Helen Chorley, Property Investor & Angel Investor on Property Elevator TV talks to Showhome Editor Joseph Clarke about her journey in the property industry
What sparked your interest in the property industry and how has your career developed since then?
From the time I was a little kid playing with the doll’s house bungalow my grandad hand built for my 8th birthday, I was obsessed with houses and owning my own beautiful home. In fact, it got me started saving for my deposit, no joke! I had 10 bank accounts by the age of 10!
So, I literally got on the property ladder as soon as I could in my early 20s and never looked back!
I had a career in investment banking, working on the trading floor of a top tier American bank prior to moving into property full time. The events of 2008 were the push I needed for me to make my passion my career. I knew I could bring something different to the table with my background in finance and understanding of risk and investor relations, which are 2 of my favourite topics that I speak about.
I thought I could be a “passive” investor (I was wrong) so dipped my toe in the angel investing waters through crowdfunding, which was a great way to learn about development and has taught me many life lessons too! These days I invest with developers directly as I’ve spent so many years developing my network and a core group of professionals that I trust implicitly.
As I’ve developed, I’ve also made it a real mission to increase the visibility of women in the industry by co-founding Property Sisters UK, a community of female SME developers and Little Sisters for newer entrants to the market. I love celebrating and championing excellence too, so really enjoy my role as a judge for 4 national industry awards, including Women In Construction. I even host The HMO Awards and the Property Investor Awards, which is such a thrill when announcing the winners on the awards night.
I’ve been lucky enough to have broader opportunities open up to me like being a contributor to Property Investor News magazine and speaking at public events like UK Construction Week, as well as on TV for Sky Business.
What are your current observations regarding diversity in construction and what are your predictions for the future?
There’s room for improvement for sure, but I’m honestly very encouraged by the engagement from all levels of business that I’ve witnessed and seeing the momentum which continues to grow. For example, I’m very positive that initiatives like Michaela Wain’s “Women In Construction Awards” which are championing inspirational role models across the industry and highlighting their achievements, meaning that diversity and inclusivity will continue to improve. The winners really demonstrate what can be achieved and inspire so many other women to really go for it because they show what’s possible.
Although we are seeing progression, property remains a male-dominated industry. What challenges have you faced on your journey to become a female pioneer in property development and investment?
It does, and realistically it may always be so, like banking that I was in previously. And that’s ok, as long as we are making progress and ensuring that opportunities are available for all that want them then that’s fair. I think positive discrimination can backfire and no one wants to be in a position out of tokenism, we want opportunities because we’ve earned them and we deserve them, because we bring something different and add value to the table.
How did you become involved in Sky’s Property Elevator series and what did you most enjoy about taking part?
I was approached to become the first female Angel Investor on the show as they recognised that having just the 4 chaps in the first series was so unrepresentative of the sector and the huge contributions that so many women are making in the SME developer space.
I’ve now done 4 series and I really think the show has benefitted from having a female influence, as I am as much about the people on it, the applicants, as the numbers and the deal itself. Yes, even with my Investment Banking head on! I care about the people pitching to us, we are making life-altering decisions and I think that should be treated with the respect and gravitas it deserves.
What I enjoyed most was giving viewers the chance to learn about what a professional investor really looks for in a deal and who they invest with, at the same time as providing light entertainment too. And of course, I loved the feedback that said I was better than the guys too!
If you could send a message to young people who may not know about the industry, what would you tell them about the possibilities in property development and investment?
The world is truly your oyster – but this is NOT a Get Rich Quick sector, so please, please do not believe some high profile “gurus” who promise you’ll become a millionaire in a year. This business rewards those who work hard, remain committed and collaborate – it’s a people business. Listen, stay hungry and keep your wits about you – there’s plenty of sharks in this business, but there’s plenty of wonderful, helpful, supportive and generous people too.
You are speaking at SIGEF Women Summit this year in Malta, what can attendees learn from your session?
Yes, I’m really honoured to be speaking at such a prestigious event, organised by the Horyou Foundation, in the country I call home now. I’m excited to be discussing how more female entrepreneurial talent can be encouraged, nurtured and funded. The facts show that women entrepreneurs face more challenges in accessing funding for their businesses, especially for first timers. And many women don’t consider being entrepreneurs in the first place as they have not seen enough female role models who have succeeded and managed to break the barriers of taking a company from start-up to scale up. It’s something close to my heart, through my involvement with the Female Entrepreneurs Malta network and NGO too.
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