You will be twice as happy doing what you love. But sometimes, you just have to put your passions on hold because it could be holding you back. Then once you earn enough money doing something like real estate, you can go back to your passion or dream job. That is the story of Whitney Sewell, the Founder of Life Bridge Capital and the Life Bridge Foundation. Whitney is living his dream because of his focus on relationship building in real estate. Walkthrough the life of Whitney with your host, Merrill Chandler – from his life in the military to horses, syndication, and adoption. Also, find out how the Life Bridge Foundation connects to his business in syndication.
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Horses, Syndications, And Adoptions With Whitney Sewell
How To Use Real Estate To Reach All Your Dreams
In this episode, I have got a great guest for you. Whitney Sewell, for years has been in the real estate marketplace but specifically in syndications passive income. For those of us who would rather have a passive income with aggressive returns and not have to do the fixing, the flipping, the monitoring, the holding and all of it. When we get back, we’re going to talk to Whitney and you’re going to be amazed at some of his lifetime goals. What is his Z and how he’s accomplished it in a few short years?
It is my pleasure to be able to bring a gentleman on as our guest. I was on his show and we had a blast. This guy knows more than anybody else that I’ve ever met because he paid the price. I’d like to introduce Whitney Sewell. Whitney, welcome to the show where it’s our job, you and me, to help our readers and subscribers get fundable. Once I’ve helped them get credit lines, business loans, commercial loans in their little hand, they want to know what to do with it, hence why you’re here. Please introduce yourself and tell us the good, bad and ugly of how you got to be sitting here in my studio and we’ll pick it up from there.
Merrill, a pleasure to be here. I looked back and you were on my show in 2020. It’s so incredible to meet you and know your story as well. It’s grateful to be here now. Personally, in apartment syndicator, we buy larger apartment communities mostly in Colorado in Idaho. I have under 1,000 units out there about $150 million worth. We scaled quickly in the syndication business but if you want, I’m happy to go back. I’ll tell you a little story about how I got to where we’re at now.
Everybody is starting where you started. I started back in the day. People don’t want to know what I know now. They want to know that they can get there too. Give us that origin story. In sixth grade, when your assignment was, what do you want to be when you grow up? Was it an apartment complex syndicator?
Real estate was not on my radar at all at that point, by no means. Ultimately, I had no clue. I had this desire to ride horses and train horses my whole life when I was at that age and still have a desire for that. In March of 2001, I decided to join the military. I was seventeen and thought it was the right thing to do. It was before our nation was attacked. I thought I want to serve. A best friend and I signed up together. What we found out was a couple of years later, we were spending a whole of 2005 in Iraq. Spent one year overseas, unfortunately not everyone in my squad made it home. I’m very thankful to be here.
One thing I say the military taught me is to have that never give up mentality. That has served me so well trying to become an entrepreneur and now becoming an entrepreneur. You get kicked in the face numerous times. You got to be willing to get back up and keep going. You’ve got to have some thick skin and have to be willing to keep moving forward if you’re going to be successful in any business. The military helped me with that. It’s not an option to give up when you’re in combat. Your buddies are counting on you to perform.
I came home from overseas trying to figure out what I was going to do. I love the uniform, the structure and the discipline. I decided policing was going to be the next route for me. Out of 1200 applicants and 5 positions, I was blessed to have one of those with Kentucky State Police. I loved to work on the road as a police officer. However, my wife and I got married about one year in and then we ended up passing each other in the hallway the first one year of marriage. I started seeing people retiring with 25, 30 years on, making $35,000 to $40,000 at the most. The writing was on the wall then that this is not what’s best long-term.Real estate is the number one millionaire-maker in America. Click To Tweet
That sent me on a push to figure out what else I could do. How can I supplement my income so we could have some more income? We wanted my wife to be able to stay at home when we had children but that was going to be very difficult. On $30,000 or $40,000 a year if I worked all the overtime I possibly could in a horrible schedule. We learned about real estate and I found out that not like 1 or 2 people have built wealth in real estate like hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have built wealth in real estate. It was almost as simple as if they can do it, I can do it too.
This was in 2009, we bought two triplexes and made a ton of mistakes. I learned a lot the hard way. Self-managed, we were newly married, added tons of stress to the marriage and all those things. We learned a lot. I became a federal agent and that moved us to Virginia where we still live now but I kept pursuing real estate and got up to a 15 unit. Believe it or not, during the same time I was a federal agent and I was also training horses professionally. I was riding and selling horses for more money than I ever imagined. My wife and I were at the beach one fall. We were walking, praying and thinking. I’m pretty much working two full-time jobs and doing some rentals up to 15 units and I say, “We can’t do this forever. It’s never going to be passive. I’m always going to have to be the one training the horses or the federal agent position, and all those things.” We decided it was time to cut everything off and go full out on the commercial real estate.
We decided at that time that it was all or nothing. I did hire a mentor during that time and we sold our farm. It was the place we dreamed of and we loved our place in but we knew that it was now or never. That was a hard day but I knew that we needed to cut that off completely so I could be completely committed to this syndication business. More I learned about syndication, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known about it so many years earlier. Push them to grow a small rental business, small multis and single-family is going to take so many and so much time to build up enough.
I started going to conferences in Maryland and I started meeting lots of people who had only been in the business for 1 or 2 years but they were buying 100 unit apartment buildings. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, if they can do it, I can do it too. I can figure this out and so we did. We pushed forward and we started the daily show. I started traveling and networking as hard as I can go building an investor base. It’s a big story from there. There are still a lot of details between partnerships and my business partner now. Being able to grow our investor base, providing great value to investors while running a great business around apartments and providing value to the tenants as well.
I’m still fascinated because when I heard Kentucky, I’m thinking Derby. I’m sitting here going when you’re training horses then this is a Kentucky boy. I’m going to say through and through. You were making so much money training and selling horses. Some people would say, “What are the yields on each?” While other people may not be training horses, they may be doing something that they love doing but it’s active, not passive. Will you speak to that in a little more depth? You made a decision to sell your farm to stop or at least suspend doing something that you loved because there was still a limitation to it. Will you speak to that belief?
It was very difficult. Often, when I’m speaking to people, I talk about it. It was a passion of mine since I was a little boy. I say, “You may have something that you’re very passionate about but it’s almost like holding your back to some extent. You’re still trying to do this thing but it may not be what’s best ultimately.” It was never my plan to quit altogether but I knew to grow our business. We had a growing family. We had started our third adoption process. We were moving. We sold our farm in committing to the syndication business. I was still working full-time and we were starting a daily show while doing deals now as well. It was as hard as I could go. I knew that was coming. I did know, honestly, how full my schedule was going to be. I did have to sell the farm and I knew that’s what was best. To give up that passion, even just the farm, we loved living out on that farm. I knew if I do this now, I’ll have horses again one day and we can have a better farm.
One of the things that I love about your story is that you set a timeframe of what you’re going to suspend. Whitney, to catch you up, in our tribes, we have what’s called our Z. In the A to Z of life, what’s your Z? What’s your end game? What’s the quality of life? It’s not your Y. That’s not the motivation behind your activities but it’s the quality of your life when you arrive daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually and at the end of your life. Your Z includes significantly horses and training but notice, guys, that he’s talking about how to establish a timeframe to say, “From here to here, we’re going to change how we make money and change how we influence the world so that when I come back to it, I’m Z times 3, Z times 5.” I want to acknowledge that. I want to stop and the same goes for you. We’re not saying, “Don’t go after your Z.” The question is, what’s the fastest track so that you can have the biggest possible quality of life for your life?
How fast do you want to get there even behind making it doing a daily show? How fast do you want it to happen? It about killed me making that happen but we did. We pushed forward and we did have to cut that off but we’re going to get a horse again. We’re back on the farm and our whole goal was to be able to leave the federal agent position as well when all that started. I had reached the height in state police then all of a sudden with the federal agent position. There was only so high I could go and it’s like, “Am I going to do this for 25 more years?
The question is, what do I want to do for the next 25 years? That wasn’t the answer. Tell us, you’re back on a farm. You’re back on a new horse. How long were you not in that game to give people a context of how long it took you to accelerate in moving a new path toward what I call wealth strategy? You choose syndication as your wealth strategy. You could choose cold fusion storage but we all have a wealth strategy. I don’t want to get lost in syndication, I want us to make the point that whatever wealth strategy. How long were you doing this wealth strategy before you now got the farm again and you’re next horse?
About 2.5 years, 3 years before the horse. It seems short when I say it like that. We put in three full-time jobs during most of that time. I’m almost not exaggerating. The stress level on the family during that time, there are so many stories of I would be in the home but my children knew that they wouldn’t see me until most Sundays. It’s the craziest thing when I look back. I would be taking investor calls or doing emails or whatever from 5:00 AM until 7:00 until I went to work for the federal agent position. I would come home and I would do 4 or 5 interviews for the daily show.
I would also take investor calls or be interviewed on other shows and whatnot. I would have two days a month where I would record fifteen interviews back to back nonstop because I knew that’s what I had to do. I’m like, “If that’s what we’re going to do, let’s go get it done.” It did take that level of commitment but I also say it took that same level of commitment from my wife and my children. I had to paint that vision of the farm and where we’re going for them as well because dad missed almost every meal except for dinner on Saturday and Sunday with them. We moved into town. I built two walls up in the corner of our basement. That was my office for two years. That’s where I lived. Unfortunately, that’s what it took.
The thing that I’m hearing you say, which is brilliant and what I want our readers might try to understand is that anything is possible with a plan. We talked about the creative strategist. That creative and strategic part of us being in full development, our full genius. Notice guys, 2.5 years but it was a plan, “Honey, children, this is what it’s going to look like and it’s going to be a sprint. It ends with everybody buys in then we’re responsible for the vision, not responsible to each other as husbands and wives or children. We’re responsible as a group to this vision.” You nailed it. 2.5 years you’re back with horses and your life is now more. You’re still busy. Tell us about your quality of life now after this massive sprint.Anything is possible with a plan. Click To Tweet
My whole life has completely changed. As much as anything, I’m in control of my schedule. Our team has more than doubled over 2020. We closed over $100 million in real estate in 2020. I almost can’t believe that we were able to raise almost $45 million from investors. Deals are filling up within like 3 to 6 hours. I’m so thankful for that but now, we’re back on the farm and we are getting a horse again. As I said, as much as anything, I’m in charge of my time. I’m blocking off my schedule, my calendar in the afternoons and on the weekends. Things like that where I would normally have been working during that time. Now I get that family time and it’s still not as much as I want but it’s so much better than it was for the last few years. It was so hard on the family but now I can be there and I have that time. If we want to go on a trip, I can. I have the freedom.
It’s the pivot and to pivot. It is a very stressful period. Thank you for sharing this part. I love the direction where we’ve got on here because I preach quality of life. We work on funding. We help people get funding so they can engage in their real estate investments in business endeavors but unless they know what they’re going to use that money for, what the end game is, what that Z is, then people sabotage themselves. They’ll create ad hoc failures because they’re not clear on where they’re going. This is a wonderful tale of success of a short pivot to go back to the quality of life you’d known since you were a little boy and you get to fulfill that but you get to train your job. What children do you have? Girls, boys and how many?
I’ve got two toddler boys and a baby daughter.
Their toddler’s dream is to go out with dad and ride horses, learn that part of the business and build their quality of life. Thank you for sharing that with me. In those hours you are working since you blocked some of your afternoons off, something that caught my ear. You said that some of your syndications and offerings, fill up within 3 to 6 hours. I want you to explain that but if something that big is filling that fast, you have to have a reputation for delivering the goods for people to be knocking each other down to get in line. Is that fair to say?
It is fair to say.
Tell us about that because I know I have a bunch of people who we’ve helped get funding and I want to know if you had $100,000. What is it that makes your deals so awesome? What is your focus on taking care of investors or keeping your promises, etc.? How do you do all that?
It’s not easy. I’ve got two sides of that as far as what we’re doing on our side but then from an investor standpoint, what they’re looking for in deals and the operator, those things. I get the question often from passive investors. I speak to many passive investors every week. That’s our goal. Doing this show and all this stuff, we’re trying to get in front of passive investors. In them to learn who we are and get on that phone so we can develop that relationship. It’s so crucial. They can know who you are. I tell investors that there are so many questions that they can ask about location, the property and the types of deals or the underwriting. All those things but before you do any of that, I want you to ask about the operator’s character.
I want you to figure out how they became who they are. I want you to know that there’s somebody that has an extremely high level of integrity. They’ve had to make some hard decisions. They’ve been in hard places. They’ve seen hard times. Whatever for me. It’s why I share about the military. Being overseas and law enforcement and federal agent. All those things are difficult. I tell investors, “Figure out who somebody is? How did they become who they are? Are they going to do right by you when times are tough?” That’s something I try to express but also, it’s our why, our mission and the way that we give back. Behind Life Bridge Capital, we have the Life Bridge Foundation.
It was our whole goal from the very beginning. My wife and I like to help families that are adopting children to be able to afford to adopt. We have three children through adoption and most people have no idea that it can cost $40,000 to $60,000 to bring a child home to adoption. There are 160 million orphans in the world. It’s horrible. The thing is there are plenty of families that would love to adopt but they say, “Whitney, that’s more than I’m making a year. How can we bring a child home if it’s going to cost that much?” We’ve created the Life Bridge Foundation. My wife and I commit half of our personal profits to that foundation. Believe it or not, in a few minutes, we have other donors as well.
We get to award three families very large grants. It’s our first time doing this. It’s a massive day for the business. It’s just a dream. Lord is in front of my wife and me to be able to help other families and It is the day. We got three families to stay in. We’re getting the horse. It is an amazing week. It’s a big thing, too. Why do investors love partnering with us? Not only do they get amazing returns and they get to share in that appreciation of owning real estate but not having to do any of the day-to-day management. They also know they’re sharing in helping us help these families adopt children too. There’s this even part of that they get to play a role in even though it doesn’t affect their returns at all.
First of all, congratulations. You’re helping these families now for a set of, I’m assuming, going to be dozens and then you’re picking up the horse or you’re starting that a return to your quality of life. It’s got to feel good what you’re doing. Your personal commitment to what is happening out in your world. You stated something that I’m a firm believer in and that was you said, “Before we get into the Jackson titles of the deal, let’s find out who each other are to build a relationship.” On our end, we call it relationship banking. We only want to build long-term relationships with high-level banks.
Tier one, tier two banks and we want those to be lifelong relationships. That’s part of what we do is we teach everybody how to create these relationships. Now you’re telling my tribe and they’re like, “This guy is coming from that exact same place and looking for the integrity of the operator.” What would you say is that things that make you unique because integrity is keeping your word. In addition to keeping your word, what makes you fun, cool and outrageous to work with? What makes you the guy that says, “I got four of these things to look at but holy hell, Whitney is the bomb?” What makes you special?To be successful in any business, you've got to have thick skin. You got to be willing to get back up and keep going. Click To Tweet
I was presenting to a group of guys and gals about syndication and whatnot. One question they ask is what makes you stand out? You mentioned something about integrity and doing what you say you’re going to do and all those things. We get to talking about that. I’ve interviewed over 1,000 people on the show. What I have found is I’ve met people who have businesses that they’re doing what I’m doing and have been doing for many years. I still find ways that I feel like we’re doing things better or we’re rising to a higher level whether it’s reporting. It is sometimes as simple as doing what you’re saying you’re going to do, which I find they’re not always. It’s not as common as you think it is but makes sure you’re doing what you say you’re going to do but it is.
Getting to know investors a little more on a personal level. When I first started in this business, I didn’t have any network or whatsoever. I couldn’t raise any money just a few years ago but what I started to notice is when I would go to a conference, say there are 100, 200, 300 people there, it doesn’t matter and we’re all there talking about real estate. You’re all saying, “What do you do? What’s your name?” You’re all going around like everybody knows at a conference or anywhere. If you’re all talking about real estate, they’re not going to have a clue who you are tomorrow.
As I said, I didn’t plan this but what I started noticing is that people ask me about the business and what we’re doing. I would share about our why, our mission, the Life Bridge Foundation and what’s behind that real estate business. They would have a lot more questions about that and then the next day or week later when I would follow up, even though they talked to 25 or 100 people, they would still know who I was. It was addressed differently. That set me apart from the very beginning because it was something they could see that I was passionate about. It was something that we could connect with on a much more personal level as opposed to real estate or business because that’s what everybody is talking about. We connected on that then we can talk about real estate.
I don’t know if this is a good analogy. That’s like writing a Shakespeare play but you spend time talking about the letters of the alphabet that no one is going to remember the letters of your conversation about what letters to use to write a Shakespeare play. They’re going to remember the play itself. Your commitment, when you work with people from a gathering, is that it is to connect on each other’s Y, connect on each other’s Z and find out what the end game is. Who they are and what they’re about and then real estate is a strategy.
We’re trying to be in the top 1%, no doubt about it. Our whole team knows that no matter what process it is, we’re always trying to improve it to be the best.
How can my tribe get ahold of you, find out more, attend any classes or webinars that you have ways in which they can get to know you and your come from and see what synergies might be out there?
Connect with Whitney at Life Bridge Capital. Thank you so much, Whitney for being here with me and sharing your Z. I love horses. I raised my girls on horses but I come from a Cattle Rancher Heritage. We’re herding cattle, branding them and the whole 9 yards. That was my life on a horse. It was so much fun especially out in the wilderness. I love that you’re back. It didn’t take long but guys, remember it’s a sprint. Choose your strategy. Be crystal clear on your Z on your end game and then make a plan to attack the gap between those two.
Remember, I only have folks on my show that I believe in and I researched their materials or have clients who’ve already used them. Whitney, you’re a very unique man in the industry of real estate but that doesn’t always have the highest regard for honesty and integrity. I appreciate you being on my show so you can share your successes and your hard work so that our tribe knows that if they do what it takes, we can all win. Any final words about you and yours?
I’m grateful to be here, Merrill. A pleasure to meet you and have you on the show. I’m looking forward to connecting with anyone.
Absolutely. Have a beautiful morning, afternoon or evening.
- Whitney Sewell
- Show – Merrill Chandler guest on Whitney Sewell’s podcast
- Life Bridge Foundation
About Whitney Sewell
Whitney hosts The Real Estate Syndication Show, a daily podcast where he has now interviewed over 850 experts providing cutting-edge tools and strategies of the syndication business.
Whitney and his wife Chelsea are on a mission to help other families through the process of adoption. They have personally endured the financial burdens that the process puts on families and have committed 50% of their profits to this goal. Whitney and Chelsea have three children by adoption.