March 2008

On the Fast Track: Leslie Person

Author: Paul deVere

Four years ago, Leslie Person, then an interior designer from Atlanta, was in a client’s multimillion dollar, oceanfront home in South Forest Beach doing an “install.” She looked around at the sand and sea and it hit her. “I said, this is the life; this is great. I went back to Atlanta and quit my job. Driving over those bridges in the morning, thinking that could be my drive to work—the sun, the water, the dolphins jumping—I just thought nothing gets better than this,” Person said.

Person’s passion for the Lowcountry and her marketing savvy landed her a job as Director of Marketing for CraftBuilt Homes, one of the most successful developers of the “new Bluffton.” She is a one-person marketing agency for the past four years. “We do everything in house. I layout all of our graphic design and have complete creative control. I write all the copy, coordinate all photography, buy all the backgrounds, create our logos. We won the best promotional brochure from the Savannah Home Builders Association last year. We won seven Light House awards this year,” Person explained.

In February, Person took a giant step in her career by having the initials MIRM added to her title at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida .The designation, which stands for Member, Institute of Residential Marketing, is awarded by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). To get the designation, Person had to take a number of courses, earn specific credits and write an extensive case study which the NAHB likens to a PhD dissertation. She focused on The Gates at Savannah Quarters. “Gates was the best story for me. I had to take the community through completion, the whole process, planning, budgeting, troubleshooting. It gave me a chance to show how we worked through those problems,” Person said.

It usually takes four years of study to achieve the designation. Person, one of the youngest to ever achieve this status, did it in three and joined a very elite group. There are only 576 MIRMs worldwide and none—other than Person—in the Hilton Head area.

“I found out about the designation on the NAHB site when I was trying to wrap my arms around the whole home building marketing business. The designation was considered the best of the best. I said to myself, I’m going to do it,” Person recalled. She also remembered what the teacher told her first class. About 80 students were there. “He warned us that in the best case, one person would go on. I said, you know what, that’s going to be me,” Person said. “I’m the classic over achiever and eternal student,” she added with a laugh.

Person graduated with a degree in studio art from The University of Georgia and then attended graduate school for advertising and graphic design. “Yes, I’m a Bulldog,” Person said proudly.

Two years after Person’s arrival, CraftBuilt Homes was purchased by K. Hovnanian Homes, the sixth largest homebuilder in the country. “K. Hovnanian brought a lot of opportunity we didn’t have before. Our buyers from the north really identify with the K. Hovnanian name. They know the value; they recognize the brand,” Person explained. Locally, K. Hovnanian CraftBuilt Homes has three communities in development: Alston Park in New Riverside, Barton’s Run and Lawton Station. There are also projects in Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia.

The growth in the “new” Bluffton is amazing, Person said. “I love new Bluffton, I think it’s a great opportunity for growth. The next 10 years are going to be the biggest years to come with growth in this area.”

Leslie Person, MIRM, is the person who should know.

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