Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Gino Barbaro, and along with my partner Jake Stenziano, we co-founded Jake & Gino, a multifamily real estate education company that teaches people how to invest in apartments and become multifamily entrepreneurs.
We launched the company back in October of 2015 with the release of our first book Wheelbarrow Profits.
Over the years we have become more than just an education company. We produce three weekly podcasts & two Bi-weekly podcasts, which receive over 125,000 monthly downloads on iTunes and surpassed 4,000,000+ TOTAL downloads. Our Youtube videos are watched over 50,000 times per month, and we have launched a total of seven books.
Our mission is to elevate the financial literacy of our community through books, media, and our mentorship program and to create Multifamily Entrepreneurs. At Jake & Gino, we say “People with financial intelligence can change the world for the better.”
We measure the success of our company through our student’s success and our BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
To date, our students have closed over 53,000 units, totaling over 4 Billion Dollars ($4,000,000,000) in asset value. Over 60 of our students have left their W2 jobs to work in real estate full-time!
Our current BHAGs are:
1) Have 1,000 students leave their W2 jobs and become full-time investors
2) Donate 1,000,000 meals through our charity of choice Second Harvest Food Bank of East TN by the year 2030. (We are currently at 270,000 meals.)
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I graduated college, I worked in corporate, and I despised commuting to NYC and working in a cubicle. I opened a small restaurant with my family and worked there until 2016. It was there that I met my partner, Jake, back in 2009 while he was ordering catering from my restaurant to bring to doctor’s offices while trying to sell them pharmaceuticals.
I studied Finance in college, and I got a job at AIG. My father owned a restaurant, and I started going to work with him in the kitchen when I was 8 years old. I worked at the restaurant through college and decided to open one up after leaving AIG
Hence, the pizza guy and the drug rep joined forces in 2011 to begin investing in multifamily. It took us 18 months to buy our first deal, and within a year of that purchase, we owned over 200 units. Jake left his corporate job in 2014, and I left my restaurant in 2016. When I left, I had no full-time job, since Jake was managing the portfolio in Tennessee. I moved to Florida, and that’s where Jake & Gino took off. I dedicated my days to creating content, building the community, and growing the Jake & Gino brand.
You need to ask your customers/students what questions and challenges they are facing. I made the mistake of creating content that I liked or thought was relevant. I am not trying to add value to my life, but my students.
It has taken a few years to grow the company and the results for our students, and the one thing that has separated us from other education companies in the community that we have created.
We offer six yearly student fulfillment events, along with weekly live lessons with myself and Jake. The community allows students to learn the material at a high level, along with finding others in the group to partner with. It has also allowed Jake & myself to become much better investors and to stay attuned to the market.
I saw the struggle early on with Jake on how to break into the apartment space. We created our three-step framework Buy Right, Manage Right, and Finance Right®, through our trials and errors, and have been able to teach our students through our framework.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product
We began with a book called Wheelbarrow Profits, which allowed us to create our flagship online product called The Wheelbarrow Profits® Academy. We began by creating micro-courses to sell, which were priced from $25 to $197. Our flagship product was launched for $997 on the Kajabi platform. Since its inception, the program has gone through several revisions.
We have noticed that to become successful as an investor in multifamily, coaching was vital. Our new platform includes coaching, in-person bootcamps, weekly live lessons, accountability groups, and groups within the community.
It was beneficial to start small in the beginning, and then let the market dictate what will bring success. Our goal was not to monetize the micro-courses and leave the students wanting more information and accountability.
We are currently in the process of updating our online education.
It was a grind for years to try to sell these low-ticket items. We wanted to become the white glove service of multifamily, and an online micro-course was not going to help us get to that goal.
Describe the process of launching the business
When we went live with the business, the goal was to sell the $997 product through webinars, and affiliates/email campaigns, such as Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula. One of our partners was able to build the website, create the funnels, and create the online platform, while Jake & I created the content and launched our first podcast.
It was a grind for years to try to sell these low-ticket items. We wanted to become the white glove service of multifamily, and an online micro-course was not going to help us get to that goal. That’s why we decided to introduce coaching and in-person events for students, but we had to raise the price of our product.
Selling small courses is all about spending marketing dollars and making a compelling argument as to why they have to purchase yours. We were not yet an established brand, and we struggled to sell these courses. Much better success selling the high ticket item.
We were able to finance the business through our multifamily investments, and the initial cost to start the business was $30,000.
The Biggest lesson from starting the business was not to focus on the size but to try to sell as much as possible and create a community of raving fans. What we focus on today is getting BETTER, not bigger. If you get better, you will naturally grow.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Create core values and a mission statement for your company.
I had one restaurant for over 20 years… We scaled our real estate portfolio to over 1,500 units in less than 5 years. The difference was core values, I had none in my restaurant business.
Our Core Values: People First, Unwavering Ethics, Growth Mindset, Make it Happen, Extreme Ownership
Our fulfillment has led to customer retention. Our students are having massive success investing in apartments, and our coaches have led the way.
We have over 200 5-star Google reviews, with zero negative reviews. We focus heavily on customer service and have created a director of customer experience role.
Create content that the market wants.
You need to ask your customers/students what questions and challenges they are facing. I made the mistake of creating content that I liked or thought was relevant. I am not trying to add value to my life, but my students. Find out what is challenging to them, and where they are stuck on.
It is still a work in progress. Short-form content, especially videos and Instagram reels has taken over but is challenging to record short content when trying to teach high-level material.
The Key is to be consistent and create a cadence to post and to begin on one platform and expand as you have more time. Start with what you are most comfortable with, whether it is audio, video, or blogging.
The ability to deliver relevant content and trademark that content. Our trademarks include:
- Buy Right Manage Right Finance Right
- Wheelbarrow Profits
- Three Pillars of Real Estate
- Conveyor Belt of Real Estate
- The S.P.Y Technique
Trademarks allow for unique content, they are your USPs, and they also create credibility. They position you as a thought leader in your space. It makes you a real company with proprietary information, and it will protect you from others trying to rip off your content.
Create a loyal and happy fan base.
We have over 200 five-star reviews on Google, over 100 on BBB and FB, and no negative reviews online. We take our fulfillment and customer service seriously.
Bring positions in-house.
We have brought in a CMO, for example, who handles our advertising, email marketing, and creating our campaigns for the year.
It has been a work in progress. When you hit the 2 million dollar mark, and start expanding your product line, it is time. As with all other hires, it should have been done sooner. The CMO should help with creating your campaigns for the year and direct ad spend and ads. It has been a huge impact and has allowed us to ramp up ads, spending, and reviewing our KPIs for ad spend.
We have hosted 4 yearly conferences to grow the business, and we call them Multifamily Mastery events (MM). In 2019 our MM4 event attracted 900 attendees, and this year on November 5-6 in Orlando, our MM5 event will attract over 1,000 attendees.
Some other keys to our growth include:
- Patience and persistence
- Willingness to try new ideas
- Ready, fire, aim
- People, systems, culture
Focus on building your people so your people can help build the business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are looking to cross the $3,000,000 mark this year with Jake & Gino. Our focus is to have the number of student units closed to exceed 60,000 by year’s end. Our website has 15,000 visitors monthly, our podcast has over 125,000 downloads monthly, youtube has over 50,000 views monthly, over 10,000 followers on Instagram, and over 16,000 on FB.
We are looking to add a new product next year that will focus on managing the assets. It will be an online course with monthly mastermind calls with our coaches.
The team has grown to 9 full-time members, 10 coaches, virtual assistants, and a full-time designer. We are also shooting for 20% top-line revenue growth and becoming the next Small Giant.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I consider myself a forever student. We have been lucky enough to learn some valuable information through the years and use those lessons to continuously grow. To name a few:
- Never outgrow your infrastructure.
- Bigger is not necessarily better.
- Focus on building your people so your people can help build the business.
- Culture is crucial. Hire for culture and teach the skills.
- Focus on what your goals are, and not what the internet tells you.
- Find your soul purpose.
- If marketing doesn’t work initially, find out what went wrong and try again.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our education is delivered through Kajabi, our CRM is Active Campaign, Libsyn for podcast hosting, Youtube, Bigger Pockets for posting content, Shopify for our online store, WordPress for our website, RingCentral for our sales team, dripify and woodpecker for marketing, Calendly for our coaches, Guestboard for our in-person events (event app), flip snack to create our booklets for events slack & asana for communicating, and Monday for scheduling podcasts and maintaining a schedule.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There are a couple of influential books. Mindset, by Carol Dweck, talks about the Growth vs fixed mindset. Steven Covey’s 7 Habits is a must-read for anyone in personal development. Atomic Habits by James Clear was huge for goal setting and behavior
Finally, I became a life coach a few years back and that was the catalyst for my growth and ability to connect with others.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Learn the skill of selling and adding value to others. Understand that you are creating a business for your customer, not for yourself or to support your family.
Being an entrepreneur is lonely. Consider a partner and figure out what your skill set is. Are you a visionary or an integrator?
If at first, you don’t succeed, which was my case, go back to the drawing board and diagnose what you did wrong.
I often see others focusing on growing for the sake of growth. Revenue is vanity, profit margin is sanity and cash is king. I already mentioned it, but don’t grow your infrastructure, or else you are going to tank customer service and go out of business.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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