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Vivian Risi, at age 18, began her real estate career – a calling that would propel her over the next four decades to not just excel in her chosen field, but also use her many acquired skills to help others in the community.

Since taking that first daring step as a realtor in 1974, she demonstrated the drive and ambition to strive for the top. Through hard work and determination she eventually became the manager of an eighteen-person realtor real estate office, which she soon purchased. In no time, and despite a rough recession, she transformed that office from pale sales to exceptional growth.

In just a decade and a half, her company, Your Community Realty grew to employ a thousand Realtors, throughout a dozen offices, with a support staff of more than seventy. The company is now touted as Canada’s largest independently- owned Royal LePage franchise in Canada.

Vivian largely credits her parents as being her mentors - both of whom were immigrants to this country not knowing the language, and landing without a support system of friends or family.

But it’s that kind of risk taking, hard work and determination that Risi is inspired by, and channels towards her endeavors.

Although she maintains a busy work schedule, Risi isn’t simply content to focus her energies on her career. She has shown, amazingly, that work, motherhood, grand motherhood and charitable involvement can all be balanced. For her outstanding efforts at community involvement, she has been recognized on numerous occasions with awards and accolades.

These include the Shelter Foundation’s Philanthropist of the Year Award (2009), the YMCA Peace Medallion (2009), Yellow Brick House’s Community Builder award (2012), Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce’s Mayor’s Award for Business Excellence (2012), and the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce’s Philanthropic Business Person of the Year Award (2012), and the Business Excellence Award for York Region (2013).

My Business Magazine caught up with Vivian to find out more about her life as a realtor, her successes and her community involvement.

MBM: Did people perceive you differently when you entered the industry at age 18, back in 1974?

VR: I used to try really hard to look old. I effectively put dry makeup on my eyes to look older. Today I do the opposite. Absolutely, back in the 70's it was a male dominated industry. Being a woman and a young woman was a challenge. I had to work much harder to get people to take me seriously. It was good because I had to work harder to be a good realtor back then. It was the school of hard knocks. I consider myself very fortunate. It made me stronger and more sustainable. It’s another world now.

MBM: Can you talk about your philanthropic work?

VR: Women and children are the most vulnerable sector of society. I felt that it was important to involve myself with Yellow Brick House as capital campaign chair, helping raise four million dollars so they could open a second shelter for women and children of domestic violent situations. I’ve been involved for about six years.

I’ve also been on the board of Mackenzie Health and I support many different hospitals including Markham-Stouffville Hospital and Southlake Regional Health Care We probably support about twenty five charities.

MBM: What kinds of tips you can offer to the prospective first time home buyer?

VR: They’re excited, they’re nervous, and they should find a realtor they can trust. This is going to be one of the biggest events of their life.

You have to connect with a realtor that can make you comfortable and help you make the right decision.

This is the building of their equity. There’s got to be a trust and that’s so important. And find a realtor that’s patient. Some don’t have the patience for first time buyers, who are so full of questions.

MBM: What do you love most about your work?

VR: Not one day is the same as the other day. Every day is different and it’s so exciting. I look forward to coming in every day. I know I’m going to be able to resolve an issue, be creative, help assist someone, and help problem solve with someone and that’s fulfilling.

MBM: What are you focusing on for the coming year or two?

VR: My continuing philanthropy. I want to put together a program to help women in shelters to move on with their future. To keep things innovative in business. Business is changing and I’m very much focused on technology and where the industry’s going and how best to service the customer. Also, I’m giving my realtors my best training and keep them on the leading edge. I

believe if I invest in my realtors, they can be of better service to the consumer. After all, our industry is all about service.

MBM: How do you balance work, kids and grand kids?

VR: I don’t think I’ve conquered that yet, but it’s the best time of my life. I get to work with my kids in the industry. I’m not your typical grandmother. I’m me, and it just works. Most days I feel challenged that there’s not enough hours in the day, and I seize the moment and never take anything for granted.

Dave Gordon has penned more than a thousand articles, and more than five hundred editorials, on every topic imaginable. He writes regularly on domestic and international politics, current events, culture, relationship issues, and much more.

He has spent time in the newsrooms of the Toronto Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, National Post and eye Weekly.

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