Kelly Cooper was young and fearless when she tried out for the Lady Vols rowing team. Although she’d never even sat in a racing shell, she’d enjoyed watching her friends at Girls Preparatory School compete in regattas and wanted to experience the thrills of the sport for herself.
Cooper also was an experienced athlete and physically fit, having played soccer in high school, so she was able to impress the coaches during tryouts and made the team.
“I was in the right place at the right time and simply raised my hand,” she says. “I thought I would make the team, and I did.”
As a Realtor, Cooper is still fearless, so when she learned about Next Move, a network of real estate professionals across the U.S. and Canada that caters to athletes and entertainers, she raised her hand again.
And, just like during tryouts for crew, Cooper made the cut. (Cue end zone celebration video.)
Based in Washington, D.C., Next Move provides athletes and celebrities with a single resource for buying, selling, renting and investing in real estate. Founded by Keller Williams Realtor Jordan Stuart in 2019, the firm has licensed agents in more than 50 U.S. and Canadian cities collaborating to manage acquisitions and sales.
Next Move has its roots in a 2014 email to Stuart from a Washington Capitals rookie who was looking for a furnished short-term rental, he told Forbes magazine. Seeing an opportunity, Stuart helped that player and became the go-to resource for the team’s new signees.
Stuart’s enterprise grew from there, and he’s worked with more than 100 professional athletes nationwide, the Forbes feature states.
“Many athletes and entertainers struggle with finding consistent, trustworthy and effective real estate and relocation services on short notice,” Stuart said recently. “My goal is to develop a vetted network of real estate professionals who possess the right mixture of boots-on-the-ground expertise and industry know-how to serve athletes and entertainers.”
Cooper began pursuing a spot on the Next Move roster last year. Due to the sensitive nature of the work, Stuart is selective, but Cooper says she believed her resume was strong enough to grab his attention.
“Jordan has close connections with the handlers, financial advisers and other people who work with professional athletes,” Cooper explains. “And he needs agents who not only know their city and are aware of local investment opportunities but also have a grasp of what it’s like to work with sports figures.”
First licensed in 2004, Cooper formed ties to the sports realm when she was selling new construction for a builder and developer in Atlanta. Her connections included renowned professional athlete Deion Sanders, who was seeking investment opportunities in Dallas, and five-time Super Bowl champion Charles Haley.
Cooper says these professional relationships demonstrated her ability to work discreetly with celebrities.
“Jordan thoroughly vets anyone who comes into his circle, as some of these people will be handling high-profile deals,” Cooper explains. “I don’t know that I will be handling high-profile deals in Chattanooga, but I believe I will be working with high-profile clients who want to remain anonymous.”
Cooper did more than drop a few celebrity names at Stuart’s feet, she also presented him with impressive stats. Since joining Keller Williams Downtown Realty in 2015, Cooper has doubled her sales each year to reach 87 transactions and $23 million-plus in volume in 2019. This placed her among the top 25 agents in the city, according to the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service.
Stuart gave Cooper the nod about a month ago, making her the only Realtor in Chattanooga who has made the Next Move team, she says.
Like her days as a Lady Vol rower, Cooper says she believes she’s in the right place at the right time to take advantage of being part of the Next Move network. Although Chattanooga is not home to a professional sports franchise, the city is nestled between two markets that are – Nashville and Atlanta – and Cooper anticipates there being spillover interest from players with the NFL, NHL and MLB teams in those towns.
“A player might be in the market to invest but is tapped out of the Nashville and Atlanta markets,” she proffers. “Chattanooga is nearby and affordable. Why not invest here?”
While Cooper’s connections to the world of sports might have helped to open the door at Next Move, she says her ability to nurture relationships will keep it open.
“I enjoy connecting with people and forming relationships,” she notes. “Real estate is a relationship business, and the more people you know, the more you can make what they need happen.”
Although Cooper cannot disclose the financial details of her arrangement with Next Move, she does say the deal will not affect her relationship with Keller Williams. Rather, she’s still KW red from head to toe.
Like any rookie worth her salt, Cooper is already working with her first Next Move client – even though she has to complete the firm’s training. She can’t say who it is, other than he’s a former NFL player who’s looking for investment properties in Chattanooga.
“I let Jordan know what different areas of town are commanding in terms of price points and what the return on investment looks like,” she says.
The buzz Cooper feels about joining Next Move exceeds the joy of becoming a Lady Vol back in her college days. At the same time, she remembers more than the thrill of slicing through the waters of Tennessee River with her teammates, but also the daily 5 a.m. practices at the boathouse and the weight training three days a week.
Cooper loved being on the water, but getting there took work. However, just like she ended up lettering in the sport and earning a scholarship that helped to pay for her education, she expects her hard work with Next Move will pay off in the long run.
“This can only raise my brand and profile in the Chattanooga market,” she says. “It’s an exciting time.”