You won’t see a penny within the first two years (5 more likely). You will reinvest everything in your business. That’s part of the fun! The freedom of being ok with not having much will change your life.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact , I had the pleasure of interviewing Alejandro High.
Alejandro High is a Mexican-American immigrant. He is passionate about creating creative community building to develop solutions for a better world. He is a real estate investor and operates a luxury residential sales and development firm, High Realty Group (http://highrealtygroup.com), out of La Jolla, California.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Iimmigrated from Mexico at age 12 after my parents had a very contentious divorce. My mom had no college degree, and we came with nothing. We had a dream and a desire for a better life and made it happen. My mom went to school and worked full time, and I submerged myself into my studies and sports. Through hard work and dedication, we have been able to achieve our version of the American dream.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
That is a great question! In the words of Henry Ford, I believe that “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” I have developed High Realty Group (http://highrealtygroup.com) to add value to customers in luxury residential sales and development. Our efforts extend into Charity through the Fusenot Foundation (http://fusenotfoundation.org/). My mother sits on the board of this fantastic charity. The ability to use a fund to distribute to charities helps us move quickly in times of crisis. The charity has been able to distribute over $10 million dollars in funding so far. We have a deadline in October for any new charities.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I love working with Fusenot foundation! One of the beautiful reasons is because I get to work with my mom, Nellie High-Iredale. I have always called La Jolla my home and this place has inspired me so much. I feel passionate about giving back to the community that has given us so much. We are involved through the foundation in diverse causes from those underprivileged (Feeding San Diego) to biotechnology (Salk institute). It is through the foundation’s flexibility that we are able to create creative solutions for a better community. I think if we have learned anything this year, is the value of being flexible and adapting.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Coming from an immigrant family instilled a fight within me because I didn’t have anything growing up. The biggest challenge in my life was moving to the United States and starting a new journey. As a middle school kid, I saw my mom would work full time and go to school at night. She was relentless. She would wake up at 4 am and go to sleep until late hours of the night. I needed to prove to myself and my family that we could do it. I had no other choice.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
You need help and you need to know how to search and ask for help. Humble yourself and build relationships with people you look up to. Understand the power of questions — My mentor Jon Hamby taught me this. How to arrive at what you don’t even know you need to know. If you are passionate about reaching the best version of yourself you will find a way to reach your goal no matter what.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I embarked on a journey to Bali with investors and friends to review the possibilities of a multifamily development opportunity. As I arrived at my layover in Sidney, the first news of borders closing from China had come out. I reviewed CDC guidelines, and at the time, Bali was a safe place. Once there, everything seemed normal. As the week went by the borders began to close from Europe, and all of our flights were being rerouted and canceled. Stay at home orders in New York began to occur, and we had no clue what to do. On the last day, I was starting to panic. I was able to snag one of the last flights out to the United States. In these moments, you realize what is essential in life, and regardless of statistics and proper analysis, life can throw a curveball at you, and you need to smile and hit a home run.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
There are so many! But my favorite and one that keeps happening is playing hide and seek and search for a lockbox. You can get there 15 minutes to an hour early, expecting to prepare for your client only to find them at the doorstep as you arrive. Regardless of looking at the MLS instructions and talking with the listing agent before heading out the search for the lockbox and the way you handle it in front of your client can be awkward, funny, and a bonding experience. Part of this task’s success and bonding is properly communicating with a client the hurdle of locating a lockbox and laughing with them as you find the golden egg.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Off the top of my head are Ken Church and Jon Hamby. Ken was my Master in Taekwondo. He helped me realize that the American dream is possible! Jon is someone that has helped me structure strategies for positioning myself in interview settings. He is also instrumental in my understanding of commercial real estate and syndicating developments.
Alan Faena is someone that has helped personify success. I met him at Art Basel at the opening of one of his hotels in Miami. It was mesmerizing, meeting an arbiter of taste of his caliber. The way he presents himself and conducts himself with grace and humility has helped me identify how I would like to portray myself in the future and identify a pathway of what I would like to do with my real estate career. His ability to bring in artists from all over the world and redevelop cities with a consciousness of art and community is something that I will look forward to developing in my career.
Another brilliant human that has helped fuel my creativity and see my future reflected on their crystal ball is Mauricio Kirshner. Reda Boussie invited me to Kirshner’s 35th birthday party, an escapade on an island in Mexico. Once again, the ability to seamlessly create an environment which fosters artistic expression I found refreshing. Kirshner’s mere presence helps develop a smart dialogue. Through Krishner’s cultural experiment, I met Daniel Dugan, an American artist challenging the realms of what a line is and how it can be interpreted.
Both of these Latin geniuses humbled me by their ability to influence and redefine the world around them. They impersonate what true brilliance means to me.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We were recently in contact with Tom Juberna, who kindly thanked us for the foundation’s contribution to Sacra Profana. Sacra Profana is a California-based eclectic and unorthodox chamber choir. COVID-19 has heavily hit them. Through our donation, they have been able to continue educating their students and produce virtual concerts. We believe in the importance of adding to the community through artistic avenues to foster creative problem solving and add beauty during difficult times.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Create available resources and channels for creative problem solving.
- Give a space for multiculturalism.
- Allow everyone to participate.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You need a business plan — I started with intuition and putting myself out there. It would have been much easier had I had a better structure.
- It is an emotional rollercoaster! — You will lose deals, and things will not fall through. It happens! Get up and move on.
- You won’t see a penny within the first two years (5 more likely). You will reinvest everything in your business. That’s part of the fun! The freedom of being ok with not having much will change your life.
- You’ll have so much fun. Enjoy the ride!
- You’ll make friends for life. Your energy and development will attract the right people into your life.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would give them one word: Legacy. How do you want to be remembered? Why do you want to be recognized, and how will you contribute to building your community?
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Only one! That is too good of a chance to pass it up. I was unable to resist and chose two.
- Rafa Olarra, the creative director of Faena. Faena Buenos Aires, specifically the red tango, left an impression on me that will forever remain impregnated in my mind. Now Olarra is pushing the Faena Group into realms I am mesmerized by. From his work at Art Basel to the artwork he produces for publications like Vogue, his brilliance is thrilling. I would love to pick his brain.
- Andre Balaz. His cultural centers like the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and the Mercer hotel in New York have transformed me. I have been able to dream of new realities due to these places. His ability to change the world is something that I want to experience firsthand.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!