Building Amazing Conscious Communities with Brett Kaufman
Introduction: In this interview, Alan Olsen, CPA and featured guest Brett Kaufman discuss Building Conscious Communities and much more.
This Transcript of Alan and Brett’s discussion of conscious community building has been generated by software and may have inaccuracies:
So Brett in our segments here in American Dreams, we talked about pathways of life and things that we’ve done along your way. And you’ve had a remarkable path given to you. And I like to talk about some of the early influences of your career path and what moves you towards becoming interested in being a developer?
Yeah, it’s a it’s a great question. You know, I think, deep down, when I think back, I had exposure to blueprints to sort of home improvements. My father was a window salesman, and I can remember being a toddler and kind of seeing him work and having some curiosity about that, you know, at the time, I didn’t know what that meant. But looking back, I always had a bit of a draw towards the building of things, even as a kid, you know, love Legos, that kind of stuff, you know, working with my hands.
And, you know, as I moved into college, I studied architecture and psychology and, and truthfully didn’t see myself going down one of the paths that maybe my heart was kind of calling me towards more in the psychology, in the arts, in the creative side of things. I was really programmed to go into business. And so that’s what I did. When I graduated college, I got a job at a bank, I put on a suit and tie, I did everything I could to impress my parents, and my girlfriend’s parents who did become my wife now of almost 25 years.
So maybe, you know, I did something good there. But mostly, I really fumbled around in the business world because I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like banking, I really didn’t like working in a big corporate job. But along the way, I learned a ton. And I got introduced to a real estate developer out in Texas. And that’s where I really started to understand that this might be something I want to do for a living,
you know, and having an idea and understanding versus actually too. And you tell me what it was like when you said, Okay, I’m all in. I’m moving out of this old career into a new path. And what was it like getting your first client? And how did that really come about?
Yeah, so you know, in my case, what happened was, I then spent 11 years after banking, working for another development company, and really learning the business. And the last few years of that I was really running the business, and started to develop, you know, my own ideas for how I thought development could be done. And doing that in a way that included some of those things that were in my heart that I was passionate about.
So, you know, once I kind of got some practice, and really all of the aspects of doing the job, and then I took some small risks by you know, kind of testing my thesis, which, which really, was that you could do higher design things at more affordable prices. And you could include then, activities, events, programs, amenities that would really be geared towards the passions of our customer.
And I tested that on some smaller projects, little duplex here, a four unit there, we converted some stuff at my old company and practiced it there. And once I was crystal clear, that I not only knew it would work that I really wanted to do it that this was the thing I wanted to spend my life doing, then then it was a pretty easy jump.
You know, it appeared to be a big risk. I had plenty of people tried to slow me down. Tell me you know, are you sure be careful. But I had been doing a lot of work for the last, you know, 15 years before I started my company to really feel very confident. And really in my case, it wasn’t a customer it was a deal. I had a deal. I believed it would work at I took the job.
You know breaking your brows something in that last comment about taking a look at what gives your customers a passion. What are they interested in? You know, it’s something a lot of entrepreneurs get right away in, in in it’s a sign of your true entrepreneurial spirit of thinking in terms of the other person’s interests, but I want to flip this around is what gives you the most satisfaction at the things that you do?
Yeah, I mean, I think Elon Musk has a saying that, you know, the definition of profit is, you know, how much value can you create for somebody else? And, you know, I really do, like, what good to answer your question, you know, what fills me up, there’s a lot of things that really fill me up. But but at the end of the day, I think deep down, you know, kind of at like a soul level, what really fills me up, is being able to do something that makes a difference in someone else’s life.
And that does not have to be separate from profit, you know, and if you can really build things that are energizing, that are exciting, that are innovative, that, you know, allow you to be creative to, to bring the things that you’re passionate about into the work. And then have it be something that other people really benefit from really get value out of. That’s very, very fulfilling for me.
So what are your interests? is in building conscious communities through your developments? What is a conscious community?
Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s sort of a new category, but people have referred to it over the years in different ways. So, you know, some people will say, it’s intentional or purposeful, you know, we use the word conscious community, the language conscious communities.
And really, you know, what that means is that we are mindfully curating and crafting physical and now virtual environments, where people are able to connect to each other, to connect that to the things that they’re passionate about, to collaborate, to learn, to grow, to shift to hopefully, give back to the community, to the broader community to make a difference in the world.
Everything that we build, is designed, programmed, mindfully, consciously created with the intention, that it will make a difference in the end users life, and consequently, hopefully make a difference in the community we’re building in. And if we can replicate that across the country, maybe we can make a little debt in the world.
Project gravity, is one of your current developments focus on this conscious community. What sparked this idea in in how did it roll into fruition?
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, like I explained a little bit with my career, you know, for me, it’s been a life’s work. And I think that’s important to really underscore because a lot of times I think today, especially people are looking for, for quick hits, and and, you know, to have ideas, and then, you know, expect them to turn into billions of dollars overnight. And, you know, for me, this has been my life’s work. And, you know, the the sparks go back to those childhood memories.
And, you know, really, I would say that the biggest thing that helped me come to the idea of building conscious communities, was really doing my own inner personal work. And the more that I started to clear out what I believed and who I am and what my purpose was, and what my identity is, and what I thought about the world, the more I could gain the strength to not only have clarity of vision, but belief and an execution.
And so, you know, this is constantly bringing in things that I’m learning in my own life that I want to share with other people, things that I’ve had to maybe travel across the country or spend a lot of money to learn that I want to make accessible. Going back to that original ideas, like how do we make these life changing? events, programs, content, you know, opportunities for people to connect and collaborate?
How do we make that accessible right here in a community like Columbus, Ohio, that you don’t have to go to California in New York or somewhere around the world to learn and grow and be around like minded people.
You spoken about the importance of art and wellness and community building? Can you elaborate on these elements, how they contribute to a healthier, more connected society?
Yeah, you know, I think what we’ve tried to do a gravity in particular, is try to meet people Wherever they are, so not everybody wants to, you know, maybe learn to meditate or not everybody wants to go on some big retreat or, you know, a plant medicine journey or whatever sort of some of the heavy hitter big guns are in the transformational world.
Some people are inspired by art, some people are inspired by music, some people are interested in physical fitness, some people are more passionate about mental health.
And so we are trying to really curate communities that can meet people, wherever they are, in a wide variety of ways. The Wellness piece is really important to me, because I think that you know, how you feel. And it really determines a lot of your experience in life and what you’re able to offer to, to a community and other people.
And the arts are something that I’ve always just really been inspired by and passionate about. And, you know, even if you you don’t see yourself as an artist, I believe we’re all in the act of creativity.
So it’s not just about fine art or murals, or, you know, you know, anything that you know, people might not identify with, it’s about being creative. And how do you create your thoughts? How do you create your relationships? How do you, you know, create your business, these are all part of, you know, the act of creative expression, which is embodied gravity.
I’d like to move into the maybe some examples or specific projects or initiatives that you’ve been undertaking that particularly highlight, integration of art in wellness, and how did you know you were getting it right, when the people observe which you put into place?
Yeah, it’s it’s a good question. You know, when I started the gravity project, I like to say that it walked into a neighborhood here in Columbus called Franklinton, which was very, very early stage up and coming Creative Arts District, mostly, it was a place where all the displaced artists had landed from a prior arts district in town. And they were all scattered. There wasn’t a lot of sides of what it was.
But I noticed that and what it felt like to me was when I walked into my high school art room, I thought this is a place where creatives want to be, and how can I build a community that doesn’t displace the artists but supports the artist. So we have worked with artists in the neighborhood, in the community and around the world to curate art.
Everywhere in the project, there’s dozens of murals, some of them by the top muralist in the world, there’s sculptures, there’s placemaking, and there’s fine art that’s hung throughout our communities, we do artists in residence programs, where we give away free homes to people who are going to create art and, and teach and educate our community. It’s a, you know, it’s it’s a, everybody wins, program.
So, you know, there’s a lot of ways in which we lean into the arts, we had a large mural Festival last year, which we’re going to do again, this year, we’re again, locals and an international artists will be working together to really paint the community and make sure that it really has honors the arts that, you know, got me inspired to begin with.
So what are some of the biggest challenges you face, particularly in the community development?
Yeah, you know, they change currently, you know, the capital markets are very challenging, nobody really predicted interest rates going as high as they are and lending environment, you know, shifting as much as it has. So, you know, there’s always challenges in the fundamentals of the real estate, you know, there’s increased construction cost or, you know, just the difficulty in getting the economics to pencil and to work and to get a deal started. You know, real estate development is very complex.
There’s a lot of labor and time and zoning and, you know, politics of legal and, you know, finance all the things so, you know, you have to kind of expect that I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there’s got to be challenges there gotta be coming from different angles, and you just have to be Learn how to navigate them.
You know, I think that the easy part for me is because this is kind of my unique ability is the vision and is bringing the the kind of fun, exciting aspects of the physical community, the the events, the programs, things like my podcast, you know, that that, to me is, is easy, you know, lucrative and fun, you know, as our friend Joe Polish would say. So, you know, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really, you know, I would say more challenging. And, you know, just the fundamentals of the real estate industry.
So I want to turn the page share in, move a little bit deeper into some of the causes that, that you’re involved with, and, you know, where you’re working to make a difference in, in the lives of others.
Yeah, you know, we’ve really tried to make impact, a big part of our company and community philosophy, and that really can’t be done if you’re not in collaboration. So we’ve partnered locally with a group that now has a portal for all of our residents to volunteer across the community. With a push of the button. We started that with a local group that’s now doing volunteer activities for corporations, you know, fortune 100 companies now, across the country.
That’s been a great partnership. We are working with the Transcendental Meditation community, we have a TM Center at gravity and we’re working on big national programs, city by city to teach first responders and, and underprivileged kids, mindfulness and meditation techniques. You know, there’s a local nonprofit that has the world’s largest single day cancer fundraiser bike race called Pelotonia.
That lives that that’s, that’s that corporate headquarters is in our community. They’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research for the Ohio State, James Medical Center here.
And yeah, the you know, the list goes on, like I said, the artists and residency program, you know, we’re really active, you know, in a variety of ways. And it’s not just about writing checks, it’s about you know, starting programs, it’s about really getting our, our residents and our team engaged in the in the work itself, you know, seeing seeing the difference that can make by spending time one on one doing the work is really where we get the most benefit.
Well, Brad, I love your vision, your leadership and all that you’re doing to support causes that make a life difference in the lives of others. person that wants to reach out to you and follow up with questions or opportunities to collaborate with you. How would they do that?
Yeah, you know, I’m on all the socials, Brett Kaufman on Instagram or B Kaufmann, 125, on on Twitter, LinkedIn, you can find me Facebook on there. And yeah, you can go to our website, live kaufmann.com or gravity project.com and learn more about our company and communities. And yeah, that’s, I’m always happy to connect with people and, you know, find ways to collaborate.
Right. It’s been a pleasure having you on the show today.
Thanks, Alan. You know, I really enjoy knowing you and spending time with you and it’s an honor to take time to be with you here on your program.
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