reading this — exposure is great, but make sure that once you get that exposure, it’s exposing you to opportunities that are going to help your business, not harm your business,” Watson said.

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Courtesy of Quiana Watson

A passion for training and hopes for future growth

After fielding questions from so many agents over the years about the keys to her success, Watson started more informally training other agents in 2019 and officially launched a training organization in 2020 when she also launched her brokerage. The company is called Agent Tools for Success.

“My first class was ‘How to turn those likes to closings on social media,’” Watson explained. “And it was such a huge response that by the time I got to the following year and was launching my real estate brokerage, I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to start a group.’”

Enrollees attend events in person a couple of times per year (this month in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta), and have regular lessons and check-ins on Zoom multiple times per month.

“That has been one of my greatest accomplishments, I feel, because when I got into the industry, nobody told me how I should run [my business],” Watson said. “Now I’m able to give back by offering training courses to help people not make the same mistakes I made and be successful and use a blueprint.”

Looking ahead to the next five years, Watson is working towards scaling her brokerage in a gradual, sustainable way. She’s also exploring other opportunities for the business, including government contracts.

“That is another avenue that most people are not completely aware of, but it solidifies the legacy of a company,” Watson explained.

But as she grows her company this time around, Watson knows to be a bit more cautious.

“I won’t make the same mistakes I made before,” she said.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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