Born in the Caribbean and raised in Tennessee, Danielle Farrell has a family tree whose branches create a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. From African, to French Creole, to Spanish, she’s a melting pot of ethnicities.
The traditions and customs of these cultures added flavor to the daily life of her household, an effervescent setting steeped in music, dance, food and parties.
“We love to have a good time,” Farrell, 28, smiles.
Farrell’s family also has a flair for creativity, with each member possessing a unique artistic bent. Her father is a musician, she says, while her mother focuses on fashion and her sister draws.
Farrell’s passion has been dance from the very beginning. She has memories of bopping and twirling not long after she learned to walk, and as she grew, she took cues from her mother, who demonstrated how to move with the music that filled their lives.
Over time, dance transformed from a fun activity to the thing Farrell wanted to do with her life. Her first step in that direction involved training in ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical and hip-hop at a competitive dance studio in Cleveland.
“Hip-hop was my cup of tea,” she remembers with a wide smile. “I naturally had a little groove – a little sauce about myself.”
Farrell seized every opportunity to polish her craft. She joined church and school dance teams, won regional and national awards during competitions, trained with expert choreographers across the country and became a member of the Oral Roberts University Dance Team in Oklahoma.
Her mission, she says, was professional dance.
Refusing to waste time, Farrell opened a dance school – Raw Art Dance and Entertainment in Cleveland – at the age of 18. A Christian, she says she believes God led her to open the studio.
“Dance often has negative connotation in the faith-based world, and I wanted to reclaim something He created for good. I wanted to have a space where you could dance unto the Lord and it wouldn’t be cheesy.”
As Farrell mixed excellence with her faith, she developed a reputation for being a skilled teacher of elementary age students. And as her business developed, she made strides toward establishing the full-time career she’d envisioned.
And then COVID happened.
The pandemic shuttered Farrell’s school for two months. And it opened her eyes to a vulnerability in her life.
“Dancing is optional; it’s a luxury,” she says. “That realization scared me.”
To mitigate her susceptibility to forces beyond her control, Farrell decided to develop a second stream of income in a different industry. She chose real estate, she says, because housing is not optional.
Farrell was also attracted to what she describes as “the higher level of thinking” that exists in real estate, where skilled and motivated individuals can do well financially and impact their community.
“I wanted to be a part of an industry in which people had influence. When you become a Realtor, you learn about what the city council is doing, and you hear about the developments that are coming, and you’re around people who see the world differently because they have money.
“I became a Realtor because I wanted to upgrade my life.”
Farrell was no stranger to running a business. But her transition from a creative endeavor to what she calls the “cut and dry” nature of real estate was difficult, she says.
“I’m an artist and real estate is black and white. I respect it but it was a battle for a minute because I couldn’t stop what I was doing when a song started to play and create a dance.”
Farrell tried to reconcile the two halves of her life by referring to herself as “The Dancing Realtor.” She didn’t intend the designate to suggest she performs scenes from “Swan Lake” while showing a home; instead, she wanted people to think of her as a different kind of agent.
“When people picture a Realtor, they see someone who’s a bit stuffy and is telling them where to sign their name on a contract. Talking about dance is an excellent icebreaker and makes me more approachable.”
Despite finding a fun hook on which to hang her marketing, Farrell didn’t immediately warm up to her new profession. Then a single transaction in the autumn of 2022 shifted her thinking.
“A bank was about to foreclose on a single mom,” Farrell recalls. “People think all you do as a Realtor is open doors and help people buy or sell houses. But she needed me to do more than that.”
Although Farrell was unsure about her ability to help the woman, she dove into the complexities of the transaction and found a way to sell her home and ensure she received a check for the equity she’d built up.
“That’s when I finally understood why people love being a Realtor. You can step into someone’s life at their lowest moment and carry them to a place where they can breathe. I do more than open doors, I help people. I’m someone they can count on.”
As Farrell basked in her new enthusiasm for real estate, she discovered a niche that excited her even more – luxury home sales. She says she all but stumbled onto the concept while on vacation in California.
“I went to open houses while I was there. I walked through a new construction underneath the Hollywood Sign and then toured another home near [Griffith Park Observatory],” she remembers. “I was telling the agent I was a Realtor from Tennessee, and he said, ‘You and I do the same thing but I make more money than you.’ That changed my perspective.”
Farrell earned the National Association of Realtors’ Luxury Home Designation last fall and is now looking for her first big-ticket client.
“I hope to sell a home to an NFL player, an NBA player or an entertainer,” she says. “I definitely want to be in that market.”
As Farrell hatches plans for becoming The Celebrity Realtor, she’s celebrating her arrival at a new brokerage. She says she changed companies this year after entering a new phase in her career defined not by inexperience and uncertainty but capability and zeal.
“In order to help people, you need a brokerage that’s an asset. And when you switch seasons as a Realtor and your brokerage doesn’t adapt, you need to find one that will prop you up to be successful.”
Ferrell landed at Realty One Group Experts, a company with offices in Cleveland and Chattanooga. She says she likes the business tools it offers and the ability to further her training through its online university.
She also appreciates Realty One’s focus on agent independence.
“I need to make a name for myself, not a national brand. A good name is important in real estate. Without it, people won’t take you seriously. And clients are already looking at me and saying, ‘You’re young. What could you possibly know about real estate?’”
Farrell knew enough to become licensed in three states – Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. And she was savvy enough to accept Realty One’s offer to keep more of her commission.
“I essentially pay a transaction fee. That means I have more money to spend on the things I love, like a new purse or new shoes,” she laughs.
As an entrepreneur who’s juggling the demands of two businesses, Farrell says her most valuable asset is time. To ensure she makes the most of each day, she’s rising earlier than the night owl in her would prefer and has shuffled her volunteer work – which includes leading the adult dance ministry at Redemption for the Nations – to weekends.
Part of Farrell’s early morning routine involves prayer and reflection on the day ahead. She says she considers where she’s been, where she wants to go and the impact she’d like to make when she arrives. The guiding principle for every venture is providing hope to others.
“There are many different complexions on my family tree, but according to society, I’m non-Caucasian,” Farrell muses. “So, when a young lady who looks like me sees I was able to achieve the things I set out to do, she can feel hope for her future.
“I’ll tell her society will try to label her, and I’ll make sure she knows she’ll have to work twice as hard, and then I’ll say, ‘Go for it.’
“That’s what I did with dance, and it’s what I did with real estate. I had hope and I went for it.”