With only a desk in the basement and a dream for financial independence, Tom Colwell gambled with his future. At the age of 52, he quit his job as president at Van Schaack Realty to grow his own real estate company. Now, eight years later and a successful business under his belt, Colwell is selling his company shares of Keller Williams Realty in Colorado.

“People play the lottery because it gives them an opportunity for freedom,” said Colwell, explaining why he left Van Schaack. “Having profit sharing (at Keller Williams) is a huge benefit to people. I thought that would change people’s lives. I was right.”

Colwell opened the state’s first Keller Williams Realty in 1993 after buying the rights for $16,000. After its first year in business, it had about 100 agents and barely broke even. Last year’s revenues were about $38 million. The company has experienced a 50-percent growth pattern each year since its inception, said Colwell.

Colwell expects the company to do little restructuring. However, he added, there is an opportunity for a new office in the Colorado Springs area. Keller Williams has 14 market centers in the state and six smaller business centers that typically cater to outlying areas. It employs more than 1,100 agents who belong to the profit-sharing company.

When the company is interested in adding a new market center, it looks at the demographics, population and number of closings, said Al Alba, new co-owner of the Colorado region. By using a formula, it then determines if an additional office could be supported. However, before another Springs’ office goes on the drawing board, Alba would like to see the economy stabilize.

The Colorado Springs office, located at 7660 Goddard Street, employs about 50 agents and was established two years ago, said Alba. Tony Marietta, team leader for the local office, would like to eventually expand the office to include more than 100 agents as well.

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“That’s our ultimate goal,” said Marietta, “to make our presence felt not only here (on Goddard Street) but other locations in the city, too.”

Although the transaction was effective September 1, Colwell signed the papers earlier this week and sold the company to long-time business associates Al Alba and Rich McCarthy for an undisclosed amount of money. Colwell owned 51 percent of the company’s shares while partner Kathy Kay owned 24 percent and Alba owned the remaining 25 percent.

“I’m old!” Colwell said when asked why he decided to sell. “There comes a time. I’ve got a lot of things to do in life. It’s the right time.”