Born and raised on a small family farm in Oregon, Watt-Biggs spent her childhood working as a migrant worker in the fields alongside her parents. At the young age of 14, she struck out on her own when her parents relocated to Alaska, and she decided to stay behind.
At the age of 22, she found herself a widow and single mother after her husband was killed in a car crash. Using the resourcefulness she learned in her teen years she moved to join her family in Kodiak, Alaska, and began working as a secretary. At the same time, she also worked as a bartender and soon ran a local restaurant to help support her and her son.
While, in Alaska, she was introduced to the world of commercial fishing. In an era where women did not typically work in that field, Watt-Biggs dove right in and worked hand in hand with her male counterparts pulling in King Crabs from the Bering Sea. She continued working as a commercial fisherman until a massive storm during one season almost ended tragically. Deciding, the life of a commercial fisherman was too dangerous for a single mother, Watt ventured south to Key West, Florida.
There she started over and became an owner of a local night club. It was in Key West that she met her future husband Bob Watt. It was also during this time, that she made a career change that would affect her life to this day. In 1976, again looking to increase her family's income, she obtained her real estate license and began working as a real estate agent. Shortly after, her husband retired from the United States Navy after 30 years of service and the couple settled down in Cape Coral, where Bob had inherited a piece of land.
After her husband suffered a health crisis, she felt it was time to build a business for her family’s future. In 1984, Barbara launched Century 21 Sunbelt Realty along with four agents.
After her husband passed away in 1996, Watt-Biggs dove into expanding the company from one office into a regional operation. By 2005, Century 21 Sunbelt had grown to include 21 offices and hundreds of Realtors. Along the way, Century 21 Sunbelt became recognized both nationally and internationally as one of the top Century 21 agencies in the world. It was in 2005 that Century 21 Sunbelt achieved Century 21’s top recognition by closing $2 billion in property for that year.
It was the first time that a Century 21 office in Florida or a woman-owned real estate organization for Century 21 had ever accomplished the feat, “The fact that she was the number one Century 21 in the world shined a spotlight on Cape Coral. She has helped bring recognition from both the international and national real estate industry to Cape Coral,” said Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President Mike Quaintance.
While the economy has hit Southwest Florida particularly hard over the past few years, Century 21 Sunbelt remains one of the area’s most recognizable and successful real estate organizations.
With all of her accomplishments and accolades in the business world, Barbara has also found time to become deeply involved in the community. Not only has she financially sponsored many local community events and causes, she has also been heavily involved in such non-profit/charities as; the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, Hope Hospice, Lee Memorial Health System, the Humane Society, Do the Right Thing, a number of youth programs, and many more. She also started her own charitable organization with Barbara Watt Foundation, “Barbara is not just a person who brings ideas to the table. She puts her money and effort behind those ideas in order to ensure they are successful,” said Quaintance. “Her community efforts and acts of kindness have been endless. She is a great example for other businesses when it comes to giving back to the community.”
It was during her involvement with a local non-profit organization that she met Bob Biggs. While working together for the Cape Coral Community Foundation, Watt and Biggs began dating and in 2002 married. In 2010, the couple received the Tabor Award as Cape Coral Community Foundation’s Outstanding Philanthropists in 2010.
With as much as Watt-Biggs has packed into one lifetime, many in her position would be looking to slow down. True to her tireless personality and surrounded by her husband, family, and the C21 Sunbelt family, Watt-Biggs remains as committed today as she was in 1984 when she started her real estate business.
Each day starts with waking up before the sun rises and taking her morning long distance walk. Then it is off to the office, where her days are filled with the multiple tasks it takes to oversee hundreds of agents, multiple real estate deals, and the day to day operations it takes to run a one of the most successful real estate organizations in the Century 21 family, “I love what I do, with the people I do it with, in the place I do it in. I would not have it any other way.”