By Susan Doran
If you want proof that the past does not predict the future, meet Louise Martinheira.
Her maxim, “You can do it as long as you have the will,” has served her well on a trajectory that began in circumstances that would have overpowered many.
“We don’t talk about it much,” says Martinheira, “but mine was not an ideal childhood. I had a rough start. Opportunities were not available to me as a child. So, I’ve created my own opportunities. Now I do all the things I dreamed about as a little girl.”
A sales rep with Century 21 Heritage Group in Bradford West Gwillimbury (in the Greater Toronto Area), she is knocking it out of the park career-wise, ranking among the top producers in her market. (A little trivia about the area – Bradford is the carrot capital of Ontario and even holds an annual Carrot Fest. “Don’t ask,” jokes Martinheira.)
Raised by a single mother and single grandmother in low-income housing, Martinheira entered adulthood “determined not to be poor.”
She has been earning “6+ figures” since entering the real estate field over seven years ago. She is also in the process of forming a team, having taken on fledgling sales rep Heather Little as a protégée.
With her support, Martinheira finally has time to travel regularly with her four daughters – Cassandra, 22, Adriana, 15, Olivia, 13 and Gloria, 10 – checking off some experiences on the family bucket list.
“We swam with dolphins in Cozumel, went zip-lining on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, swam off a private island in Haiti, and are planning a trip to Europe for next year,” says Martinheira.
As a divorced single mother, she hopes her story will inspire other single parents unapologetically to pursue their career and life goals.
“I have heard so many times, ‘You can’t do that with four kids,’” she says. “Actually, you can!”
Business is flourishing and last year Martinheira met a man who she says shares her passion for accumulating new experiences.
“I am now secure and solid…I’m in a safe place and have a really great life. I carry so much gratitude.”
It has been a challenging journey.
After graduating high school, Martinheira took some marketing courses at a community college, although she did not complete the program. Despite working in multiple jobs in customer service, sales and entry-level administration, “the most I ever made then was $34,000 a year,” she says.
Along the way she opened a furniture business, which resulted in negative numbers on her tax returns. It tanked within a couple of years. Long story short, she wound up with “tremendous debt,” a failed marriage and four children, one of whom has albinism and is legally blind.
She decided to pursue a career in real estate. On an application for a daycare subsidy around that time, she wrote that if she was not successful in real estate, “it will not be from lack of effort.”
Sure enough, things began to turn around once she got her sales licence in 2010. A relentlessly driven worker, she delivered flyers and door knocked “every single day,” often with her children in tow.
“We’re a team, the girls and I,” she says.
A few months in, says Martinheira, “a girlfriend of mine saw me out in all weather and asked me to come see her and her husband about selling their house.” When Martinheira gave them her estimate of what the house could fetch, her friend’s husband said, “If you can get us that amount and I get to keep my hot tub, the listing is yours.”
They were her first clients. (And the husband did nab the hot tub.)
From there, things snowballed. Martinheira did open houses every weekend, often with at least one child along if the clients were open to that. Her gratitude for the support of her town and brokerage is clear.
“I didn’t have the education or the connections,” says Martinheira. “I just worked ridiculously hard. This beautiful town has been so super-supportive of me. I absolutely love what I do.”
Right off the bat she was named Rookie of the Year at her brokerage and also received a prestigious award for production. After that the awards just kept on coming. At one point she was given business tips by an unlikely source – Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss.
Martinheira met him backstage at a concert and after Simmons declared that her “last name sucked” and threw her business card on the floor, they had a chat.
“After that I dropped my last name from my logo,” says Martinheira, laughing.
She plugged away, exhausted, networking at community events and on the phone and social media at all hours. “Facebook is my number one source of referrals,” she says, adding that Century 21 Canada has had her on stage providing social media advice to her peers.
She didn’t have a nanny. Instead she turned to people she knew for help with childcare. Her oldest daughter Cassandra stepped up as well, taking a year off before starting university to lend a hand around the house.
For many years Martinheira was working so much she spent little time with her children.
Nowadays she leads a more balanced life, with at least a couple of evenings a week set aside for time with the children.
“Career is wonderful but it’s no good if that’s all you are,” is a key concept in her evolving world view, she says.
“I have worked incredibly hard to gain the respect of my community and peers, which at times has been challenging with children in tow,” Martinheira says. “I have a wonderful happily-ever-after story, where I built a business through 60- to 80-hour weeks, door knocking, community involvement and social media marketing. My daughters are all excellent students. I met the love of my life last year, have made amazing friends, live in a dream home and travel often.
“It was a long road getting here.”