Want to know about project management? Meet Rebecca Möller, the founder and CEO of Symbihom, a company in the San Francisco Bay area that has designed unique, prefabricated garage to ADU conversion kit, hoping to aid the problem of affordable housing with units that take less than 4 weeks to install.
In 2008, prior to founding Symbihom, Rebecca founded R Möller & Associates, Inc.,a project and construction management company based in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and San Jose. At R Möller & Associates, she worked with many (very) large companies. A few projects include the development of data and call centers for IBM, Verizon and General Electric, the development of Hershey corporate headquarters, the Penn Medicine MRI Suite, and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, NBA Seventy-Sixers training facility and student activity center.
Previously, between 1997 and 2007, Rebecca was the owner and CEO of Probity, Inc – also a project management firm. Overall, Rebecca has overseen more than 22 million square feet of commercial real estate worth over $10 billion in construction projects nationally. That’s a lot.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:06] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo, in order to build better for everyone.
Eve: [00:00:42] Rebecca Möller has managed very big construction projects for her entire career. In fact, she’s overseen more than 22 million square feet of commercial real estate, worth over $10 billion in construction projects nationally. That’s a lot. But now she’s tackling an even bigger problem, the housing crisis in California. Recognizing the need for a scalable solution, Rebecca has designed and is manufacturing and deploying a garage conversion kit. Buy the kit, and your contractor can convert your garage into an affordable and income producing accessory dwelling unit in a matter of weeks. You’ll want to hear more. If you’d like to join me in my quest to rethink real estate, there are two simple things you can do, share this podcast and go to rethinkrealestateforgood.co, where you can subscribe to be the first to hear about my podcasts, blog posts and other goodies.
Eve: [00:01:55] Hi, Rebecca. Thanks so much for joining me. This promises to be a very fun interview.
Rebecca Möller: [00:02:00] Yeah, it does. I’m glad to be here Eve.
Eve: [00:02:03] So, you’ve been in real estate project and construction management for quite a long time, one of a rare breed of women in the real estate industry. How did you become involved in real estate? What’s your background?
Rebecca: [00:02:18] Well, I come from a family of artists and I’m not one. My oldest sister became an architect. I had a dad who’s really doesn’t carry any or didn’t carry any gender bias. And I like math and science, so I decided to go to engineering. And so, that kind of put me in a realm of construction and I went to, I was in Dallas Fort Worth, I went to work for a global cost consulting firm, was my first stop, and I learned how to estimate in all trades, was certified as an estimator in quantity survey and we were tied to the UK, so when I went to work for the largest general contractor in Dallas, I knew how to do conceptual estimating. So, my early project, 55 story buildings, I was putting the whole projects together by the age of 22. And so, after Dallas, I went to Philadelphia and work for the largest construction there and was working on data centers and ops centers and hospitals. And then I started my own project management company to oversee the interests of Fortune 500 companies. So, I did that for 20 years.
Eve: [00:03:27] So you started with a boom.
Rebecca: [00:03:29] Yeah, I did. I have a modeling mind. And so, it’s really helpful because I understand costs and choices and most people in the design capacity don’t understand that correlation. And so, it’s made it very easy for me to model solutions. And I think with what I’m doing now, it was the ability to see a replicable, scalable model that got me excited about a solution.
Eve: [00:03:58] So, with this successful career behind you, you’ve launched a startup called Symbihom, which is a pretty interesting concept. What prompted you to launch, to start over again, really. It’s starting over again.
Rebecca: [00:04:12] Yeah, it’s a new career because it’s actually like home residential venue instead of large commercial construction. But I’ve been in charge of like Herculean tasks and done them successfully. And so, I’ve been in the market in Silicon Valley. I came to oversee a couple of high rise, actually four high rise residential projects. The Chinese developer had bought them. They bought pro formas were actually not true. So, I was one of the first people to explain to them what the real numbers were. And after two years of being in the marketplace and really for us to not be able to get anything to work, I realized that the billboards wouldn’t pencil because I’m a construction cost expert. And so, they’ve aggregated property re entitled it and is driving the land cost. And so, there’s tons of billboards, but there’s no housing being built, no shovels in the ground. And another aspect of this is when you have affordable, even though the city may make you have an inclusionary fee, a lot of times the fee will be paid because it’s less expensive to do that than build the affordable. But when they do build the affordable, the only way to access it is through lottery. So there are no waiting lists here for affordable housing.
Eve: [00:05:36] So hold on, back up a minute. You got involved with a developer who was doing residential housing, which gave you a window into the residential housing market.
Rebecca: [00:05:46] On the commercial front.
Eve: [00:05:48] Like large buildings multi. Yeah. Yeah. And that made you realize that nothing’s really penciling out.
Rebecca: [00:05:56] Nothing, I did a feasibility study for a college here, a university. The CFO hired me. The state had given them an office building a block away from their campus, and he said, Rebecca, what can I do with it? So, I modeled two scenarios. One was taking a garage next door so that I had a bigger footprint. I had three 25 story towers in one scenario and two 25 story towers. We had done a demand study on campus. We knew that 800 people would be interested in living in these towers, and the three towers came in at 1.2 billion, which equates to million dollars a unit. You can’t build affordable, there’s not enough market, like market rate in it. And we’re limited in San Jose because we have a flight pattern going into the airport. So, the stories is as tall as I could go, but it also gets down to the bonding of the college, and it was like $600 million under, so.
Eve: [00:06:56] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:06:56] I also was privy to, because we did the demand study, I was privy to all salaries. And I think that was the ‘aha’ moment for me, because I looked at the salaries and everybody but the executives are in the affordable housing range. The average median income here is 150,000. So, when you see they can only pay $85,000 to an incoming professor, how can you attract and retain talent? And that’s a real challenge systemically.
Eve: [00:07:23] So, the rule of thumb is for rent, like, if you have an income of 100,000, you shouldn’t spend more than a third of that on your housing costs, including utilities. Right. And what I’ve been reading is in California and many other places, it’s often over 50%.
Rebecca: [00:07:41] Correct. And it’s gotten worse since the pandemic. I saw some statistics from a low-income housing non-profit, and they were comparing how much the rents went up percent wise last year compared to this year, dollar wise. And it was like $32 last year and it was $137 this year. That’s a 500% increase.
Eve: [00:08:04] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:08:05] In the rent. And so, we all know that, well maybe we don’t all know, but real estate went out the ceiling to the low interest rates. And now the housing is slowing because builders aren’t getting asked to build at a higher interest rate. And so, we just continue to compound. Before the pandemic, when I started this company, it was in January of 2020. And at that point we were 3 million homes shy of what we needed in projections for California. And even though people have moved, people still come in. You go where opportunity resides. And then when people want to find a place to live that’s affordable, they have to drive 2 hours. And so, what I’m really pitching at an institutional level and a city level is really going to have to provide housing for these people if you want someone to come, especially young professionals, they can’t afford to live here and we need them.
Eve: [00:09:01] Right.
Rebecca: [00:09:02] And then we’ve got an aging out. So, we want people to age in place. And I think with my solution, it’s very, because a person could age in place if they need income. And I know in Santa Clara County, 50% of our seniors are not doing well and 50% are. And so, you have a population that would benefit from an income stream. So, if they wanted to build the unit, live in it fully accessible or live in their house and you rent the unit, it’s a means for an income and also solving a community problem.
Eve: [00:09:33] Then there’s kids who can’t afford to buy their own home yet. Right. There’s a lot of people with children who are residing with them unexpectedly.
Rebecca: [00:09:42] Yeah, exactly. So, this is a really multifaceted solution. You can have a caregiver because you want to age in place, and you can afford to have a caregiver and have a place for them to live. If your child needs to be at home, you can build something that makes them have privacy, and you have privacy. Which really you know, it makes it where you can maintain the relationship.
Eve: [00:10:06] Right.
Rebecca: [00:10:06] Or you have aging parents, and you want to have them live with you. I had one had one family. They sold their house in San Francisco and they moved to San Jose with their grandparents. Move with their son and their children, and they did a multigenerational solution, and the garage was the solution.
Eve: [00:10:27] So, let’s go back to that, because I’m realizing we skipped over that whole thing. So, Symbihom is, your company basically is working on a scale solution for converting garages into accessory dwelling units. Not everyone who’s listening even knows what an accessory dwelling unit is. But I think in the state of California now, every household is permitted to have an extra unit on their properties.
Rebecca: [00:10:56] Actually, a number of units. You can have a junior ADU, which I can make a junior ADU at the garage because the junior ADU communicates with the house. My junior 80 who has a full bath and kitchen. Most junior ADUS do not. An extra room in the house. And then I think we’re up to having two ADUs and one junior ADU. And then another law was passed, SB10, that allows you to bifurcate a residential property and build two units on each side, so you can build up to four units on one lot.
Eve: [00:11:28] Right. So, this is California’s answer to this problem is to play with zoning laws, to allow densification where there’s already infrastructure and buses and everything that people need to live and work comfortably. Right?
Rebecca: [00:11:44] Yeah. And also sustain a stable workforce. And whether they have kids going to school, those children in the community getting educated and having teachers that have time for them is important to you. It’s important to the health and well-being of community. I just want to step back too and tell you where the name came from, Symbihom. So, it came from the SEM, which is a, it’s a preface. It’s like the before, it’s the habitat and the biome, and it was a microbiome. You know, if the microbiome is not diverse, it’s not healthy. And so, it was really a play on that. So, that’s where the name Symbihom came from. It’s bringing health back and reconstituting our communities. So that we can live and breathe and not have to stress our force.
Eve: [00:12:37] So, let’s talk about what you actually produce, which is, you’re working on converting garages into ADUs, and what goes into that in terms of approvals or thinking about utilities or finishes. Because garages are pretty raw spaces. How do you make that conversion affordable to the homeowner?
Rebecca: [00:12:58] Well, I’ve made a replicable model. So, my unit will fit in any size garage. I mean, it probably wouldn’t in 12 feet with a full bath, but I might be able to work something out. Usually it’s at least 13 feet wide. Single car garage.
Eve: [00:13:13] This is the artist in you.
Rebecca: [00:13:14] You know, and it’s got to have at least a seven and a half foot ceiling. But what I’m experiencing here, actually, yesterday I saw close to a ten-foot ceiling in one garage, but it’s a recently built house. In my model, the video that is on the site, it’s shy of an eight-foot ceiling because I have to level the floor. But I want to step back and say, you know, I make the garage sexy, when people say garage they go, oh, ugly.
Eve: [00:13:43] You should have named it Sexy Garages instead of Symbihom.
Rebecca: [00:13:46] Yeah. But there’s no one that has walked in the model that hasn’t said, wow, this was a garage? So, it’s really a conversion of underutilized space. And with the garage, it’s really a lot more private than having an accessory dwelling unit in the middle of your backyard, which is what the backyard ADU is about. And I don’t do the backyard ADU, I am re utilizing existing space, and it means that my unit costs half of what the backyard costs. And it also is a secure investment for a homeowner. But because I go from a construction background, I know how to do the assessment, I know how to put numbers together, and I can make sure that owner the knows how much it is before they say yes. I’m aligned with, the State of California has included me in their preferred ADU provider list.
Eve: [00:14:36] So, what goes into converting a garage into an ADU? I’m sure there has to be a lot of approvals and consideration with utilities and finishes, just a whole lot of stuff to think about.
Rebecca: [00:14:50] You know, there is, and most people look at it as being daunting. What I’ve done is spent a whole lot of time with building inspectors and in the city of San Jose. And I actually have master permits there now, so that I just have to come in with the site-specific information. But you need to know, and this really starts with the assessment, you need to understand what the load capacity is of the house for electric. You need to understand where the sewer is connected and how large it is. Because here you can only put three water closets or toilets on a three-inch line, so you have to have a four-inch line. That’s changing in January. And, you know, the water source. And so, when I do the assessment, I do a load calc on the house, make sure that we have enough power. The unit can use gas because we’re conversion. All new construction here has to use electric. So, I don’t, it’s not mandatory for me, in most cases, to have to do anything with utility upgrade. And that saves a lot of time.
Eve: [00:15:56] So, you’re saying that these ADUs are actually extensions of the house, so they’re using the same electrical panel?
Rebecca: [00:16:03] Yes.
Eve: [00:16:04] I see.
Rebecca: [00:16:05] I don’t have to go do any connections in the street or get a new service coming in or anything. I can feed off of the house because it’s the conversion of the existing space. And so, what I’ve done is I’ve created a product that will fit in any size garage. So I’ll go in and I’ll assess, what’s the available space? My model had a laundry room in the garage, so I made a laundry room in the closet and lined it up. So, it made it where it was a little bit shallower, but it still worked. So, the available space dictates what it’s going to be and how wide the garage is going to dictate what it’s going to be. So, if it’s under 22 feet, generally, it’s going to be a studio. If it’s 22 feet or wider, it can be a one bedroom. When it gets to 26 feet, it turns into a two bedroom, but that’s predicated on it being at least 22 feet deep. So, there’s some magic with respect to the dimensions that kind of tell the story. And so, what I’ve done is I’ve got a fabricator. I’ve made it where all the electric is inside my kit, inside my panels and the plumbing. I have one wet wall that the kitchen and bath attach to. And so, I really just have to do the rough end. And I do that while we’re waiting for the permits, because I know I’m already code compliant, so it’s really more about getting the city comfortable with my product because it’s a hybrid between commercial, because I use light gauge steel studs, I don’t use wood. With the lumber market going crazy, I found somebody that actually stamps his own studs, and that’s the business he was in originally. So, this is not new it’s just adding to. And so, that’s pretty much it. So, I’m able to do the estimate on what it’s going to cost, go over it with homeowner, give them some options on what the layout would be. I have a couple of options for the front of the garage. It can have a series of windows if they’d like. What I’ve tried to do is make it more or less match the aesthetic it had before. So, it’s not going to look like an oddball in the neighborhood. And people come to the model, they hesitate because they don’t realize the garage is the ADU. They don’t recognize it. They want to go to the front door. So, that’s a good sign. But I’ve got an option that’s a series of pivot doors that mock a glass garage door. So, if you want to still, like a garage door, I can do that. And some people do. They like it to resemble what it was originally, and probably the neighbors do too.
Eve: [00:18:28] And what are they doing with their vehicles?
Rebecca: [00:18:31] They park in the driveway, which most people do. I mean, usually it’s full of junk.
Eve: [00:18:38] So, there they go home.
Rebecca: [00:18:39] And I actually have a video, another one that I don’t have published yet. So, the mayor said, you know, we just use our cars. We don’t park our cars there, we use them for junk. And so, one unit I’m working right now, we’re going to include in the cost a shed, so that she can call through what she wants. She still got a workshop. I can run some electric to it. She’s actually going to upgrade her service. So, eventually we can put some air in there. And they’re getting rid of the stuff they don’t need. That’s just really an exercise of, are you motivated?
Eve: [00:19:13] It really is really wasted space at the moment then, right?
Rebecca: [00:19:17] Oh yeah. It is.
Eve: [00:19:18] Interesting. And so, like what does it cost for the homeowner? Like, what’s the cost per square foot compared to like building in your backyard?
Rebecca: [00:19:28] Well, see, I don’t do cost per square foot because as you well know, the bathroom and kitchen are the biggest expense. And so, when you have a small unit, you have a bathroom, a kitchen, and it’s going to make the cost per square foot.
Eve: [00:19:41] That’s true. It’s true.
Rebecca: [00:19:44] It’s not really a teller. So, my studio is about 175,000. Now, keep in mind, homes here, I don’t know, they’re over $1000 a square foot. So, this is just a tiny thing. It’s a blip on the screen when you look at the whole cost of the house. So, I’m putting a unit in, and it might be 200,000 if I have to pump utilities and do some other stuff. But think about it. And the owner is putting 200,000 in a $2.2 million house. And that’s not a big house.
Eve: [00:20:16] Right. I’ve heard that one of the biggest issues for ADUs is for homeowners to come up with financing. So, what are their options?
Rebecca: [00:20:26] It has been in the past. Right now, the state has a program to, as an incentive program, it’s $40,000 for qualifying homeowners and there’s an income cap. But I think the income cap, I know the income cap in Santa Clara County is 300,000 a year. So, they’ve been reasonable. And so, in San Jose, I worked with the mayor’s office to be able to use some tax dollars to convert it, to be able to use it for ADUs. And they’re working through the mechanics of putting that in place. And when we were dialing it up, it was about $50,000. So, if you can combine those two, then you’re looking at 90,000 against what you’re building because they’re trying to incentivize.
Eve: [00:21:10] And how much rent would you get for that $90,000 unit?
Rebecca: [00:21:14] You could easily get $2,000 for a studio.
Eve: [00:21:17] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:21:18] Yeah. There’s actually a list that is published, and it tells you, like, what the income is for, and then what the rents that are allowed. So, I’ll give you an example. And our teachers are in low income, and I never use that terminology on my website because it’s a nomenclature misnomer. People think, oh, low income, or they’re homeless. But far from it. If you’re saying you can only pay a professor 85,000 a year, then that’s 80% AMI, that’s low income.
Eve: [00:21:52] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:21:53] So, with the rents that you can put on a studio for a low-income person, 80% AMI is $2061.
Eve: [00:22:04] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:22:05] A month. If you want to go to a one bedroom for somebody that’s 80% AMI, you’re at $2355. And all of these are published charts that you can look up.
Eve: [00:22:16] This is a good deal for the homeowner, and it creates more housing. So, tell me about your first models and where they were located and how many you’ve built.
Rebecca: [00:22:25] Yeah. So, my first model is in San Jose and it’s for a caregiver. It’s an 80-year-old couple. And, if you watch my vision video, you’ll see them at the end. The daughter and the mother. They were going to move into a facility before COVID happened. Then they decided, no, we’re not going to do this. So, this was a really great solution for them. And the daughters have since been using it to take their parents to hospital visits, doctor visits, the types of things they’re doing well now. And then I’ve got a second unit that’s in Burlingame, that’s in south part of San Francisco, and it’s a detached, large garage. If it had been a deeper garage, it could have been a two bedroom, but it’s a one bedroom, large one bedroom with nine foot ceilings. And it’ll probably rent for 3,000 a month easily.
Eve: [00:23:18] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:23:19] And I’ve got two more that are in play right now. It took forever to get the master permits in San Jose. I spent a whole lot of time on that. But what that does, because it’s one of the hardest cities to get permits in, is it gives me a seal of approval with every other municipality.
Eve: [00:23:35] Right.
Rebecca: [00:23:36] And I’m really just starting to ramp up my marketing and PR. To be able to protect my IP, I have a patent pending on my unit and the design and I’ve just really started to make myself known with different entities. The Casita Coalition is one that the two founders, two women, helped write the ADU laws, and they’re a real big advocate for what I’m doing.
Eve: [00:24:03] So, you’re not going to solve this problem one unit at a time? What’s the plan to scale your company?
Rebecca: [00:24:10] Well, it’s geographical scalability is what got me excited. And so, I have to train crews. And so, I have a certification program I’m putting in place so that I can train installation crews. And so, the start is in the Bay Area, but we have problems all through California. So, it’s really about being able to find those alliance partners that have high integrity that can be the builders to do the installation. And I can then teach them how to pre-qualify a house and they can start a business. So, it’s not going to be really a franchise, but it’s alliance partners. And that really could be anywhere. I just read recently that average rent in New York City is $5,000 a month. And I think, okay, northern New Jersey is a hotbed for this.
Eve: [00:25:02] Just wondering, how many garages there are in Pittsburgh I could tackle.
Rebecca: [00:25:06] Well, you’re welcome to. I’m Serious. Anything that’s underutilized, and it’s happened in every, Austin. The influx of people are, it’s a form of gentrification because the prices get so high that the average person can’t afford them, and institutions are coming up and buying up the real estate and making it a market. So, it’s not touchable for the average person to own a home, which is a real problem.
Eve: [00:25:35] It is really a big problem. What does a conversion kit look like? What do you give a contractor who comes to you and says, I want to start a business converting garages? What do they get?
Rebecca: [00:25:45] Well, first they get a background check. Because I come from construction, I don’t trust anybody in construction until they’ve been properly vetted. And gone around the block with me a couple of times. Because I know all the games. So, it’s really that’s really top of the list to me is the integrity and competency of the person, so that I can train them and make these units available for them to install. And so, it basically would be shipped to them. We’d put the orders in. I’ve got a transportation and warehouse company that is one of my investors. All of my materials go there that go inside the unit that are not the panelized system. And then it gets aggregated there. I put it in a pod in the order in which it’s needed at the job site, and the pod goes to the job site at the same time the panels do, all the panels are flat stacked, they’re prewired, they get clipped in place, they get connected, and of course all the home runs and it’s ready for those connections prior to the panels getting there. So that permit period is really a time to get all the rough ends ready and the unit ready.
Eve: [00:27:00] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:27:00] So, I’ve done everything I can to make it a kit, Eve. So, it’s like, took the construction piece out of it. This is, I need a plumber, electrician.
Eve: [00:27:11] So, it really doesn’t need to be a contractor who’s doing it at all, right?
Rebecca: [00:27:15] No, it does not. It can be somebody. I’d love, there’s a couple organizations, but I’ve seen them more in Canada and New York City. Women in construction. You know, it’s like, being able to mentor and bring people up into the trades. Because when you have to install the panels, there’s certain tools you have to use to do certain things. And I have all those scoped out and then you need to use the high level. You need to have some amount of muscle, so that you can bring these panels up and you can clip them in place. You’ve got to have a ladder in there, just basic things. And a chop saw so that you can do the trim. But eventually I’d probably have the trim cut to size, but there’s going to be variations. But to the extent that it’s…
Eve: [00:28:01] It could be my next job.
Rebecca: [00:28:03] Minimized what a person needs in the realm of tools, that it’s kind of like, when you have an assembly thing from IKEA. Mine doesn’t have as many parts as IKEA. The clips are on the panel, so you have the clips. There is a Hilti gun that you need to use to install them into the concrete. And there’s a certain hammer ratchet that you have to use to put anchors, tighten anchors, to make a stem wall. I mean, these are just, but, once you learn how to do it once, this is not a mystery, you know, it’s just a drill, a hammer.
Eve: [00:28:40] So, could the homeowner do it? Like, will you let the homeowner do it themselves or.
Rebecca: [00:28:45] You know, I think at one point I would. But it would be with stipulations and sign offs because, you know, you need to have a quality of person. These are drywall. You have to take bed pipes and get it prepped. Right. So, you need key people. But if they can line them up locally, then there’s no reason it can’t be shipped to the homeowner and the homeowner manage it. Part of my concern, if you’re a construction and construction your entire career, you know how things work. But homeowner, this is like a lot. And so, working with the city, permitting all of that stuff, I take care of that for.
Eve: [00:29:25] Yeah, that’s a lot.
Rebecca: [00:29:27] Because it was really important to me to insulate the homeowner from risk. And eventually I’d like to be able to lease the garage and have an institution pay for the installation of the unit and have the institution be able to have a place to rent for a period of time. There’s a lot of ways to play this, and I’m working with cities and institutions, working on a pilot with a major private university here. And just heard back from a board member for one of the major school districts to be able to do pilot. Let me prove to you that community can help you with your problem and you’ll be helping the community. And that really makes it where the institution being there is to help to the community rather than a pain in the butt because of the traffic or the whatever is brought to them.
Eve: [00:30:17] Right, right. Right. So, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve been confronted with building this company from scratch?
Rebecca: [00:30:25] I’m a female founder. If I was 25, male…
Eve: [00:30:27] That was going to be my next question.
Rebecca: [00:30:32] I mean, I went out for Pre-seed round and I’ve done well, but it had not happened as fast as it would if I was a different profile.
Speaker1: [00:30:40] Well, under 3% of venture capital goes to women owned companies.
Rebecca: [00:30:47] Yeah, I’ve got one funder.
Eve: [00:30:50] That’s a pretty hard statistic to live with, right?
Rebecca: [00:30:53] If I weren’t in Silicon Valley, this wouldn’t have been possible. If I weren’t in San Jose and had done those high rises and known everybody at the city, this wouldn’t have been possible. There’s been a whole precursor of things that made it where a) I had the courage to do it. I knew I could do it, and I had the support of officials. And that’s been an interesting road because the building officials said you couldn’t use the garage, so there was a hill to get over. But I did it. And my investors are, I’ve got all men and one woman. But they get it because they’ve been in the realm of development. They understand the scalability and they get excited about it because they understand the validity of the venture. You know, I think right now getting the right PR and marketing company and the right articles and I’ve been resistant to writing articles about me. I want an article about this program and what it can do for the community, so that people can start to buy into it. And I think those are going to start to happen at a big level.
Eve: [00:31:59] So now you’re raising funds through crowdfunding?
Rebecca: [00:32:04] Mm hmm.
Eve: [00:32:05] Do you think the profile of investors might look a little different? It’ll be interesting to see.
Rebecca: [00:32:10] Yeah, I do. Just by my premise all along, there are people that care about their communities. And I was with the homeowner yesterday in Sunnyvale and by the time I was left, he goes, you know, that would be feel pretty good to be able to help a teacher. Their kids are in grade school, and it’s a community synergy because these are highly qualified people. They’re people that have been employed. They just don’t make tech dollars. And so, there’s two kinds of people and I’ve talked to both of them. Let’s just get as much rent as we can, and that’s why I’d invest. But my investors are there because they understand what I’m trying to accomplish. And so, with the crowdfund, I think it’s an opportunity for people that care about this issue to be able to help it accelerate and watch it go, you know, geographically viral.
Eve: [00:33:02] So, how big do you hope to grow?
Rebecca: [00:33:06] I think it could end up as an IPO.
Eve: [00:33:09] Well, good for you.
Rebecca: [00:33:11] Because I don’t see an end to it. California’s got some really strict environmental laws. We have seismic. There’s just things that have to be taken consideration. But I have two designs, and one of them just fastens to the slab. It’s a box on top of the box. And I ran into problems with a building official that said the garage couldn’t work. Telling me, oh, it’s a load bearing wall, now you have to put a footing in. Which was stupid because the garage floor is designed to a 3,000-pound point load and 40 pounds a square foot. And my unit uplift on a seismic event was less than 2,000 pounds. So, I know that it’ll work. And so, they’ve made here, they’ve made a lot of. My gosh, I want to say it’s SB eight, but I can’t be positive. That makes it ministerial for you to change zoning on office and retail. So, if you have under-utilized retail, you can convert it as well. And I think the boxes will be, the other design will make it even. But I could use either one.
Eve: [00:34:14] Interesting. So, do you have any words of advice for young women entering the construction industry?
Rebecca: [00:34:21] Yeah.
Eve: [00:34:23] Because it’s a fabulous, I mean, construction, building, architecture is a lot of fun. It’s a great industry to be in, but it shouldn’t be that hard for us, should it?
Rebecca: [00:34:33] No, it shouldn’t be. I think it starts with, you’ve got to find people that are not gender biased. They’re not looking at you as being a woman. They’re looking at you being a mind. And I had the benefit of growing up in that environment, and I also had aunts traveled around the world and they were, you know, single, educated, brought things back, gave us a thirst and a lust for diversity. That’s one of the reasons I love it here. But getting into construction, I think it’s finding your posse, for better term, of people, other women, that can give you a clear reflection of yourself and whatever issues you’re having, make sure they’re not like telescoping back to some other trauma and work on those things. I’m a testament to that. And persevere, I mean, perseverance.
Eve: [00:35:24] I agree.
Rebecca: [00:35:24] I just take it to the exponential. Because I’m just, because when I know that I know, then I can’t stop. I just know. And so, one way or another, I’m going to get around that problem. And ideation is a really big plus. It’s stay creative and curious, because no matter what, who says anything about you, if you’re solving problems and making things happen, they can’t dispute it. So just, it takes a while to get there, I think, because it can be. It’s different in every environment. I’ve had senior level people understand my talent and give me all kinds of responsibilities, but people are parallel or a little bit lethargic in what they’re doing. You know, I don’t make them happy because I’m raising the bar. But I just think, I think we need to teach little girls how to use tools and how to build things. So that we’re promoting that. There’s a group called Tools and Tiaras. It’s in New York City. And actually, the first gentleman was there with them, and they’ve been on the Drew Barrymore show. The woman is a plumber. She’s a person of color, and she teaches these girls how to use their tools. There’s another group that’s in Toronto that’s kick ass. And these are some young women that are kicking ass that are electricians and welders and plumbers. And, you know, they’re just owning it and being it. And I think we’re in an age where we just have to own our capability.
Eve: [00:37:00] Yeah, I agree. Well, on that note, thank you so much for joining me. I’m really excited to see where this goes. And I may be scouting out garages.
Rebecca: [00:37:10] You ought to.
Eve: [00:37:12] It’s a really fabulous idea.
Eve: [00:37:15] All you have to do is facetime with me and I can tell you.
Eve: [00:37:18] Thank you, Rebecca.
Rebecca: [00:37:20] Yeah, thank you, Eve. I appreciate it.
Eve: [00:37:31] I hope you enjoyed today’s guest and our deep dive together. You can find out more about this episode or others you might have missed on the show notes page at RethinkRealEstateforGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. If you like what you heard, you can support this podcast by sharing it with others, posting about it on social media, or leaving a rating and review. To catch all the latest from me, you can follow me on LinkedIn. Even better, if you’re ready to dabble in some impact investing, head on over to smallchange.co, where I spend most of my time. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music. And a big thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Möller