What do used cars, Appalachian wildlife, housing, the Blue Ridge Parkway, mental health and feeding the hungry have in common?
If you guessed topics on a “Jeopardy” game board you wouldn’t even come close. While the subjects seem about as far away as anyone can get, they actually have a common thread that bonds them into a group of grateful nonprofits.
Grateful because in 2020 Panashe Real Estate, a boutique realty firm located on Charlotte Street in Asheville, donated $20,000 to local organizations on behalf of their clients who pinpointed specific charities for help.
The innovative idea has been penned social entrepreneurship by Panashe Real Estate owner Tracy Veteto and his partner Ann Crutchfield, and it goes like this: “When we sell a home, we ask each client which local charitable organization they want to support and we donate 5% of the gross sale revenue to the client’s non-profit of choice,” Veteto said.
“You know the phrase ‘talk the talk and walk the walk?’ It may sound cliché, but that’s Panashe,” said Veteto. “We really want to make a difference in our local community, so collectively we get involved. I’m on the board of the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County (PSABC). My wife has done a lot of work over the years to help protect the Monarch butterfly population in Western NC. She is also an artist, and she donates a portion of her artwork sales to Conserving Carolina. My business partner, Laura Crutchfield and her husband, John, are very involved in the local theater community. Each of us at Panashe does some kind of community service.”
Panashe is able to explore creative ways to support the city that has been home to Veteto and his family for 20 years because as an independently owned agency it does not have to pay the 3% to 7% franchise fee most real estate agencies in the Asheville area are required to do.
In turn, that means that most of the realty franchise fees, which end up leaving Asheville because so many realty firms are headquartered outside of Buncombe County, are able to stay local and help the city’s businesses and people they serve.
“I want to see this community thrive,” said Veteto “By giving back the equivalent of a franchise fee to local non-profits, we’re practicing fiercely local social entrepreneurship.”
Happy to Help
For those who have decided to sell their home, the decision can mean the beginning of a stressful process. Even in a red-hot real estate market, selling a home percolates so many feelings.
At Panashe, one emotion Veteto and his team hope to cultivate with every home sale is satisfaction.
“Many of our clients are involved with local non-profits, so our donation on their behalf is an additional way for them to support people and organizations that are making a difference in Asheville,” Veteto said. “Plus, they love it. They especially like being able to choose a nonprofit that means something to them.”
For benefitting agencies and the people they serve, the donation amounts to a mountain of possibilities.
“I am so thankful for the Working Wheels program,” said Monica, last name withheld on request, who received a donated car from the nonprofit.
“Having a dependable car to get back and forth to work, the doctor’s and grocery stores means a lot. I am truly grateful. Thank you,” she said.
For Jamie Beasley, executive director of Working Wheels, the money a Panashe client was able to give to the nonprofit from the sale of their home is something Working Wheels will put to good use.
“Your donation purchased car parts and mechanic labor to get donated cars back on the road for local families who need them,” he said.
“Tracy, gifts from Realtors are special because you know how much home means,” wrote Andy Barnett, executive director of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity in a letter to Veteto. “Thanks for investing in our neighborhood and for a thoughtful recognition.”
On behalf of those without voices, Kerri Conrad, development coordinator of Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, said, “We are honored your clients … chose Appalachian Wildlife and are blown away by your company’s unique program that is benefitting our community.”
It All Started With a Skateboard
“A couple of years ago, I was explaining to my son the Unchain Asheville signs and what that means to local merchants,” Veteto said, recalling the effort of downtown merchants to promote an appreciation for shopping local.
“He was looking for a skateboard and we were discussing whether to buy one online or at a local skateboard shop. The dots connected for him, and he decided to buy his skateboard in Asheville. It was really that conversation with my son that got me thinking about donating to local non-profits. It’s been very well-received by our clients,” Veteto said.
If that conversation with his son sparked the idea, the reality of the success Veteto has experienced in Asheville has solidified it.
“Asheville has been generous to my family and me from a business standpoint, as well as personally and culturally. Once we moved here 20 years ago, my wife and I knew we wanted to stay here and put down roots for our children. It only makes sense that we support our community by giving back.”
Relocating to the mountains of Western North Carolina was in the stars when Veteto met his wife. Her family visited the mountains often while she was growing up, and the affection for the space and people she met never left her.
“We wanted that kind of lifestyle for our family year-round, not just on vacations. We love all the outdoor opportunities, but it’s really the vibe and culture in Asheville that’s kept us here,” Veteto said.
As for his partner, “Laura is from Germany, but her husband grew up here. They wanted to raise their children here, as well,” Veteto added. “I’ve been in the real estate industry more than 30 years. Laura has been in the industry almost five years, so we have a boomer/millennial mix that helps us offer experience and innovative ideas to our clients.”
Business in the Era of
“In 2019, our first year in business, we launched our community giving program by donating to the Chow Chow Asheville Food Festival, PSABC and some other local non-profits. At the start of 2020, we upped the ante and decided to go across the board with every one of our clients,” Veteto said.
“In hindsight, with all of the challenges of 2020, we’re glad we expanded our giving program when we did.”