COVER STORY: When opportunity knocks, open the door
Sarah Daniels is the first to admit she’s had her fair share of lucky breaks throughout her career. But it’s what you do with those breaks that makes you successful, says the TV star and real estate guru.
Daniels, co-star of the HGTV show Urban Suburban and a South Surrey-based real estate agent, is emceeing the fifth annual Project Bloom event in Tsawwassen today (Friday, March 8). The event brings together women from all walks of life to share the secrets of their success, in honour of International Women’s Day.
Daniels, who became well-known in the Lower Mainland as a traffic reporter with Global BC and CKNW, credits her success to making the most of the opportunities that have been presented to her.
“For the most part, things have fallen into my lap,” she says. “But I’ve made the most of them.”
Daniels’ career in radio began in the mid 1980s. After a job in the stock market didn’t work out, she found herself struggling to make ends meet. A friend at CKXY radio in Vancouver tipped her off about a job on air as the station’s community events reporter.
There was only one problem, however. Daniels had absolutely no experience in radio or journalism, and had never even considered the idea of doing radio work before. But with her friend’s help, Daniels managed to put together a demo tape, and was hired on the spot.
A university drop-out, Daniels admits she was less than truthful when applying for the job, but she was desperate.
“I told them I went to Queens, and spent a year at the student radio station, which was all BS,” she says. “I figured I’d be there for a couple of months before they figured me out.”
As it turned out, the station’s program manager was the one to get fired, and the new management decided to keep Daniels on.
While she had a steep learning curve ahead of her, Daniels’ quick wits helped her adapt to her new environment.
“I BS’d my way into a career, but if you sound like you know what you’re doing, no one questions you,” she says.
Thankfully, Daniels had a number of mentors who helped her learn the ropes, and by 1989, she moved up to CKNW as the station’s eye-in-the-sky traffic reporter. Daniels made the jump to television in 1997 as BCTV’s traffic reporter.
But as her broadcast career neared the 20-year mark, Daniels says she knew it was time for a change.
“Because I didn’t have the journalism background, I was never going to be an anchor,” she says. “But I didn’t want to be the world’s oldest traffic girl.”
So she took stock of her options, and again an opportunity presented itself.
The rules regarding the licensing of real estate agents had been recently relaxed, and agents were now allowed to hold part-time jobs outside of real estate.
Daniels managed to get her real estate agent accreditation in less than a month, and was soon embarking on a new career.
“My mom had bought and sold property, so I was already somewhat familiar with the business,” she says. “People thought I was crazy to leave TV, but who cares what they think.”
During the week, Daniels would wake up at 3:30 a.m. and shoot Global BC’s morning show from 5:30 to 8 a.m., then return home to sell homes in the afternoon. On weekends, she had open houses.
After two years of working two jobs, often seven days a week, Daniels was able to devote herself full-time to real estate, and on June 30, 2005, she gave her final broadcast on Global BC.
“I worked my butt off for two years to get started in real estate, and at the time I thought I would never do TV again,” she says.
However, after authoring a pair of successful books on real estate - Welcome Home: Insider Secrets to Buying or Selling Your Property, and the Canadian edition of Buying and Selling a Home for Dummies - Daniels has approached with the idea of developing a real estate-themed television show.
The result was Urban Suburban. The show pits Daniels against her little brother, real estate agent Philip Dumoulin, as they offer homebuyers contrasting housing options: In the heart of the city, or in the quiet streets of the suburbs.
The show debuted in 2010 and was immediate success, with the initial run of 13 episodes doubled to 26, as well as a second season added. Daniels is currently working on concepts for a new show and hopes to be back on TV soon.
For women considering striking out on their own in business, as Daniels did with her real estate career, she has some very simple advice: Be prepared to work long hours if you want your business to be successful.
“I didn’t whine or snivel about it,” she says of the seven-day work weeks it took to get her real estate career off the ground. “I worked like a dog. I was exhausted all the time. But you do what you have to do, so suck it up buttercup.”
The biggest roadblock women face in business is believing there’s a roadblock, she says.
“My opinion is that you have to just barrel through,” she says. “Don’t be offended and stop taking everything as a personal sleight. There’s a lot of assholes out there, and if you listen to them you’ll feel insecure or second guess yourself.”
Most of all, have a plan, and make sure it’s realistic. And if the path you’re on isn’t taking you where you need to go, don’t be afraid to change course and do something different
“If you need to change the course, change the course,” she says. “Some people get so caught up in an idea, they can’t see anything else. If the path is blocked, figure out a way around it.”