Q&A with the Founder and CEO of CA South
In every interaction, we at Spark are reminded how privileged we are to work with some of the most influential people across the New Development sector. By now you should be familiar with our video series where we speak with a number of instrumental people leading some of the most exciting new development projects in the United States about how they got their start in the industry, the current projects they are working on and the challenges and roadblocks they have overcome throughout their career.
In our third instalment of this series Spark’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Jessica Radziszewska caught up with CA South’s Founder and CEO Meg Epstein to discuss her upcoming projects and the propellents behind Nashville’s scorching hot market. Meg spoke with us about how her incredible internal drive and determination has powered her success, how she started from scratch to build out an impressive portfolio of projects in a new market to her and the importance of harnessing the power of data and technology to respond to the needs of the market.
We were particularly inspired by how Meg continues to set ambitious goals and does not start until she achieves them and the no-nonsense advice she has for anyone who wants to get to where she is.
What is some advice you would give to someone who wants to one day be in your shoes?
Don’t watch television. I work all the time or I’m doing something very productive. I compartmentalize my time and whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it very professionally and in a very assertive way. My day starts and I write down my goals for the day, the week, the month, a year, five years — I’m very goal oriented. I make my husband’s lunch, I have my time at home where I do my reading for an hour, you know, I’m a proper wife. And then I put my work hat on and go to my office.
I think people can waste a lot of their life, I don’t know, doing nothing. You know what I mean, on social media or Instagram or watching television. And not to say that I don’t have a television or to go be an alien, I watch Squawk Box in the morning when I’m doing my email or whatever to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world.
“I just think that it’s important to be really certain what you want and dedicating and compartmentalizing your time so that you can get what you want whether it’s volunteering, or going to church more, or being a good mom or dad. Your life doesn’t just happen to you so that’s something I’m really offensive about is how I play my life.”
I think that thinking big in terms of real estate is important, which is easy to say, I understand that, but I’ve never done the friends and family $50,000 cheque raise. My first equity cheque was $7M and doing a bigger deal is much easier. Now that my deals are more in the $50 to $100 million dollar range I’m dealing with super smart people, they’re very sophisticated. I don’t do well with unsophisticated investors because I’m very fast and I don’t want to handhold, that’s not my job. What I would say is, think big about whatever you’re doing, assuming you’re checking out real estate but even if you’re not, you really have to be able to think on a larger scale to be able to accomplish a lot.
A lot of people start out and they do the friends and family raises and they grow organically which is great but I would not have been able to grow that quickly unless I just went bigger in the beginning. Even now, my first big deal then was $30M and now I’m like “We gotta stay above $80M for anything and now we’re doing $500M”. Set big goals, not something that’s going to be unattainable but you know, you have to work towards it. I suggest writing it down every morning. People have vision boards, or whatever works for them, but you really have to set your goals and work towards them and visualize something that’s big enough to make an impact.
Where do you source your design inspiration from? What does that process look like to you?
When we travel, I have a shared album on my iPhone with my designer and architect. I am constantly take pictures of things. I’ve travelled quite a bit and have been inspired by certain concepts. One of my projects is waterfront in Nashville and it incorporates a waterfront cafe and other ways of utilizing the waterfront. That just comes from everywhere in Europe, essentially. Nashville didn’t get the memo, for whatever reason. There are certain architects that I follow. Bjarke Ingels is one that I followed, gosh, for a very long time before he totally blew up. I just had the opportunity to work with him on a project, I was just in their offices a couple weeks ago. He is so inspiring.
I always listen for people that are aligned with my design priorities. National Civic Design Centre is a group that is trying to push forward walkability, sustainable architecture, and parks in general.
I don’t think that it’s prioritized in the South enough. I worry that Nashville is growing so quickly without the infrastructure for transportation and without a priority for parks that we are just going to be an uncreative concrete jungle. I really look and listen for the groups who are prioritizing that and looking at creative ways to do that. They do these “park-let” days where they put up a little parks essentially in a parking lot and it really shows what could be of that spot, even in the street. A cafe could extend or we could have a green area. I really try to stay involved or connected to groups that have the same priorities that I do because not everyone does. People have different priorities.
About Meg Epstein
Born in California, but today calls Nashville, Tennessee home, real estate developer Meg Epstein has over a decade of experience creating efficient, modern lifestyles for people where it matters most: their homes and neighbourhoods. Meg founded CA South in 2016 with the idea of bringing to Nashville her sense of design and style of building honed from her days constructing in California. Meg quickly recognized the unique under-supply of residential condos in this market, and began by being focused on this asset class. As CA South raised its first dedicated fund in early 2019, the firm expanded beyond residential condos to include multifamily mixed-use, industrial and office projects, as well as opportunity zone funds. Meg has been involved in the development and construction of over 1 million square feet of residential and commercial real estate, representing over $780 million to date. Meg is a licensed Commercial Contractor, licensed Residential Contractor, CCIM candidate, and licensed real estate agent; she also keeps a private pilot’s license and bareboat charter sailing certification.