Trendsetter On and Off the Lake
Beyond securing incredible homes for clients, Andrea Crossman ‘87 is a real estate entrepreneur who explores innovative ways to provide exclusive service. With more than 25 years of experience in the real estate market as a broker, business owner and trendsetter, Andrea has identified and excelled in her niche – waterfront and luxury properties – to differentiate herself. Today, her firm, Andrea Crossman Real Estate, is a top-producing real estate group that welcomes clients from around the world to their new homes on Lake Michigan and the surrounding West Michigan area. However, her road to success was unlike many other real estate agents.
Andrea spent 14 years in college at five different colleges. She started studying to be an artist at Kendall College of Art and Design, but quickly learned that she did not want to be starving artist. Next, Andrea pursued sunshine and adventure at the University of Florida, but that only lasted a few months.
Andrea enjoyed being a student and explored many interests and jobs in the restaurant, banking, and hospitality industries. She took courses as diverse as gourmet cooking, pocket billboards, entomology, world religions, and 3D perspective drawing because she was curious, but she wasn’t quite sure what it would all lead to.
“I picked Davenport as my fourth college because of the unique approach to teaching and learning. I was able to directly apply what I was learning in my business classes to my jobs. Davenport was my favorite college I attended,” said Andrea.
It was while she was at Davenport, after 12 years of college, she decided that she should pursue her degree. In 1987, she earned her associate degree in business. She says, “This was before Davenport offered a bachelor’s degree. If it had been available, I would have continued!”
Almost immediately, Andrea’s business ventures were entrepreneurial. She started a gourmet coffee and tea shop in Holland with her mother where she managed the business for more than five years. Next, she started a fine dining restaurant in downtown Holland called “Till Midnight” with a business partner, Spring Sweeney, who went on to run it successfully for another 15 years.
Then she took a big next step: real estate. “I started working in real estate just 25 years ago. I started at the same company I am with now. I am an agent with Coldwell Banker, though many people think that I am an independent agent because of all the personal branding that I have done.”
That level of personal branding has positioned Andrea for a competitive advantage in the lakeshore real estate market.
Nearly 20 years ago, she noticed many buyers coming from the Detroit, South Bend, and Chicago areas who were interested in properties along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Andrea’s entrepreneurial acumen allowed her to create a business plan to serve the growing niche of luxury real estate along the lakeshore.
Most of her business is conducted within the Holland, Douglas, Saugatuck, Grand Haven and Spring Lake areas but she also works with clients as far north as Manistee and south as South Haven.
When asked why she got into this specialty, Andrea responded, “I like that every day is a new challenge. I am able to meet interesting people from all of the world while building lasting relationships and friendships.”
To grow her real estate business, Andrea is implementing many innovative ideas. She recently hired additional staff to help create 3D virtual tours of homes for her clients who might live in and out of state or overseas. Document signing can also be done online to further streamline the home buying process. Andrea can even help buyers digitally place furniture in an empty space, helping them envision the final look.
“It was about two and a half years ago that I ended up buying my own office space in downtown Holland because I wanted to be a boutique while showcasing more of my own identity. It was a purposeful move, partly because we have been branding ourselves as the premier waterfront and luxury agent. We wanted to set ourselves apart and have more of an upscale office.”
She recently rented an office in Saugatuck, too, with the same boutique style. With the real estate transactions moving online, her goal for these innovative spaces is for people to stop by and engage in conversation.
“We are going to be experimenting with a new way to get people in our space. We plan to partner with retail shops and possibly host beer and wine tastings, offer unique art, and collaborate with an interior designer and stager in a retail setting.”
When she talks about real estate, Andrea lights up. Her excitement is contagious and others, including Budge Huskey, the CEO and President of Coldwell Banker International, have taken notice. She was recently honored with a special meeting with him at the corporate headquarters in New Jersey along with eight of his top marketing staff.
“It was just incredible. Like Davenport, founded 1866, Coldwell Banker, founded in 1906, shares about the same number of years in the business. We were very pleasantly surprised to learn about the young and vibrant culture at the international headquarters. While we were in New Jersey we found out that once again we were the number one real estate small team in Michigan and ranked fifth in the United States.”
Her strong business background has proven to be the key to Andrea’s success. She thanks her time as a small business owner for teaching her to be adaptable and being able to change the landscape of the industry. But Andrea believes she has been successful because she is able to to bring the excitement to the table, as she calls it.
Andrea enjoys giving back to the community. She supports many causes that make an impact in the area she serves. Recently, she hosted a Led Zeppelin tribute concert as a customer appreciation and benefit event for the Park Theater in Holland.
Andrea added, “I would encourage individuals to become entrepreneurs and make a difference. Be innovative and start businesses. This is why America is great, the entrepreneurial spirit.”