Now entering our fifth decade of service on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Michael Saunders & Company is made up of much more than office walls, real estate signs, and newspaper advertisements. At the heart of the company is our people, our partners, our history, and the story of our journey along the way.
This week, we are introducing Saunders Stories, a new video series where we will be hearing directly from our company’s Founder and CEO, Michael Saunders, President, Drayton Saunders, and eventually other team members who have helped shape us into who we are today.
We hope you enjoy our first episode, shining the spotlight on the exact moment in 1976 when Michael Saunders decided she was ready to embrace her inner entrepreneur to begin Michael Saunders & Company.
This is the Moment: The Beginnings of Michael Saunders & Company
“I worked for four years as a sales agent and developed a wonderful clientele because as soon as I left probation/parole work, the first thing I did was write everyone I knew a note and said, ‘You know me as a probation/parole officer, well, I am now in real estate and I certainly would appreciate you referring any friends, families, or customers to me because you know you can trust me as you did when I counseled delinquent children.’
“And so I got wonderful referrals from attorneys, judges, and business people. And then I got a call one day from a banker saying, ‘I have a Canadian who is going to buy a building on Longboat Key and he would like to talk to someone in the real estate business’. So off I go to meet with him. And he was buying a 42-residence building, Tiffany Plaza, on Longboat Key. His name was Siggy Levy. He was from Canada and we met, and I go back to the office. And I’m thrilled! I’m so excited. I mean, I’m going to get 42 listings, the building was complete — it was in ’76 – not a great time in real estate – and my broker said, ‘You are crazy. Don’t you know interest rates are high? We have gas shortages and you have to stay in line for gas. Nobody’s going buy in mid-Longboat Key!’
“And I said, ‘It’s beautiful, it’s on the Gulf, it’s fabulous! And he said, ‘I’m not interested at all.’
“So, I thought alright, this is the moment. This is the reason I can leave. I can set up my own company. I can establish it on a foundation of values. I can treat customers with respect. And I can once again be an entrepreneur and in charge of my own ship. And so I left.
“I found a small space on St Armands Circle that was 1000 square feet. And then I thought, I don’t need much money, I only need about $5,000 to start this company, and off I go to the bank thinking, no problem, $5,000 dollars, easy loan! Well, guess what? In those days in 1976, if you were a commissioned sales agent, banks didn’t lend you money and if you were a woman, they certainly didn’t lend you money. So they turned me down for a $5,000 loan. So I went back to Siggy Levy and I said, ‘They won’t lend me the money. Would you co-sign a $5,000 note for me?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ And I said, ‘I will promise you no matter how long it takes, I will pay that back.’
“So in 1976 we opened our doors with $5,000 that Siggy Levy co-signed. He made it possible for me to be sitting here today.”