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Celebrating Women in Business – Interview with Sarah Johnston Homes4Harrogate

To celebrate International Women’s Day I have interviewed a handful of amazing, inspirational businesswomen to understand what motivates them and what challenges they have faced in business.

This has been an absolute pleasure and I’m so excited to share this interview with Sarah Johnston from Homes4Harrogate and celebrate her as a successful business owner.


Who is Sarah Johnston?

Sarah Johnston started homes4harrogate letting agency in 2017. After working for over eight years in other local estate agents she grew frustrated with how outdated and unrelatable the industry had become. With a law degree and a passion for customer service, Sarah quickly helped many local landlords with tenant issues and property management. She also found the time to appear on Sky Tv’s Property Question Time and won several Best Estate Agent Guides. With a team of three and a high street office, Sarah has launched a franchise and hopes to grow her brand nationally.

Why did you start your business?

I was hungry for a challenge and felt undervalued and stagnant in my previous role. It was a life coach contact who told me that I was capable of running my own business and that gave me the confidence to go for it.

What are your proudest business achievements to date?

I am proud of my business and my team every single day. I am proud of how Carly and Petra are growing in their roles and seeing their confidence shine through. For me, it is about the people in my business and the clients that we work with who trust us to do a good job for them. I am proud to say that we don’t let them or ourselves down.

What has been your toughest business challenge and how did you overcome it?

I love a challenge and I thrive on the pressure! My biggest challenge recently was setting up a franchise in a pandemic, the self-doubt started to creep in! When we are working at a million miles an hour there is no time for doubt so one of my challenges is trusting in the process and enjoying the rest whilst I can get it

How do you motivate yourself?

I like to do a vision board to remind myself why I started this journey and daily gratitude to see how far I have come. I also surround myself with like-minded and supportive friends who are a real inspiration to me, we help to motivate each other!

Do you think it makes any difference being a female business leader – either positive or negative?

I think it can be very positive. I have a lot of female clients who find me relatable and less stereotypical of a typical letting agent. I have faced challenges though and have been spoken inappropriately to and not taken seriously which I am confident wouldn’t have happened if I was male. There are positives and negatives to being male or female in business and I think it is how we cope with it that is important, we can’t please everyone all the time!

As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?

Being taken seriously, most definitely. There are people who think they can make inappropriate sexual comments. Or there are the ones who try to intimidate and talk down to you and think that you can’t stand up for yourself. I am sure that this happens to male leaders too but coupled with self-doubt or emotions associated with running a business, it can make for a tough time.

What qualities do you think make for a successful business owner?

Passion, Perseverance, Ambition, Dedication and Self Awareness.

What are your personal values do they differ from your business values?

No, I think you have to run your business in line with your personal values or it just won’t work. For me, it is about trust, honesty, care and passion and with values like that you can’t go wrong personally or in business. Being authentic and relatable is how to win in business (in my opinion!)

What is a typical day like for you?

It varies so much and that is why I love my career. You will never find me sat behind a desk all day! I can be out and about on development sites giving my clients advice on how to finish their projects to find the best tenants. Or welcoming a family into their new home and handing over keys! You will rarely find me doing admin, I just don’t have the patience for it!

How have you adapted your business as a result of the pandemic?

Luckily we were already streamlined and paperless. We worked from home from the first lockdown without any disruption to our clients. We use modern technology and are incredibly adaptable with low overheads. I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position. My heart goes out to those businesses that haven’t been so fortunate.

What benefits have you experienced, personal or business, as a result of the pandemic?

I have learnt that sometimes taking your foot off the pedal isn’t always a bad thing. I should learn to sit back and regroup and actually enjoy some downtime.

What would you like to hear people say about Homes4Harrogate?

That it is the best letting agent in Harrogate and they wouldn’t hesitate to recommend us!

Who inspires you and why?

Everyone I meet inspires me in some way. I think that you can learn something from everyone (good or bad!!). No lesson is ever a bad one as long as you can see what you learnt from it. My dad was my first inspiration. He is in motorsport and the dedication and ambition that is needed is on another level. You must always keep going and that is the same as in business, you never know what is just around the corner.

What advice would you give to other female’s setting up their own businesses?

Don’t doubt yourself, trust your instincts and stay strong. Good things will happen and you can do this!

Thanks so much to Sarah for sharing her story.
You can check out her wonderful business below