Back when she was stringing together assignments as a freelance real estate photographer, La Toya Tolbert-Watson, 29, struggled to make ends meet and was nearly homeless at one point. Her prospects turned around after she crossed paths with an agent in 2013 at a property shoot who, frankly, reminded her of herself: a fellow African-American single mother. After that fateful meeting, Tolbert--Watson flung herself headlong into sales, and now oversees six agents. In a nod to her love of cooking, she gives oven mitts to prospective clients in the color of their choice, helping her stand out in a crowded field. “Starting from the bottom made me appreciative of all this,” says Tolbert-Watson, which is why she supports local causes like OCAR Cares, her local REALTOR® association’s fund in Orange County, Calif., that helps REALTORS® going through financial hardship.