Passion and pride

Five years ago Laura and Samuel Shooter started SJ Shooter Real Estate in the study of their Dubbo home. Now, Laura has taken out a grand prize of $5,000 and the winner’s trophy for Transform 2020. Here, Laura explains how she never planned on joining the real estate fold and why she’s spending her prize money on boosting Dubbo’s digital footprint.

Laura Shooter lives by a simple philosophy.

“If you are more fortunate than others, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”

It should come as no surprise then, that the SJ Shooter managing director won Transform 2020, with her decision to use the prize money for community-based projects among the top reasons she took out the coveted award.

“It’s never been about me in my business journey,” Laura says.

“It’s always been about how our business can serve our community and our clients.

“That’s deeply ingrained into our fibres.”

One idea Laura plans to spend a chunk of her $5000 prizemoney on is a program to encourage Dubbo residents to create reviews about what they love about their town on homely.com.au.

An online real estate marketplace that sponsored Transform, homely.com.au features listings,  suburb and street reviews and other user-generated content.

“When I jumped on homely.com.au there were some people trash-talking Dubbo, which has had a bad rap in the media over a number of years,” Laura says.

“But a lot of people love living here because Dubbo really does have a lot to offer.

“This was about finding a way to flood the digital footprint for Dubbo in a positive way.”

Laura’s second online project will be a Facebook and Instagram competition where residents nominate their favourite businesses and locations, such as parks or cafes and stores, so that Laura can share them on SJ Shooter’s social media channels.

In another example of supporting her local business colleagues, the prize will be awarded in the form of My Dubbo Shopping Cards, which can be used in more than 130 stores.

The third part of Laura’s community action plan is to record some of Dubbo’s history, including stories from the town’s stalwarts, and package it into an electronic and hardcopy book.

“This has really been a theme for me lately,” Laura says.

“I’ve had a lot of chances to talk with people, and I’ve been hearing a lot about local history.

“I’d like to reinvigorate our interest in where we come from.”

Laura has been in real estate for almost five years, working alongside her husband Samuel.

The pair started SJ Shooter in the study of their home after Samuel’s father suggested he try real estate when he became frustrated with his career as a music teacher.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, with finances particularly tight as Samuel had six months off work to study and honour his non-compete agreement with his former agency.

 It then took a further six months to sell his first property in the business.

“I think the biggest challenge was expectation versus reality,” Laura says.

“Just because you decide to start a real estate business doesn’t mean everyone you know is going to decide to sell their house.”

Before real estate, Laura worked for the Department of Housing followed by Community Services.

She says she had no intention of joining Samuel in the business, but once they added a property management division, Laura came in to help set it up and ended up enjoying it so much she stayed.

“My initial vision was to train the staff and then return to my old job,” Laura recalls.

“It was a big decision to resign.

“I was definitely torn, but there are no regrets.

“I knew this was the right way for me to go.” 

Laura says her time at the Department of House and Community Services stood her in good stead for working in property management.

She immediately had a good understanding of the Residential Tenancies Act and how that intersected with tenants and the tribunal.

“I had also had some really good training in being empathetic and how to deal with people when they’re having a hard time,” Laura says.

“We dealt with a lot of different situations at the Department of Housing and that training helped me to be unflappable when dealing with tricky situations.”

Over the years, Laura and Samuel have established themselves a reputation for innovation.

They were among the first in Dubbo to create property videos, they instigated a monthly market update and ran catchy marketing campaigns such as New Lease on Love.

That particular campaign included radio spots where Samuel and Laura talked about their landlords and their tenants before using the catchphrase on their shopfront and as the inspiration for their Christmas hamper delivery to clients.

“On Valentine’s Day we also took two dozen red roses around to our landlords and tenants,” Laura says.

Other innovations include creating an experience centre where they can host events or record content in their dedicated media space that includes professional lighting and different coloured backdrops.

“With the weekly market updates, before we had the experience centre, we turned the phones off, we had someone stationed out the front to stop someone walking in the front door while we were filming it,” Laura says. 

Other business owners in Dubbo have also used the centre to create their own content or to stage an event.

So what does the future hold for Laura, Samuel and their business?

“We just want to serve Dubbo better, we want to find new ways to champion our community and the people and the businesses who are here,” Laura says.

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