I’m happy and excited to introduce one of EMERGING’s newest team members. Amanda Shafer brings passion and years of experience, combining a career in real estate, restaurants, and entertainment, making her a perfect fit for the real estate team. I was fortunate to have the chance to speak with her about her recent transition and how she sees her role in EMERGING unfolding.
EMERGING: Congratulations on your new position. I was hoping you could share some of your history and how you found your way into real estate and, specifically, the restaurant industry.
Amanda: I started this journey by getting my degree in English Communications with a secondary focus in psychology. My original goal was to teach high school English and communication, which I did right out of college for a few years, transitioning from a part-time to a full-time position.
Simultaneously, I tapped into the marketing realm in the hospitality industry in Chicago, working for a company called 8 Hospitality, which has a handful of concepts throughout the city. I was doing marketing, working on a sports bar they were re-concepting in the River North neighborhood. Then, I continued with their marketing and doing a lot of social media and event launching for their organization.
So, I was in the marketing arena while also teaching a class in high school that was focused more on the communication and marketing angle. But, at the same time, I knew I’d always wanted to go into real estate. I wasn’t, however, familiar with commercial real estate and all it had to offer. Then, a good friend, who worked for a developer, educated me on it, and I decided that it was a path I could definitely see myself taking.
I enrolled in a course to get my broker’s license, and before I knew it, I was talking to Sterling Bay. (A large real estate investment and development company.) I ended up joining their team to work primarily on their office leasing for new developments and existing spaces. But I also tapped into their retail and food and beverage leasing, which was the area I really felt drawn to. It combined my hospitality experience with real estate and felt like the perfect fit.
I worked with them for a bit, but the last year I was focused on office leasing and found that I really missed the hospitality and food and beverage aspects. It seemed like the right time and a great opportunity to join EMERGING.
EMERGING: It sounds like you’re very passionate about the hospitality industry and marketing. What are some of your other passions?
Amanda: One of the partners I worked closely with at 8 Hospitality was creating his own concepts. I really enjoyed the whole new concept and build-out process. It involved determining exactly what the cuisine, interior, and marketing aesthetics would look like—every element that goes into creating an entire concept. That’s what was really exciting to me in the hospitality sector. That’s part of why I was drawn to the real estate angle because you’re focused on the build-out and the potential of a space.
I’m also obsessed with interior design, whether in a restaurant, bar, entertainment concept, or at home. I love interior design.
EMERGING: It sounds like you’ve found your perfect niche, following a path that led you here. So, our last question is, why EMERGING?
Amanda: It feels like the perfect hybrid of all the parts of my experience that I’ve enjoyed the most. I heard about EMERGING from Rob Johnson, Vice President of EMERGING, who reached out to me on LinkedIn a couple of years ago when they were looking to expand their team. I wasn’t looking to switch roles at the time, but from that day on, I followed them on LinkedIn, and they were always on my radar.
Seeing the work EMERGING was doing as a whole, meeting people on the team, and really connecting with them made it a very easy decision. Having good chemistry with everyone and seeing how everyone gets along, mixed with the great clients and cool projects, is very exciting. On top of that, the fun events are something that many people don’t get to experience within their work environment, and it really drew me in.
EMERGING: I know they use a lot of data in the real estate division. Could you share how that relates to your position?
Amanda: Yesterday, I met with Hudson Piehl, the COO of EMERGING and the head of the Acutely division. He’s our client-facing point when working with a client’s data. Basically, this aspect really differentiates us from other companies.
The data that we have allows us to analyze the best next steps for our clients in terms of growth. The information we have at our fingertips includes current demographics and the kind of traffic coming through their space, whether a restaurant or an entertainment concept. We can see and analyze it, letting us make the most educated decision on where they’re going to grow next versus just throwing a point on a map and saying this is a hot market, and you should be here.
Just because an area is doing well doesn’t always mean that it will meet the exact demographics of the specific clients we’re working with. For example, let’s say a client wants to expand to a new or existing market. I’ll analyze and find the best site possible, present those options, and then work with the local landlord or broker in that market, executing the lease as the end goal.
It allows us to hone in on ensuring our clients are aiming for their highest potential and success, and it’s what sets us apart from other food and beverage-focused brands.