Coffee with Corey: Setting an Example While Striving for Success

By Corey Poole

It’s been a long path to success, fraught with obstacles to overcome, but Fox Realty Group’s Broker/Owner Mario Fox is proud of what he’s grown through.

Opened in June of 2022, Fox Realty is a boutique firm with some of the best agents in the industry operating out of their 2 offices in Natchitoches and Monroe, while serving all of Louisiana and Texas. They’re already looking to finish the year with around $15 million in sales.

But, as we started off this story, Mario didn’t automatically start at the top. 

Born and raised in Natchitoches, Mario attended and graduated from Natchitoches Central High School. Raised by his grandmother, Dr. Gloria Smith, from birth he went to school and church with his sister Kayla. Gloria used these two activities to keep the kids focused. Teaching at Northwestern State University, she knew a solid education was necessary for success later on in life. 

As a young man growing up in Natchitoches, a lot of the people Mario saw as “successful” in the black community were usually the drug dealers. They had the nice clothes, shoes and cars. “You just felt like this is what you had to do to be successful in Natchitoches” said Mario. 

On top of this, Mario feels there was a big generational curse on the males in his family. Most of all the men had been in jail, and they mostly all had no education further than a GED. Dr. Gloria was always pushing her message of the value of an education as she tried to get her grandchildren to realize they could do something different.

Mario went to NSU for a few semesters, but one day while commiserating about poor grades with some friends, a recruitment commercial for the US Army came on the TV. Now, Mario’s grandad had been in the military, but it was the last thing his grandmother wanted for him. So much so, that after making the decision to enlist at age 19, Mario waited to share the news with Gloria until he was tucked away safely in Oklahoma for basic training.

There was no communication between the two for 9 weeks after Mario’s initial phone call, and to this day Mario says his grandmother still gets upset whenever he retells the story, however she admits this was the best decision Mario made for his life. 

As young men tend to do crazy things, Mario soon found himself going down the wrong path. It was his first time away from home and he was still figuring out what type of man he wanted to be. 

A melting pot of experiences and people, the Army turned out to be a great fit for Mario. He learned a lot about how to be a leader of people and he grew as a person. 

After getting out of the Army in 2013, Mario went back to college to study architecture. It was at this time in his life that he met his wife Crystal, who runs the realty brokerage with him as a Sales Associate/Owner.

Crystal was getting ready to take a job in Washington D.C. at the Pentagon, and the couple saw their move as an opportunity to do something different.

While buying their home, Mario was impressed by their real estate agent. The young black man with his nice car and suit intrigued Mario because it was different from everything he’d seen before, as far as what it meant to be successful. Staying in a hotel while construction on their home wrapped up, Mario dove into real estate classes from 9-5 every day for two weeks. He passed the test on his first try and started as an agent with Keller Williams in Maryland. It wasn’t long before he became licensed in D.C. and Virginia as well.

It seemed fated that Dr. Walter Bowman, a past professor at the National Institutes of Health and successful entrepreneur, would become Mario’s mentor for all things real estate and business. The two got their real estate licenses at the same time and Dr. Bowman quickly became an extension of Mario’s grandmother in his life.

“He was intricate to who I am today,” said Mario.

A few years down the road, working his way up the property value ladder, Mario had his eye on Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the top luxury brokerages in the world. For anyone unaware of Sotheby’s, the company is known for its exclusivity and only recruits the top agents in the industry.

Mario wasn’t waiting for a call though. He had already knew everything about the company, the brand, and explored how his own brand would partner with theirs. He called Sotheby’s, got an interview, and crushed it by showcasing his hunger, drive, ambition, and knowledge of the brokerage. This convinced them to give him a shot. “I took this opportunity and made it work” Mario sold the most expensive properties in his career with the help of the Sotheby’s brand.

“I always like to be different in everything I do,” Mario shared. “Sometimes it’s good to disrupt the market a little.”

So what are some good pieces of advice to follow for job hunting, or for work in general?

#1 First impressions are everything

Mario’s grandmother always said to dress the way you want to be addressed. She dressed him up so much when he was young that his teachers eventually started asking her to send “regular” clothes to school so he’d have something to play in. 

#2 Find something you are passionate about and you’ll always love what you do. It won’t seem like work. 

#3 There are two types of people in this world: pretenders and contenders, don’t be a pretender!

Skip ahead a few years and Mario and Crystal found themselves presented with an opportunity to return to Natchitoches in December of 2017. While moving back home hadn’t been on Mario’s mind, the opportunity to help start and run a local brokerage sounded like a great idea at the time. Mario had always wanted to be a broker and lead agents, so it seemed like a good fit. 

Around the same time, Mario found his biological father. Moving home seemed even more important.

“It was an unexpected opportunity at an unexpected time in our lives,” explained Mario. “God works in mysterious ways and it worked out perfectly for us.”

Everything that’s happened to us has helped us get to where we are today. Mario wants to take what he’s grown through and use it to show kids in the Natchitoches community that there’s different ways to be successful. He wants to be the guy he was looking for when he was young.

This means Mario is very involved in his community. He was a board member of the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce and is an active volunteer firefighter for Districts 5 and 6. He also sits on the board of directors for fire district 5, the Parish Planning and Zoning Commission, and the MLS board of directors. He also speaks to youth in the area whenever he can about finding their passions and never quitting on their dreams.

“People see the success at face value but miss the failures,” Mario shared. “They miss the grind and the hustle, the years in the military sleeping in the cold and the dirt, coming up from the bottom in the real estate world, moving your career and family to help start a brokerage and being terminated by your best friend via text message. Nothing happens overnight. There will always be trials and tribulations, However my wife and I are not quitters and our family’s legacy is too important to give up.”

In his free time, Mario and his wife love traveling and hanging out with their five children. They also go to almost every basketball game at Northwestern State University. Mario also loves cars. His dream car is a green Lamborghini Urus.

When it comes to Natchitoches, Mario loves the small town vibe and how the people pull together to help one another.

“When we all pull together there’s nothing we can’t do and that’s what keeps me from moving back to a bigger city. Been there, done that. I am home now and I want to help build a community that we can be proud of.”