I have no interest in growing a huge development firm.
This was my aha moment at the end of 2016. I came to the realization that if I built a development firm, I would take on more projects (yay!), more risk (nay), and, if successful, would spend more time managing other people’s work rather than doing the work myself.
As the child of two entrepreneurs, I've witnessed the demands of growing businesses. I, too, am an entrepreneur. And if I want to keep my flexibility and freedom, that means I needed to find my own path.
When I launched my company in 2015, I’d planned on the development firm as a side business. I had no clue I'd be leaving my day job or embarking on this amazing journey for the last 18 months. In fact, when I first launched my development company, I was such an unknown quantity that no one would even give me the time of day when I requested to look at the vacant Crapo Building (former home of Chemical Bank in downtown Bay City).
So as I approached 2017, a lot had changed: I’d transitioned to a full-time developer. The Times Lofts was close to completion. Found a way to redevelop the bank property. Plus overcoming countless obstacles along the way.
But I also realized I’d done a poor job marketing or establishing my business. You could ask anyone in town what The Neighborhood Development Co. does and they’d say, "Who?" But if you asked them who Jenifer Acosta was, you'd probably hear, "Oh she’s the one redeveloping The Bay City Times building." Or, "That's the person who saved the bank building." Better yet: "When the heck is she going to take the rest of the cheese grater down!" or "Can she develop anything without a tax break?"
Long story short, I'm better known by own name than by my firm’s name.
I'm known for being a person who takes on transformative and catalytic projects regardless of the hurdles. And I proudly stand behind that reputation.
I believe in character: Buildings with character. People with character that comprise awesome communities. I look at things from this broad scale into the finer scale of how a building fits into its block and its neighborhood and its community. Then down to the details that make it significant: glossy paint, moldings, hardware and materials. I geek out over urbanism and preservation.
By marketing my personal brand, I’m hoping to have the flexibility to continue being hands-on and hip-deep doing the work I love. And to raise my kids because – you guessed it – I love them, too.
If I'm doing the exact same work in 20 years and still hands-on, building by building, I can’t imagine anything better. Each project and building will add its own unique challenges. Bringing together different teams of investors, contractors and partners keeps the collaboration unique as well.
But the constant will always be my focus on quality and character.
The backbone of my development philosophy is a triple bottom-line approach:
1. Community: Projects must contribute to the greater good – and historic preservation is a major tenet of this belief. Restoring a forgotten building and making it into a source of pride makes a big impact in any community.
2. Sustainability: Buildings are the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions. So when you retrofit existing buildings with modern technology, you reduce their negative environmental impact. The bonus is that it is also less CO2 offset during construction. Even with new construction, though, I believe in the concept of infill development, or building within existing infrastructure.
3. Feasibility: Yes, it’s important that development also makes financial sense. I strongly believe in doing well, while also doing good.
As I move forward in 2017, I intend to master staying hands-on with each new project, while also maintaining my core values and beliefs.