YPG Entrepreneurs Share Secrets to Success

The Young Professionals Group (YPG) has influenced hundreds of women and men who are building their CRE careers. We talked with a few alumni who have taken the leap to start their own CRE firms.

Babak Ziai, founder BrandView Capital Partners:

What was the primary impetus to found Brandview? To be the best-in-class mixed-use investment and operating firm whose mission is to bring new life to urban properties for communities and stakeholders. 

What was your biggest challenge to launching – either before or after? With 20-20 hindsight, I spent too much time planning the firm launch in attempting to reduce trial and error. This delayed valuable lessons learned from what works and what doesn’t through actually doing the work. 

How has your experience/relationship to YPG impacted your career and influenced your entrepreneurial focus? The YPG mentors and colleagues helped me hone in on “what” I wanted to do entrepreneurially but more importantly “why” I wanted to do it in terms of setting a mission. This congruence is a strong motivating factor during the ups and downs of launching a new venture.

Naomi Rizkowsky, founder, Nomes:

What was the primary impetus to found Nomes? I built what I wished I had as a broker whose clients were requesting more updates more often. Brokerage is changing and it’s a reflection of a larger evolution in business culture to have on-demand information. There are a ton of desktop-based reporting solutions to facilitate communications, but as far as a mobile solution to accelerate face to face negotiations, there was nothing. It just seemed absurd to have to run back to my desk and jump into spreadsheets between each iteration.

What was your biggest challenge to launching – either before or after? By far, the biggest challenge was to define the minimum viable product and not get carried away trying to solve too many problems at once. There are so many inefficient processes that it was tempting to try to deliver end to end solutions for them, but that’s just too big a project to build pre-market if you want to do it well. A very close second challenge was finally deciding to release the product to market. With app design, they say if you’ve checked everything off on your design wish list when you go to market, you’ve over-worked it and released too late…so the good news is, we’re ahead of schedule!

How has your experience/relationship to YPG impacted your career and influenced your entrepreneurial focus? I graduated from YPG in 2017, the same year I started conceptualizing Nomes. YPG helped rebalance the importance of a job against what I find fulfilling as a person. Like many, I had become hyper-focused on career-based goals, almost to the exclusion of any other kind of priorities; and YPG helped rebalance that. When the idea for Nomes solidified and the possibility of making it a reality became more certain, I knew I had to go for it; and I felt confident that even if it didn’t work out, there was nothing I would lose that I couldn’t rebuild or just do without altogether. It’s also hard not to be inspired by the other people in your YPG class; it’s basically a collection of people who are spinning more plates than the next while also killing it at work and still being the kindest humans. It also didn’t hurt to be one of six women in my class; we gravitated towards each other and they were (and still are!) a big source of support and encouragement for me when I was developing Nomes.

John Drachman and Sean Rawson, founders, Waterford Property Company:

What was the primary impetus to found Waterford? We wanted to be in control of our destiny with our careers and take risks while seeing the benefits of those risks.

What was your biggest challenge to launching – either before or after? There are many, but one is having the courage to know there are things you don’t know and you will need to figure out — most of the times via the school of hard knocks.  We say launching a firm takes a lot of smarts as you have to know a lot about a lot but also takes a lot of stupidity as you need to have the blind faith to believe things will work out.

How has your experience/relationship to YPG impacted your career and influenced your entrepreneurial focus? We met during the YPG program so if it was not for YPG, Waterford Property Company would not exist.  We were fortunate in the program to hear from speakers such as Steve Layton from LBA Realty who shared entrepreneurial stories with us which was very inspiring since they were so open with the reality of struggling to make it.  It’s a big reason why we always try and speak to the incoming YPG class to share our stories in the hope it inspires future real estate entrepreneurs

Ryan Gallagher, founder, Space Investment Partners:

What was your biggest challenge to launching Space Investment Partners – either before or after? There are a lot of things to consider such as ‘what product type or types to focus on?’ and ‘where?’ Plus you are considering: ‘What’s your strategy?  How will you capitalize the business?’ For me one of the biggest challenges was that we entered very late in the cycle.  So it became, ‘How will we find great deals?’

What surprised you most since starting the firm? It’s incredibly rewarding to spend your time on what you “want” to spend your time on despite the unexpected surprises that pop up.  From so many years doing investment sale transactions, I had a front row seat watching how great companies have dealt with similar issues.  Since real estate is so situational, you can’t prepare for everything but you can realize that there will be good and bad surprises and you need to be level-headed about both.

How has your experience/relationship to YPG impacted your career and influenced your entrepreneurial focus? You learn a lot of great things from YPG including leadership, working in teams and utilizing the “group think.” It also helps you build a network that you will lean on years later.

Learn more about the YPG!