When she was younger, Lillian Andrews often pondered what she wanted to be when she grew up. She initially settled on social worker, but when she realized that was not the right career for her the question of what she wanted to do with her life once again bubbled up in her thoughts.
Years later, after becoming a wife and a mother and reaching her mid-30s, the answer still eluded her.
Eventually, Andrews listened to what everyone was telling her: She should become a Realtor.
“I was a Zillow addict,” she says by phone while driving between appointments. “I knew the price of every house that had sold in the last six months within 15 miles of me. I was obsessed. And everyone in my life was saying, ‘You’re weird about this; why don’t you become a real estate agent?’”
Andrews was open to the idea, she says, but her hands were full.
“When you have little kids, there’s no time for anything else. But after my son started preschool, I saw the light at the end of that tunnel.”
Andrews was still merely exploring the idea of becoming a Realtor when she sat down with Bekah Cochran at Keller Williams two years ago. Thirty minutes later, she was on fire.
“Bekah is feisty and energetic,” Andrews recalls. “When I left her office, I said, ‘I’m going to be a real estate agent!’”
Eight weeks later, her freshly printed license in hand, Andrews began working. But unlike during her foray into social work, the question of what she wanted to do when she grew up never again percolated in her thoughts.
“It feels like this is what I was created to do,” she gushes. “Real estate is a wonderful match for my strengths and the things I enjoy.”
Andrews says one of her fortes is linking people to opportunities. “I’m a connector,” she explains. “When a friend is looking for a job, I send them job listings every day.”
Andrews says she simply likes finding things for people, which makes real estate a good fit for her.
“When I have a client who wants to buy or sell a house, or both, I get to network and look under every rock and find something for them. I love it.”
Andrews says she’s also a self-starter, which serves her well as a solo agent.
“I’m not on a team; no one calls me and asks, ‘Have you done your lead generation? Have you followed up with your clients?’ It’s all on me to manage and figure out. I love that, too. I’ll never work for anyone ever again.”
Also serving Andrews well, she says, is her nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic.
“Most people who start in real estate exit the profession in a few years,” she states. “There’s a misnomer that you’re going to have a really flexible schedule and make tons of money, and while your schedule is flexible, you also work at the whim of your clients. Real estate isn’t hard; it just takes a lot of work.”
Two years in, Andrews can do more than crow about her strong suits; she can also point to the bountiful fruits of her labors. During her first full year in real estate, she earned a six-figure income; her sophomore run has been even busier.
“November was my busiest month to date,” she says. “I closed $1.7 million.”
Andrews says this level of productivity would not have been possible without the support of her husband, Ryan Bales, a software engineer with Chattanooga-based Ambition.
“One day, I was a stay-at-home mom who had dinner on the table every night and my house was super clean, and the next day, I was working 80 hours a week – and he just jumped in,” she says. “That would have been very hard without his support.”
Andrews also credits the training she received at Keller Williams with giving her a firm foundation on which to build her business.
“I took advantage of every learning opportunity. I even spent an entire morning at a Starbucks talking with every single person about real estate.”
Andrews says she could have been shrinking violent and refused to do the training exercise, but instead, she “just went for it.”
“I didn’t get any business from it, but the more you put yourself out there and have conversations with people, the more comfortable you feel.”
Andrews feels comfortable in the city she’s called home since she was 9. Born in Baltimore, her family moved to Signal Mountain when her father, Jackson Andrews, began working at the Tennessee Aquarium while it was still under construction. (He’s now the aquarium’s vice president and chief operating officer.)
Following the guidance of career assessment tests that suggested she was suited for a career with a service component, Andrews earned an undergraduate degree in sociology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
After teaching at a community school in Northern California for two years with AmeriCorps, Andrews moved to St. Louis, where she earned a master’s degree in social work at Washington University.
As Andrews tested the waters of her chosen career, she realized the temperature didn’t suit her. “It’s important work, but it was never like my perfect fit, or what I wanted to do forever,” she says.
Although Andrews ditched the notion of being a social worker, she met and committed to her husband while in St. Louis, and the couple lived in the city for 12 years. During this time, Andrews worked in a series of jobs in the nonprofit realm and academia, and then shifted to parenting full-time after the birth of their son, Eamon.
Real estate piqued Andrews’ interest when she and her husband bought their first home. “Our Realtor was amazing. I told my husband, ‘That looks fun. I could do it.’ He agreed, but the timing wasn’t right.”
Wanting to move back to Chattanooga to be near family, Andrews pointed her husband to the job listing at Ambition. When the company hired him, they had less than two weeks to move.
Life as a wife, mother and now a Realtor is a balancing act, Andrews says. Her days begin early and end late, with work bookending a few hours of home schooling in the morning.
When Andrews is finally finished with real estate for the day, her husband often has a plate of homemade pasta or pizza waiting for her. “We’re big cooks; we make 99.9% of our meals, so our kitchen is busy,” she says.
The rest of her household is busy, too, with her daughter, Frannie, and the family’s new “COVID puppy,” Ruby, also needing attention. Thankfully, she has the perfect job not just for her, but for any busy parent, she adds.
“Real estate is a wonderful career for a parent of a young child. Very few jobs allow you to make this kind of money and have that much flexibility.”
No longer fixated on what she wants to be when she grows up, but instead confident in her future as a Realtor, Andrews has plans for growth, but is keeping her cards close to her chest.
Instead of discussing her projections, she ends the call by saying she appreciates each opportunity to not only grow her business but her knowledge as well.
“When I started in real estate, I wanted to learn everything,” she says. “I still feel that way. Every deal is different and teaches me something new. That part of it is fun for me.”