Turning Nothing into Something: The Vesta Journey

How do you create something from nothing? How do you make a dream into reality? My story is my answer to those questions. In 2016, I was 28 years old and living in Austin, TX. I was single, (though already in love with my now wife), and I had an impressive title as Senior VP of Multi-family for a growing real estate investment firm. 

However, I did not love my job. I was beyond ready for a change. I wanted with all my heart and soul to start my own real estate journey. This could be my moment. I realized I had nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work, I have no kids, no wife, no mortgage, and don’t like my job anyway so…I’ll be in much the same place I’m already in if it does not go anywhere! 

In hindsight, planning for failure was easy, but here’s a harder question…what happens if it works?

I had no family money (for that matter almost no money at all), no investor network, and bad credit. I had 10 years of experience in multi-family management and felt that I understood the multi-family market in a unique way. I wanted urgently to make my proverbial mark. 

Through hard work, intensive research, determination, good luck, and the grace of God, I raised the money for the first deal! I found the right partner at the right time, and things worked out. For the first six months, I owned a real estate investment firm with no real estate, but that was finally over. 

My first employee, (remember the woman who I was in love with and would later become my wife? Yup, she was also my first employee and my forever partner), Alicia and I moved to Tulsa with one other friend of ours to start Vesta. We had officially gone from nothing to something. 

Nothing to Something

Nothing to something is a powerful concept. In hindsight it’s almost overwhelming. Today, we have 350 employees, but back then it was just us. We had no roadmap for growth. By the time we had closed on our first deal, I had developed a very positive relationship with a private equity firm from  Baltimore. By the end of 2017, we owned and operated 300 units, with an additional 650+ under contract for 2018. For the first time, we had to worry about growth. 

Not many people want to work for a small upstart firm headquartered in a two-bedroom apartment in the multi-family space.  The larger companies have seemingly endless potential for growth, good benefits packages, not to mention competitive salaries. We really didn’t have that. 

I started driving around Tulsa, going into apartment complexes trying to hire managers. I met a woman who was then an assistant manager and from the first tour she gave me, I knew she was a vital part of our future. Her name is Maranda and she is currently my Chief Investment Officer. At the time though, she was working for one of the largest players in the property management game. She had a great job with much opportunity for growth. 

Over lunch, I tried to sell her on every reason I could think of to come join me. We left lunch with an understanding that we would be moving forward together. I warned her that my company was so new that the only website I had was just a giant picture of me and almost nothing else, and that the company was real despite the website. 

Maranda called me the next day and told me her boss had implored her to reconsider because he believed my company would be out of business within a year. Ultimately, Maranda ignored that forecast and joined us. Months later, Maranda explained to me that the reason she chose to join us was because we cared about her enough to tell her that we were behind her whether she chose to come work at Vesta or stay where she was. As the example with Maranda illustrates, when we are truly concerned with the welfare of the people we work with, we can achieve an optimal relationship and optimal results for everyone.

The story of our hiring of Maranda demonstrates why turning nothing into something is so difficult.  It’s hard enough for us to start something, for us to believe in that vision, but to ask someone you have never met before to make your life their life, to make your future their future, is an almost impossible task. Maranda was our first big outside hire but certainly not our last. 

Vesta took off quickly. By the end of 2018, we went from 300 units to almost 2,000. In 2019, we hit 4,500 units. We battled through COVID and continued growing.

Caring and Passion 

So, how do you turn nothing into something? How do you make a dream into reality? The answer starts with caring and passion. That’s where success starts, and that is how it continues. 

In my capacity, I am directly responsible for all the people who work with me, live at one of my communities, or invest with me. That is an awesome responsibility, but it’s also a blessing. The greatest meaning my life has is impacting the world around me and every day gives me ample opportunities to do just that. 

That’s where passion comes in. Property management is a tough world. Running an investment firm is an equally tough world. Yet, Vesta is both. Without that passion, hard times would be insurmountable. The secret is you have to love what you do. Even on the worst days, there is nothing I’d rather dedicate my life to. 

Learn more about Vesta at https://www.vestarealproperty.com.  

Marc Kulick

Marc Kulick

CEO of Vesta Capital and Vesta Realty