So last week was a sucker punch to the gut in terms of unexpected expenses and this week I feel like I'm teeming with optimism again for some unexpected investment opportunities.
Is that weird? Am I normal? Do all investors feel this way or is this when you are just starting out? I really don't know...
But let me fill you in on this week, cause it has been epic.
So I flew down to Atlanta to catch up with some good friends. One of my best friends, the amazing Anne Rice, who moved down there three years ago to start her business and her family, has done both! She gave me a tour of her a thriving therapy practice and Blue House Wellness which is a co-working space specifically designed for supporting new therapists in building up their own private practices. Meeting her adorable little daughter, Emilia, and seeing all the fruits of her hard work was a super proud moment for me. She's definitely doing amazing stuff down there.
But a little before my trip I had been talking Anne a lot about her business. She was considering buying the building her practice is currently held in. It's super cute and anyone would be lucky to own it, but the price the owner was offering was definitely above market rate. I didn't want to burst her bubble because at the end of the day everyone has to make their own choices about what investments are best for them and which ones aren't, but I did want to support her in running the numbers and making sure they all worked in her favor. I can't have my best friend experiencing buyer's remorse with one of the biggest purchases of her life!
So I encouraged her to set up a tour with a broker just to see what was out there, which she did. So by the time I landed in Atlanta, she had a packed agenda both exploring the area as well as introducing me to different investments and entrepreneurs. Now you know that is my jam. I love speaking to people about their experiences and how they built their business! I literally absorb all that wisdom like etching cream to a glass (sorry for the geeky reference to my previous post).
So first on the docket was meeting Katherine, who is a fantastically creative woman who has built out the most beautiful and inspiring co-working place, Alkaloid Networks, I have ever seen. We works literally has nothing on her space. :)
We were able to tour her offices and pick her brains about the business model, how she expanded her business in phases, and her next steps to come. What I loved about the experience too was that she took an amazing old dilapidated mill house and repurposed it entirely bringing it back to life. The transformation is stunning and made my little interior designer heart sing with joy!
She also inspired me with her willingness to share and support two other budding entrepreneurs (Anne and myself). She is all about empowering others, especially women, and supporting them in pursuing their dreams. Literally her business, technically a co-working space, is deeper than that and more about helping other businesses to grow and flourish. Katherine spends a great deal of time creating the most inspiring spaces so that her members can do their most creative work and grow their brands. I think if more women supported other women in this way, we would live in an entirely better world.
My takeaways I gleamed from her wisdom and the conversation were:
Things work out. Just get started. You don't have to know where it will end up or have a solid plan with every last detail worked out to start. Ensure you have a strong vision, yes, but just build as you go. If you are working hard, flexible, and always learning and growing yourself, your business will follow suit.
Katherine chose her location and space well before the Beltline was even put in and she started off with only 1/3 of the space she now occupies. But each time she saw an opportunity to grow more, she just kept expanding. Her current occupancy rate is over 90%. That's incredible and deserving of a huge high five! More importantly, her business is now at the place where it can free up her time to pursue other passions she has, like writing a book. I couldn't be happier for her.
Obstacles will pop up. Just keep going. She spoke about some of the setbacks she has had in her life, of which I won't go into here because they are personal, but the fact that she was able to continue to persevere was inspiring. It helped me to realize that no matter what, giving up isn't an option, ever. Whatever happens, good or bad, will lead you to where you need to go. So just keep moving forward. The right people will come into your life when you need it, the right opportunities will appear just as they should at the appropriate time. Just keep your goal and focus in mind, and keep going.
Release expectations of timeframes. This is where it gets dangerous and you veer towards the unproductive "comparison" mentality. If you set time frames, keep them open ended. Those parameters are to get you started, to help you light a fire under it! But they are not the end-all-be-all. If you set a hard deadline and things pop up (as they will) outside your control, even if you achieve your vision, you will be somewhat disappointed because it wasn't done by the time you expected. That is pointless and detrimental mentality. All that matters is you achieve your vision and fulfilled your purpose. When you get there, you get there and that will be an amazing time to celebrate!
Network. People want to help you. People want to share their wisdom and know that they are helping others grow their business together. Katherine has a close network of people who own other co-working spaces across the world. She communicates with them regularly and when she has a challenge she reaches out to them to get ideas. She has built this network of people through attending conferences, meeting people over the internet, and attending meet ups. She is always looking to converse with people who are entrepreneurs. Even if they are not in the same industry, she believes things can still be learned from others. And I couldn't agree more.
Business is about solving problems. That's it. If you like puzzles, if you like negotiating win/wins, if you like figuring out what people need and how you can help them, you will be successful in business. Sure there are other skill sets that are nice to have and will accelerate the growth of your business. But those other skill sets are often the ones you can hire out (ie: Bookkeeping, administrative duties, housekeeping, etc.) But the heart of the business has to be about helping people and building strong relationships. That cannot be outsourced. That is something you need to be passionate about in order to thrive.
Have a very targeted and intentional marketing plan. Katherine knew exactly who she was marketing too and why. She works on her marketing daily and never stops. When explaining who her target audience was she spoke about how she personally steers clear of the start up tech companies because they are usually quick to grow and soon require their own space, which means there is high turnover in a co-working space. The high turnover rate isn't ideal. So Katherine said she loves working with people who work remotely for bigger companies. They tend to be steadier, and have the financial support of the company to cover their membership fees. There is less turn over and that is more appealing to her. What also impressed me about Katherine is that she sets clear boundaries and makes no apologies for having those boundaries, which is often difficult for women to do. She makes sure her marketing plan works to attract the ideal clients for her personality type and business, which makes her day-to-day running of the space more enjoyable and lucrative.
It was truly an honor to spend some time with her and I Ieft feeling incredibly inspired. Here are some shots of her beautiful co-working space:
Next on the docket we visited the property with the broker and visited a potential space for Anne. Now I love real estate and I love a project. But I have really been focused on single family homes in upstate New York. I just wanted to support my gal in her finding her business's long-term home. We walked the property and started to discuss all sorts of ways we can increase revenue and develop it. And the more we talked, the more we came to a realization that we might want to partner together on this one. We both have different strengths and interests that could complement each other. A little seed was planted and we both left with butterflies wondering if this could be it?
Here's what appealed to us about this property, and what I look for when purchasing (please note I didn't include any pictures yet because we haven't yet placed our offer. If/when we get it, I'd share then):
The area is primed for development. There are already lots of plans in the works and projects that will be starting within the next year or so right in the neighborhood of this property. They have already been approved and funded by the local business district and are in the works. Based on knowing that. Commercial real estate is usually valued based on it's current NOI value, not the future value. Which means this property is very much likely to raise in value once those projects are complete. While it's not for certain, it's a pretty solid bet. And even if we did nothing to the building, knowing it would probably go up in value just as-is, is a pretty good start investment wise.
Motivated Seller. This seller has already purchased and relocated to their new location. No one likes carrying more than one mortgage. And apparently this business moved to the new location to consolidate, which means they have three separate buildings they need to offload now. There were a few deals that fell through. Which is fine by me. The more deals that fall through, the more motivated a seller usually becomes. And depending on why they fell through (reasons other than the actually property), buyers have an opportunity to scoop up a bargain!
Room to Expand. There is so much space in this place. I'm talking at least 3 times more space than her previous office. With that being said, it is cheaper. Which means she can move in and fix it up in phases because it doesn't all need to be done at once. And of course, as the property is fixed up over time, it will for certain be worth significantly more.
Class C property. I like this class in particular because this is where the beginning investor can really add value ad gain sweat equity. The inside of a class c property is usually functional, but not beautiful or updated at all. For me this is more appealing because that's one of my favorite things, making an ugly space beautiful again! I try to avoid Class A or B properties because they tend to lack in this area of opportunity.
So nothing has been decided yet, but it is always great to look and explore new opportunities and to envision what that could look like if you pursue it. I find the more that you do that, the more you are able to recognize an amazing opportunity when it comes your way and be brave enough to seize it. Touring and exploring many different opportunities allows you to have more confidence and experience to draw from and as a result bigger projects tend to become less intimidating.
After touring the property when we hit up Purple Corkscrew Wines. In all honesty, I went in just to get a bottle to split while we mulled over the potential investment opportunity. But, as fate would have it, I started talking to the lady who was helping us, cause I was feeling chatty. Also it was clear she was the owner by the level of service she provided. I mean who asks, "I'd be more than happy to help, and what is your intended budget this evening for your bottle of wine?" Classy! And worded that way, I definitely raised my "budget" for her.
Come to find out that she, like a true entrepreneur, also has a network of other entrepreneurs who have opened up their own wine shops across the country. She stays in regular communication with them to help her trouble shoot challenges that arise with her business. Well, in her network, she had included my neighbor, the owner of the wine shop right across from my apartment building in Brooklyn! Talk about a small world! Apparently their businesses had similar names and she kept getting asked if she was associated with Corkscrew Wines in Brooklyn, so she just reached out and introduced herself. Since then they have become fast friends and a solid support network for each other.
I left thinking yet again, how amazing that there are all these women entrepreneurs down here, supporting each other and doing their thing?!? Could this be a sign for me?!?
Lastly and ever so briefly we visited The Lost Druid, a brewery that was founded, created and built from the ground up by you guessed it, another woman entrepreneur! Anne had filled me in on her story and it was so exciting to see how beautiful the location had turned out after being built from the ground up by the owner.
Long story short, Atlanta left me inspired. There are women out there who are taking risks, succeeding and thriving. They all face trials and tribulations, but they all keep going. They are creating stability and wealth for themselves, their families and their communities. And they are supporting each other as they go. It seems like a true sense of sisterhood.
Atlanta also has a palpable sense of economic optimism down there that I haven't experienced in the same way up north. Perhaps I'm just running with the wrong crowd and haven't yet found my entrepreneurial "tribe" up here, but it was exciting to see so many people, especially women, creating their own businesses, taking risks, thriving and helping to grow Atlanta's economy along the way.
Who knows? Maybe I'll be one of those women one day?...