Jessica Myers is known as an aspiring real estate investor and developer on a mission to help professionals diversify their income through real investment and create generational wealth and legacy. In 2015, she embarked on her journey to become less dependent on her career just to generate income. After mapping out her goals, Myers realized that her focus on climbing the corporate ladder needed to shift to owning more time so she could invest her time elsewhere. In turn, Myers had more time to research how to make more money and ended up investing and developing real estate.
“My desire is to generate equity through 1,000 doors and help others do the same. This purchase of properties makes us our own bank. Real estate ownership gives you access to even more capital and opportunities that you normally would not have had. Once your cash flow engines are set up, you can use them to cover your living expenses, and spend your time growing, living and experiencing the life of your dreams,” Myers said. “You have no control over your pay, you have no control over your time. This is my protest – by liberating my community from the reliance on corporations through real estate.”
Just six years into her entrepreneurial journey, Myers has renovated more than $15 million worth of real estate. In addition, she and her business partner have become the youngest black hotel owners in the United States after signing an $8.3 million deal with Hilton to acquire the Home2 Suites by Hilton in El Reno, Oklahoma. Now she empowers others to learn about real estate wholesale, investing and development.
Since the pandemic, more professionals have started using entrepreneurship as a means to create multiple income streams, given the many changes the workforce has undergone. As people continue to sort through their options, Myers shared how she got started, the impact her business is having on her community, and how others can start investing with what they have.
Start where you are
Lydia T. Blanco: What sparked your interest in developing and investing commercial real estate?
Jessica Myers: I joined Corporate America in high school through an internship. I realized that as I climbed the corporate ladder, I wasn’t offering the fulfillment I wanted. I didn’t have my time and neither did my colleagues. I first embarked on a mission to own my time. Then I discovered investing in real estate. Everyone needs a house. The richest leaders in the world have real estate in their portfolios. So I embarked on a mission to own 1,000 doors and my time. Commercial real estate makes my efforts exponential.
When I first started investing in real estate, I put a lot of work into every house. When I understood that commercial real estate required the same hard work, but you get more units, it just made sense. It is powerful to create a cash flow engine that allows you to scale faster. That got me excited! Working on visions bigger than I could imagine while creating generational wealth is what sparked my interest.
Blank: How important is building the right community around you and mentoring?
myers: Having the right mentors is critical to growth. They have seen and experienced enough to lead you in the right direction. While it will save you time, you still need to go through your real estate building journey. You will gain insight into their paths while tapping into your intuition and building your own path. It’s important to be part of a community resourceful enough to help you work with viable solutions when problems arise.
It takes money to make money
Blank: You can’t talk about real estate without talking about money. How did you and your team raise money to invest in your portfolio? And have you encountered any challenges as a black woman in the industry?
myers: My husband was my first investor. He believed in my dreams and sowed in the vision. Once we were able to get some small wins, I then introduced a community buy-in. This taught me something very important. Just because others don’t always see the vision doesn’t mean you quit, nor does it mean they won’t come back. You have to be strong enough to bet first, sometimes even second and third. Fortunately, consistency, failing progress and collaborative economics have allowed us to grow our vision even bigger and build our portfolio.
With less than 2% of black ownership in the hotel space and an even smaller percentage of female owners, I often found myself entering rooms with people who looked nothing like me. Within those groundbreaking moments were challenges, but now that we’ve forged a path to commercial property, we want to help create a path for others to follow.
Owning commercial real estate is possible
Blank: You and your business partner are the youngest black women to own a Hilton hotel. What does it take to acquire a hotel?
myers: It seizes the right opportunity in the form of undervalued properties (for which COVID-19 created the perfect conditions). It requires the right know-how. My business partner has over 15 years of hospitality experience.
It also requires the right team to work together. Nassau Investments has been a great partner. For us, that brand is Hilton. With immediate worldwide recognition, the demand builds itself. We also made sure the location was highly visible. Close to a major highway and in a prime location was a plus. Finally, you want to have a strong operator. This is essential for the customer experience and leads to growing profits.
Blank: Property is currently an urgent topic of discussion within the black community. What are some low-risk investment techniques that people can learn and apply to generate more wealth?
myers: I started in brokerage as a wholesaler. As with any other industry, a wholesaler is responsible for finding an undervalued asset. That asset is usually a thorn in the side of the community or a property that needs a lot of improvement. The opportunity lies in negotiating with the owner of the property. In turn, they don’t have to worry about thousands of dollars in repairs, allowing them to receive cash for their home as is.
Instead of buying the property, wholesalers work with cash buyers who have the money to pay for the necessary repairs so that the house can be sold for retail. Working with the buyers or investors who have cash provides a low-risk opportunity to learn the ins and outs of real estate trading without having to use up your capital.
Understanding the numbers, evaluating a property and knowing how to put together the right team are all skills that make a successful investor. Starting as a wholesaler gives you leverage to learn and get paid as you learn so you can pile up and become an investor.
Blank: As of 2019, Epiq Collective has acquired more than $14 million in commercial real estate. How did you and your co-client achieve this amazing achievement?
myers: Covid-19 presented the opportunity, but we had the team and the skill to know what to do with it. We took risks. We kissed a lot of frogs before the deal went through. Fortunately, everything was aligned and we were able to focus and achieve success.
We’ve built a community around our vision of ownership and signed up powerful industry players to help us achieve our goal.
An important protocol is to reverse engineer your success. My spiritual advisor always tells me to start with the end in mind. It seems simple, but if you picture yourself at the finish line and picture your success, you can understand what you need to do to get there. [Ask yourself], what resources do you have and who do you need to add to the team to make up for what you don’t have? If you envision success, others can also join the team and attribute their specialization to help you achieve your goal.
Economic development makes communities stronger
Blank: How do the communities in which you do business benefit from your work?
myers: We create an economic ethos among the citizens of the cities we cover. For example, when we visited our hotel in El Reno, Oklahoma, many employees had no benefits or even no 401(k). As the new leadership, it was vital for us to connect with them and set them up for success. We were also able to help revitalize a historic neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. This effort helps create jobs and increase the value of real estate to the community.
Whenever we enter a community to develop, I like to meet community leaders and decision makers to understand their vision and needs and then incorporate those elements into our strategy as best we can. In general, we are not only developing houses, but we also plan to develop leaders.
Blank: What are some of the lessons you have learned as a developer while doing business?
myers: Yes, we’re all here to make money, but the more attuned you are to the community you serve, the greater the impact. With what we did in El Reno, Oklahoma, and what we do in Brunswick, Georgia, we are able to create jobs and better housing options for those who may not have easy access. Do not go out blindly to serve yourself. The more inclusive you are with others in the community you serve, the more influence the community has on the success of your project. I’ve also learned to do it and do it scared. I can’t begin to tell you how many deals I’ve missed out on by being stuck in analysis paralysis.
The more aligned you are with your vision and goals, the easier it is to make a decision when an opportunity presents itself. First, set up your criteria. That way, you’ll be better able to make an informed decision when evaluating deals. Nothing beats fear better than education.
The conversation has been edited and shortened for clarity.