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I am an entrepreneur, financial analyst, podcast host, world traveler, economics and accounting lecturer, aviation enthusiast, martial artist, and a dog-lover. More than likely, I am no different than you. I am a hard-working millennial that wants more out of life. I have come to realize that I won’t be here forever, so why not spend the time I have with people I want to be around, work on meaningful projects, and help others do the same. Over the past 20 years, I have been conditioned with conventional beliefs espoused by our society, mainly: formal education is your key to success, and living the life of your dreams. Unfortunately, I found that to be untrue.
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania along the eastern border adjacent to Ohio. There wasn’t much to do in my hometown, given most people in the area lack ambition and tended to be complacent with their way of life. Growing up the oldest in a single-parent household, I noticed the struggles faced by my mother and knew at a young age I did not want to experience a life of economic hardship. I will never forget watching my first “get rich quick” infomercial early one Saturday morning. The salesman only wanted $29.99 for his course on selling ads, and I could learn how to make money. I thought to myself, “if I could do that, then I could help out my mom.” The problem was, I did not have the money to purchase the course. I eventually decided to get a paper route and started delivering newspapers. After months of hard work, I had saved up enough money to send in a money order and purchase the course. I set a goal to read a little bit of the book daily until I finished it. After reading the material, I still did not know what to do, but I decided I would call some radio stations to inquire about purchasing some advertising spots for resale. I remember the first call I made, the gentleman was very patient and let me deliver my speech. He then asked me some follow-up questions and told me to call back when I was ready to move. The only problem was I did not know what to do next. This was one of the first confidence boosters that set me off on my entrepreneurial journey.
University Years and Career Beginning
Upon starting my undergraduate at university, I took two part-time jobs, one with the front desk at my residence hall and the other with our school’s commercial real estate and property management office. My goal was to get into real estate after I had read Carlton Sheet’s material when I was 16 years old. I eventually joined the local REIA and started networking. The only thing I knew at that time was fix-and-flip investing, I had not heard of wholesaling, nor did the thought ever cross my mind to purchase apartment buildings. Even though I had attended many REIA meetings, networked with many investors, I still lacked some guidance on how to purchase property with no-money down realistically. Every investor I met wanted me to spend thousands of dollars on their course, but I was a broke college student. I eventually worked with a real estate company in operations and eventually transitioned into a licensed agent. The methodical training and support provided by the broker was critical to giving me the confidence and tactics needed to make money in real estate. My first deal was challenging but rewarding. Even though I only made a few thousand dollars, I felt more confident and became bolder. I began to build out a team of agents and started developing some residual income.
By this time, I was nearing the end of my finance studies, and I wanted to take a break from real estate and get into investment banking. I figured if I could get into investment banking, I could learn more about investing and become a competent investor. The June prior to graduation was one of my proudest months in real estate as a university student because I earned five-figures on a deal. I will never forget the sense of freedom that overcame me and the decision to go on an impromptu road trip to visit family in the Carolinas the following day.
After graduating in late 2007, I decided to head to New York City to get into investment banking.
Unfortunately, a confluence of factors including bad timing, and the financial crisis pushed me back into my previous field, real estate. I ended up working with a well-known luxury property management company that stationed me in one of their buildings in Murray Hill in Manhattan. I enjoyed the job and was very good at what I did. I was in charge of leasing and rent collections. After a few months of performing well on the job, our community manager resigned, leaving only myself and the assistant community manager. Given our performance, both the assistant community manager and I thought we would get promoted, especially considering he had been doing the community manager’s jobs for a few months, and I was doing his job at that time. Unfortunately, rather than promoting internally, the company decided to hire an outsider. To add more fuel to the fire, I remember receiving my bonus check, where the IRS took 50 percent of my earnings in taxes. When I filed tax returns the following year, I still owned nearly $1,000 in taxes.
I thought this was unfair and unrealistic for me to live in New York City on the salary I was receiving. I eventually was offered a position with a commercial real estate brokerage company that promised me I would have the opportunity to learn more about the development side of the business. The position was commission only, but that did scare me because I was successful with real estate before. In my first month on the job, I made the biggest check I had received to that point, which was mid-five figures. I then went on to work on many other deals, one of which left me in awe. I met with a young 23-year old investor interested in purchasing a small portfolio of apartment buildings in East Village and Greenwich Village, valued at $109 million. I felt elated at the opportunity to work on valuing this deal and trying to put it together. After doing the property tours and submitting an LOI, I received a call from the buyer stating he had to scrap the deal because his investors pulled out and wanted to remain liquid due to the financial crisis. While the news was disappointing, I had so many other deals in the pipeline that it didn’t matter much to me. The only thing that mattered was I wanted to know how he was able to work on a deal of this size at such a young age. Eventually, the real estate company I was working with dissolved, the partners went their separate ways, and I decided I would pursue a longstanding childhood dream for six months, live in China.
Entrepreneurship in China
For many, this might seem a bit random, but it had been on my mind ever since I was a child. Luckily, I had a good friend that had left New York and moved to Beijing the year prior, and she suggested I give it a shot until the economic climate in the U.S. settled. My original 6-month plan ended up becoming 11 years. In 2010, I started an educational services company. The education industry in China was experiencing double-digit growth, and I figured this could be a way for me to not only earn more money but be my own boss. Little did I know that my business and clients would become my boss, and I would not have the freedom I wanted. As time passed, the company grew, and I found myself working seven days per week for 16 hours per day. I put on a significant amount of weight and began to develop cardiovascular problems. Eventually, my company, along with two others, merged with hopes of us working together to grow the business. After we combined our efforts, business picked up tremendously, and we were busier than we had anticipated. While there were growing pains along the way, we stood to make a significant seven-figure RMB profit in our third year. Suddenly, and without much notice, there was a series of changes in government regulations for commercial spaces and the educational services industry. We ended up relocating our primary training facility two times in two years. The relocation costs ate into our profits. We ended up in a 10,750 square foot space and continued operating in that location until we sold the business in 2019.
In 2017, I earned my master’s in finance degree and decided I wanted to pursue a career in real estate private equity. I interned with a boutique private equity firm based in Boston the year before, where I worked as an investment analyst on multiple business syndications. I was offered a full-time position as a senior manager with the private equity division of a large international investment bank in Hong Kong. I would be in charge of overseeing U.S. based real estate investments and China-based education institute investments.
While working on my paperwork and work permits, I served as a senior analyst on the $1.5 billion acquisition interest of a hotel in New York. This was perfect because it was precisely the types of deals I had always wanted to work on.
Little did I know life would throw me a curveball and I fell seriously ill that summer and ultimately decided it would be best not to relocate until I fully recovered.
During my time in the educational services industry, I realized I wanted to have a business that produced a passive income and would allow me to have more time and location freedom. I was only able to travel during major holidays, typically those where we would have seven days off, but for me, that wasn’t enough. In 2018, I decided that real estate would still be the best choice; however, I wasn’t sure where I should start. I ultimately decided to try wholesaling. I wasn’t too thrilled at the idea, but I wanted to work my way into larger apartment building deals and figured this would be the way to get me there.
I eventually recruited a team of 50 property locators in a few different states and people sending my upwards of 100 new leads daily. We worked on several deals, but I found that I was not satisfied. Wholesaling still felt like brokerage to me, and I was in a position where I had to keep living deal-to-deal, not to mention the number of other wholesalers on the market that were ruining deals.
Luckily, I came across another investor that introduced me to multifamily syndication. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, so I attended a three-day online summit. By the end of the summit, I was confident I could it because while working in private equity in the past, I had worked on syndications, I just didn’t realize at the time. I partnered with a friend of mine, a former investment banker and financial services professional of 18-years, and we formed Delta Bridge Capital LLC. Our goal is to leverage our backgrounds and connections by raising capital from Asia to fund deals and provide asset management support.
Select Key Lessons Learned
There is no direct correlation between formal education level and earnings.
Working hard and working smart are not the same.
Traditional brick and mortar businesses will not necessarily allow for time freedom.
Anything can happen to us, be prepared, and create passive income so your loved ones will be taken care of once you are gone.
Investing in apartment buildings is possible as long as you have the right team.
I realized all along, the biggest variable that held me back was my own education! Hence my slogan, "Is your education holding you back? Never stop growing!"
My lessons learned list is just a short version of the most notable takeaways for me. There are more details I could provide, but I don’t want this to be too wordy. I sincerely hope this platform will provide you with value so that you too can be on your way to providing security for you and your loved ones.