Here’s some trivia you might wish was part of your own resume:
In a successful commercial real estate career that spans more than 25 years, Yvonne Baker has only ever had to look for a job once, and that was straight out of college.
“I had to beg for my first job in New Orleans,” she admits. “I didn’t know anybody, and it was all about who you knew. I applied for every banking job that was available. I got one call-back.”
In the end, it was her UCF pedigree – she did her undergrad in finance and earned a Master’s in real estate – that Baker believes made her stand out.
“It turned out the lady who was doing the hiring had gotten her MBA at UCF,” she laughs. “And so it seemed divine almost, like if she hadn’t been the one sitting there I’d never have gotten the job. But because she knew the education I’d gotten, she called me.”
Since then, it’s been one recruitment after another that took her from the Big Easy to Miami and eventually back to central Florida, years during which Baker has racked up lease volumes in the hundreds of millions, recognitions including NAIOP’s President Award and consecutive CoStar Power Broker designations. Baker joined Franklin Street this past Fall as regional managing partner in Orlando.
She is worldly, well-traveled and sophisticated.
But bring up her childhood in Winter Haven and she will, laughing all the way, revert back to her born-in-North Carolina southern roots – complete with a sugary accent – and wax nostalgic about riding horses out in blossom-laden orange groves and collecting bottles for the nickel returns to buy candy.
“That makes me sound so old,” she laughs. “I’m really not that old!”
She did grow up in a time that was less micro-managed (something she says she did with her own daughter, now 26). “When we were kids, if my sister wanted to go swimming, my mom would just send her swimming by herself! In Winter Haven there are lakes everywhere. She’d go down three blocks from the house and come home when she was through. That’s crazy to think about now!”
Baker admits a childhood immersion in nature – she and friends used to chase gators in their rowboats – didn’t morph into an ongoing appreciation that carried into adulthood. But she does tout herself as a proud, life-long Girl Scout.
“I was raised as a Girl Scout and was very active with my own daughter, who stayed in until high school.”
A Troop Leader for years, Baker takes pride in carrying most of her scouts through from first grade all the way through 10th.
“I taught every one of them how to strike a match, build a campfire, cook over it … and literally, the final year, I could just back the truck up to the site and talk to the other mom there while the girls set everything up, from the fire to the tents. It’s kind of like a little survival thing for these city girls – but they did it, and they can all still do it.”
It was family – hers, her husband’s, their desire to start one of their own – that eventually drew Baker back to Central Florida, settling more centrally. Altamonte Springs has been their home for 15 years, though they still own their first one in Winter Park’s Lake Killarney area. Having enjoyed the New Smyrna homes of a few friends, they recently acquired their own coastal property in Cocoa Beach.
Local beach travel is something we Floridians take for granted, but Baker’s recent treks also include Spain and Italy. She cites Ireland, Egypt and Morocco as definite “Bucket List” entries.
In the meantime, though, Baker is content to log air time jetting off to St. Louis to visit her daughter. That, and continue to thrive in Orlando’s commercial real estate industry, which she calls “a creative business, a people business, a very financially rewarding business.”
She abides by what she calls “the Girl Scout way” where applicable.
“There’s always a complete process,” she says of how the organization prepares young women with skills for the wilds of the woods and the wilds of the business world. “You start from the foundation and you build all the way up. I think it’s fascinating … and I think that attitude can probably carry over, quite valuable, into real life.”