Generator Ep. 013 – Nikki Closser: Building Wealth to Build a Dream Life

If you're in the photography world at all, you'll know Nikki Closser from her cornerstone work with Sue Bryce on Sue Bryce Education as one of the original mentors, and that experience helped her establish The Portrait System podcast which just reached more than 2 million downloads. I've been fortunate to be a guest on The Portrait System and I can tell you that Nikki is the real deal. All of her success is well deserved because of her approach to truly connecting with, and helping the people in her life. In this conversation we talk about how weird our voices sound, getting started in real estate investing, chicken coop chandeliers, and how to best mitigate risk when building wealth.

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Full Transcript of Generator Ep. 013 - "Building Wealth to Build a Dream Life"

Matt Stagliano 0:00
Hey folks, welcome to episode 13 of Generator  this one I’m calling building wealth for a dream life because my guest this week is Nikki Closser. This is a really special episode for me. I’ve been wanting to interview Nikki for years now, you may know her as a cornerstone of the Sue Bryce education platform. She was one of Sue’s original mentors, you probably know her best for being the host of the portrait system podcast, which just hit 2 million downloads. It’s a staggering number of downloads, but it just proves how good she is at what she does. Nikki is truly one of the most down to earth, humble, talented, driven, ambitious, kind, generous folks that I’ve ever had the chance of meeting, I’m truly lucky that our paths have crossed. And this week, we’re talking all about her investment company called Dream Life investors, where she talks about investing in real estate and how that’s helping her build wealth for herself for her family, and the dream of retiring early so that she can just work on her farm. It’s a beautiful story. I love listening to Nikki, I love being inspired by her energy all the time. So I hope you sit back and relax. This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time. I hope you enjoy it. This is Nikki Closser now on with the show.

I have to say I’ve been waiting for this episode. For years before I started generator. I’m like, I’ve got to interview Nikki someday about what it is that she does, because she’s everywhere. She does everything, always smiling. How do I create a podcast that can eventually get Nicki on as a guest? That’s kind of where I’m at. So having you here, it’s it’s only a times where it’s formal like this, where I can force you to sit and listen to kind things about yourself. Because otherwise we deflect and we move away. But you’ve been such an incredible inspiration for me not only photographically, but business wise, and then also with podcasting, I just wanted to express to you while you can’t back out my sincere thanks for just everything you bring to my life helping me do all of this.

Nikki Closser 2:42
So thank you, Matt. Thank you, man. I mean, I know like we obviously know each other through the photograph community, and you’ve been someone that I’m very, very glad to have met just such a good energy. And, you know, when I interviewed you on the podcast that that I do for photographers, I was like, you’ve got this voice man, like you should utilize that. Like, there’s something about your voice that is very, you know, it’s just a really great voice, like a radio voice. I guess. You know, I don’t know, who knows? I don’t know.

Matt Stagliano 3:13
So the funny thing is, you hear your voice in your head, and then you hear recordings of your voice and they never match up.

Nikki Closser 3:20
No. Weird. It’s super weird. We’re giving.

Matt Stagliano 3:23
So when I hear myself on a podcast or you know doing TV or whatever, it never really sounds like me. And I was like Hush. Like I listened back to Rick. I don’t know if you ever listened to your podcast, but I listen back every now and again. I’m like, oh, that sounds terrible. Or Damn, that sounds great. Like, I have no idea where it’s gonna fall in between. But yeah, have you ever hear that like with your own voice?

Nikki Closser 3:47
Oh, totally. Totally. I remember the first time I forced myself to kind of sit and in even to watch on video and for people listening if you’ve never done this, I recommend it. Like I forced myself to sit there. And you know, I heard the negativity about certain things like my left eye is always puffy. Although right now in the light, this looks perfect. But I know I have a puffy left. I know I have a certain mark on my face when I smile that no one else probably notices. But we are our own worst critics and in kind of forcing myself to watch myself and listen to myself really. It really helped and it just got easier, I guess. I don’t know. I got more comfortable with what I sounded like. And

Matt Stagliano 4:28
I think it’s that it’s the repetition breeds comfort, right where we hear it. We get used to awkward silences, learn. We’re trying to learn I’m still learning not to speak over people. Give things space to breathe, right? Because you can always edit it out later. I think part of it is with anything developing the craft is just the repetition doing it over and over and over. With your podcast just hitting 2 million downloads. Massive, massive. How are you feeling about all of it? And what I mean by that is like, it goes well, it’s clearly a success. How do you feel about it? Overall? How do you feel about podcasting and how it’s grown? And where you are with it? How do you feel about that?

Nikki Closser 5:18
I mean, I feel really excited. The numbers are definitely like, holy shit. Wow, you know, that makes me kind of go. Especially because this isn’t this isn’t like a podcast for the masses. I mean, it’s a it’s a niche niche. Yeah, for photographers. And I think, if it’s not so much the numbers, it’s the messages and things that I get from people saying, hey, you’ve helped me a lot. And I think that’s what you know, you know, I was a social worker, prior to becoming a photographer, I was a social worker, that’s what I did. That’s what I have a master’s in, you know, for over a decade. That’s what I did. And moving into the photography world didn’t feel as I mean, I think you can help people through photos, you know, that, you know, just as much as any other photographer knows that. But I think getting the messages from people about how helpful it is, brings me back to kind of my roots of who I am and wanting to, you know, give back and do my part. Yeah, I guess that’s, that’s part of it.

Matt Stagliano 6:14
Do you find like all that background, the social work, I can’t imagine how much of a grind that must have been right. I’ve heard you talk about how it was just this really, really oppressive type of job. But we’re made the way we’re made. And we help people the way we help people. And, you know, you find yourself in certain positions, whether it’s social work, or photography, or education or whatnot. And there are these common threads that go through all your careers. Clearly, helping people and guiding people is really, really strong. And you do you find yourself leaning back on some of those social work tendencies, whether it’s podcasting, whether it’s investing, whether it’s, you know, doing your photography, do you find like those old habits kicking back in? Oh, wait, you’re doing people?

Nikki Closser 7:03
Yeah, totally. And I don’t want to sit here and be like, Look at me, I help people, like, a lot of times, people who help others do it, because they like, what they get from that, oh, look, what a good person you are, you know, I think I needed to feel like I was a really good person. Because I was maybe I wasn’t getting that from areas that I would hope to get that from and it wasn’t coming intrinsically. So I think that’s a lot of were like, Oh, I know, fix up my messed up everything, you know, anything that was messed up in my life, I’ll fix it by being a social worker, and, you know, helping other people anyway. So there is that part of me, I think, being a podcast host, clearly I like to be in the spotlight, you know, or, you know, so I don’t want to say that I’m this, like, you know, so amazing, because I like to help people or whatever, because I get something out of it, too. I do. I mean, all of us who are in the like, forefront or the spotlight, we do it for a reason, because we enjoy it. You know, so there is there is that piece to it. But when it comes back to like the social work, so much of what I did was building connections and relationships with people so that people know, like, and trust me genuinely, like authentically. And that’s something I feel like I’m really strong at and I think that helped me with my photography career. Because with the with the portrait system, the other podcasts that I do, it is me interviewing other people, I have to listen, I have to ask the right questions like that’s how it was when I was doing in home family therapy with families who are mandated by the court to have therapy or when I was working in the schools and doing groups with kids, like you have to know how to listen and ask questions and just genuinely be curious about people. And I think that has helped me grow my business. It helped me start with real estate investing, because people who know like and trust me through the photography world are now investing with me with my real estate syndication company. And it all is intertwined. And it all goes back to like my roots. It really does.

Matt Stagliano 9:04
It’s It’s fascinating to me, I use the word fascinating a lot because I truly am curious about what drives people. And as I was as I was growing up and not receiving certain things at home that I wanted to receive, you know, hugs love that sort of thing. But you wind up, you wind up developing these personality traits, right? You want to solve the problems, you want to keep the peace, the very people pleasing sort of attitude, right. And it’s a learned behavior. And it’s it’s a way to keep yourself alive and surviving. And that’s fine. It’s interesting how it manifests itself later in life. So when we find out that we are I know I am a people pleaser at my core,

Nikki Closser 9:47
same Yeah, I get a huge thrill out of

Matt Stagliano 9:52
seeing that I helped somebody and it’s not because I get any level of affirmation or attention from it. It truly feels good to me. If you have helped someone and see a smile on their face, and I think you’ve been able to craft this in a way, with that kind of empathetic, authentic voice, where it’s a natural bridge for people to follow you from one enterprise to another, right, as you build your wealth as you build your empire, you’re still the nichy personal branding photographer, you know, sitting at a creative live class in the audience, right? And watching that, and now seeing where you are. There’s been in from the outside, no change in character. And I think it just becomes a natural happenstance that if people feel like they were being sold to over and over, they wouldn’t stick around. So I think that speaks a lot to you may not be actively guiding people. But you’ve definitely developed a method by which you can build that trust and authenticity. And it’s just, it’s awesome to see because everything that comes out, people are like, yeah, and it’s not because there’s some glitz over you. It’s just like, oh, we know it’s gonna be a good product.

Nikki Closser 11:06
I mean, I was just putting like, my chickens away before I you know, like, there’s definitely, although there is a chandelier in my chicken. Oh, there is some glitz. Okay, I’m gonna be real. There’s, I mean, my chickens have a chandelier. But, you know, keeping his down home over here,

Matt Stagliano 11:21
slowly roll, Betty May, you’ve got wallpaper, your chicken coop. It’s wonderful. Like, it’s amazing to see.

Nikki Closser 11:31
Thank you for all of that, though. I appreciate that.

Matt Stagliano 11:34
But I wanted to really shift and talk less about the podcast and photography, because anybody can find you doing that stuff anywhere. But I don’t really want to talk about the syndication investment. I want to talk about the wealth building, I want to talk about the commercial real estate and where you’re going with that. For me, it came out of left field to connect you with commercial investing. Yeah, but can you give me a little bit of history there? Like how you are you develop this? Was this always a dream that you had and stream life?

Nikki Closser 12:01
Okay, so if you will, funny that you say that. I was always interested in homes. Like I would ask my mom to drive me around and look at all the big cool Victorian homes. I was fascinated. But it wasn’t ever like Nikki, what kind of, you know, which house are you going to have? Or, you know, it was, my mom told me later in life that it upset her because she didn’t like she couldn’t give that type of home to me. You know, in my mom, she always said the best in both my parents, they did the best they could they loved us. They you know, they’re human beings. They did things wrong. I forgive them. I love them. And I thank them for all the wonderful things they’ve done for us. So just that, you know. So I kind of had it in my head from a young age that I was not supposed to be this super successful. You know, like, I remember when I I said to my dad, I was gonna buy a house. This was I was like, I was in grad school because he was still alive, he passed away. And I was 24. So I was in the middle of grad school, my boyfriend and I were living together. And I was like, I really want to buy house dad, and he’s like, You can’t buy a house. That was his response. And I was like, you know, it just like, crushed me. And he was right. I was in credit card debt. Like I don’t know how I thought I was gonna buy a house. You know, what him saying that I couldn’t always stuck with me, I guess. So if you would have told me then that I would have 80 units of commercial, you know, multifamily real estate i i wouldn’t have ever believed that. So I don’t I don’t think it was always a dream. I’ve always been really interested in homes and architecture. And I mean, that’s not like commercial multifamily is not No, it’s not the same before Victorian homes or anything like that. But so no, I didn’t always have an interest in it was the

Matt Stagliano 13:47
dream. Like as you’re driving around these neighborhoods, looking at houses, right? Because I used to kind of do the same thing we weren’t we weren’t by any means. Even middle middle class growing up were much lower middle class if if that. And I remember going around and always dreaming about these big houses and owning houses like that someday. And it was never that, like you said that my parents weren’t giving me shelter or anything like that. It was just like, wow, that looks amazing. It’s something to aspire to. Right? Yeah. As you grew up, and I can’t imagine that the real estate investing was something that you were doing right? You were a social worker, were you always thinking about moving in that direction? Was it just you couldn’t put the pieces together of how to do it?

Nikki Closser 14:30
No, I actually did buy my very first it was a condo, so I must have been 2627 and I bought it at like the height of the market. I was living in Michigan, which is where I live now. I didn’t live here for a long time when I’m back now. But I bought it in Michigan at the height of the market, you know, where they were given out loans left and right. And I had a short like shitty, you know, arm adjustable loan, whatever. I didn’t know what I was doing. So I bought it and then that was 2004 2007 And of course the market crashes. And the condo was worth like an eighth of what I bought it for if that. And then I met Dan, my HUD, my now husband, and we decided we were going to move to Seattle. And so I had to hold on to the condo, because I couldn’t sell it because it was so underwater, there’s no way. Finally, you know, before we had our own, I bought any other properties. The HOA told me I was no longer allowed to run it. And I wasn’t supposed to run it in the first place. But I was like, it’s either foreclosure or I rent it. And you know, like, that’s my options, because I’m moving to Seattle. So anyways, they told me, I couldn’t rent it anymore. And I ended up selling it. I signed the papers that day gave birth to my second son. And I still was underwater, like I still ended up losing like $8,000 on it. So I was jaded with real estate. Like, I don’t want anything to do with real estate. That was like my mindset. So it’s interesting how things shift.

Matt Stagliano 15:55
And then you start your family, right? You’re in Seattle? Do you start looking at property there? Or is it just still just back in your mind,

Nikki Closser 16:05
one quick thing I want to say before I forget is something that I really learned in looking back that I didn’t know I was learning at the time, is real estate is it can’t be an emotional game. I never should have bought that condo, it was a motion. It was a bad loan, the numbers really didn’t work. We’re now when I’m looking at anything, whether it’s a personal property or an investment property, do the numbers work. And you can’t pat it, you can’t pretend it works. You can’t ignore the property tax or the you know, the capital expenditure and all of these things. You can never look at real estate with emotion. That’s all I’m gonna say that I can come back to that too and tell you more. But okay, so we went from, you know, we ended up buying a home in Seattle. And we bought in a very up and coming neighborhood. That was cheaper. And my friends were like you’re buying and white center. And I was like, yeah, that’s all we can afford. That’s what we’re doing. Because I am not going to ever buy based on emotion or wanting something that I can’t afford. Again, I’m not I’m not going to do that. So we bought in white center. And in the meantime, I wanted to be in Michigan, my husband wanted to be in Seattle. We both grew up in Michigan family here, we now have two babies. So we were going back and forth from Michigan to Seattle all the time. And I started air being being this this Seattle house while we weren’t there, because we were leaving for a month at a time and the house was sitting there empty. So that was kind of my first taste of like, oh, wow, like, Okay, I’m making like, one to $2,000 a month from Arabic. But two babies and having to pack up a whole house every time we go back and forth. Because you know how it is with Airbnb. You can’t just leave your shit everywhere. Like it was really hard. It was really hard. Anyway, buying in the crappy up and coming neighborhood, which is now great, you know, beautiful. Yeah. I mean, it is what it you know, it’s it has

Matt Stagliano 18:00
it has come up. Yeah.

Nikki Closser 18:03
And we had a lot of equity in the home. And we ended up taking out what’s called a home equity line of credit. Or you might hear it called a HELOC. And the interest rate was good on the HELOC. And they were like, Yeah, you can have it was either 100 or 150,000. And so now I’m okay, let me back up one more time, in order to be the host, Matt of the portrait system, which you were an amazing guest on. i My research was to listen to a real estate podcast called bigger pockets, because they wanted to structure it similarly, you know, with a kind of same structure. So they didn’t want me to learn about real estate. They wanted me to learn how to be a good host. And when I was listening to it, after like the second episode, I called my husband, I’m like, why are we not investing in real estate? Like, I know, I had a bad experience with the condo, but I’m learning so much, you know. So that’s when I decided to apply for the HELOC because we had so much equity in the home. And so then we had, I think it was 100,000 We’re gonna do a flip home. And in Michigan, because it’s much more affordable in Michigan than it is out in Seattle. And the agent that I was working with was like, like, we were gonna buy a home for like $60,000 cash and then use the remainder to fix it up. And he’s like, why are you investing in commercial real estate? And I was like, I don’t know, should I? Because he’s also a commercial commercial agent. And so he was like, yeah, yeah, you should. And so from there, I started reading it more and listening to podcasts about commercial real estate and just educating myself as much as possible. And instead of doing the flip, we ended up purchasing a six unit here in Michigan, and that was townhouses, really six units. And that was my first my first investment. Yeah.

Matt Stagliano 19:46
Do you have to go in with those units and fix them all up? Or they basically ready to go? It’s just an ownership transfer. Is it a mix of both?

Nikki Closser 19:55
It’s a little bit of both. I actually purchased this one on a land call tract because I didn’t want to put 25% down. And a lot of times commercial loans, you need to have 25% down and the guy who was selling it, he’s an older gentleman, he was ready to be done with it. He wanted the price he was asking for it. And people were coming in and offering him cash at a lowball price and that sort of thing. So he said, I’ll give you full price, if I only have to put 15% down. And we’ll do it on a land contract. And so that we did for the first two years, and then I refinanced cash out, it’s called cash out refinance into a traditional loan, the units needed some work, there was a lot of deferred maintenance. And that’s kind of the strategy I’ve used is purchasing buildings that aren’t like falling down, but that they have been mismanaged, the rent is way lower than it should be. There’s the deferred maintenance, because I want to come in and make this a better place for people to live with the understanding that rent is gonna go up. But we’re not I’m not an asshole. I’m not like your rents going up. $8,000, you know, because we experienced that in Seattle with renting. Sure. But like, you know, we’re going to make sure fix your dishwasher, we’re going to like, we have a property in Detroit, where people were like living with rats and mold, like it was really bad. Yeah, so we’re coming in, and we are like making this a safe, much better place to live. But your rents gonna go up 50 bucks a month, you know, people are like, Fine, like, no problem, you know. So the idea is that there’s so many different ways to invest in real estate, Matt, there are no short term rentals there. There’s like commercial office spaces, there’s single family homes, there’s flipping, there’s so many ways to do it. And kind of what the route that we have chosen that we feel really comfortable with is purchasing kind of mismanaged buildings and increasing the equity of the building by increasing the profits. In sometimes increasing the profits might mean, like we found a leak in one of our building Leyden but the plumber found elite. I was like, why is this water bill insane? You know, and there were a couple like really bad leaky toilets. And we fix that. And the next thing, you know, we’re saving two grand a year on the water bill, which means the value of the building goes up because the net operating income goes up. So it’s a whole thing. Like I was no real estate investment expert like you like this is I knew nothing until I started learning. So anyone can do this. You know,

Matt Stagliano 22:25
this is this is where I wanted to drive to I grew up with very little, if any financial knowledge, right. So I know, there’s a lot of folks my age, and younger that were taught finances growing up and how money works. I’m not talking about just basic currency exchange, but how to leverage assets how to use debt to your advantage, like, I know, so little about that. And still admittedly don’t but then you you know, you read something like, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, you start listening to podcasts and educating yourself. And you realize there is no magic to any of this. Most folks aren’t patient enough, these days to wait for the right opportunity for fear of missing out on what looks really good right now. How have you been able to balance that? There’s got to be a build nature scene, like, we’ve got to get this and it’s like,

Nikki Closser 23:28
that it’s so interesting that you bring all this up, because this has been hard for me, and I think I’m someone who just acts sometimes, okay, not anymore. I have really shifted that. But I’m like, I want to go to Nepal. And I know I have no this was, you know, in my 20s I’m like, but I don’t really have any money, but I’m just gonna put a plane ticket on my credit card, and I’m leaving next week, you know, that is kind of how I’ve operated. So this has been a really big shift change for me. You know, when it came to the properties that I purchased on my own, or my husband and I did, there was definitely a lot of restraint. You just you have to have restraint just because something looks shiny and new. And you know, in that I don’t know if just going back to something that you said, I was personally raised that, you know, you pay off your house, you invest in the stock market, you get you get a degree in college, and then I had student loans, you know, my parents didn’t pay for my college student loans. You work hard, and you invest in the stock market, you get a 401 K. And that’s what you do. And I did not see myself living the life that I wanted with doing this map that was laid out for me these steps. There was no way there is Matt there is no way I would have my lake house. The house that I live on at 10 acres and all All of this if I had just stuck with 401k, not a chance in hell. And it comes down to doing things that I know. So I don’t know, the stock market, I don’t want to know it, I don’t want to learn it, it doesn’t make sense to me. My dad was really a heavy investor in the stock market. It’s not something that I know or care to learn. It’s not my comfort zone. So when I was looking at like, okay, the 401 K, or it was a 403 b that I had through as a school social worker, it was not doing anything, anything for me. You know, it was kind of like here, and then maybe here and then here, and then like here, and I was like, how am I going to ever retire with this, especially as entrepreneurs, you know how that goes, like? Entrepreneurs? We don’t have a pension, we don’t have a 440 1k matching, we don’t have anything like that. So I’m like, okay, when I like you said reading books, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, how are these people doing it? And a lot of it is either stock market, if you know how to do it. And I’m, I even had like a financial advisor through, okay, I won’t mention the company, but the back end fees, it was just not, it’s just not good. Like, I had these clients, photographer, clients who were bigwig, financial advisors, and they were like, don’t do it, like, take your money out of I work with them personally. But they were like, Yeah, you need to either learn how to do it on your own. Unless I was like, investing, you know, millions, then you want someone, whatever. So I’m like, Okay, so the wealthiest people in the world, not that I’m trying to be the wealthiest person in the world. But I want the life that I want. I want to travel when I want, you know, I want to do what I want. And that requires money. So how am I going to get that? It’s not going to be through the stock market for me, in real estate was really, you could do it through owning a business. Like that’s another thing. They say that the three really top ways to build a lot of wealth is some sort of business, which I have. But you know, Nikki class or photography has done Trust me, I’ve done very well with it. I’m not saying that I haven’t. But I don’t want to be slinging a camera when I’m 80 years old. Right, you know? So owning a business or real estate. So it all goes back to the numbers working? And to answer your question. I know this is total roundabout way. It’s always about, do the numbers work? Yeah. That’s all it comes down to.

Matt Stagliano 27:23
As you started to get into dream life and grow that business. Yeah, you’ve got partners, right? You’ve got lawyers. And yeah, I’m sure you’ve got a whole staff. Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, there’s a lot more to think about now.

Nikki Closser 27:37
There is and in. I started saying this, and then I got sidetracked as I normally do. But when it was just Dan and I, and I, my husband’s like, what building? Are we buying baby? Like? I mean, like, he builds things with his hands. He’s an electrician. He’s amazing like that. But he just kind of trust that I’m going to be the one to make the decisions around things which, because it just makes sense, because that’s more how my brain works. But when it came time to some of these bigger deals, and like, how are we going to scale this? My business partner, Aaron, who I’ve been working with, you know, Aaron Anderson, we’ve been working in the photographic industry. He’s a producer, he’s not a photographer, he’s a producer, his brain works different than mine. And you know, he’s a numbers guy, he is an analytical guy. He is. He’s awesome. And we have separate skill sets. And so he’s the one who turned who’s the producer, who turned me on to listening to bigger pockets. And he had been Aaron listened to bigger pockets, because he had been investing in real estate himself. So when it came time, you know, we were both doing these things separately. And we were like, dang, if we joined forces, we have both of our skill sets. This could be really amazing. And so that’s kind of how we just started thinking about it, you know, and so many family and friends and you know, people who like follow on social media, we’re like, how are you doing this? You know, what are you doing? I want to invest in real estate. And there’s different levels of investing. That’s something that I didn’t mention to. People can invest passively through syndications, which is what we do through dream life. So Aaron, and I do all the work people give us their money. Legally, you know, we have attorneys and contracts, you know, all the things. And then we invest it in properties for them that we put our money in as well. We always put our own money money in as well, because we’re always going to put our money where our mouth is. We have property managers, my tenants in my first building that I bought, they think I’m the painter, they think I’m like the hedge trimmer. Like they have no idea that I own it. Like I show up in my minivan. And I’m just like, with my hedge trimmer, like rain, you know, they have no idea. You know, there are certain levels of comfort that people have with how inner intertwine they are, you know, with tenants and things like that. I choose to be like a silent owner. I have an amazing property management company who does all of that. So, for people who were asking us, how do you do this or like I don’t want to be a landlord, but I want to invest in real estate. They trust us Is with their money to invest into a property that they get good returns on. So that’s kind of how it works.

Matt Stagliano 30:06
I’ve invested in some real estate trust before, you know, bigger stuff where they’re developing third world countries, and I’m gonna own, you know, half of Guatemala someday, according to my financial advisor, you know, when you’re investing in a REIT, like that, you don’t really have the attachment to it. When you’re working with a syndication company like yours, an investment company like yours, there is a personal interaction, so you feel more invested in the property, I get to believe that, that creates a really nice interaction between you and the clients, right? Because you’re able to explain to them exactly what’s being done at every one of the properties that they may be asking about, right? Because you are there, you’re in the business. Yeah. Is that generally how it works?

Nikki Closser 30:53
Oh, for sure, I’ll give you so I have a friend who has invested in a couple different syndications over the years. And they said, Sit with some of these bigger companies, it was it was hard, because, you know, they felt comfortable, because they had this huge long track record, but there was no communication, there was no just kind of personal interaction, and they didn’t always know when they were gonna get their money, you know, just things like that. Whereas they invested us with us on this last deal. And, you know, it’s great, we get quarterly reports, and they can ask any time, and I’m gonna text or a call away. And so it just depends, you know, we’re more of like a mom and pop syndication where, I mean, like, we have our, our lives are on the line too. So we make smart decisions, you know, we have we run those numbers until they are like, run into the ground. And then we do our projections conservatively, because again, it’s our livelihood, just as much as as it is the people who invest with us. Sure. So, but that comes back to the whole know, like, and trust thing, either they do know me, or they feel like they do because of, you know, I put my I put everything out there. And in the podcasts and the way I teach my courses, and everything. And so when you kind of know, like and trust someone you’re willing to, you know, invest or purchase for them or whatever.

Matt Stagliano 32:14
Is there a minimum for people to get in? Or is it better off that they just contact you look at what their goals are? And maybe you have something for them? How does that How to generally work,

Nikki Closser 32:25
it depends deal to deal, you know, like we did a friends and family deal, where as long as I knew like, as long as we knew you in some capacity prior to talking to you about this deal, you could invest it a big deal is the people that you’re investing with, you have to you have to know them in some capacity. First a see deal. You don’t have to know the people but they have to be accredited investor, which means they have to be worth a certain amount or have a certain liquid, net liquid amount of money available to them. So for our B deals, it tends to be a less of an investment, because it’s for our family and friends and they don’t have to be accredited sort of thing. So it just depends. It just depends on on each deal.

Matt Stagliano 33:02
Where I was getting at is different people have different risk tolerances with their investments, right. And so a lot of times we know that real estate is a good solid, long term game. When people want to invest. They’re like, yes, I’d love to do this. I’d love to start building wealth. I only have $500 $1,000. Do I need 50,000 100,000 to work with a company like yours? Or are there opportunities, I know the return will be smaller, but other opportunities for smaller form investment.

Nikki Closser 33:38
There are kind of the way that we look at it. Like we had a couple people say, Hey, I have a HELOC a Home Equity home equity line of credit available to me. And our question to them is, what’s your percentage rate? What’s your payment going to be? If so one woman in particular, she had a HELOC, but her interest rate was like 7%. And when we did the math, we were like, This doesn’t make sense for you. It’s not a big enough return for what you’re doing for this to make sense. You know, you could maybe take that money and use it like, but that was the hard part because she didn’t really want to buy her own building, you know. So it’s tricky when we have another person who invested in a HELOC. But she’s been sitting on it for a couple years already. So her interest rate was like 2.75, or like something super. So it made sense for her to invest. You know, so we don’t we’re not just going to take anyone’s money. You know, if this $10,000 that you have in your bank account is the last thing that you have. I don’t we don’t feel comfortable unless that’s what you want to do and you’re insistent on it. Like what if you lose your job? What if you know are you going to need that money to eat because once it’s locked in with us? It depends on the length of the deal, like the current deal that we have going it’s like a three year deal where a lot of deals are like five years, seven years. In some of the bigger syndication companies. It’s five to 10 years you know, so Well, it just depends on everyone’s like, we’re not just trying to take money from just anyone.

Matt Stagliano 35:04
Well, at the same time to it’s, it’s a partnership that you’re getting into with the investor, right. And this again, comes back to where we started with the Social Work and caring about people and guiding them in the right way. And you could sit there and take people’s money all day long. And be like, yeah, no, that’s your last 10,000. Well, do you have 10,005? Like just that,

Nikki Closser 35:25
right? And some people are like that.

Matt Stagliano 35:27
Some people are like that. Yeah. But this is this is that thing that is innate, I think and you and I see it in air in the same ways that you actually care about people. And by going about this, the way that you are in understanding what your clients are investing, it does give a different level of customer service, it does give a different level of connection to the company itself that, you know, I’m spending my money to support, I want to know that they have my best interests at heart. And there’s no better way to do that than to actually be talking to one of the people that owns the company will be making the investments will be trimming the hedges, right. So all that sort of stuff. It just it. It’s this common thread that I’ve seen through everything that you do, so it makes perfect sense. How does eight year old Nikki feel when she looks at 46 year old Nikki and what you’ve created? Oh,

Nikki Closser 36:18
if I could go back to her and just tell her certain things, but then maybe if I knew those things back then what I don’t know. I mean, I feel very excited. I feel excited about the direction of my life. And I still have just so much more to let you know, I I always joke that I I will okay, I’m not gonna say that I’m joking. I’m dead fucking serious about this universe, God, whatever, that I want to live till I’m 105 Because as you know, I had my first son when I was 39. My second one, I was 41. I want to be a grandma. Like I want to, you know, reap the rewards of everything I’ve been doing and, and I am now I am enjoying it and loving it. And you know, I’ve done a lot of stupid shit in my life. The only thing I really regret is not starting to invest in real estate sooner. You know, instead of all that rent money that I threw away for all those years. I wish I was savvier. I mean, obviously, I bought the condo, but I bought it when the numbers didn’t make sense. Like, I wish I was savvier and learned more and knew more like my dad taught me about credit card debt and, you know, things like that he was, you know, he did teach me about stuff like that. But I just didn’t listen or didn’t care, whatever. I don’t know. That is what I would tell eight year old Nikki, start saving for your first duplex right now. Like,

Matt Stagliano 37:37
your risk tolerance? How would you define that? Would you define like your whole life has been like you’re risk averse. You tolerate risk? Well, do you feel like you’ve become risky? Or do you feel like, you

Nikki Closser 37:47
know, I feel like I’ve kind of gotten less and less risky, because of the knowledge that I have. Like, when I was quitting my social work job. And moving into full time photography, a lot of people won’t take that risk, because it is scary. You know, I’m losing this, even though it was a small paycheck, I was losing this kind of stable paycheck, but I was willing to take that risk, because to me, it’s worth it. If I am, if I’m unhappy, I will take any risk as long as it’s mostly smart risk, because I’m not willing to live in an unhappy place. And my I’m just, I’m just not. So whatever risk I need to take, I’m gonna try not to be stupid about it. Whereas I feel like there’s different types of risks. There’s risks of like starting a new career and working hard and building that up versus a risk with a property where the numbers work. And we have XYZ as backup plans if you know, we have exit strategies versus a risk of like, I’m going to go to Costa Rica for a month or you know, I don’t know, like, I’ve always been someone if I want to do it. I’m just going to do it. One of my best friends has been unhappy with her job for, like 15 years, Matt. And I’m like to How can you say like, it’s not, she’s not even like, like, she looks sometimes. But it’s not even like she’s doing anything to change it. And I don’t and she always said, like, you just, you just take more risks than I do. And I’m like, No, I’m just not willing to be unhappy.

Matt Stagliano 39:23
I think the big difference that people don’t realize, and I didn’t realize this for a long time is there’s a huge difference between risk and fear. Fear of moving forward, fear of change, fear of something being unstable, that is much different than risk, where you look at all the factors on the table, and you’re like, yeah, that’s scary. Yeah, it’ll be unstable. However, I’m willing to bet that if I wait this long, it will be to my advantage or not. Yeah, that’s a different thing than fear. They fear the change and the discomfort that will come with being who they really want to be or where they really want to go.

Nikki Closser 40:00
Totally, you know, obviously one of my mentor, one of my best friends and one of your mentors as well Sue Brice, she always says that like with change comes pain, you know, when you’re making big changes, there’s going to be pain, it’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to be scary. But it’s like, well, if you’re willing to stay here and stay in the unhappiness, you’ve got to accept it, or you have to change it and go through.

Matt Stagliano 40:27
I think people spend so much time fantasizing about all the things that could go wrong, or all the ways they’re going to lose money, or they’re going to fail. Or instead of visualizing, oh my god, if I just make this in only five years, I can have all of that. It’s such a strange way that we’re biased towards negativity. Whenever I talk to you about real estate, whenever I talk to you about business in general, you get all lit up. You get all lit up, because you’re not sitting there. Worried about what’s happening. You’re excited about what’s coming down the road. Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.

Nikki Closser 41:06
Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely. And that’s not to say, I don’t have my days where I’m like, No, of course, holy shit, you know. But yeah, it is i i Do I get excited about the future I get? You know, it’s more of like, what good could happen as opposed to what could go wrong? I guess.

Matt Stagliano 41:24
So. What’s next? Where are you leading? Did I see you’re speaking in New Zealand?

Nikki Closser 41:28
Yeah, I was invited to speak at ended IPP for the Yeah, New Zealand International portrait photographers. Yeah. So I get to do that, that’s really cool. You know, I still do shoot, like, I just did a photo viewing this morning, you know, I’m still doing that. Not not as much because I’m, I’m really loving teaching other photographers and then real estate and but my me my main focus is to be a farmer mom, and just really enjoy as much time with my kids and at home as I can, while making a living doing things that I love. So, you know, shoots, photo shoots here and there, doing my courses, I have another course coming up. For photographers doing the the real estate and eventually, you know, five or so years, I’d like to retire and only do real estate and just have that income there. And then if I want to do photo shoots, I can if I want to make another course, like you know, just kind of leave the options open,

Matt Stagliano 42:21
you’ve been someone that I think has always taken a very realistic and pragmatic approach towards balancing life and work, ensure it’s been out of balance at some points, I’m sure. But it always comes back to what it is that you want, which is this balance in freedom and ability to be with your family and put chandeliers and chicken coops and like, this is really what you want to do. If I were to ask you that same question that Sue asked all of us, what do you want? How do you answer that today?

Nikki Closser 42:51
You know, okay, like when when I quit my social work job to become a full time photographer, that felt really amazing. But it’s like, oh, but I also need and want this and this. And this. Like, I don’t think I took a whole lot of time to sit in my, like joy of where I was moving towards and each of those steps. And sometimes I think I forget to do that even now. Like, you know, so people listening out there, every baby step you take, like, give yourself some credit, like everything you’re doing to move towards a goal. I think we’re just like, well, what next? And what next, and what next, you know, so I just want to make sure like, that’s something that I’m currently working on is like just, you know, remembering that everything that I’ve done, like I don’t always want to keep pushing the bar forward and forward and forward. So I’m never in the moment.

Matt Stagliano 43:46
I I’m very anti hustle culture. Right? Um, I want to stay present. I want to stay grateful for what I have. Not I know that I’m destined for more. Yes, yes, my balance there totally. My clarity on what I want in 10 years is going to be different than what I want next week. But I know that I want more and I’m destined for more. I often forget to be grateful. Just hear, right eight year old Matt would be like, fuck you. You’re never getting to where you’re, you know, like, you’re never gonna have a house in the mountains in a business and all that. Yeah, yeah. In a podcast. Yeah. In a podcast and I have to look back and just be grateful sometimes. So I asked you that question, what do you want? Knowing that that’s going to change and knowing that to you are incredibly reflective and grateful for what you have? What is it that you know, where are you going?

Nikki Closser 44:42
I don’t know what that will look like and how I will contribute to society in that way with financially. I don’t know what that will look like yet. Farmer mom that is extremely rich, like rich enough that I can do what I want when I want to do it and I can all So, you know, help? Yeah, a very rich farmer Mom,

Matt Stagliano 45:04
it’s it’s good enough to have that image and just Am I walking towards that or not? Everything that you do? Am I walking towards that or not? Whether I achieved or whether it changes doesn’t matter? Am I walking towards what I feel I want right now,

Nikki Closser 45:19
another thing that I apart that I left out there is the photographer piece. There’s something I think, really, really special in knowing that I can at any time take out my camera and capture my family, my friends, and even clients. Like as a photo viewing I had today with my client was I wish I had it recorded Matt, everything that we say for why we do it. She was like, I literally, okay, the first shoot she did with me was four years ago. She’s like, I literally saw myself different in these photos. So much so that I branded my company around the photos, like you changed the way I saw myself, how many times have we heard Sue, say that, like, I want you to change the way you see yourself. She fucking said that. And I was like, you could be like a commercial for what I do. And she’s like, I will be you tell me where you want me to say this, you know, because we just did her second shoe. And I just did her reveal anyway. So there is something that’s so special and beautiful and wonderful about being a photographer. And I know that in some capacity, I will always be taking photographs. You know whether or not it’s for money or teaching people to do it, I don’t know. And that piece is very, you know, important to my my heart as well. So I just want to make sure.

Matt Stagliano 46:30
As we start to land this plane, I’ve got three pages of questions for you. And I’ve asked you like two that have been on my sheet. We can have a part two, if you could collaborate. Let’s take Sue out of the picture for a second. Take Aaron out of the picture. If you can collaborate with any entrepreneur, living or deceased. Who would it be? Who would you sit down and have that conversation with? Is there someone that sticks out to you?

Nikki Closser 46:56
Oh my god, I just watched the movie air with Michael Jordan and his mom. I’ll take his mom any day. Do you want eBay

Matt Stagliano 47:04
six times on Sunday? Yeah, incredible. watching that movie and how she managed that career was phenomenal. I love sitting here and watching your career. I love the fact that I’ve got a chance to know you. And I love the fact that you are helping so many people through everything that you do, whether it’s through this platform, or whether it’s showing them a different side of themselves or giving them a whole bunch of zeros in their bank account. You’re an amazing person who’s given me a ton of time here.

Nikki Closser 47:38
Thank you, Nikki, I

Matt Stagliano 47:39
can’t I can’t express how much gratitude I have for you in just being you.

Nikki Closser 47:44
Oh, thank you so much, Matt. You’re You’re awesome. With this has been wonderful. And you’re a really great interviewer to everyone. So,

Matt Stagliano 47:52
so I’m gonna see you at portrait masters in September. Yeah, maybe we can sit down and have that cocktail and dig into this a little bit more.

Nikki Closser 48:00
Yeah, anytime. Fantastic. You know,

Matt Stagliano 48:01
on to 3 million. I will catch up with you soon Nikki. Thank you. Thanks,

Nikki Closser 48:06
Matt. Appreciate it. That was awesome. All right.

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