Forever Young

Elizabeth Martin, 38

E.L. Martin Co.
Year Started: 1992
Based in: New York City
2001 Projections: $6 million

She's brokered prime real estate deals for Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. She found a hip new space for Ms. magazine. She's got plans to take her real estate firm national. Still, Elizabeth Martin can well remember the struggling early days of E.L. Martin & Co. Inc.

With a master's degree in real estate investment and development, she was working at a New York City real estate brokerage when she found her entrepreneurial inspiration: Women and minorities were being underserved and underrepresented by real estate professionals. "I could see there was a niche to be filled," she says. So, in 1992, Martin struck out on her own with $25,000 from family and friends-in the middle of a real estate slump. Capital and customers were hard to find, but Martin made it through, focusing on entrepreneurial and nonprofit minority clients.

Those hard days well behind her, Martin has branched out into corporate clientele and expects company sales to hit $6 million this year. She remains passionate about her niche. "All of [my clients] are unique, which is why it's so important to understand their businesses to get a sense of where the best place is for them." -Nichole L. Torres

Entrepreneur: When you started your company, what was going on in the marketplace that made you think that this was the right time?
Elizabeth Martin: I primarily work with African-American- and women-owned businesses. There was definitely a niche to be filled. There wasn't much representation at all in either of those categories. I don't think there's a perfect time to start a business-if you have a business idea, you just need to go do it.

Entrepreneur: When did you feel your business was a success?
Martin: It's a market that changes so drastically, I think that success is in many different forms. For example, [I've] been very happy to have been recognized in a number of trade publications, which was always extremely important to me. When you're recognized in regard to your market, and in regard to the industry, that makes a big difference in terms of long-term relationships and in relationships with both owners and your colleagues. Those things really kind of validate what you're doing every day.

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This article was originally published in the November 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Forever Young.

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