The Realtor | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
"Know your worth, then add tax."
GET TO KNOW SONYA
“Turn your mess into your message.” – Sonya Striggles. True, authentic, constant – that’s Sonya. Scroll down to read more about this confident woman of character who is one of Boston’s finest realtors.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
As a little girl, I was always fascinated with houses and design. When my parents went through the process of buying a home, I met their agent and basically asked her for a job. I became her administrative assistant as a sophomore in college, working with her for three years. After graduation, when I was unable to get a job in my chosen career as a writer, I decided to stick with what I knew – real estate. I got my license a few months after graduation and have been a full time Realtor ever since.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
Losing both my mother and grandmother, two of my life’s biggest role models, taught me a level of resiliency I never knew I had inside of me. When you are in the process of just starting out in a tough business where your overall livelihood depends solely on finishing the job, going through personal tragedies while building that business would stunt anyone, but I took both of those losses and used them as fuel to ensure they didn’t die in vain. They always wanted me to succeed and I know that my success is due in large part to their influence, both while they were here and while they’ve been gone.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
I would not be at this level of business without my mentor, Marilyn. Hiring a 20-year-old probably wasn’t on her radar when she met me in the spring of 2008, but the chance she took on me sparked a passion I had never explored. The greatness of a career mentor is their willingness to see their mentee grow. Marilyn never held me back from going out on my own because she believed in my abilities to succeed. After all, she taught me everything I know about this business. For that, I’ll be grateful for life.
What do you love most about your job?
Every single day I wake up, I know my success begins and ends with me putting in the work. That is both exhilarating and daunting all that the same time. You truly never know what the day will bring, what deals will fall apart or which ones will come together, but one thing is for sure – when you work for yourself, with no ceiling on your income, no one dictating your personal brand or having to deal with the pay inequalities some of my friends deal with on a daily basis, you are one lucky business owner!
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Can't Live Without
My mom's necklace
Fall, New England style!
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Mountains or Beach
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Describe yourself in three words.
Resilient, expressive and kind.
Your life philosophy is…
Know your worth, then add tax.
What is the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received came from my Mimi a month before she passed away. I visited her every day while she was in the hospital or in rehab, but prior to her being put into the ICU, we had a very meaningful conversation. Once we got through the “I am so proud of the person you are” back and forth, she grabbed my hand and smiled. She told me something that I now keep in my office and on my nightstand: “Sonya Lee, you work hard like your grandfather always did and it doesn’t go unnoticed, but you need to stop and smell the roses, too. Enjoy your accomplishments while you can before you’re on borrowed time like me. Have bad days, learn from them but never allow them to break you. Instead, allow them to make you who you’re destined to be.”
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
I would choose somewhere remote and tropical, like Fiji. I’ve always been fascinated by exploring places you don’t get to see every day and the idea of being able to sleep in a hut right on the ocean sounds so magical.
What’s something you cannot live without?
My mother’s necklace. After she passed away in 2015, I really struggled. When the biggest influence in your life passes away, you tend to feel lost and almost numb, attempting to just survive the days without them. Laughter doesn’t come easily, however it did in this moment. I struggled to find something of my mom’s to wear during her services because she was a very petite woman. I decided to pull out her jewelry box one more time, thinking I might’ve missed something. That’s when I came across her necklace that I bought her for Christmas about two decades prior. To my surprise, it fit me perfectly. So, any time you see me in an Aphrodite necklace no matter the occasion, you’ll know it’s because I carry my mother wherever I go.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
“Think and Grow Rich” By Napoleon Hill. It a book I’ve bought multiples of because I’ve read it so many times, lent it to people, but most importantly, really absorbed and have loved since the very first time I read it. The best part of the book is that it can appeal to anyone in life, no matter what your career path is, your ability and eagerness to succeed should remain the same.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
Prior to graduation, I took the LSAT and had considered going to law school. I’ve always had a passion for doing the right thing even when it’s hard to do so and I thought it would be a great profession for me If I could work in an area of the law I felt passionate about. Knowing the costs of law school and the large amount of student loans I had from my undergraduate career, I made the difficult choice to pursue another passion and, looking back on it, I have no regrets. Plus, I work with attorneys every single day and have now realized you can do what’s right even when it’s hard by just being a solid human being in whatever profession you’re passionate about.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
Whether it’s curling up on the couch with my dog and binge watching a new show or unwinding with close friends at a local restaurant, I always like to match my mood to my surroundings. There’s nothing better than time with a good show, good blanket or good cheese board with friends!
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
Have you ever seen one of those photos of a family or couple in a frame that you may purchase at the store? Imagine having a job where you get to see the real thing on a daily basis all while making a dream come true for your clients. That is why my job is so rewarding. I get to take someone’s dreams and make them a reality every single day.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
I have a great group of clients that I call my “VIPs” and “Raving Fans,” and one of them gave me something very special a few years ago. If I had access to a billboard for all to see, It would say “There’s no struggle with Striggles” because when you work with my team and I, we always ensure your process is enjoyable, stress free and positive.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I live life intentionally now more than ever. When you’ve lost two of the closest people to you as a developing adult, you learn that sweating the small stuff isn’t worth it. In the end, we all have a pre-determined life script, so what happens to you today may play a small part in who you are tomorrow, but if you’re living your truth, even when it’s hard, you are living your life in an intentional way that gives you purpose.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I am notorious for throwing on my “Get over it” playlist and disconnecting from the world for 15-20 minutes. The playlist has songs from every phase of my life, but somehow it always leads to just the right song that I need in the moment. I put it on as loud as I can, dance out the feelings of stress and anxiety, and once I’m done, I write down in my journal three things I am most grateful for and three things I need to relinquish control over. Is this the cure for everything? Absolutely not. But can it be the start of an attitude adjustment? YES!
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
Growing my business. I was terrified to make my first hire in 2015. I knew coming back full time instead of part time would be a challenge without some support. Hiring my assistant allowed me to focus on the money-making tasks I needed to focus on while she assisted with everything else. With her, I doubled my business that first year and by the time I hired my second employee, my business had tripled from where I was when I initially made the first hire. Moral of the story, if it’s scary or uncertain, it’s probably exactly what you need to do to grow!
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
This was a tough one, but I needed to go with someone that believed in me when I really didn’t think I could do it. She knew I could handle anything, and that person is Shauna Revello Wilson, a fellow Gamma Phi Beta sister. My then sorority coordinator-new chapter (now collegiate chapter supervisor) while advising at the University of Connecticut, reached out to me asking if I would step in to be their chapter advisor. The chapter was only a few months old at the time, and I was going through a lot personally, yet Shauna knew I could do it. When I say I learned more from her in three years than I ever thought was possible, I mean it. Since then, she has continued to inspire me to be the best woman, sister, friend and volunteer I can be. She is a fiercely independent career-driven woman that always makes time for everything. I admire her in so many ways and without Gamma Phi Beta, I wouldn’t have her in my life.