In Montreal, Teri-Ann Bégin built up a successful cosmetics retail company that grew to about 150 employees.
But when she and her husband decided to move to Calgary in 1987 to join other family members, she switched careers and became a realtor in 1988. She is also going on her 30th year as a member of the RE/MAX Real Estate (Central) team in Calgary.
So how did her career journey as a retailer take a turn to real estate?
“You have to sell a lot of small things, a lot of cosmetics, to add up to a big number,” she quipped. “I love sales way more than management. I love helping people. For me, I still wanted to help people and I think the best way to do that is to help them with making decisions on what to purchase, whatever the product is. So big things are cars or houses.
“And cars are definitely not a passion for me. You put gas in, you turn the key and it starts. It’s a good day. There you go. But being a realtor is the best job in the entire world because what people who haven’t had other businesses don’t realize for instance with the cosmetics franchise we had to figure out six months to a year in advance what colours of eye shadow or blush and how many were the women going to buy six months to a year later. Then we had to order that, have it come in, pay for it and then hope that we were correct.
“With houses, the inventory is already there. We don’t have to pay for the inventory. We just have to broker the deal. So we have to find a buyer who might like that house. A seller who wants to sell their house. And put them together. It’s the most awesome business model ever.”
Bégin grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Three weeks after she and her husband married, they moved to Montreal to open up the franchise of a cosmetic company.
“We started it with myself being the only salesperson and I didn’t speak any French at that time. So we moved into the French side of Montreal, the east side, and started up a franchise. We built it up to a sales staff of 150 women,” says Bégin of the Aloette Cosmetics retail business.
“Then we decided we wanted to start a family and we didn’t really want to do that in Montreal. We didn’t have any family in Montreal. So we thought we should be close to grandparents if you’re going to have kids. At that point there was 2.9 million people in Montreal and my husband is from a small town in northern Ontario with a population of 5,000 people. My family, brothers and parents, had already moved out to Calgary in that same time period and there were 650,000 people in Calgary. So we thought let’s make it Calgary and we moved out here.”
They sold the business in Montreal and moved to Calgary in 1987.
“Yes we sell houses but really what we do for a living is we reduce people’s stress levels. We make happen what they need or want to have happen with as little stress as possible. We take as much off their plates as we can and just make things happen for them,” says Bégin.
When she’s not making things happen in the real estate industry, she’s busy doing some sort of activity in the outdoors. Recently, she and her husband climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to celebrate 30 years of marriage (in April they will have been married 35 years). They also walked across England – 400 kilometres – on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. She’s also done the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island three times.
“I like doing really remote things because my phone can’t ring. I think our brain is a muscle and the muscle is working all the time when you’re a realtor. It never stops because there’s always deals and waivers and offers and listing appointments. There’s always so many things going in your brain and it’s always going in so many different directions,” says Bégin.
“When I go away somewhere really remote where there is no cell signal where no one can reach me, these long distance walks and hikes and treks you can just let your brain go. Your brain relaxes and once you let your brain relax it’s amazing all the cool ideas and things that come into your brain. Some of my best ideas come when I’m doing those things in some remote place where nobody can reach me.”
Bégin is also a firm believer in giving back to the community. She’s on the board of directors for the Making Changes Association, which helps vulnerable women get back into the workforce. She has volunteered with the organization for 13 years.