Co-founder and principle of Node and Arbor Borrower
We foster an environment where residents can network, share ideas and learn about new cultures while getting to know their neighborhood. — Dorothea Donelan-Avery
How do you describe yourself?
A: I’m the co-founder of Node Brooklyn – a group of communities that offer thoughtfully designed, fully furnished, boutique apartments in 8 cities across the US, Canada, UK and Ireland.
What is your business role?
A: I’m responsible for the acquisition, development, construction and financing of projects for all our Brooklyn properties.
My job is more than simply developing apartment buildings. We really care about the quality of what we do. The units are very uniquely designed fitting within the landscape of Brooklyn and fully furnished. We provide SMEG appliances, high speed WiFi in common areas for people to work or relax, and beautifully landscaped backyards for our residents. Our goal is to build communities and give people a chance to know and interact with their neighbors.
We also implement tech into our buildings by utilizing a virtual doorman, NEST thermostats, Google home in all of the units, and are working on creating an app to connect our residents and increase communication.
How did you get started in the Multifamily Industry?
A: After I graduated from Georgetown I went to work at Fannie Mae. One of my rotations was in their Treasury and Capital Markets group, issuing Fannie’s short-term debt. I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment and got a job on Wall Street issuing GSE and supra sovereign debt working at both Merrill Lynch and Jefferies.
In 2012 I started doing real estate investments on the side for fun. My husband and I bought an investment property in Bushwick within walking distance of the subway. It needed a complete gut renovation and we maxed out the FAR and built a 7 unit building. It was quite a journey learning the construction process but it ended up renting in a week and a half.
I decided I wanted to do this full-time and I wanted to help connect people once they moved into our buildings, and think of their apartments as their home. It’s a mini-UN with people coming to our buildings from all around the world. We foster an environment where our residents can network and share ideas and learn about new cultures while also getting to know their local neighborhood spots.
What is your biggest business accomplishment so far?
A: Aside from a wonderful husband and two amazing children, I love what I do and I’m very happy that after Wall Street I was able to create a company and build five buildings and a community that’s thriving. It’s more than just simply putting buildings together. We really care about our residents, the quality of what we build and the community that we have formed.
Have you experienced any challenges as a woman in the industry?
A: I think women can be passed over a lot initially in this industry. There are silos on the construction end. But having the ability to speak up and the courage to ask questions is huge.
I’ve noticed that women tend to start with “I’m sorry” and are afraid to ask questions, but men don’t do that. Be assertive in a respectful manner and speak what’s on your mind. I’ve learned you must be tough and smart about what you do.
Do you have any role models who influenced or inspired you?
A: My mom is my rock, my guiding light and my inspiration. She taught me to take risks and never give up; to be kind to others and listen to their story; and to understand what hard work and perseverance is all about. She is a single mother and devoted her whole life to raise me while founding her own international nursery school in Bethesda, MD called the Little Peoples’ Embassy where she graduated over 1,000 children from all over the world.
Linda Knight, the former Treasurer of Fannie Mae, is also another wonderful mentor who has greatly inspired me throughout the years. She taught me to always come prepared with all your facts, and be assertive and confident in what you do.
How do you in turn help other women who are coming up behind you to succeed?
A: I think it’s so important for women’s voices to be heard. This quarter I’m hoping to create a small speaker series for network of residences focusing on women who are starting their own businesses. It will give offer useful tips and help them navigate their careers and hone in on their business skills, communications skills and networking.
I’m also a member of Ellevate, formerly 85 Broads, and I helped cofound a women’s group called JWIN when I was at Jefferies Group. I’m also on the board of the Bushwick Film Festival which promotes women and minorities in film.
I also hired a female construction manager and believe in hiring more women in our team.
Any advice to share?
A: Don’t stop learning. Always be open to meeting and networking with others. Have fun and enjoy what you do.
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