Ivona’s introduction to real estate took place in a French bistro where she was working through college after coming to the United States from Poland in 1989. It was there that she met Frank Oliva, a broker and owner of the real estate company Francis Parquet & Co. He was a regular who would often stop by after closings for some French wine and bread and chat with Ivona. He thought she had excellent customer service skills and eventually tried recruiting her to join his brokerage. “He’d tell me about how he had a woman with a Ph.D. in philosophy [on his team] who found real estate more exciting. No kidding! It looked like he was having a blast, so I thought, ‘Maybe one day,’’ explains Ivona. Then, when one of Ivona’s friends decided to get her license, Ivona figured she might as well take the class, too. She didn’t ultimately decide to enter the business until her restaurant manager refused to give her time off for her honeymoon. At that point, she quit, and when she came back from her honeymoon, she joined Frank Oliva and Francis Parquet & Co.

“There were, I think, five of us in a small office on Clark Street at the time,” Ivona recalls. “Since I didn’t know anyone in the city, my first broker gave me a notebook and sent me out on the street to knock on doors (‘door knocking’). I met a ton of people, and my first listings and sales were from sellers I met that way. I even bought my first house from a woman whom I met on my first day of door knocking.” Ivona loved real estate for the independence and potential to build her own business, the opportunities for investment and the creativity in marketing and helping builders design new construction it provided. It was that freedom, independence and opportunity that attracted her to the United States so long ago. Well, that and Coca-Cola.

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