Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Savvy Chicks in Real Estate’s CEO On Doing Business Abroad

Meet Makeda Smith, the Founder and CEO of Savvy Chicks in Real Estate®, a global network that helps women in real estate build and expand their businesses, online and offline. Born and raised in Chicago, as a child, she never dreamed of venturing outside of the United States. Now, however, with over 20 years as a licensed realtor under her belt, she has been able to grow her business abroad. 

Smith has conducted business abroad in locations, such as Bali, Dubai, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Her business dealings in these places have allowed her to learn and grow her brand. In doing so, she has gained invaluable experience and enjoyed the many benefits that come with expanding beyond the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Savvy Chicks in Real Estate®.

Benefits and Challenges of Doing Business Abroad

“One of the biggest benefits of doing business abroad is not relying on one market for the success of your business,” Smith said. “For example, if your business is located only in the U.S. and the U.S. has a recession, you have a high risk of taking a huge hit to business. However, if you’re operating in multiple countries, you put yourself in a better position to still increase your revenue because you have options, just like other billion-dollar companies.”

Smith urges business owners who truly want to make their company “recession-proof” to expand to other locales. This does not only include locations across U.S. zip codes, but also provinces, countries and various continents around the globe. 

Despite the numerous benefits, the CEO warns that doing business overseas does come with some challenges. One of the toughest things for business owners to navigate is learning and understanding laws and regulations in each country. These vary greatly from country to country, and they can be difficult to keep track of. However, it is essential that you are in compliance at all times.

Research is Key to Doing Business Abroad

“Whether I’m traveling domestically or internationally, I always research the local real estate — what types of properties are trending, what price ranges they are in and even what the local requirements and laws are — because everywhere is so different,” Smith said. “When I traveled to Dubai this past October, I learned that certain properties in Dubai only allow you to have ownership of the property for up to 90 years.”

The research of laws and customs is crucial, and something Smith always recommends for business owners looking to expand overseas.

“In the Bahamas, I learned that there are strict requirements for non-citizens before they purchase real estate or become business owners,” she said. “These are just small examples of how important it is to extensively study an area, its culture and its laws before considering conducting business or building a real estate portfolio there.”

She recommends that business owners use this three-step process to begin expanding into foreign territories: start, build and then, sustain.


When you have the vision to expand your business, you must be sure that you know your overall business goals. 

“Before taking my business global, I planned out what I wanted it to look like in five to 10 years,” said Smith. “When I started hosting quarterly planning sessions with real estate agents, I found that they had large annual goals that weren’t broken down into smaller digestible goals. I encourage business owners to break their goals into three months, then break them down into monthly goals where you increase your chances of implementing them successfully.” 

The CEO adds that when determining the countries that you want to infiltrate, you must make sure they are countries that have a need for your product or service and also have what your business needs to grow.

“This alignment creates a mutually beneficial partnership between the country and your business,” she said.


The biggest part of building your business abroad is research.

“I cannot express enough how important it is to research the countries you are interested in building businesses [in],” Smith said. “This is the ‘make or break’ part of doing global business. Find key players there who you trust to help you understand the country and ultimately build a successful business there.” 

To accomplish this, Smith suggests beginning by researching real estate brokers, brokerages, investors, accountants and business attorneys in those countries that can help you start and certify your business according to the law.

“Don’t try to build alone when there are professionals that are already established in the area,” she says. “When my husband and I travel, we research to find out who we can connect with when we get there. We also research the available real estate in the areas because we need to know what a $100,000; $200,000; million-dollar, etc., property looks like. Remember, you must also have your finances in order to be ready to conduct business in your country of interest. Research what down payments and fees you may need. You will be surprised how you can buy real estate on a payment plan in countries like the Dominican Republic.”


Similar to the U.S., you have to sustain good relationships to keep your business thriving. Smith stresses the importance of collaboration and working with knowledgeable locals who can help you plant seeds.

“When my husband and I went to Bali in December, we met a husband and wife who were our drivers; they took us to the beach and different islands,” Smith explained. “They were so kind to us, so I decided to reach out to her again to discuss opportunities for collaboration. Now, she’s our Bali tour guide for my women’s retreat in April! Not only is she helping us with our business, but we are helping them, too.” 

Licensed and Unbothered®

Smith’s upcoming retreat is just one of the many global events she hosts. Having recently become an international real estate sales agent in the Dominican Republic, she decided to host her 5th Annual Licensed and Unbothered® Conference there from June 9 to June 12. She is taking her engaged community of women realtors and business owners to Punta Cana to show them firsthand how to expand their businesses globally throughout 2023 and beyond.

The event will feature several keynote speakers, panel discussions and workshops that help business owners take tangible steps toward operating a global business. With the theme of “Billionaires in the Making,” the conference will teach attendees how to gain a real estate license and properly network in countries outside of the United States, the marketing tools and techniques that are needed to scale their business, the business funding, credit, and capital needed to build a global brand, what it means to properly build and foster industry relationships worldwide, how to develop multiple streams of income within one business in order to obtain and sustain generational wealth, and more.

What to Expect When Doing Business Abroad

“This year, we have 12 implementation workshops taught by real estate experts who have previously spoken at our conference,” she said. ‘Bringing these experts back will help our returning attendees implement everything that has been taught over the years while giving our new attendees a full scope of the real estate landscape.”

Attendees will leave Punta Cana with trademark applications started, business funding opportunities, property funding, new business credit, a streamlined sales funnel, new marketing strategies, a retirement plan and more. One day of the conference will be completely dedicated to having boots on the ground, allowing attendees to see the real estate investment opportunities available in Punta Cana by visiting new development projects.

“I want attendees to see the possibilities firsthand by getting out of the resort and visiting local real estate sites. There are limitless opportunities out there when it comes to real estate. We just have to uncover them.”

For more information, visit https://www.savvychicksinrealestate.com/punta-cana.

Related: How Two Black Millennial Entrepreneurs Turned Their Love For Travel Into A $5 Million Real Estate Portfolio


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