Ashley Simonelli couldn’t believe her good fortune in the mid-2000s, when she pulled into an apartment complex parking lot in Fort Myers.
Then a Hodges University student, she sought affordable housing and maybe a job to help pay for the meager abode. A sign on the wall of the management building offered both: 50% of rent for people who got a job helping out around the complex. “As a broke college student, that sounded great,” she says.
Not only was it great in the moment, it also opened her eyes to a career in real estate. Growing up in LaBelle, a small town in Hendry County, most women, says Simonelli, went into health care. Usually that meant being a nurse. “My heart wasn’t in that,” she says, so she switched majors, to business management. “I fell in love with real estate, with the hustle and bustle.”
About 15 years later, Simonelli is in her career prime, with a host of units under the Simonelli Real Estate Group umbrella. The Fort Myers-based company works with both buyers and sellers, specializing in investment properties across Southwest Florida, from single-family homes to apartment complexes. The 10-employee firm also has a property management division and flips properties. On the latter, Simonelli says she flipped 82 properties in 2021, and expects to surpass that figure in 2022.
Simonelli founded the company in 2017, and one of her stalwart supporters, and mentors, has been her husband, Vincent Simonelli. He owns several companies and has founded and sold others. His calm demeanor, Ashley says, has been a big help, especially in working through issues that occasionally arise in managing employees. “Vinny has consistently lent his ears, mind, and hands to uplift my career endeavors,” Ashley writes in her 40 under 40 questionnaire. “At times he has been my worst critic, a constructive guide and my biggest fan.”
The swelling real estate market — “the last three years have been a whirlwind, for sure,” Simonelli says — has obviously been a big boost for the business. But Simonelli says a lesson learned from starting her real estate career in the recession, which included being laid off from a brokerage, is to stick to your priorities, regardless of market conditions. “We put a huge focus on customer service,” she says. “My reputation is everything to me.”
— Mark Gordon
City of Residence: Fort Myers
Employer: The Simonelli real estate group
Title: Broker | Owner
Birthplace: Baytown, Texas
Years in the area: 35 of my 36 years
Marital Status/Children: Married with 1 daughter and 1 bonus son.
Alma Mater/Degree: Hodges University, bachelors in business management with a minor in marketing.
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Better Together
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Hybrid. I am on the road a lot in general so I work from wherever I need to.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Or the weirdest task you've ever been assigned? When I was a teenager I somehow landed an airplane detailing gig. Hand washing and waxing a small private plane was …. Interesting
What's your top tip for being productive? Do the hard things first. When you come in the morning, you should tackle your least pleasant task first. Early in the day, you generally have the more energy and minor distractions, making it easier to focus on complex tasks. It also sets a positive tone for the day, tackling your most challenging task first.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? I do! House Flipping. I enjoy taking something broken and turning it into something magical.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Hanging out with my daughter in any capacity and CrossFit!
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? I would like to buy or build a cabin in the mountains for family getaways generations to come. . I am working on this currently.
What's your favorite podcast? Real AF with Andy Frisella
At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety? Under 50% I start to panic.
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Canva, Google Drive & Spotify
What books are you reading now? The Magic of Thinking Big
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? Country music will always be my first love.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Scarlett Johansson
Where is your happy place? The beach. Anywhere near the ocean is my happy place.
Describe yourself in three words: Hardworking, dependable and resilient
Who is your mentor for your career and why? I have hired several business coaches over the years, all of which I consider a vital piece in where I’m currently; if I had to choose just one person, my husband.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? Vinny is very business minded and has built and sold several companies over the years.He sees things from a different perspective than most regarding business. Vinny has consistently lent his ears, mind, and hands to uplift my career endeavors. At times he has been my worst critic, a constructive guide, and my biggest fan.