By the end of 2016 I expect our business - which will be known as Good People Good Homes, Inc. when I get the corporate structure set up correctly - to be profitable and no longer drawing on working capital to operate. That is but the first step of many required to really build this dream of ours. We haven’t made it yet. Not even close. At the end of 2016, I expect to be a step further toward making it, but I know it’s a long road.
We rent residential houses and apartments. We “wholesale” – connect property owners who want to sell with interested investors for a flat fee when the deal goes through. We flip houses – take a fixer-upper, fix it up and resell it for a profit. We help renters become homeowners while building their credit by offering some of these homes on a rent-to-own program. That’s what we’re currently doing. It’s what we’ve built up to over the last 8 years (our 8 year anniversary of when we closed on our first apartment building is coming up February 4th!) In 2016 we want to do these things better.
There are other areas of real estate we’re looking into. Possibly starting our own maintenance company to take care of our rentals, eventually offering our services to other landlords once perfected. Commercial wholesaling – the same thing my husband does connecting investors with homeowners and small landlords who want to sell, only with hotels, shopping centers and large apartment complexes. And private money lending – connecting fellow real estate investors with private money lenders who will fund their deals and flips. These are all in the dream stage right now, but we’ll see what 2016 brings! My husband gets together with fellow investors and curiosity seekers on the second Wednesday of every month.
Investors Network NEPA next meets January 13th, 7pm at the Iron Skillet restaurant inside the Petro truck stop, Rt 315 in Dupont. The food is good, and if everyone buys a burger or something and we total over $100 the room is free. Do check it out!
Bigger dreams – giving back. I have one of those do-gooder visions. I want to parlay this success into a foundation that offers a hand up out of poverty. I said a hand up, not a hand-out. I even have a name for it – The Bootstrap Foundation.
When I was trying to pay for college all by myself, I had a financial aid counselor tell me I was “pulling myself up by the bootstraps” and that he wished there was more help for someone like me. The image of pulling myself up by the bootstraps stuck with me ever since. I’m not exactly sure what a bootstrap is – none of my boots ever came with straps. Maybe back in the old days boots had straps? In any case, the phrase has outlasted the accessory. And I think The Bootstrap Foundation is a fine name for the non-profit I want to start.
I had to geographically escape rural northern Vermont. I looked around at my hardscrabble life there and saw a future of minimum wage jobs, hard drinking and going nowhere. Even at 17 I knew I had to change my mindset and that started with changing my surroundings. The way to do that was to go to college in the nearest major city – Boston. I applied to Emerson College to study communications – I was already on the radio, with two years’ experience on the air by the time I filled out that application. I got in – but Emerson was one of the most expensive private colleges in the country! Luckily for me they were generous with their financial aid. I only had to come up with a few thousand dollars to cover my “expected family contribution.” That was going to be tough. My father had mental health issues and hadn’t worked a steady job since I was 12. My mother worked her ass off as a nursing assistant at a health & rehab, but she didn’t make much. She wasn’t real crazy about the idea of me going off to college, either. She actually told me, toward the end of the summer, that I should just stay. All that money I’d been saving up would make a nice life, she told me. Just stay here and work. I don’t blame her. She just didn’t get it. This is the only life she’d known. She was stuck in a mindset I was determined to get out of.
The first thing I had to do was get work, and that was no easy task. I filled out applications – no one was hiring. In our small town the kids who got summer jobs were the kids who knew someone – a family member who could get them in. The radio station where I worked part-time had no more hours for me, and working one or two days a week wasn’t going to pay for Emerson. So I hit the Help Wanted ads, and once they heard I was leaving for college in the summer, that was the end of the interview. Then there was a morning show opening at the country radio station in St. Johnsbury, the town where my mother worked. And so began my life of crime, with a lie.
It was 40 hours a week, minimum wage, no benefits. Of course I’ll take this job and stay here forever and not go to college in the fall! They believed it and hired me. So when – surprise! – I gave my two weeks’ notice in the middle of August, I didn’t feel too bad. Really? Minimum wage, no benefits and you thought I was really going to stick around? Forever? OK I kind of feel bad as I write this now, because they really did believe I was going to do that. Sorry, guys. At least I found and trained my replacement, he was good and he DID stick around, for almost a year.
The second criminal act I committed involved getting to work. I had no car and no license. The reason I had no license was in order to take the road test, you had to have a car that would pass inspection. Our family had no such car. Even my boyfriend’s car didn’t cut it – his emergency brake didn’t work! None of our other friends’ emergency brakes worked either – apparently that’s the first thing that wears out in a vehicle? Lucky for me my Mom’s shift at the health and rehab started almost as early as my morning show, and I could hitch a ride with her. That worked for awhile until I got a second job. Which was another criminal act in itself.
There was a resort in the White Mountains with a bar that needed a DJ. I displayed my skills there once when I was hired to deejay a private graduation party. The bar manager liked my flow, and hired me on the spot - $75/night under the table, Wednesday through Saturday nights. $300/week, tax free, on top of what I was making at the radio station. NOW I could pay for Emerson! I don’t know if they knew I was 17, they never asked and I never told! My boyfriend worked nights and had his own apartment right next to where he worked. I could use his car and crash at his place when I worked the resort. His apartment was exactly halfway between the resort and the radio station. I literally slept two hours a night on Wednesday and Thursday nights, but I was young and it was only for the summer.
Around the first of August I got my class schedule in the mail. This was all so exciting – I was really getting out of here and starting my life! I’d go to the bank every week to deposit the cash for the resort and the paycheck from the radio station. The account balance was building, but I was still about $4,000 short. I’d have to get a student loan. Here comes my next criminal act.
There were two types of Federal student loans – PLUS which was a loan your parents applied for, and SLS which was for independent students. An independent student was legally defined as being over the age of 24 or a student who had been living on their own for two years. I was not a legally defined independent student, but I knew there was no way in Hell anyone would give my parents a loan with their credit. So I filled out the SLS application. And they gave it to me! For three years. They didn’t catch me until my senior year. I almost didn’t graduate. But they let me slide – they were probably too embarrassed they’d let it happen for three years to make a stink out of it. But they weren’t going to do it a 4th year. If I wanted a student loan, it would have to be a PLUS loan. So I had my father fill out the application, thinking it was over anyway, why not. And you know, they gave him the loan! I paid off every penny of my SLS loans. It took me till I was 35, but I did it. Not sure if they ever saw a dime from my Dad. Doubt it. Do I feel bad? No. No, I don’t. They should have just given me the damn loan, I would have paid it back with the others.
There were other criminal acts I had to commit to escape poverty. I couldn’t afford the car insurance rates where I lived in the city, so I gave the insurance company the address of a friend who lived in a less expensive town. I filled out credit card applications grossly overestimating my income. I am not proud of these things I did, and I will kick my daughter’s ass from here to Sunday if I ever find her doing them. But she won’t have to.
I felt like I had to do these things to escape poverty. There are kids in worse circumstances than I was in who probably had to do a lot worse. Some of them make it, and make a point to follow the law from there on out, like I did. Some of them don’t make it. They get caught, and a criminal record makes it impossible to escape poverty. Or they get used to committing the petty crimes and getting away with it, and graduate to committing bigger crimes that pay more than any job they could get.
My vision for the Bootstrap Foundation is helping these kids get what they need legally to get out of poverty. A drivers’ license, a reliable vehicle, car insurance, rent assistance, job and career counseling, college loans, small business working capital. All monies given out would be in the form of low-interest loans – it would all have to be paid back. One of the requirements for getting the money would be a certain number of hours in our financial training program. They have to learn about what money is and how it works. They’re not learning that in the worlds where they come from, trust me! And when a Bootstrapper pays us back, they’re really paying it forward, because it allows us to help the next one.
When my business succeeds, I will start The Bootstrap Foundation. Not if, when! But wish me luck anyway, OK?