My passion for sustainability has been a gradual expansion of many ideas that I initially accepted then questioned. Albert Einstein said that questions were the beginning of genius. The more I learned about our energy dependence, peak oil, climate change, gentrification, urban development and land use, the more I explored how each were interrelated. My journey lead me to resign from a very promising career in land brokerage and development where aside from making a great living; I begin to notice I was, in fact, a part of a problem. After coming to understand that low-density suburban development was unsustainable, I knew a shift was forthcoming. I was a part of an organization that developed conventional subdivision; yes, those monsters that inevitably aid in sprawl, cause traffic congestion, deforestation and consume massive amounts of land. Evidence suggests that the building sector accounted for nearly 30% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and I knew there had to be a better model to follow. My attempts to interest my then partners in infill development largely fell on deaf ears. A part of my goal was to hopefully influence a decision that would allow for more infill development – development near existing infrastructure, work centers, services, and public transportation. The entrepreneurial bug bit me and I left. This is where things really got interesting
Not too long after my resignation the market took a nose dive. For a new development services company the landscape was not pretty. In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, certainties like liquidating building lot inventory and anticipated revenue dried up. People I knew personally were experiencing unbelievable financial hardships. Without heed or warning, times became challenging very fast. Birthed out of those challenges was a determination to rebuild better, stronger, more wisely and of greatest importance, sustainably. I decided not to sell out to a business model that had been dying for a half century. I opted for the road less traveled and the status quo was forever interrupted.
Out the gate my very first development proposal was to redevelop eight city blocks in Norfolk, VA. Truthfully, I really didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew, for certain, was that I had to come up with a development plan that would profoundly impact the lives of many. What I didn’t learn until much later was that the life that would forever be changed was my own. Along the way, I learned a lot about failure and the need to persevere. Once my 600,000 square foot proposal died, I, again, had to reassess. It was a gradual process of refinement.
The team I had assembled decided to pursue one of the most well located sites in the area, a one and half acre parcel. We prepared site plans for a five-story, 120,000 square foot hybrid building that combined office, retail and residential uses into one building; a development that had never been done in the region. It didn’t take long for experience to teach me that people don’t respond well to change; anything new had to be tested and proven. My philosophy at the time was, “Create the market where there is none.” When you’re a bootstrap entrepreneur looking to build a 30 million dollar building, you have better had plenty of testing behind you – I had none.
With limited resources I flew to Miami to meet with a prominent developer who I felt would be an ideal partner. The pro forma we created showed the building to be cash flow positive with great returns on investment. I was confident and prepared. Another lesson learned: confidence and preparation have nothing to do with opportunity. The developer I met with has a national pipeline with projects in some of our largest cities. In short, he is a giant in real estate development. I learned that his “proprietary” projects are 100 million dollars and greater. Well, I was about 70 million bucks shy. Knowing that my greatest proposal was not worth his time/energy left me feeling inadequate and unprepared; where did I go wrong? I had been assured by trusted friends that HE was the guy. HE was going to catapult me and Ariba to the next level. As of yet, it hasn’t happened.
You see, after losing a considerable amount of money and expending an incredible amount of time and energy in what I thought was going to be the next big idea that wasn’t; I lost confidence in myself. In short, I gave up. However, after about a year of being out of the spotlight; I had time to cry, heal, and then regroup. This new direction for me and Aribra represents the rebirth and I want you to be a part of it. I decided to invite you in and close out failure as an option. There ARE no excuses now. I read a lot and discovered that there are numerous stories about men and women who made a small fortune, lost it all (marriages, finances, businesses, etc.), and found themselves rebuilding. Well friends, this is my second time around. I NEVER thought this would be my story, but it is and I am going to embrace it fully and completely. I am finally at a point where I can share openly; without shame, the highs and lows that I will face on this journey. I welcome you to walk with me and perhaps we can build something together.
This content is published by the permission of its author.