Interviews | Interview of Lea Verbizier, Managing Director at OME Mauritius

Interview - Lea Verbizier, Managing Director at OME Mauritius

1. Hello Léa! Among the numerous real estate agencies in Mauritius, you have created ÕME which brings a breath of fresh air to the sector with its social dimension. Can you tell us more about it?

At ÕME Mauritius, we offer a unique and innovative approach to the real estate industry in Mauritius. Our mission is to redefine the real estate experience by seamlessly combining wealth, sustainability, and social responsibility.

I created ÕME Mauritius with the goal of innovating by offering an agency in tune with the times, capable of addressing major socio-environmental concerns in line with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). This is the very first real estate agency in Mauritius committed to integrating a social vocation into all its activities.

2. Can you explain how this new concept works?

The principle is quite simple. On every successful real estate transaction, whether it's a medium or long-term rental or the purchase of a property, I decide to donate 5% of the agency fees paid by the client to an NGO of their choice.
I place a strong emphasis on transparency and tracking the exact use of the donation, which I then report back to my client, with the aim of involving the client in the process as much as possible.
I also think that for a foreigner moving to Mauritius, this can create a sense of belonging and faster integration with the community.

3. Can other partners join you?

Absolutely! Social support should be universal. A concept like the one I've imagined is meant to be adopted as widely as possible to maximize its impact. I dare to hope that this will inspire others to follow our lead. Imagine if all agencies could follow the model of ÕME Mauritius... It would have a tremendous impact on our community and the environment!

4. What inspired you to create this concept of systematically sharing your revenue?

Several aspects inspired me to create this concept.
During my last year of studies in England, I explored the theme of sustainable development and CSR – How to conduct business responsibly and sustainably while being profitable? This subject fascinated me and resonated strongly with me.
After almost 6 years of working for renowned real estate agencies on the island, I found that this profession lacked the 'sustainable and socially responsible' dimension. Every sector was adopting it except for real estate.
I feel immense satisfaction when I manage to meet my clients' needs, whether it's finding their future home or offering them the ideal investment. But that's not enough...

In real estate, one can deal with quite significant amounts, and I thought that if I could use my expertise in the real estate market while addressing the social and environmental challenges of our country, I would have achieved everything. For me, it's a virtuous circle that gives me motivation and tremendous dynamism to find the ideal property/home for my clients. It gives meaning to my activities and allows me to live in harmony with my values daily.
Moreover, coming from a family with a mother who has always been involved in social work and who set up an NGO just 2 years ago, and a stepfather who is a pioneer of sustainable development in Mauritius, I want to say that 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'...

5. How did you select the NGOs you work with?

I didn't focus on large NGOs that already have significant notoriety and resources. The goal was to choose structured and trustworthy NGOs that really needed funds and for which I knew that any help, even modest, would really make a difference.
To start, we therefore chose 3 NGOs with very different causes.

6. Can you give us the list?

Mo Ti Lakaz is an NGO committed to social housing in the Black River region that works on sustainable housing projects. Its mission also includes active support for disadvantaged children in the village, fighting poverty and misery. Thus, the NGO builds a solidary and inclusive future.

Fam-Unie Foundation aims to transmit essential values, life skills, and professional training through a holistic approach to disadvantaged women residing in the very poor neighborhood of Paul and Virginie in Cité La Cure, near Port Louis. The main goal is to create life-changing opportunities for these women by awakening their entrepreneurial spirit, so they can integrate into society and contribute to the workforce.

L'Atelier des Rêves is a foundation that offers learning support and training to prepare young people with physical, mental, and cognitive disabilities for successful professional integration. Their goal is to create a secure environment where children embrace their differences while developing an inclusive work and life community in Mauritius. This action is inspired by initiatives such as Café Joyeux (France), Brownies & Downies (South Africa), the Enabling Village (Singapore), or the Urja Supermarket (India).

7. Are there any social projects that are particularly close to your heart?

Currently, with Mo Ti Lakaz, there is a project to rebuild a house in Petite Rivière Noire for a family living in precarious conditions. The project cost to rebuild the house is about Rs 200,000.
My job is to help people find a home and promote quality real estate development. For me, being able to participate in a social project that aims to help those at the bottom of the ladder have a roof, decent housing in good conditions, is a cause that drives me because it is directly related to my profession.

It's like closing the loop: I am paid to find a property for a client, the money I earn allows me to provide for my family, and a portion of the money I receive is given back to the most needy, thus helping them to live in better conditions.
We thus break out of a vicious circle and reduce inequalities between the rich and the poor. I hope to inspire other agencies to follow me because I am convinced that this will change the way real estate is done.

8. How do your clients react to this concept?

People have reacted very well, we have received a lot of support and encouragement for this new concept. It has only been 8 months since we opened, and I think we still have work to do in terms of communication to make our mission known. We have many exciting projects underway that I can't wait to share in the coming months.

Also, we realized that having to pay agency fees is often a source of annoyance. However, when there is a humanitarian cause behind it, it becomes something positive and motivating, tending to soften the stereotyped image of the real estate agent, which is unfortunately not always well perceived.

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