Every business has an origin story – here’s ours.
I was in a big funk in my life after college. I lived with my parents back home in Miami. I spent every day sending resumes to companies who didn’t want to hire me. After two years and dozens of failed interviews, I became desperate. Nothing worked. Instead of doing more of the same; I felt it was time for a drastic no-half-measures approach.
A total restart.
I symbolically burned my college diplomas (with literal fire) and decided it was time to move away.
California, New York, and Chicago were the top of my list, but were too expensive and/or cold. Besides, I never imagined myself working in a big glass office with a suit and tie. I wanted to go abroad, but doubted any employer would sponsor me.
One place kept popping up on my radar; Austin.
You see, I’m obsessed with podcasts. I was (and still am) really into those entrepreneur lifestyle design Tim-Ferrissy podcasts where people talk about making lot’s of money while having their shit together. I noticed something interesting. An unusually high percent of these people weren’t living in the big mega cities, but Austin.
“Hmmm. That’s interesting. What’s going over there?”
That faint thought was the first domino that triggered a chain of events that changed my life forever.
Austin was never on my radar. Texas seemed like a ridiculous place to move to.
You can usually infer what it’s like living somewhere based on the feedback of the people who live (or used to live) there. Invariably you’ll get a typical range of responses. Some people love it. Some hate it. Mostly all have a tortured love-hate relationship with where they live. Ask enough people and you’ll get a good idea.
Austin wasn’t like that. Everyone who knew about it had the same reaction.
Austin is awesome, you’ll love it there.
The evidence was overwhelming. Cheap. Sunny. Full of happy successful laid back entrepreneurs who had their shit together. Literally everyone had nothing but good things to say about Austin.
It didn’t take long for me to decide. I was desperate enough for a change that a sudden and dramatic life decision like moving away felt easy. I didn’t need to visit Austin. I knew it was the place to go. Once the path illuminated, it was obvious.
I didn’t want to do this alone, so out of nowhere I called my best friend and asked…
Me: “Hey….uh….Do you want to move to Austin?”
It’s a weird call to get out of the blue. Hey, do you want to uproot your entire life and move somewhere you’ve never been with somebody you haven’t seen for years?
His response confirmed why he was the right person to call
Best Friend: “……when?”
So like that, I had a destination, a plan to execute, and a best friend to join me.
For the first time in years, I felt optimistic.
I had a few months worth of money to figure my shit out, but I wouldn’t let anything stop me. We subleased a dirt cheap crack-den apartment behind an abandoned strip mall off Airport and Lamar from some crazy lady fleeing the country off Craigslist. My mom cried when she saw my new home. It was terrible and awesomely cheap.
Fast forwarding a bit, I spent the next few years hopping around from gig to gig. I worked with vacation rentals, sold cricket protein bars, photographed houses, produced podcasts, and even traveled to Southeast Asia for a food documentary series.
I fell in love with Austin. I met tons of amazing people, built a strong friend group, and got to dive into the local food scene (especially the tacos). My desperate hail mary was a home run.
All of that was great, except I was broke and desperate….again.
After years of trying to get my shit together, I was back at square one. But this time, I was asking my parents for money. It was humiliating.
Somewhere in the middle of my career vagabonding I got my real estate license. Mom kept bugging me to get it arguing it might come in handy someday. I never wanted to be in real estate. I never wanted to be one of generic fake-smiling facebook spamming realtors, but I was desperate enough to relent.
When the money ran out, it was time to execute this desperation plan – enter real estate. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Getting into real estate felt like waving the white flag. I was giving up. Whatever I dreamed of had to be on pause so I can get my shit together.
That’s how I started apartment locating.
At first I worked with University of Texas undergrads. It was terrible. I worked out of some old dingy suit-and-tie office near campus helping teenagers with shitty budgets and high expectations move into dirty rat-den buildings. The highest earning producer in the office, and my de-facto “mentor” was a sad 50-somethng year old divorcee.
To “show me the ropes” we went to meet up with a group of freshman girls looking to move into a house. They were 30 minutes late, and the house we toured was exactly what you imagine a college bro-house looking like on a Monday morning. Open stale beer cans, dirty toilets, blackened bongs, crumby futons. I could sense the dark self loathing energy radiating off my “mentor”. The absurdity was too much. I felt bad for him.
I lasted a month.
I moved onto another agency where things began to click. I learned how to manage a business pipeline, how to market, how to work with people, and of course, the local apartment market.
Things took off faster than I ever imagined. I quickly went from asking-dad-for-money broke to extra-guac-on-my-tacos stable. It was awesome. More interestingly; I actually liked the work.
My clients were just like me; smart young people looking to start a new life in a new city. Many became friends.
Whereas many of my colleagues felt apartment locating was a temporary stepping stone to bigger and better things in real estate, I stayed put.
I liked apartment locating because it was the most unlike real estate. It lacked everything I hated about traditional real estate. No open houses, cold calling homeowners, generic new-home-buyer-guides, drawn out contract negotiations and bad inspections.
With locating I was an ambassador. I could spend my time getting to know clients, running around town with them, getting tacos, talking shit, and maybe discuss apartments on the side.
It felt more human.
Eventually I got the inner voice call that I was time for a change…again. It was time for me to do things my way.
My way meant a lot of things, but the most important was to change how locating was done. Almost all locators operate the same way. They’ll send a bunch of listings with blocked information and hope you become dependent on them for information. I hated this. It wasn’t solving a problem; it was getting in the way. Then they would try to route people to the buildings that paid the highest commissions, whether or not the client liked it or not. Those who never figured out how to add any real value eventually came to the same strategy – bribing clients.
Put me down as the referral and I’ll pay you X.
I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to inundate every client I worked with as much useful information as possible. That’s why you’ll notice how awesome our guides are.
When it came to naming the business, I couldn’t do what everyone else does and put realtor at the end of my name. I wanted to….no, needed to…..exist on my own little island of weirdness. My imaginary weird little island was of course filled with my favorite things….like street tacos.
Once the name Taco Street entered my head, it was over. I couldn’t not have a real estate business called Taco Street. In Austin, every street is Taco Street!
So Taco Street Locating, the world’s first and only (I think) taco themed real estate business was born.
For a while I was a solo band. One day I was ranting to my roommate about all of these awesome systems and processes I built, and then he hit me with a simple question.
Roommate: “Can you do this in Dallas or Houston?”
Me: “Uh….well, I couldn’t. I don’t know those cities well”.
Roommate: “….but you can hire people right? People who do know those cities?”
Me: “….uhhhh yeah I guess I can”
He was right. I couldn’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t work. All I needed were cool people in those cities to do what I do. So I did. I found awesome people to do this same work over there.
In a nutshell, that’s how Taco Street expanded from Austin into Dallas and Houston, and became the company you see today.