Listen to hear Ellie Perlman discuss how she looks at everything with an abundance mindset. She was told many times that she can't do something and her answer is "yes I can" and then she focuses on making it happen! She's been a lawyer, spent years in property management, received her MBA from MIT and started a real estate investment company with upwards of 2,000 units. She's a go-getter and an inspiration to many looking to break into the industry!
Table of Contents:
- A Lady With an Abundance Mindset
- Leverage From Someone's Experience
- What Is an Abundance Mindset?
- Abundance Mindset Takes Courage & Confidence
- Ellie's Humble Beginning
- How to Reach Ellie Perlman
A Lady With an Abundance Mindset
Darin: Ellie grew up in Israel as the oldest of four children. Her parents told her that she could do anything she wanted to in life, and she believed it. She's a general partner on six properties for 2,000 units, she's a podcast host, she writes financial publications for Forbes, and she is a regular speaker on the multifamily conference circuit. This girl has an abundance mindset.
Ellie and I have not spoken before, but I've been in the multifamily space for about three years and Ellie's face just seems to pop up everywhere. She has made a name for herself, she's got a podcast, she writes for different financial publications. She is a syndicator, she is involved in a lot of multifamily conferences. Also, she is a speaker, so I'm interested to get to know her better and understand her journey. With that, Ellie, can you just share a high level of how many properties you're involved in? How many units?
Ellie: Absolutely. Since I've started Blue Lake Capital, we own about 2,000 units, so give or take about six assets at this point. Our main focus is probably similar to what you do, we just buy multifamily properties. That's what I love doing and what I understand. That's our bread and butter.
Darin: Absolutely. Yesterday and the day before, driving back and forth from Dallas to Houston, and to prepare for this conversation, I happened to listen to a number of your podcast episodes. One thing I wanted to ask you was, you have an accent, where are you from?
Ellie: I'm from Israel.
From Real Estate Lawyer to Property Manager
Darin: When did you come to the US?
Ellie: That was March of 2014.
Darin: And I believe you were in the corporate world before getting into multifamily as an attorney, is that correct?
Ellie: Yes. I actually started my career as a commercial real estate lawyer and I thought that's what I wanted to do. Very quickly I understood that it's interesting but I wanted to be on the other side of the table. I realized this when I was sitting in conference rooms with my real estate owners that used to be with my clients. And I told myself, "I want to be them, I want to own lands and properties. And I want to deal with investors into what they do," but I just didn't know how to do it.
I assumed that I had to have a lot of money to own real estate, which is of course not true. And after that, I said, "Okay, I want to understand real estate a bit more," so I quit my job and I took a very interesting job as a property manager. Which was less prestigious than my friends and family thought I went mad.
Darin: That's funny, keep going. That's interesting because that takes a lot of courage to make the jump like that and try to learn another industry. Being an attorney or doctor has a prestige to it. But you were in the room and you saw the people and you're like, "I want to be on the other side of the table."
Ellie: Yes. But you know something, it's also an illusion because I realized that if I don't go to the office, if I don't clock in, if I don't have a certain amount of billable hours, I may not get paid.
Creating Cash Flow With an Abundance Mindset
Ellie: I saw my clients and I realized, while they're sleeping, they're making money because people are paying rents. They're traveling and they can take a month off, a week off, whatever it is and the money is still flowing. The whole concept of cash flow. It hit me right there that I have to go to the office. If I'm sleeping, I'm not making money because I'm not billing clients. And how long can I do that? How long do I want to collect dollars and charge billable hours? Until when? Until I'm 70, 80?
I realized that that wasn’t my dream. My dream was to create a sustainable cash flow. I didn't even know to put it in a cash flow phrase. That's my lingo today, but back then, it was a feeling that I didn't know how to even put in words. But I knew one thing and that I wanted to be on the active side of real estate. For me, it was through the transition to property management. I got my hands dirty, I learned how to deal with tenants, I learned a lot of things that are serving me today. And all of that was actually in Israel between 2007 until 2014.
Darin: So you were in property management for seven years?
Ellie: No. My entire path from becoming a lawyer until coming to the US was about seven years.
Darin: How was that split between being an attorney and property management timewise?
Ellie: In property management, it was probably about four to five years.
Darin: So you got to know the business then being on the property management side for that long. I love what you said. You said, "I want to do what they do, I just don't know how."
From Israel to the United States
Darin: How did you make the transition? Now you quit your job as an attorney, you're a property manager for four years, you learn the business. How do you end up getting on the investment side?
Ellie: Not right away. At some point, I told myself, "I want to move to the US because I believe that this is where I'm going to have the opportunity to grow." But I didn't know how to do it exactly. The way that I was able to make a decent living was through education. I was born to a pretty poor family and through education, I put myself on a path to becoming a lawyer and making a decent living. So I just replicated the same way because that's what I knew, and I said, "Of course, why not shoot for the moon?" And that's what I did and I got into MIT.
I said, "You know what? That's a good ticket. That's a good way to enter the US. I'll go to a reputable school, I'll learn." I have an MBA, "I'll learn more about finance, financials marketing, the business side because I had legal experience and education. I had actual knowledge of how to operate properties, but that part of really reading, interpreting financial reports, building models, running numbers, all of those things, I didn't have that, and that was the missing piece for me.
I spent several years there and got my MBA degree. It was really interesting. Two years where I learned a lot about the American culture, about the business culture, and learned how to talk to investors. I was working with a startup while I was going to school and we raised $5 million during the summer.
Getting the First Deal With an Abundance Mindset
Ellie: That was the first time that I understood how money flows and I understood that there's money out there. There's no shortage of money. You just need to present to investors the right opportunity and back it up with numbers and a very clear vision of how they're going to make money. I implemented that, and after I graduated, basically I started Blue Lake Capital and that's what I do today. I bring investors to deals with me and I show them the path of how they're going to make money.
Darin: Fantastic. You come to 2014, you go to MIT, you're there for two years, you graduate in 2016, and then you start at Blue Lake in 2017. You've got a fantastic foundation. You start the company, but how do you get your first deal? How did you put yourself out there? Getting the first deal, it can be the biggest challenge.
Ellie: Yes. And I hear that question a lot from aspiring syndicators who want to get the first deal. It's the chicken and the egg. You want to have the first deal, but investors are not going to invest with you if you don't have experience. Brokers are not going to want to work with you and bet on you if you've never closed the deal before. But how are you going to do it if nobody's going to give you a chance to do your first deal? I tried whatever I could.
I was working for a tech company, I quit my job and I focused only on building Blue Lake. Again, people thought I went mad because I was making it very easy from 10:00 to 4:00. I had a very laid back job, made six figures.
Leverage From Someone's Experience
Ellie: It was the easiest money I've ever had and the most boring thing I've ever done because I felt that I had so much more potential. I felt that I was using 10% of my brain and capabilities. And I think when you don't have money, all you can think of is make money because I didn't have enough even to buy food at some point.
When you make money, it stops being about money and you can think, "Okay, what do I want? Am I fulfilled or am I not fulfilled?" And money is secondary once you get it.
Darin: I would agree with that and I would say that you probably had the same experience. There's probably 85 – 90% of people that feel the way you felt. But the difference is, when they make that money, they end up buying the nicer car, the nicer house, and then they're a slave to the debt that they've taken on. So for one reason or another, one, you dared to quit and put your focus towards this. And secondly, you must have put some money aside and lived below your means to give you the running room to do that.
Ellie: To your question, you asked me, how did I do the first deal? I partnered with someone that was more experienced. And I think that is the best way to enter multifamily and to become a syndicator. I took, I think it was all the money that I had left at that point and I paid a mentor. So I was looking for a mentor. I interviewed several of them and I went with the person that I thought had achieved what I wanted to achieve in a relatively short period.
Neutralize the Ego and Have an Abundance Mindset Instead
Ellie: I paid for a mentor, and then I partnered with someone that was more experienced than me and that way I solved the chicken and the egg problem. I've found a way to add value to their deal. When I brought investors to the deal, my lack of experience was irrelevant. First of all, I had a legal background in real estate, I was a property management manager, so I had some relevant experience, but not direct experience. But my lack of experience in owning and managing multifamily was irrelevant because my partner had a lot of experience, my JV partner.
It wasn't even an issue because investors invest with people they like and trust. So if they liked me, they trusted me, but they also trusted my JV partner's experience. That was my way of getting the first deal.
I wasn't paid that much, I wasn't controlling the deal, but to grow as a businessman or a businesswoman, I've learned pretty early on that you got to neutralize your ego. My ego was a little bit bruised because I wanted to have the first deal and run it on my own. That was my vision, my passion to run a company, but this is not how you start.
I could have done it on a deal and taken a lot of risks and put investor's money at risk. But I put my ego aside and I said, "Okay, this is not going to be your deal 100%, but it's not his deal 100% either because you're a partner on this deal and that's okay." That's how I did it.
Darin: Listeners, listen up to that.
Abundance Mindset Produces Smart Decisions
Darin: Two things that she said, one is, she hired a mentor. So she hired somebody that had already done it and can teach her how to do it. And then secondly, I would wholeheartedly agree with Ellie. It's different if you want to buy a duplex, or a fourplex, or something like that. But if you want to get into large scale multifamily, I believe you will not win a deal if you are not partnered with an experienced syndicator.
The reason being is, these deals are so competitive that there's always three or four groups that are pretty close together. The broker is not going to take a chance on somebody that they don't have any experience with. So they're going to recommend the seller to go with the proven buyer. Ellie was smart that as she said, she put her ego aside, but I don't know if I would say it that way. She was smart because it was a higher percentage opportunity to get into the game by doing that, taking a smaller piece. And so I applaud you for doing that.
Now since that time, as I said I got into it like the last three years, and I see you as a speaker at almost every major multifamily conference. So how did you go from, "Hey, I just want to get into my first deal," to being a leader in the space?
Ellie: I think it could have happened at the same time, and it didn't just happen. It was a very carefully planned path. The first thing that I did was hire team members that could help me create content, position me as a thought leader, and I knew a lot about multifamily.
Find a Way to Add Value to the Table
Ellie: I wasn't the smartest person or the most experienced, but I didn't present myself at the beginning like this. I said, "Hey, I know a little bit about multifamily, let me share this knowledge with you."
I found a way to add value to passive investors, basically saying, "Hey, this is how I underwrite deals. Hey, these are the three things you need to look at when you're looking at a package that a syndicator sends you, or this is how I raise rents." Just shared information, things that I've been learning and implementing. I had a team, few people, not a huge team, and you can pay them by the hour. If you're on a very tight budget, you can even hire them from abroad, which I have not done, but I know that others are doing it.
It could be $7 to $10 an hour if it's outside of the US. I chose to go with a US team because I had different considerations, but you can do that and make sure that your team is putting content out there. That was one part of it. The second part is I networked. I spent a lot of money on networking. Flew to every conference that I was targeting. Usually conferences, they don't target passive investors, they're so passive. They're not going to pay for a ticket and get a hotel room for three days. There are exceptions. I did meet some passive investors, but I met a lot of young syndicators, a lot of students that were in the same program as my former mentor's program.
All the people that I've partnered since that first deal or people that I either met at conferences early on when I was still a student. I met others.
The Importance of Networking
Ellie: If you meet someone, you see if you like them, you see, "Okay, can they bring a deal? Can they bring capital? How can we work together?" And then as I grew my business, I started meeting people that became my JV partners and my friends on stage. When I was speaking on stage and someone else was speaking on stage, then off stage you're connecting, you're talking, and that's how you build a business.
Others find one or two partners and they form a company and they run this way. But there are many ways to do it, but hiring a team to create a good foundation for online presence and networking with people. A lot of people that I've met in conferences were running their podcasts or conferences and they've invited me to be there. A combination of putting content online, and networking, and I was flying every month, I think, to a different conference, every two months.
That's how I built my brand and started getting invited to conferences and podcasts. Once you start doing that, it's like a snowball because the industry is not that huge, and everyone is looking around to see who's a good speaker? Who's an interesting person to be on the show? It's usually a rotation of the same people.
Darin: Absolutely. You said a few things there. People talk a lot about, "You gotta get out there and network, you gotta get out there and network," but then some people may hear that and they say, "What's the value to that?" And you answered it. The people that you partnered with are people that you met at these conferences. So you had to invest in yourself.
Surrounding Yourself With Like-Minded People
Darin: You didn't just invest in yourself by hiring a mentor, you continued to invest in yourself by paying to go to these conferences, and then you met these different people.
You started surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Some that were below you. When I say below you, I just mean looking to get their first deal and you can help educate them. Then others that have more experience than you, and they can teach you. That's what's great about this industry. And if you go out there and network and get to know people, people want to help each other. That's fantastic.
Another thing you said early on was, and I want to get your take on this. You started talking about cash flow, you said, "My mindset wasn't really that way initially, but now it is." And I have to say, I fall into that same bucket where I just got into the multifamily space about three years ago. I've been in several different industries and I've run my own business. But I grew up with the mentality of, work hard, climb the corporate ladder, put some money aside, put it in the stock market and grow your nest egg, and eventually, someday you'll retire and then you can pull from that nest egg.
But when I started networking, and I hired a mentor, and I started getting around other people in this business, they talked to me about cash flow. They talked to me and gave me a mindset shift. "Hey Darin, it's not important in terms of how big that nest egg is. Look at buying assets that produce cash flow, then have your lifestyle be less than what the cash flow coming in is. Then you don't have to worry about how big that nest egg is."
What Is an Abundance Mindset?
Darin: I hadn't had somebody say it to me before, but I completely agreed. It’s like, they say "You spend 30 years building up this nest egg, you don't want to pull it down, you don't want to, all of a sudden, take away from it then see it going down." That puts yourself in a position that you're going to live a pretty meager lifestyle because you're not wanting to pull that big nest egg down. So what are your thoughts there?
Ellie: I think my point of view is a bit different. I had a shift in mindset. At first, like many, many people, I had a scarcity mindset. There's an infinite amount of money in this world. I get X and I'm producing Y, whatever it is. The focus on my expenses at some point was so tiring to me and I said I had to shift.
When I did that, and of course it was with the help of books, and podcasts, and things that I was inspired by, was basically to an abundance mindset, which means there's enough money out there. There's no shortage of money.
Once you say that and you believe in that, it changes you. It changes the way that you behave, even when you speak with an investor. If you're in the back of your mind, have a scarcity mentality, and you think, "I need to get money for this deal. I may or may not be able to raise it." These fears tend to manifest themselves and become reality sometimes. Investors are going to feel your fear, your concern, and even on a subconscious level, some of them were a bit more tuned to that and would pick it up and would not invest.
Abundance Mindset Is a Positive Mindset
Ellie: And when you have that abundance mindset, that positive mindset that says, "Really, everything is possible." I wasn't even here six years ago and I was able to build wealth, I'm not going to say beyond my dreams because I have pretty big dreams, but it was pretty significant. I didn't think I would do it so quickly. And it was the hardest thing I've ever done, obviously, and it's still very hard. But to your question, my focus, the shift was, how do I grow my income and not so much, how do I cut my costs? How do I cut my expenses so I have enough to live comfortably?
I never thought of saving for retirement because retirement was so far off, and I still never do. And I don't have a 401(k). I don't believe in 401(ks), to be honest with you. There's a reason why most of the wealth is being held by a very small percentage of the population. And those people at the very top, they're not concerned about pensions or 401(ks) because in my opinion, and some listeners might not like what I say, but it's a limiting belief and limited thinking.
I'm not saving pennies or a few dollars and then add more and more until I have enough when I retire. I want to live comfortably even before that. The focus is not to save some money and protect it so I have enough when I retire, it's starting to build wealth when I'm still young. And I think that shift was very helpful for me in building my business.
Darin: I completely agree, and the people that are in this business have that abundance mindset, and that's why they are open to sharing.
Talk About Fear
Darin: Why is somebody that has six properties going to help the guy that gets the first? Because they have an abundance mindset. Look, there's something about being a human on this earth that, yes, we all want to be successful, and part of that is financial success and financial freedom, and part of that is time freedom. And part of that is just the joy of helping other people.
You can do that by charitable donations, et cetera, or getting involved in church, but you can also do that just by helping other people achieve their goals and dreams. This industry is fantastic about helping each other. Part of the reason why I guess is that one, they have an abundance mindset, and two, there's a lot of partnering that goes on. You may not partner with them today, but three years down the road, you might.
You mentioned fear. Talk about a time you were afraid and how you were able to push past that fear. And talk about making the decisions to quit two times. One time you quit being an attorney and you went to become a property manager. You knew before you did it, I'm sure. You didn't say it, but I'm sure you did. So you knew that your parents, your friends, family, and colleagues were going to judge you based on that decision, but you still did it. So you had to have some fear, talk about fear, and how you push past it.
Ellie: I was afraid not to do it. And I was afraid to stay in an unfulfilling place. I guess I don't know why, but that was my real fear.
It Takes Time to Fulfill Your Dreams
Ellie: Fast-forward, when I'm 50 years old and I'm still sitting here and not achieving my dreams and my goals, I think that was scarier than quitting. That's why I'm a huge believer in education. I was a lawyer, I had that diploma, I passed the bar. If I fail by taking another route, I can always get a job.
Same after MIT, I was working in a very cushy job. If Blue Lake is not going to work, I can always go back, nobody's going to take the three degrees that I've collected and it's always something I can fall back to. That brings me a lot of comfort and that neutralizes the fear. I think another part of it is, what's the worst that can happen, really? If you try to break it down to why. And it was scary, it was scary to quit my job and start this. It took me time, I didn't just do it.
There was a time that elapsed where I was getting ready to make that move and I could financially afford it at least a second time and it was still very uncomfortable. It was still a little scary, but you get to a point where you're ready when you're thinking about it and you're analyzing it, and you say,
You know what? It's much scarier to stay in an unfulfilled position. I want to do this.
You just need to let some time pass.
Darin: I applaud you. I think that people that do it, they can lean back on prior times that they felt that uncomfortable feeling and they took action anyway.
Ellie: And it worked.
Darin: And it worked. That helps the next time you're uncomfortable to go and push past that.
Get Advice From People With an Abundance Mindset
Darin: But you said something that I've heard a lot of people say the same thing, other very successful syndicators, that they think what's the worst thing that could have happened? Really, what's the worst thing that can happen. And then what's the best thing that can happen? Typically, when they look at it that way, they're like, "You know what? I could live with the worst-case scenario, but the best-case scenario is so much better. It's worth going after."
I think that there's a lot of people in this world because you can always find a reason not to do something. Find a reason not to take action. Not to leave your job, to stay where you're at. And not to move, not to start your own business, not to get into an investment. There are always reasons. I interviewed somebody three or four weeks ago and he's like, when I first started investing, I had people tell me, "You're crazy, it's top of the market." He's like, "Those same people, 10, 15 years later still have not invested."
Ellie: But you know what? That's exactly it. When people give you advice, look at how well they are doing in the same area. If someone never made a fortune by investing in real estate, how can they give you the right advice? They don't know, they've never done it, or they've never done it successfully. It's like if you're having issues with your partner, you're not going to go to a friend of yours that has been divorced three times to get advice about relationships, right? Why are people getting advice from others that are not financially successful? These are exactly the limiting beliefs that led them to where there are today, and there's a reason why they're there.
Fear Is Not a Bad Thing
Ellie: There's a reason why there's 1% of the population that holds most of the wealth in the world. I can guarantee you, most of them were afraid at some point, and they still did it. Of course, they took a calculated risk, but they were uncomfortable and it's good.
Fear is sometimes good. We're trained to think that fear is a bad thing, it's supposed to protect us. It's not.
Of course, I'm not going to jump from the roof without a harness and the right equipment, but sometimes acting against your fears if it's reasonable and you're taking the right precautions, it's a good thing.
Fear is something that grounds you and tells, "Be like everyone else. Stay here, this is safe." Don't listen to it. You got to work against fear, and this is how you grow. If you're comfortable, you're never going to grow.
All the people around you, look at Sam Zell, a very successful real estate, entrepreneur, and investor.
Darin: Probably the top. He's a billionaire real estate guy.
Ellie: I read his biography. He took risks, he worked super hard but he didn't let fear bind him and dictate what he's going to do. And so if you want to learn how to do it, you want to be inspired, pick up books and read about successful real estate, entrepreneurs, and developers, and investors. That's what helps me because when I was reading those books, I said, "Wait a minute, I can do that. It's not that scary."
Darin: Awesome mindset! You talked about fear and moving through it, and that it's a good thing. You said that several times. And it made me think that the times that I have fear and I push forward anyway is when I feel alive.
Bringing People From Different Asset Classes
Darin: You feel alive, you feel like you're stretching yourself. Just like working out and you're trying to lift heavier weight. You're pushing yourself to do something you haven't done before and the journey many times to me is so fulfilling. When you get to the actual end goal, yes, it's nice to have that financial reward and that scorecard, but it's like, "Okay, what's next?" Because that's what the juices get flowing.
Now, your podcast isn't just about multifamily. You bring on people from many different asset classes, but you tend to focus on investing in multifamily. So my question to you is twofold, one, why do you choose multifamily over other real estate classes? And secondly, why do you choose to bring on people outside of that area?
Ellie: I bring people that are investing not only multifamily because I'm also a curious person, I always want to learn. Right now I love multifamily. I don't think I'm going to stop buying, but maybe I want to venture out and diversify. I'm also a passive investor, so I like to hear about other asset classes that I might invest in passively. And I think it also opens up my audience a bit more because you have people who are flippers and they want to listen to an episode about flipping homes, and then they stick around and they hear about multifamily and they become my investors.
My main audience are passive investors, they don't invest only in multifamily, they also like to invest in self-storage. They like to invest in student housing sometimes, so they have a little bit of everything. The main focus is multifamily, but you have also some episodes about other asset classes and strategies.
Ellie: The reason why I like multifamily, I think it's pretty simple. I used to be a tenant before, so I understand the needs of a tenant and how management is being perceived.
I used to live in an okay building, I used to live in class A buildings, and I understand how the needs are different from one class to another. The increasing demand for multifamily is just overwhelming. You have Gen Z that doesn't want to buy a house because they like the freedom of getting a job in San Francisco, and then two years later move to New York. They're delaying the age of marriage and having kids, so they want to have the flexibility. Even if they're going to buy a single-family home for investment, they want to have the ability to move.
We're not in the '50s and '60s any more where you wanted, you're in your early 20s, you got married, have kids, you have one home where you hope to stay until your last day. Things have changed. You also have another big portion of the US population, which is baby boomers and they're empty-nesters, so many times they move to a smaller condo, or they're renting a place because they want someone to take care of everything. They don't want to handle the hassle of managing a house, especially a big house that is empty now.
The combinations of Gen Z and baby boomers' needs, in addition to the fact that it's getting harder every year to get a mortgage and buy a single-family home, even if interest rates are down, now, it's much harder to qualify for a mortgage. So a lot of young couples, young professionals tend to rent until they have enough net worth to purchase a house.
Sky's the Limit When You Have Abundance Mindset
Ellie: So I just see the demand for multifamily growing. And you make money where you're investing in something that has a high demand. For me, it's a pretty simple choice, I think.
Darin: You brought up a great point. I don't think that all the syndicators focus on that, but there has been a shift with the population, both on the younger generation and also the older generation. The younger generation used to buy homes at an earlier age, and they're delaying that. The baby boomers, everyone thought they were going to sell the big mansion and then move to Florida and buy another house, and a lot of them are selling the house, but they're moving into apartments.
That was a big surprise for a lot of people, but because of that, you have more and more renters. That's more and more competition that helps put pressure on increasing the rental prices. You answered that you're very curious and that you like to learn. That's one thing that I love about this business too, is that I like building relationships, I like doing deals. But I also like to learn. I like to read books and learn, and one of the other things I love about this business is that there's no limit, there's no ceiling.
It's all that your mind can believe, and then going out and building relationships with investors that can help make that happen. You can start with 100-units or 60-units and then do a 200-units, and then 300-units, and a 500 unit, and then buy a portfolio. And then like you're saying, "You could go and start looking at different asset classes, self-storage, hotels, office. You could build a skyscraper, you could build a shopping complex. There really is no limit.
Abundance Mindset Takes Courage & Confidence
Darin: Say, you're a sales guy in a big tech firm, you're looking at the guys that are making a killing in the company. There's a big ramp up, and you're trying to chase them and get there. But once they get there, it's really hard for them to continue to blow it out and grow it. They start over every year. You top out at a certain point. But with real estate, you just build it on top of each other. You're buying an investment, then maybe you get into a larger investment, and you put that on top, and then it's all that your mind can achieve.
I love that curiosity. And I love that you have a lot of courage and confidence that you're going to be successful. I think a lot of people can learn from that.
Ellie: Thank you. Don't get me wrong, people doubted me my whole life because my goals were perceived as too ambitious. I was often called too ambitious by people that were very, very close to me. When I was 19 years old, I wanted to become a lawyer. You needed to get a certain score in the Israeli equivalent of SAT, and I got the results in the mail. I was so nervous to open it. My ex-husband at that time who is not my husband anymore held the envelope. I said, "I'm too nervous, I can't look at it. Please tell me what my score is. I wanna know if I got into law school."
He looked at it, I remember he was looking at me where we were standing right outside the post office. And he looked at the envelope and looked at me and said, "You're never gonna be a lawyer."
"Just Watch Me"
Ellie: And that's why he's not my husband anymore. One of many reasons, but I remember looking at him and grabbing the note. The letter, looking at my score, it wasn't the highest. And I said, "Oh, yes, I will." Then I spent 18 months taking the test again and again to improve my grades. Not only did I get in, maybe not with the highest grade, but I finished with excellence. I think with a 93 average out of 100, because we don't have the ABCD scaling in Israel. And then when I said, "I will become a successful real estate owner. I don't know how I'm going to own real estate."
People who were very, very close to me, who wanted the best for me tried to shield me from disappointment. They said, "You're shooting for too much, it's too high. You're too ambitious, it's going to hurt you." And I said, "No, just watch me." Then when I wanted to go to MIT, I hired a company to help me understand what to write in the essays, help me navigate through the GMAT, et cetera.
And they looked at my history, my scores, everything else. They said, "You know what? MIT is a stretch, we don't think you'll make it." I said, "Just watch me." And so people, yes, they doubted me because they thought that I can't do it.
I don't know if it's courage, I just decided that's what's going to happen. And when you do that, you change your behavior. The decisions you make on the conscious and subconscious level.
You might feel that it's a bit forced at first, you don't believe what you're saying to yourself that you're going to make it.
Abundance Mindset Starts From Within
Ellie: I just decided and I said, "No, I'm going to get to one of the top schools." I applied to Harvard, I applied to Stanford. And I didn't get into them, but I got into MIT, and I said, "You know what? I'll take it." Not only did I get in, but I also got a scholarship. And I remember going back to the guys that helped me and I said, "Hey, just want to let you know, I got in, I got a scholarship." And they said, "What?" They couldn't believe it.
So yes, I worked super hard to get in there. I spent about 10 or $12,000 to get there. I paid them by the hour, but I got there. And I think just an abundance mindset is everything. It's not just rah-rah, it's whatever strategy. It helped change my life.
And it starts from within, just believe in yourself.
Darin: You defined yourself, where so many people are going to let other people define who they are and what they can be. And you stood up for yourself and you defined yourself. That's awesome. I applaud your new husband, I haven't met him but I'm sure that he encourages you to go after that next dream and he's not somebody who tried to put you down and keep you in place.
Darin: But what an inspiration to so many people. Men and women both have the same opportunity, but I feel like men go after financial success more, and it's nice to have women as examples of, you know what? I want to do this, I'm going to make it happen. And then you're a shining example to other people.
Ellie's Humble Beginning
Darin: I have a senior in high school, my daughter. My son's a sophomore in college, but my daughter is a senior in high school. I want her to know people like you that stand up for themselves and believe in themselves so much that even if they hear, "You can't do that," it doesn't stop them.
I talk in terms to my kids, "Do you have thin skin or thick skin?" You need to have thick skin. Because no matter what you want to do, there's going to be people that tell you no, and you have to be able to brush it off and move on. That's an awesome story.
You grew up in Israel, are you an only child? Do you have brothers and sisters? Where did you fit in? You mentioned that you didn't grow up wealthy, you grew up more on the poor side. So give us a little flavor on how you grew up.
Ellie: I'm the oldest of four kids. My entire childhood, my mom was very sick and couldn't take care of us. My dad was unemployed for many years for several reasons. They were both unhealthy and sick at some point. I assumed the role of the parent many times, I remember heating lunch for me and my siblings. Sitting down, doing homework with them, helping them take a shower.
We lived in a small community, we we're the poorest by far. I was teased by my friends at school because they were donating clothes for my family. You go to school with a new shirt, found in a box that someone put outside your door and it belonged to your neighbor and they teased you for it because that's what kids do.
Embrace the Past With a Smile
Darin: I wouldn't have thought of that. From your social media and your presence, you're very fashionable. So to think that you grew up that way, it's very humbling.
Ellie: Yes. We were not hungry because my parents always found ways to put food on the table. Around the holidays, again, people would leave boxes with food. So I can't say some people are hungry in this world. I was not hungry, hungry, but when we were buying shoes, my parents always bought shoes that were two, three sizes bigger because I needed to grow into the shoe. There was no money to go and buy a shoe every six or 12 months. These are your shoes for three years.
It shapes you and I think you decide what to do with it. You can fall into that victim's place and say, "I'm the poorest. We don't have money. This is terrible." Or you can say, "I'm going to do whatever I can not to be in this place. It is what it is, I'm going to take care of my family and I'm going to build wealth so I don't need to buy my kids shoes that are three sizes bigger." My shoes were terrible. I was a tomboy. And I was running in the mud and they were always too big, too dirty, and too old. But these are my shoes and I embrace it. That's my past, I embrace it with a smile because you know what? It makes every dollar that I make today much, much sweeter.
Ellie: You choose how to perceive a certain experience. It's easy to say or it’s hard to do.
Decide and Take the Chance
Ellie: I don't know why it was easier for me than others. Maybe it was a combination of my parents supporting me as a child. I remember they used to say, "You can do whatever you want."
Darin: That's great that they said that.
Ellie: Yes. And I believed in it, and maybe that's why. You think that I'm courageous, I'm not. I've been told my entire childhood that I can do whatever I want so I assumed that it was true. So when someone is telling me, "You can't get into MIT," or, "You're never going to be a lawyer." I said, "No, I can do whatever I want and I want to be a lawyer. I want to have an MBA from MIT, and that's what I'm going to do."
Darin: That's awesome. You said the word decide, and I think that that's such a powerful thing. You decided that that's not going to define you. It's going to help propel you and motivate you to have a different life. Where some people in that same circumstance may decide, you know what, I'm not good enough. I'm born to this type of lifestyle and I'm just going to do what life gives me. Look, if there are listeners out there, I know there are, there are people that they have it in their gut.
It's like being in church and you feel like the pastor is talking to you. You have it in your gut that you want to do something different, but you're afraid to do it and you're afraid to fail, but when are you going to do it? You gotta do it at some point, you got to take a chance because that's part of living, that's part of life.
Be Accountable With Your Actions
Darin: The other things that came to mind about how you grew up were one; being the oldest of four children and your parents for one reason or another, whether sickness or whatnot. You had to shoulder more responsibility at an earlier age, so you learned responsibility and how to be responsible for not only yourself but also your younger siblings, which is a great quality. You didn't mention this, but I wonder if there is also a little bit of resentment that you had to be put in that position, or did you not look at it that way at all?
Ellie: No, Darin, there's zero resentment. I grew up to this, that's all I knew. So I assumed that was normal until I grew up a little bit more. Then instead of being resentful, I said, "This is the situation. I'll do whatever I can to not be in that position again when I'm old enough to take care of myself." Because when I made that realization, I think I was about 11 years old or so, and I was still living with my parents. It's not that I could go out there and start buying real estate at that age.
Darin: That's great. And it goes to your character and the way you look at things, you decide. You are accountable for your situation and you're not making excuses. You're not taking the victim card, so that's very consistent with everything that you said. Help us understand, now you're in the multifamily world and you start to raise capital. Where do you get most of your passive investors? How did you build relationships?
Building Relationships With an Abundance Mindset
Darin: We talked about how you build relationships on the JV side by going to conferences and whatnot. How did you build relationships with passive investors who typically invest with you?
Ellie: I think investors that invest with me are those who see something in me that they recognize within themselves, that they can relate to. I have a lot of lawyers for instance because I used to be a lawyer. I have also investors that are in the tech industry because they respect my education experience in the tech industry and because MIT is a very technology-oriented school. A lot of first or second generations of immigrants because they relate to my story of immigrating to this country and starting something from scratch.
Some of them are small business owners, some of them have sold their companies, and they're retired, and they only invest passively. I would say 95% of my investors came through my website. They either listen to my podcast or listen to one of my guest appearances like on this one, for instance, or they read my Forbes article or some content that I put out there. They go to check out my website and there's a form there that says, "If you want to invest with Ellie, leave your information here."
If you want to talk to me about investing together, that's basically how most of my investors, and at some point, my brand got enough attention that I started getting the big players' attentions, the family offices, the preferred equity groups, the big groups out there that started reaching out to me and say, "Hey, we want to invest with you." And I think my investors like that I have those large players investing with me because they have a lot of resources.
Ellie Outside Business
Ellie: They're vetting the sponsor, they're vetting the deal. They have an entire team of underwriters that look into all of that. And some investors say, "Hey, you know what? If a family office is investing, I want to invest also because I know that these guys are putting a lot of effort into vetting the deal." That's how it's being done.
Darin: That's a great point. What do you like to do outside of business? Outside of work?
Ellie: I love snow skiing. I go a little bit in Canada, Mont-Tremblant, for instance. I like to ski in Reno, Nevada, in Colorado, all over the place.
Darin: I love skiing as well. I grew up in Connecticut in the Northeast. Connecticut doesn't have any nice mountains, so we would drive up to Vermont and ski on the weekends. Then I lived in South Florida for 14 years, and when you're living in the sunshine every day, it was nice to get to Colorado or Utah in the winter and get some skiing in. I've been in Dallas now for 10 years and I have yet to go skiing since I've been here.
I need to get back into it. I had people when I got to Dallas say, "You gotta go to Colorado during the summer." And we've done that several times and it's beautiful. Colorado has the summer beautiful weather and then the winter, skiing. If people want to get in touch with you, it sounds like your website is the best way to reach out to.
Ellie: My website is simple, ellieperlman.com. You can also Google my name, Ellie Perlman, and you'll see links to things that I've been writing. To my website, I would say that's the best way to reach out to me.