Women in Business: Jessica Elizabeth Flake Dearnley

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Jessica Elizabeth Flake Dearnley
Principal Broker, Partner, Executive Vice President
Flake & Kelley Commercial Real Estate Northwest
Residence: Fayetteville
Education: B.A., psychology and creative writing, Carnegie Mellon University; M.B.A, finance and investments, University of Miami; master’s, accounting, University of Arkansas
Professional background: Dearnley joined Flake & Kelley in 2012 and was previously a consultant for Frost PLLC and Chambers Bank. Before that, she was chief operating officer for Midwest Mall Properties. She also holds the designations of Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), chartered financial analyst (CFA) and certified public accountant (CPA).

What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made? One of my better decisions was to join my father in commercial real estate. I hope to continue our family’s legacy. Also, after living in multiple cities, I appreciate the high quality of life and opportunities available in Arkansas. My worst decisions come when I am asked to make decisions without having all the pertinent information. It is important to let data and research drive important decisions.

What was your dream job as a child and why? I wanted to be an Olympic skier in moguls or an extreme skier. I have always found myself drawn to adventurous and thrill-seeking opportunities which is one of the reasons I chose to go into the field of commercial real estate development and management.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? According to research, both women and men tend to put more pressure on women to excel in all areas of life. If you are a mother, you are questioned about whether you are a good mother; if you chose not to be a mother, you are questioned why not. As women, we are expected to do it all and do it well.

What woman inspires you and why? My mother inspires me with her endless stamina, patience and great leadership skills. I watched her expand a business, drastically increase revenues and then sell her company to pursue her dream job of running a Catholic school.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women following you? Finding a work/life balance will always be a challenge. At times, it may not seem sustainable to have a successful career and be a parent. You have to find the balance and pace that works best for you and your family.

What’s something about you others would find surprising? With my CFA, CPA and CCIM, people tend to assume I am all numbers and analytics with no creativity. However, I was actually a creative writing major in college and have a fun and creative side. People who know me in one context don’t always recognize me in another.

How do you spend your free time? Tumbling at Gymnastic Joe’s or working out at Ballistic Fitness. I also enjoy walking and training our German shepherd and Maltese puppies.

What volunteer projects are you involved in? St. Joseph finance committee and school board, Ozark Catholic finance committee and Haas Hall development committee.

You represented the nearly $9 million purchase of the Shoppes at Har-Ber Lake in Springdale and the disposition of former bank branches for more than $15 million. Why have you been so successful? Because of the investment Flake & Kelley made in ARGUS Enterprise financial analysis software, I feel confident about making large commercial real estate investments. While I am introverted on some levels, I find maintaining personal relationships and constant communication efforts very valuable. I hold myself accountable to these principles by making a certain number of direct phone calls every day, thereby keeping relationships strong with clients.

You attended Brooks School in Massachusetts and went on to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. How did this educational experience impact your life? While attending Brooks School, I learned how to overcome stereotypes. I chose Carnegie Mellon because of its diverse demographic makeup and because it was comprised of highly trained engineers who challenged and expanded my way of thinking and problem-solving skills.

How have you been making a difference in education in Northwest Arkansas? I believe education should be affordable and available for everyone. Based on my out-of-state boarding school and college experiences, I realized we desperately need a higher level of education accessible in Arkansas. I’m working to make a difference for current and future students concerning the affordability of school by serving on different boards and committees.