I had the pleasure of chatting with Andrey Sokurec, who shared his inspirational story. First immigrating to the US with no money and not a word of English, Andrey is now at the helm of Homestead Road, the largest real estate company in Minnesota.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your company.
My name is Andrey Sokurec and I am the co-founder and CEO of Homestead Road, the largest home buying company in Minnesota. Since 2009 we’ve helped over 700 customers sell their home “as is”, without paying for repairs or real estate commissions. Homestead Road has more than 25 employees, earned $32 million in revenue last year, and made INC 5000’s List of Fastest Growing Companies in 2018. We are also proud to maintain a AAA Rating from the Better Business Bureau and to have been a finalist for their Torch Award for Ethics.
I am also a real estate investor, mentor and the founder of the Midwest Real Estate Investment Association.
Please tell us about your life before immigrating to the US.
I was born in Belarus in 1981 to a highly educated family of doctors, lawyers, and engineers. My two brothers and I were encouraged to go to college and build professional careers, too. I earned a degree in finance and in business law and went to work for a bank, but I knew that I wanted to own my own business one day.
I did start a small business on the side with a friend, supplying convenience shops with things like juices and chocolate, but that venture failed. With strict government regulations on business and a salary of only $500 a month at the bank, I knew I would never be able to create the kind of future I wanted in Belarus. So, I took a leap of faith and followed my older brother Pavel to Minnesota, where he had moved a few years earlier.
Please tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to own my own business and that the United States was the best country in the world for building a business.
After working construction when I first arrived in Minnesota, I found a job as a loan officer for a bank in 2005. It was 100% commission based, so if I didn’t sell, I didn’t get paid. Because I didn’t speak English well, I looked up people with Russian last names in the phone book and literally made cold calls from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
I spent any extra time I had reading more business books and attending seminars to learn about ways to build wealth. I knew real estate investing was a time-tested way of doing that. At that time investors could buy property for zero down in America, which was completely unheard of in Belarus. I bought my very first rental property at the urging of my mentor who told me if I didn’t buy it, he would.
When the real estate market collapsed in 2008, I saw a great opportunity to begin buying more property. I had no money of my own to invest at that time and the loans that had been so freely available suddenly dried up. So, I wrote a business plan and began searching for investors to provide the capital.
My plan was to buy a house with the investor’s money, then I would fix it up and manage it, and eventually, we’d sell it and split the profit. I went through hundreds of “no’s” to get to the occasional “yes”, and I began building from there.
My biggest advantage at that time was my previous experience as a door to door salesman selling pest control products in college back in Belarus. In those days, I literally knocked on thousands of doors and met people from every walk of life. That experience served as my most valuable business school because it taught me never to give up.
When I started Homestead Road with a business partner in 2009, we had to rely on hard money lenders to provide the capital to buy multiple houses at 48% interest. It was a huge risk, but there was no other choice than to go all in and do everything we could to make it work.
Today, in 2019 money is much more freely available and we’ve grown to be a $32 million dollar company with more than 25 employees. There’s still stress there, of course — we have a huge payroll to cover every month in a business where margins are slim.
Looking back, why do you think you have been successful? Was there any specific decision, event or encounter that skyrocketed your success? Also what advice do you have for newly arrived immigrants that want to pursue the path of entrepreneurship?
I’m really proud of the business that we’ve built and the reputation we have for being an ethical company. The key to Homestead Road’s success has been our dedication to having a great culture — it started with a vision, a strong set of core values and hiring the right people. We are dedicated to doing the right thing and serving people well. If you don’t go the extra mile, you won’t be successful.
My best advice is to start by finding at least one mentor. Look for someone who has been in your shoes and can help you learn the ropes and keep you inspired when things get challenging. Expect that there will be setbacks al