How Women Can G.R.O.W. After the Pandemic

How Women Can G.R.O.W. After the Pandemic

4 min read
Palak Shah

Palak Shah (BiggerPockets Podcast episode guest #368) is the founder and owner of Open Spaces Capital and Open Spaces Women. An engineer by trade, after the birth of her two kids, Palak decided to make the move to entrepreneurship to be able to spend more time with her children.

She brought her knowledge and 17 years of experience in building systems, processes, and scaling from her corporate career in engineering leadership to fast track her real estate investing journey. In her first three years investing full-time, Palak purchased, renovated, rented, and refinanced properties creating an almost $5M rental portfolio and generating $1M in annual revenue. It is now her passion to empower other investors to pursue entrepreneurship through real estate investing to live an empowered and financially free life without taking undue risks or over-leveraging through her coaching program Open Spaces Women. Follow her on Instagram @openspaceswomen for tips and motivation for building and scaling your buy and hold portfolio.

Palak worked in engineering leadership in various industries. She was in the nuclear industry for six years until she joined a startup as a consultant to analyze big data to predict power plant failures. A few years later, she moved over to the management side in engineering at a startup for efficiency measures. She then spent six more years in the pharmaceutical industry, running a specifications department at a glass manufacturing factory.

After the birth of her two kids, Palak realized she needed to create a life of financial independence—one that allowed more time for her family while allowing her to still make an impact. She decided to make the move into entrepreneurship, co-founding and managing Open Spaces based in Philadelphia. Her focus is on renovating deteriorated properties in and around the city.

Palak manages the end-to-end lifecycle, starting from sourcing properties, completing renovations, and renting them out, along with financing and investor relationships. She takes pride in bringing people together to achieve the common goal of empowering a community through real estate development. She believes that profitable growth can be achieved, sustained, and even enhanced by embracing diversity in business partners and by engaging with local communities to foster development that is inclusive.

Open Spaces accomplishes this by providing high-quality rental homes and apartments, with great customer service, at prices that are affordable.

Palak is active on Instagram @openspaceswomen and is passionate about inspiring other professionals.

Palak was honored by Billy Penn in the “Who’s Next Real Estate and Housing” series of 2018, highlighting Philadelphia’s most dynamic real estate, housing, and development professionals under the age of 40. She was also featured in the BiggerPockets Podcast episode #368 and Real Estate InvestHER’s podcast episode #47.

Palak graduated with an MS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Illinois.

@openspaceswomen on Instagram

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“I think we should go ahead and call this a ‘shecession,’” said C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And rightly so. April 2020 was the first time that the female unemployment rate has reached double digits since 1948, as reported by the National Women’s Law Center.

According to UN Women, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on women. However, if you look into this further, the article explains that this isn’t just about job loss due to industries impacted by the pandemic.

Women have continued to bear the brunt of domestic responsibilities in their homes. Working moms are 1.5 times more likely to report spending an additional 3 hours a day on domestic chores.

This is like having another part-time job—an unpaid, thankless part-time job—on top of their demanding careers. A whopping 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce last September. This directly coincided with children returning to virtual school from home.

No matter what race, gender, or orientation you belong to, all of us have felt pandemic-related stress. The pandemic affected all of us.

If there was ever a time to make working towards your financial freedom a priority, it is now.

As our lives slowly return back to usual and daycare providers and schools return back to their normal operating hours, for those of us who are privileged enough to have some sense of normalcy and additional time, I invite you to consider real estate investing as a new focus.

It is important to talk about this now and understand the fleeting nature of time. As human beings living in this complicated age of information overload and social media, unless we are intentional about using our time when that gift is given to us, it is so easy to fill it up with noise.

For those of us who are privileged enough to make it out of this pandemic physically and financially stable, I invite you to join me in reinventing yourself. As the world returns to normalcy, it will be the normalcy we choose to create as a society. It is about time we talk about money, financial freedom, and wealth-building openly.

With that in mind, I’d like to share my acronym G.R.O.W., which represents the four pillars of reinvention.

Growth vs. productivity

Nowadays, you hear a lot about how to increase your productivity. There are hacks, calendars, and tips to “be more productive.” It is all about doing more stuff in the limited time that you have. There is something inherently wrong with this premise.

I learned my ultimate lessons on growth from my own mother. After my dad passed away when I was five, I found my mom, who was a teacher, taking on all the roles in the house. She also started a business selling furniture on the side to be able to provide for us.

Despite being a single mother, a full-time employee, and a business owner, she took the time to learn about finances. She worked hard but never complained about the lack of time. I realized as I got older that it was because she was focused on her top four balls that she kept in the air and let all the others drop.

She once told me that, on average, she had bought less than one outfit per year for as long as she could remember. She had never taken an expensive vacation, but she was never stressed on a daily basis. She consistently worked on her growth and never on her productivity. I invite you to learn the lessons I learned from my mom.

Focus on the top four balls that are important to you and let the others drop. Health, family, finances, and personal growth are mine.

Redefining social norms

In my conversations with hundreds of women I have coached, I have found that they are fantastic mothers, hardworking professionals, and generous friends. However, I have also found that keeping up with the social norms is one of the biggest stressors of their lives.

Expectations from various sources of how holidays, birthdays, and events need to go, or how their kids’ days should look, or how their house should be at any given point in time are on their minds consistently. As we come out of the pandemic, it is a great time to redefine these social norms and make new rules.

Let’s make the topic of money and wealth something that flows as easily as the latest restaurant or spa.

Optimizing capabilities

You cannot obtain a college degree in a short time. Learning the ins and outs of building wealth and getting truly educated requires time, energy, and effort. Start by figuring out your strategy and making the mindset shift that you will need to become a successful investor, then graduate to learning the right tactics.

It takes years to build a solid portfolio and robust passive income that can lead to financial freedom. Of course, that’s a fraction of the time we spend building our careers, but it does take some time.

I replicated my six-figure salary in Engineering leadership at my corporate job within the first year as a real estate investor, but it took an entire year. I was able to build a $6 million portfolio of rentals. My husband and I are both financially free today, but it took four years to relentlessly chase one single strategy and put aside almost all other shiny objects.

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Winning by taking action

One of my biggest pet peeves is a push towards taking action. It took me months to figure out my strategy and my path forward when I first got started. After that, I built a framework around it, and I use various versions of it when I am stuck in analysis paralysis.

We often forget that the particular decision we are trying to make is just the first step. In the months that follow, we will encounter numerous other choices and turning points that will change our trajectory and make or break our success story.

The current decision is not as important as you think. Wherever you are stuck, there’s always a way out of the overwhelm.