My Real Estate Marketing Business Grew 10% Despite Shutting Down For 5 Months [Update]

Published: February 10th, 2024
Haley Ingram
Coffee and Contracts
from St. Petersburg, FL, USA
started September 2021
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Haley Ingram and I founded Coffee & Contracts, a marketing toolkit and community for real estate professionals.


In 2017, I was a college kid who had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Although I loved graphic design and was always doing something entrepreneurial growing up, I majored in Communications to cover a broad spectrum.

Around this time, I landed a marketing internship at a local brokerage. This was my first introduction to what a career in real estate looked like, and I was sold - I get to do my own marketing, help people, and look at beautiful houses? Count me in.

I got my license, graduated from college, and moved to St. Pete, Florida where I joined a new brokerage and started a career as a real estate agent. I quickly realized that a career in real estate is not exactly looking at pretty houses and helping people everyday. I didn’t sell a single house in my first year and lost a ton of money paying my brokerage monthly fees and Realtor dues. I was in a ton of credit card debt and ended up picking up a bartending job to pay the bills.


Me as an agent in 2019

My brokerage told me that I needed to cold call and door knock to drum up business. This felt incredibly unnatural (and dangerous) to me. My confidence was at an all time low. At the same time, I was wondering why we weren’t being told to utilize social media to get business - it’s a free way to reach thousands of people. I started an Instagram account for my real estate business and continued to pour into that.

At first, it was disheartening. I was starting conversations, but I wasn’t generating real leads. Months go by - at this point, I’ve switched brokerages 3 times (and I did not sell a single house at the first 2), I am bartending pretty much full time at this point, and I start applying for “real jobs.” Then, I started to see results. I ended up selling a few homes from social media, but at the same time, I started to get other real estate agents asking me to help them with their social media.

I realized that my passion was not in real estate but in graphic design and marketing. I started managing social media accounts for other agents, selling templates on Etsy, and making logos for agents. At this point I’m doing this, real estate, bartending, and working a marketing job at a doctor’s office - my taxes were a nightmare that year.

I ended up meeting a personal trainer who had turned her one-on-one personal training business into a membership model, and it clicked. I could create a membership website for my social media clients. I started building a website on WordPress in August 2019, and by September 2019 we were live. By November 2019, I was able to quit all of my other jobs and do C&C full time.


Four years later, we’ve helped over 16,000 agents build their brand online. I have found that building something, tinkering with it, and continuing to water it and help it grow is where my passion lies. I love helping people learn how to utilize social media to share their passion and talent with the world.

Each morning, I identify my 'daily three' – the three critical tasks that, if accomplished, will make the most significant impact on my day. This approach has not only improved my productivity but also helped in maintain focus on what truly moves the needle in my business.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?


Well, I closed the business down for 5 months this year! Here’s what happened.

We have always had open enrollment for new members, but in June 2023, we decided to briefly close the doors to our membership for the first time. For a few reasons:

  1. The real estate market was in a unique phase, and we wanted to focus on our current members.
  2. We aimed to experiment with the "closed door" approach compared to our traditional open enrollment method.
  3. We wanted to focus on upgrading the website to enhance the user experience and introduce new features. Up until that point, I had personally managed the website and user experience without any coding experience. We hired a developer to create a brand-new website, featuring daily strategy tasks for online growth, a more user-friendly interface, the ability to favorite and mark items as used, and a foundation for future features, including AI content generators and drag-and-drop content calendars.

We have experienced significant month over month growth in our membership since we launched in 2019. We finally started to plateau in 2023. This was likely partially due to the real estate market, we had a lot of cancellations due to agents just not selling houses.

In terms of the strategy of the “closed door” approach: In 2023, we welcomed 4,071 new members. Significant spikes in new members were observed in June (505), October (509), and December (471) coinciding with the reopening of memberships. Based on our averages from the previous year, we were projecting 3,984 new members.

So, the strategy of closing and reopening memberships resulted in a slightly higher total of new customers (4,071) compared to if we hypothetically did not close doors (3,984).

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Looking back on the past year, it's been a rollercoaster of highs and lows with Coffee & Contracts. The journey taught me as much about myself as it did about running a business.

The website migration was like navigating through a maze blindfolded. Despite our best efforts, we stumbled into unforeseen technical issues, mainly because we hadn't planned as thoroughly as we should have. It was stressful, no doubt, but it was also a real test of our resilience and creativity. We learned to adapt quickly, finding solutions on the fly — it was tough, but it brought out a side of the team and me that I'm proud of.

Burnout hit me harder than I expected. There were days when I would just want to go lay in bed and take a nap at 2 pm. I'd find myself lying there, staring at the ceiling, dreading to face the mountain of emails waiting for me. It was a wake-up call. I love my work, but suddenly, it felt like a chore. That's when I knew I had to make a change. I started by reorganizing my day, carving out time for myself first, and then diving into work. Time blocking became my new best friend — it helped me focus on one task at a time, reducing the chaos that was draining my energy.

All these challenges, while they slowed us down in terms of launching new products or boosting our membership, were blessings in disguise. They taught me the importance of forward-thinking and taking the time to reflect on what works and what doesn't. It's been a year of growth, both for Coffee & Contracts and for me as an entrepreneur. I've learned to balance my passion with practicality, to take a step back when needed, and to plan with purpose. In a way, these challenges have been my greatest teachers, showing me the importance of taking care of myself so I can take care of my business.

We have set a bold target of assisting over 100,000 real estate agents in building and strengthening their online brands. There's something incredibly rewarding about seeing someone's brand take shape and grow, knowing you've played a part in that journey.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

This past year has been a profound journey of self-discovery and growth, both personally and professionally. The most significant lesson I've embraced is the importance of self-care. I've learned that starting my day focused on personal well-being — avoiding the immediate pull of the phone, dedicating time for a morning workout, and giving myself a moment before diving into work — sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. It's about nurturing the mind and body to be at their best.

I've also discovered the power of structured time management. Employing strategies like time blocking and prioritizing tasks has been transformative. Each morning, I identify my 'daily three' – the three critical tasks that, if accomplished, will make the most significant impact on my day. This approach has not only improved my productivity but also helped in maintain focus on what truly moves the needle in my business.

Reflecting on project outcomes has become a crucial part of my routine. In the past, I might have overlooked this step, but I now understand its value. It's not just about celebrating successes; it's about dissecting what worked and why, so those successes can be replicated. Equally important is understanding our missteps, as they are opportunities for refinement and growth.

A key insight from this year has been the importance of maximizing the output from our efforts. For instance, when we conduct a webinar, it's not just about the live event. We record it for future use, transcribe it for written content, and break it down into smaller pieces like video clips, infographics, or even podcast episodes. This strategy multiplies the value of a single effort, enabling us to reach a wider audience and offer diverse content across various platforms. It's an efficient, effective way to enhance our content marketing and ensure our message resonates far and wide.

In essence, this year has taught me the balance between seizing opportunities, thoughtful planning, and the invaluable role of self-care in sustaining long-term success.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

The future of Coffee & Contracts is something I'm incredibly excited about. One of the things I'm particularly thrilled about is introducing a white-label enterprise feature. This isn't just an addition to our services; it's a way to deepen our connection with larger organizations and tailor our tools to their unique needs. It's like giving them a piece of Coffee & Contracts that they can call their own.

AI tools are also on the horizon. I'm fascinated by the potential of AI in revolutionizing how we do things, and I can't wait to integrate these tools into our offerings. It's not just about being on the cutting edge; it's about bringing that cutting edge to our community, making their work smarter and more impactful.

Looking further ahead, we have set a bold target of assisting over 100,000 real estate agents in building and strengthening their online brands. There's something incredibly rewarding about seeing someone's brand take shape and grow, knowing you've played a part in that journey.

I'm also looking to take what we've learned and achieved in this industry and apply it to other fields. I want to help entrepreneurs and professionals across various sectors harness the power of social media to scale their businesses. I’ve also recently co-founded a podcast and community called Gateless. Our mission is to create a nurturing and empowering space for women. We're dedicated to fostering connections and elevating women's voices through the power of shared stories and experiences. We firmly believe in creating an inclusive environment where every woman has the opportunity to thrive, unimpeded by gatekeeping.

We're excited about the journey ahead and the opportunity to make a significant impact in the world of digital marketing and entrepreneurship.

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

I am obsessed with everything Brianna Wiest writes. 101 Essays to Change the Way You Think, This is How You Heal, The Mountain is You. These are all my go-to reads.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

If there's one thing my journey with Coffee & Contracts has taught me, it's that the path to growing a successful business often lies in embracing your unique strengths and being adaptable to change. For entrepreneurs facing challenges, my advice would be to focus on these key areas:

Leverage your passion: Always start with what you love and what you're good at. My transition from real estate agent to Coffee & Contracts was fueled by my passion for graphic design and marketing. Your enthusiasm for your work will not only motivate you through tough times but also resonate with your clients and customers.

Identify and fill a gap: Look for opportunities where your unique skills can solve a problem or fill a gap in the market. When I noticed that real estate agents were struggling with digital marketing, it opened a door for me to offer a much-needed service. There's immense potential in finding a niche that aligns with your expertise.

Embrace social media: In today's world, understanding and utilizing digital marketing and social media platforms is crucial. It's a powerful (and FREE) way to reach a wider audience, engage with customers, and build your brand.

Be willing to pivot: Be open to changing direction if something isn’t working. My initial career in real estate wasn’t fulfilling, but pivoting to focus on what I loved led to the creation of my business. Flexibility and adaptability are key in the entrepreneurial journey.

Stay patient: Lastly, understand that growth takes time. Be patient and persistent. Every challenge is a learning opportunity, and every failure brings you one step closer to success. This is why leveraging your passion is key – if you love what you’re doing, it’s easy to stay consistent and keep building.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Always open to talented people who can contribute to our growth and bring new ideas! As well as great Canva designers and content creators.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!