Before she knew what it meant to be a businesswoman, Lisa DonFrancesco knew she wanted to be one. Her father, who embodied superior work ethics and integrity throughout his career in insurance and investment sales, became the inspiration for her goals.
A Rhode Island native, DonFrancesco earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and an MBA from Providence College. She also holds a Certificate of Entrepreneurial Studies from Boston University.
Before entering the commercial real estate field, DonFrancesco worked at Data General, now EMC, in its accounting and finance career rotation program, and for Raytheon as a financial and ethics auditor for its North American operations and subsidiaries. Her decision to enter commercial real estate involved knocking on a lot of brokerage firm doors in the late ’90s.
“I was hired by one of two women-owned commercial real estate brokerage firms in Boston,” she said. “I went on to work for The Niles Co. and The Codman Co. before founding Saint James Real Estate Advisors in 2004.”
It didn’t take long for Saint James to expand its client base and establish a foothold in the Boston commercial real estate market.
Dedicated, Driven And Never Discouraged
As Saint James celebrates its 10th anniversary, the firm has created a reputation for providing office space leasing and investment and sales brokerage services to clients in outlying central business districts that have been underserved by the brokerage community. DonFrancesco is currently a leading broker and markets more than 100,000 square feet of office space in Boston’s Dudley Square and Dorchester neighborhoods.
In addition to professional dedication and drive, DonFrancesco exhibits passion for several philanthropic, community and business initiatives. She is currently a member and former board member of New England Women in Real Estate (NEWIRE) and received the organization’s 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She also serves on Metrowest Collaborative Development’s affordable housing board and devotes time and energy to multiple other local and national initiatives, particularly those that focus on women, children, animals and the environment.
In spite of the many challenges DonFrancesco faced in the beginning, her resolve never waivered. “The CRE industry was worlds away from the security and benefits of previous employment with Fortune 100 firms. I embraced the challenges, bumps and hard knocks that came with entering a fiercely competitive, ultra-male dominated sales arena in a city where I had not grown up, gone to college or, up until then, had spent much time,” she said.
Nominator Gretchen Hamilton, director of operations, Precision for Medicine, praises DonFrancesco for her perseverance, hard work and strategic planning skills. “After 10 years, Lisa stands on the brink of expanding her presence in the commercial real estate market, which I am sure will continue to deliver top rate real estate advisory services to her ever-expanding client base,” she says.
DonFrancesco advises other professional women in the commercial real estate field to identify what “jazzes, energizes and resonates with you and set a target goal.” She added, “Drive through obstacles and manage fears and the barriers that distance you from achieving what feels authentic and true. Recognize, appreciate and cultivate the value of a strong network of peers, contacts, partners and resources.”