Solopreneur’ forges her own path in Las Vegas

Dana Berggren is broker/owner of Berggren Commercial Real Estate and the Coop Coworking Space.

Dana Berggren had her life plotted out for her: Grow up in the suburbs of Chicago, study at nearby University of Illinois, start a career and have a family where her children would go to the same high school she did, and never leave. But being the youngest in the family and the only girl, she shifted gears and chose a more adventurous path for her life, moving to Las Vegas. And while her time here began with a blunder — “In my (broker’s) pre-licensing class, I was publicly shamed for mispronouncing Nevada,” she recalls — Berggren’s come a long way in 17 years.

Today, she is broker/owner of Berggren Commercial Real Estate and the Coop Coworking Space, and was a finalist for the Women of Distinction Awards from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in recent years?

When I resigned from a corporate commercial real estate company in 2014, I thought I would affiliate with another company, but the longer I stayed on my own, the more I enjoyed being an independent broker. Being independent allows me to do more things and explore other areas of real estate and business ownership without having to report to a corporate office or be subject to someone else’s policies. While searching for an office for my company of one, I was doing a lot of research on coworking, which is a shared office concept with a focus on community and collaboration offering flexible terms. As a solopreneur, I missed the interaction and camaraderie from my corporate brokerage days, so sharing an office with other small-business owners and remote corporate workers seemed like a really cool concept to develop, and so the Coop coworking space was hatched in 2017. As owner of The Coop, I organize workshops and events to bring value to business owners and the community. These events are usually free to members, and nonmembers pay a small fee to the local nonprofit of the speaker’s choice.

What about real estate interested you? When did you know you wanted to follow that career path?

I didn’t even know what real estate was when I first began 22 years ago. When it seemed the path of a news anchor would be a difficult one involving a lot of moving around to small markets, my brother — who at the time was buying a condo in Chicago — suggested I consider getting my real estate license. I took the real estate class and studied for the exam while waitressing. At my first real estate job in 1997, two women asked me to help them with their listing, which was a condo conversion of an old warehouse building. I became enamored with the development process and seeing new concepts and trends in design.

Do you specialize in specific commercial or office space?

I specialize in all facets of commercial real estate. I’ve done land sales, build-to-suits, office, industrial, and retail leasing and sales. I have assisted clients with the entitlement process and applying for economic development rebates from municipalities. Each client requirement is a unique assignment. I am fortunate in that no workday is ever the same.

Where do you see the market going?

Each broker and landlord has a unique take on market conditions. Among the people I represent, demand to purchase commercial property far outweighs the desire to lease. The sale market is still strong for owner/users, but prices are pretty high due to limited inventory. To lock in your monthly payment for the next 10-plus years at historically low interest rates makes a strong argument to buy now. Lease rates are increasing, but the demand is for new construction Class A type of offerings with nearby retail amenities located along Interstate-215 versus the older properties with outdated finishes in less desirable locations. The concept of flexible workspace will continue to dominate the conversation within the commercial real estate industry as companies navigate an uncertain economy.

What skills are necessary to be successful in your industry?

First and foremost for me is integrity: Always choose the honest and ethical path. Dependability: Do what you say you’re going to do and be a person others can count on. Knowledge: Know your business and know the market. Time management and financial management skills are crucial when you’re in a commission-only business and your daily schedule can vary greatly with not much notice, as does the frequency (or infrequency) of compensation. Budget your time and money wisely.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

The best advice I ever received was from Rick Myers, president of Thomas & Mack Development Group, and that was to listen to KNPR’s “State of Nevada” each morning, know what’s going on in your community, and get involved in organizations.

But also, create more avenues of passive income and diversify your investments. A friend once told me he’d rather own a little bit of a lot of things than a lot of one thing. That philosophy has stuck with me over the years, especially since the recession decimated the Southern Nevada real estate market. If you were a broker depending on closing deals during that time, you were in a really tough spot. I realized that my ability to pay my mortgage and feed my kids should not depend on other people making a decision to lease or purchase a building. You need multiple income streams to offset the risk of any one endeavor.

What’s the biggest issue currently facing Southern Nevada?

Workforce development. Training people for the jobs that we need to bring the innovative industries here.

If you could change one thing about Southern Nevada, what would it be?

I would like to see more public transportation in Southern Nevada. When I travel to any other city, I enjoy taking the train from the airport. The RTC is doing some really innovative things, but I look forward to a time when the entire valley is connected by a rail system.

Where’s your favorite place to explore or people watch in Las Vegas?

Fremont East and the Arts District. It’s a cornucopia of different types of people. There’s a certain freedom to express yourself downtown and I love watching people totally being themselves. The food options are incredible downtown, First Friday brings out so many creative types, and I relish the randomness of the whole downtown scene. I am inspired by the pioneers who are making things happen and the immense talent we have in Southern Nevada.

What is your dream job outside of your current field?

A drummer in an alternative rock band. Drummers are so cool.

As a locally owned business, you like to support other locally owned, family-owned businesses. Tell us about that.

I like knowing that the money I spend is going to stay in the community. I know the sacrifice and investment it takes to operate a business, so it is my mission to support others. Even when I travel, I will actively seek out the mom-and-pop business or the local option. You will find furniture, artwork and coffee sourced from Southern Nevada businesses at the Coop. A friend and I even started a vlog to spotlight Las Vegas-area coffee shops.

If you could spend a day in anybody’s shoes, who would you choose and why?

As a mom of two daughters, I have some trepidation about them growing up in this era. I would want to spend a day in their shoes and reassure myself that everything is OK.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I listen to really loud alternative rock music all the time. It motivates me to work out, it pulls me out of a funk, and it gets me to work each morning with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. The power of music cannot be overstated.