Growing up, Lana Walsh Falcicchio, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, knew that one day she’d own her own business like her dad, she just wasn’t sure what the business would be. When her finance career didn’t take off, she accepted a position in real estate, and a few years later, when her boss announced her retirement, Lana knew this was her chance to strike out on her own. Now, her niche real estate company, Boutique Realty, with offices in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Red Bank, offers a highly personalized buyer and seller experience for Hudson and Monmouth counties. We sat down with this Jersey City mom of 3 to chat about the benefits of working for yourself (hint: flexible schedules), how the pandemic made this her busiest year yet, and the quiet shore town her family calls their second home.
Tell us about your background and how you opened your own business.
I was a finance and economics major at school and had every intention of going into that field. But during that time, my father’s friend owned a real estate firm in Hoboken and was interested in having me work for him, even though I hadn’t ever thought about a career in real estate. A few months went by, and since I still hadn’t secured a job in finance, I ended up accepting the position at his company. I worked there for a while before branching out to become an independent real estate agent and moved to a small firm in Hoboken. The firm owner was very generous and let me do as much as possible to understand and gain valuable experience.
When my boss retired, we all had to make decisions on what to do next. Instead of working for someone else, I decided to go out on my own and open Boutique Realty. I knew I was ready for this—my dad had a car dealership, and growing up, I always wanted to own a business like he did. I knew that working for myself, I’d have to work harder at times, but I also knew I’d have more flexibility and freedom, and I was more than okay with that.
I see you’re in three NJ markets. Why those locations?
In 2009, I opened up my first office in Jersey City, where I worked on a new development project. Two years later, since most of my clientele was Hoboken (and I lived in Hoboken at the time), I opened an office there. Being one of the first small businesses in both the Jersey City and Hoboken markets set my business apart. In 2017, I wanted to capture the people moving out of Hudson County, and since I grew up in Monmouth County and still had ties there, I opened in Red Bank. It’s a natural fit with my brand, being both urban and suburban. I’m happy with these locations right now and don’t have any immediate plans of expanding further.
What makes your real estate agency different from others of its kind?
It is a combination of things—at my boutique, I care about every client and their experience and don’t make it all about the numbers. Ultimately the client’s level of satisfaction affects our reputation. Also, real estate is about people and relationships, and I’ve been able to hand select good and trustworthy agents for my company. The agents know I’m at their beck and call for what they or their clients need, which most agencies don’t have a direct link to the firm’s owner. A smaller boutique firm can give you the utmost attention that a bigger franchise or larger independent simply can’t do. Also, I’m very particular and conscious of everything that goes into the business—appearance matters to me since it reflects who we are.
How do you create a balance between work and parenting?
It is a struggle every day, mainly because my kids’ ages and needs are all different, but I know I do the best I can. Both my husband and I work for ourselves, so our family model will never be traditional, but it works for us. I schedule and block out time for my children the same way I would for a client, and instead of the usual weekend hours of downtime – always a busy time in real estate — we might do something fun as a family on a Tuesday afternoon. By scheduling things, we can make just about everything work and be there for all sporting events and performances, which many parents working for someone else can’t do.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
When the pandemic first hit, it affected the real estate market and was very scary business-wise, causing me to wonder if I would make it. There was nothing I could do, so I stayed home making smoothies and enjoying coffee and cooking and dealing with the kids’ virtual schooling, and then about 10 days in, the phone started ringing off the hook, and we were busier than ever. I put in lots of extra time because that’s what had to be done, and in the end, 2020 turned out to be one of the best years we’ve ever had. Though I do have 3 locations, people aren’t coming into the offices as much as they used to. They might pop in for a moment if they need to, but for the most part, they’re working from home instead of being in the office full time.
What are some of your favorite local go-to businesses?
I make a conscious effort to support small businesses, especially those owned by women or families. I love to shop at Hoboken Clique for my family and clients—it’s a very special baby through teenage clothing and gift shop. I also like Hazel Baby & Kids for their unique and adorable baby things for babies. For stress relief, I rely on Acupuncture Atelier. Besides excellent acupuncture, they also do cupping, and they have the best essential oils there. And last but certainly not least, EC Beauty Studio is my go-to for facials.
Tell us about some of the places your family loves to go in NJ.
For the past 7 years, we’ve had a second home in Avon By The Sea. It’s our sanctuary, and at only an hour’s distance, we go there as often as we can. Avon by the Sea is a small, quiet town and not super crowded, plus it has the most beautiful beaches. The kids get to bike and go to camp in surrounding towns in the summer, and it also has a great town pool that’s a hidden secret. At home, we live in the Hamilton Park neighborhood of Jersey City, and we’re so lucky to have Hamilton Park. It has more than 5 acres of green space, and there’s so much to do there, including playgrounds, a farmers market, and tons of events. We love Hamilton Inn for kid-friendly meals. It’s owned by two brothers that we’re friendly with, has great outdoor seating, and dogs are welcome, too.
What advice can you share with another NJMOMpreneur just starting?
In business—trust your instincts because they’re usually right. As a mom, focus on all the good you do for your kids instead of feeling guilty for what you can’t do.