North Texas

Millennials: A Generation of Business Disrupters?

Amazon changed the way many people shop. Uber and Lyft changed how many hail a ride. So, who are the next game-changers in the world of business?

North Texan Alex Doubet, 29, is working to disrupt the way homes are bought and sold. He founded a flat-free brokerage called Door after his mom sold their family home.

"She was, by no means, rich. She built up a lot of equity over two decades. She used a traditional real estate agent and paid six percent, which is standard. That was over $53,000 for her," Doubet said.

The commissions to buyers' and sellers' agents, while typical, made Doubet wonder if there is another way.

"I just thought the fact that you can pay that much money for something, pay such a high cost for so little value, indicated to me that this industry is just broke," he said.

His company helps stage, market and sell a home for a flat $5,000 fee no matter the size or value of the home.

Buyers who use Door to find a home are given a refund check after the close of sale for the cost of a typical commission minus the $5,000 fee.

Agents at Door are paid a salary and offered benefits and bonuses, but don't get a commission.

Doubet says most buyers and sellers would save money, as long as the home sells for more than $168,000 — what he considers the break-even point.

Traditional agents argue the idea of a flat-fee brokerage isn't new. Candy Evans, author of the real estate blog Candy's Dirt, says clients may find their agents are already willing to negotiate their commission in order to get a deal done.

But Doubet insists his approach is catching on. Since founding Door in 2015, the firm has grown to nearly 40 employees, who Doubet says have bought and sold around 400 homes. Door is operating in Austin and has plans to expand to the Houston and San Antonio markets later this year, eventually adding mortgage services to Door's offering.

Doubet, who was not a real estate agent at the inception of Door, is betting on future disruption in the industry.

"You do tend to see people from outside the industry coming in, because you have a different viewpoint if you don't have any pre-conceived notions as to how the process should work," Doubet said.

The outsider's point-of-view, combined with a millennial's comfort with technology, helped another North Texan launch a fashion and lifestyle technology company that drove a billion dollars in sales last year.

Amber Venz Box, the 30-year-old co-founder of rewardStyle, is changing how people buy fashion, makeup and even home decor. Instead of browsing a sales floor, buyers are scanning Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat.

"You're looking at people like you that you can consume their lives, and there's a level of authenticity and trust," said Box.

Users of the "" service can now screenshot an outfit, room decor or product on the social media accounts of more than 20,000 influencers to quickly get details about where to buy the product.

The business idea began with a problem Box had back in 2011 when Box was a Southern Methodist University graduate with a style blog. She used her blog, which featured pictures of her in the outfits she put together, as a marketing tool for her personal shopping business.

But as the blog took off in popularity, Box discovered readers were simply copying her outfits and going directly to stores to pull off the same look. Box got clicks, but no commissions.

She and her then-boyfriend, now husband, came up with a way to link her outfit details directly to stores and approached retailers with her idea.

"We presented it as we're just a different type of sales person. Just pay us a commission. If it works, great. If it doesn't, no skin off your back," Box said.

The idea did work. Box earned a commission from sales that originated on her blog. The couple began offering the service to other bloggers and eventually expanded to capitalize on shoppers who were using social media for buying inspiration.

"In 2014, 23 percent of the clicks that we drove to retailers through our influencers' content was mobile. Today, it is 69-percent mobile. Everyone is consuming content from their mobile device, and they're creating it there," Box said. "Not only has the industry progressed, society has really changed at a really rapid pace. Innovation has been critically important."

The company has seven world-wide offices, with its headquarters in Dallas. Nearly half of the employees are engineers, Box said. She's invested in a team that studies trends and reports back on business intel. She says they are constantly working to stay ahead of trends, develop the technology to capitalize on them, and bring high tech ideas into low tech spaces.

The Box family recently launched a new business called Cherry, offering in-home manicure services that can be ordered through an app.

"I think we are a generation that likes to create and generate, and so we are always looking for new ideas and how to do it better," Box said. "We somehow don't have a fear of change."

But Box says she's most proud of finding a way to monetize a creative industry, allowing bloggers and influencers to make money doing what they love to do.

"We have 20,000 people world-wide who are some of the most incredible artists that I've ever met in my life, that are actually running small businesses and supporting their families."

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