ProudLiving Companies, a New Jersey-based real estate company in East Orange with a mission of long-term neighborhood revitalization, is celebrating International Women’s Day this week by honoring its female employees, who make up over 50 percent of ProudLiving’s management and back office staff. The company, which also employs people in a variety of positions across operations and field work, plans to recruit more women in 2020.
“History may demonstrate that men have often been the face of the real estate industry, but these women are, and will continue to be, essential assets to our company’s success,” said T.J. Caleca, president and founder of ProudLiving Companies. “They deserve to be recognized, as they are the backbone of this company. We are proud to acknowledge their contributions this Women’s Day.”
Among ProudLiving’s staff is New Jersey native Isabel Hayden, who serves as the head of charitable advancements for the company’s community-oriented nonprofit, ProudLiving Foundation. Hayden oversees all efforts pertaining to local events – including coat and toy drives. Over the 2019 holiday season, ProudLiving Foundation donated 1,000 Thanksgiving turkeys in a partnership with five New Jersey cities and hosted a winter coat and toy drive to provide extra assistance for local families.
“There is a considerable learning curve with opening and effectively maintaining a foundation,” said Hayden. “ProudLiving has instilled confidence in me, and we continue to invest in individuals – like me – who had no prior experience in real estate but wanted a chance.”
Valery Vargas, operations manager at ProudLiving, came to the company with little real estate experience but has since accumulated five years of industry expertise. Due in part to on-the-job training from ProudLiving, Vargas successfully invested in her own two-family property in 2019.
“I’ve learned so much from working with ProudLiving,” said Vargas. “When I started, I didn’t know what a lease looked like – fast forward to now and I navigate the property management realm with confidence.”
ProudLiving’s female staff also includes Carmen Lugo, a Newark resident and the company’s director of property management. Outside of work, Lugo spends free time volunteering within her community and has credited her altruistic drive to ProudLiving’s focus on personal and professional growth. She now offers women interested in real estate sound advice:
“I suggest hitting the ground running. Don’t be afraid to be assertive. Oftentimes in this space, that’s how you achieve your goals,” she said.
A part of ProudLiving’s wider collaborative vision is its work with partner, Nana Duncan, originally of Ghana, who is a crucial resource for the company’s development arm.
“We view real estate development as a powerful tool to build communities, promote equity and improve quality of life,” said Duncan. “To that end, we participate in projects that aim to address health, safety and environmental issues, and general community welfare.”
According to Caleca, the partnership with Duncan has significantly transformed ProudLiving’s entire development process.
“What we have achieved in such a short period of time is indicative of Nana’s value,” said Caleca. “Her ‘no excuses’ attitude and commitment to excellence is a driving force of the overall success of ProudLiving, particularly what we will develop over the next two to five years.”
According to Caleca, ProudLiving Companies continues to stress upward mobility among its entire workforce, offering numerous positions for those of all backgrounds and experiences. The company also prides itself on providing professional development opportunities for its staff and holds team-building activities throughout the year. Employees can also directly impact various communities across New Jersey via charitable events.
Overall, ProudLiving Companies owns and manages over 1,000 multifamily units in northern New Jersey. The company has also acquired over 4,000 new construction units in its pipeline. Several projects are scheduled to break ground in 2020.
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