Following a decade at big blue chip property companies including JLL and Cushman & Wakefield I decided to ‘go it alone’, leaving behind a successful career to start my own boutique venture – AZ Real Estate. We advise buyers, primarily Russians, where to invest their money in UK property. 

I set up the business in 2012 using my own funds’ thanks to some smart early property investments – and I have to say this is one of my top pieces of advice to anyone else considering it. If possible, try not to share any equity when starting your business, as tempting as it might be, because there is a lot to be said for staying in total control of the business and not having anyone else to answer to.

As many know, the property has historically been a male-dominated industry, however, this is starting to change, led by cities like London which are forward-thinking.  There are still plenty of places across the world that haven’t adopted the gender equality agenda with the same enthusiasm and that needs to change – but I am a firm believer that competence will prevail in almost any case. I think it’s really important that young women looking to enter the world of business don’t allow preconceptions about male-dominated industries to hold them back. It’s crucial that we encourage them to put faith in their abilities to deliver success in whatever it is that they want to do.

For those looking to follow in my footsteps and start a business on their own, you need to be confident in your abilities and take a trial and error approach – as you need to make mistakes to learn and develop. Instead of beating yourself up, I think it’s important to stay positive and keep your head fixed on the service or product that you are providing to your client.

It’s also important to remember that there will be things that you can’t control. Brexit has dented confidence in the property industry – amongst many others – but as it happens 2018 was our most successful year in terms of revenue and 2019 is set to be even better. So try not to let wider factors get you down too much because uncertainty can also bring opportunity. On that note, try to balance your pipeline – you need both small and big ticket items working together to be truly effective. For me, this means a mixture of small investments and larger investments which can take longer to come to fruition.

Along with your business journey, the importance of networking can’t be underestimated when you are starting up. You need to be like a sponge, absorbing as much knowledge as possible and building your network – keep talking to entrepreneurs and start-ups for encouragement and advice. Knowledge sharing is at the root of success for any business and it’s important that we learn from each other.

While I started the business on my own, I now have a great team of people around me which I am extremely proud of. Surrounding yourself with passionate and creative people who challenge you for the greater good is super important.  Selecting the right people is no easy feat and it takes time and care, but believe me when I say it’s time well spent. It’s a huge part of a successful business so you need to be confident in your decision!

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Alisa Zotimova
Alisa Zotimova is a Russian national and London-based entrepreneur with over 16 years’ property experience. She founded and runs AZ Real Estate, an all-female London and Moscow based property buying agency which advises buyers, primarily Russians, where to invest their money in UK property. In 2012, following a long stint at other established firms, Alisa had the courage to start her own company using her own money and has since gone on to close deals upwards of £10m. She has now asserted herself as one of London’s foremost figures when it comes to overseas investment consultancy.


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