Jennifer Maher’s first foray into the business world was as a restaurateur, after studying hospitality management at the New York City College of Technology. “I grew up in Staten Island and Brooklyn and worked in the restaurant business until I started my family. Then I left that career; the hours just didn’t work for me anymore,” she says.
After moving to the Valley 18 years ago, she ran a catering business and also got her real estate license; initially she worked part-time. “But I realized real estate was more my style than catering, and I went into it full-time,” Maher says.
She learned that real estate can be an unpredictable roller-coaster when she first began working as an independent broker: “It was a difficult time; the market had just crashed.” But she bounced back, working in realty firms in Westchester and Putnam; maintaining her own brokerage business for two years; and later serving as CEO of realty group Keller Williams.
The Mahopac resident currently is a broker and co-owner at J. Philip Commercial Group. She is also chairwoman of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.
“One thing I learned with both real estate and Chamber of Commerce work is the notion of ‘community first,’ ” she says. “I ask myself, ‘What is it that my clients need?’ And I strive to offer that, whether they want to buy or rent a home; or they’re buying, leasing, or selling commercial properties. I do some property management, too.”
She admits that the sometimes competitive aspect of the real estate world isn’t really her cup of tea. “I’m the opposite of many agents, who go for volume and get a lot of their business from the Internet,” she says. “I enjoy having a smaller, but still extensive, client base that I can fully service; we have great relationships.”
I ask myself, “What is it that my clients need?” and I strive to offer that, whether they want to buy or rent a home
Technology has revolutionized her field, Maher says. “It used to be that the ‘big guy’ companies monopolized real estate. Now, with Web sites like Zillow and Trulia, mom-and-pop businesses have just as much opportunity for exposure as the big guys. It’s really leveled the playing field.”
The mother of two girls, Maher admits she loves playing “connector” in the community. “I’m keenly involved; people are always calling me for referrals and advice,” she says. As a key player in the region’s business network, she’s pleased to see more females take on bigger challenges. “Women’s voices are being heard more and more, in the business community and overall,” she says. Putnam County is a prime example, she points out: In her county alone, along with her own role as chamber head, females now hold the positions of county executive (MaryEllen Odell), economic development corporation president (Meghan Taylor), and tourism director (Libby Pataki), among others.
“My advice for women — or anyone in business, for that matter — is to be persistent,” she says. “Try not to focus on problems as much as on solutions. It can still be a fact that people sometimes judge you by your looks if you’re a woman. But the secret is to know yourself and what you want. Educate yourself, be confident, and never give up.”