Several years ago, I posted the incredible true story of, Willow Tufano, a girl from Port Charlotte, FL with ADHD who purchased her first investment property at age 14, with help from her real estate agent mom. That was 2012. Fast forward to 2016. Yesterday, her mom, Mary Shannon Moore, through a comment on the original article posting on Facebook, shared her side of the story, how it all got started, all the media attention and where Willow is today. Not only will you be inspired, there is also so many wonderful financial life lessons embedded in what you are about to read. For those that are still in their teens and twenties, soak up every word of this. If you're a parent, tell your children about Willow. And hopefully you'll also share this with as many young people as you can. If Willow can do it, so can you!
FROM Mary Shannon Moore: "...In the spirit of the New Year and talking about new beginnings. I'm going to write about my daughter Willow who purchased her first investment property at age 14:
Willow was enrolled at a local full time gifted school. She has an extremely high IQ and has ADHD. Kind of like keeping 20 cats in a box. Willow was at this school from 2nd through 7th grades. She began to really struggle in middle school and the guidance counselor convinced me to put her on medicine to help her ADHD. She turned into a zombie, lost her appetite and had to drop out of soccer because her weight plummeted so low. She still wasn't keeping up in school. She had no motivation. I was homeschooling her little sister and I gave her the choice to drop out and have me home school her. She agreed. That day we took her off the medicine and she began to blossom.
I told her that she was going to have to go with me when I work with my flippers. She hated the idea at first. Then she began to ask me questions- why did you pick that tile? What counters make sense for this house and why? Then we went to a home my flipper had just purchased and it was filled with stuff. She asked me what the flipper was going to do with it all. I told her she could call and ask him. He told her he had to get it all out of the house ASAP. She asked him if she could sell the stuff and split it with her. He said to just sell it and keep the money.
She then began to scour the neighborhood on her skateboard on trash day and get things people put at the curb and sell them. She would also get things like Jordan shoes, football and basketball jerseys, electronics and skateboards from Goodwill and sell them to people on Facebook or her friends. She saved $6k in a short amount of time doing this.
Fast forward three months. We're at the dinner table and I'm talking to my husband about this great home I found in Port Charlotte that was only $16k. Willow is listening to all this and says, "Do you think they'd take $12k?" I said, "I don't really know, why do you care?" She said she wanted to partner up with me. My husband was totally against the idea. He wanted her to get a paper route. She said she'll come up with a plan and tell us her idea the next day.
I thought it was a great idea! I could teach her how to measure for tile. How to interview contractors. How to interview tenants. How to turn the water and electric on at a house. My husband hated the idea. Willows idea was to split the cost of the house and then take her half of the rent money to pay for her half of the renovations. With her selling business and the rent money she bought me out of the entire house within six months. She just turned 14.
She rolled that money into flipping two more homes.
I had regularly gotten interviewed a few times a month by the local paper already. Well, my good friend Michael Braga with the Sarasota Herald called me and said a reporter called him from NPR and wanted to get a few quotes from a local broker who would be straight up about the local real estate market. No, "it's a great time to buy BS". He gave her my name and she called me for an interview. It started like any other interview- "Hows the local market?" We talked about my investors and she said, "Can you give me an idea of how low the market is?" I answered, "If a 14 year old can buy half of a house, it's pretty low." Then I started talking again about my flippers.
She wanted to talk more about the 14 year old girl. She said she's flying down from NY and wants to spend the day with Willow. We already had the day planned before she called and she just tagged along. She went to an auction with us, Goodwill to pick up product and watched Willow make a $1k profit that day. She was with us from 8am until after 10 pm. After the interview she said the AP is gonna pick up the story up and it's gonna be big. I thought she was being nice and thanked her and she left.
A few weeks later she calls me and says it's going live that Friday. I was shopping in another town and almost forgot about it. Willow was with me and we jumped in the car a minute before it went live on NPR. We listened to it and thought it was kind of cool. We didn't think much about it after that.
Then my phone rings at 6:30PM that night. It was a call from LA. I almost didn't answer because I thought it was Realtor.com or Zillow or one of those companies trying to sell me something. I did answer though. The person on the other end of the phone said, "Is this Shannon?" I said, "Yes". Then they said, "Is this Shannon Moore?". I said "Yes". They asked if my daughter was named Willow and I said, "Yes." The lady asked me if I knew someone named Ellen. I was kind of embarrassed that I couldn't come up with any clients named Ellen who I had worked with and certainly not from LA. I sheepishly answered, "No." Then the person said, "Oh so you don't know an Ellen Degeneres?" I was like WTF? Really? Somebody is messing with me. It was her executive producer Glory Gale. She said Ellen heard Willows NPR interview and loved her. She wanted to know if Willow was available to talk to her and if we could fly to LA the next day.
I went in Willows room and mouthed that The Ellen Show was on the phone. Willow crinkled her nose in disbelieve. Glory asked Willow if she wanted to come out and be on the show. Willows eyes got really big and she said, "YES!". Glory told her that her only stipulation was that she cannot give any interviews to anyone else before appearing on the show. Willow said nobody cares about this story anyway. Glory replied that they do and they will be calling. Well, there were no calls on Saturday. Monday morning at like 2am I got a call from some Middle East TV station and I asked them to call back at 8am. By 7am we had calls from Anderson Cooper, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Inside Edition, Fox News, CBS News, ABC News and hundreds of radio and TV stations Nationally and Internationally.
She went on the Ellen Show on St Patrick's Day. Willow went on to do over 185 interviews nationally and internationally. She did public speaking engagements with Miss Kay of Duck Dynasty talking to business owners and disadvantaged children. She does regular round table discussions on investing and entrepreneurship with Huffington Post.
She was completely self sufficient at 14. Paying her own cell, clothes, groceries and everything else.
A month before she turned 18 she moved to downtown Chicago with her girlfriend. She makes very good money every month (more than I do in some months). She is finishing her senior year of high school. I taught Willow a lot of the skills she uses when selling. She's a marketing whiz, way better then what I am. She tells people, if I can do it, so can you!
My reason for posting this is to give those people who are discouraged and don't think they can do it, a glimmer of hope..."
And if you're wondering what I teach my children, here's what I was teaching my daughter when she was 2, the ABCs of Real Estate:
Michael Nibler says
Phil .. good 3rd week overview for checkup. The path is becoming a little less overwhelming. Florida meeting was great. thanks for the inclusion.
Tom Gates says
Obviously, at least to me, Willow has very intelligent parents. Good stock. And thank-you for sharing the ‘backdrop’ story.
Dave Fitzgerald says
I tried reaching out to you guys sometime ago when I was in an better situation. Well its a New Year, not to much my birthday being tomorrow. I figured there is no better time than now to ask for help! If you have the resources, I’m willing to put the necessary work needed to be successful. It’ll also be a blessing! Thank You!
I would like to get more information how you guys work
That’s an awesome story…thank you for sharing it.
I am very happy for Willow. Her story is such an inspiration. Congratulations to mom and daughter.
I love real estate