Kendra Todd must drink Red Bull by the caseload. That’s my first thought upon meeting the newest "Apprentice" winner in person for the first time. I later surmise that she relies on pure adrenaline rather than on any energy drink to keep up with her crazy schedule. Todd has been running on overdrive ever since her surprise victory on Donald Trump’s hit reality TV show last spring. Her days usually involve an endless stream of business calls, media interviews and personal appearances.
The 27-year-old University of Florida graduate was a successful real estate entrepreneur in Boynton Beach, Fla., long before gaining national attention. After her college graduation she became the founding editor-in-chief of an award-winning lifestyle magazine. Todd went on to obtain her real estate license and incorporated her media expertise into the development of MyHouseRE.com, a real estate marketing company specializing in preconstruction and condo conversion projects. Todd also appears regularly as "Special Agent 53" on My House, a talk radio show that focuses on real estate investment.
Todd has already begun the first stage of her apprenticeship, working at the Trump National Golf Club in New York. Her training focuses on evaluating the potential of national and international properties for purchase and development of golf courses. Following her three-month training period, Todd will return to Florida to oversee the Trump Organization’s renovation of Palm Beach Mansion, a 48,000+ square foot oceanfront property. Her new job came with a Pontiac Solstice and a $250,000 salary, likely a pay cut from her previous earnings as one of the highest producing real estate agents in the South Florida marketplace.
YOUNG MONEY recently sat down to chat with the busy reality show star on the Universal Studios’ production lot in Orlando, Fla.
What do you think set you apart from your competitors on the show?
TODD: First of all, I believe it was my respect for my teammates. I never saw them as employees, nor did I treat them as employees. I saw them as teammates. … When you empower people and give them responsibilities, they feel good about themselves and they want to work hard for you. I promised myself in the very beginning that I would keep my integrity intact and that I would play this game with character. Having integrity is so important. To this day, I don’t have anything bad to say about any of the candidates I competed against.
The show’s teams were set up as "book smart" versus "street smart." Do you think either side has a competitive advantage in the business world?
TODD: In the business world, it’s easier to get a job if you have a college degree. However, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful. Success is based more on drive, passion and motivation than on education. However, those that have both a degree and the drive are 10 steps ahead of the rest. [So] is book smart better than street smart or vise versa? No, but a combination of the two is [better]. … Education is your time to evaluate and learn from other people’s mistakes. Experience is learning from your own [mistakes.]
Do you feel any added pressure to perform because you’re the first female winner of the show?
TODD: I don’t feel any added pressure. I do feel a sense of responsibility not only to women in the workforce but to twentysomethings. I think that the fact that a twentysomething woman won "The Apprentice" goes to show that there’s no stereotypical mold for a successful business person. … I think I broke a lot of molds. I think being young was one mold and being a woman was another. From some people’s perspective, I had both things working against me. From my perspective, I think I had both working in my favor.
Like many college grads you studied one field and then ended up becoming successful in another. Do students place too much importance on choosing a major? Absolutely. I changed my major five times and ended up getting a degree in linguistics. Don’t worry about your major unless you’re going into a specialized field like law or medicine, then that’s pretty cut and dry. The path is clear. My best recommendation to a student is if you want to do something other than [a specialized field], or you don’t know what to do, then pick a degree that’s going to benefit you no matter what you do. For me, in linguistics, it helped me become a strong communicator, which is extraordinarily important in business.
You started a magazine after graduating school, then you went into real estate. How did that change come about?
TODD: The person who funded the magazine was a physical education teacher who made a tremendous amount of money in real estate. … I found that sort of interesting. How does a teacher make all this money to fund a magazine with hundreds of thousands of dollars? Then I started interviewing people for the power profile section of our magazine, and I saw a pattern. I saw that many of the best attorneys and doctors [I interviewed] had made their money in real estate. Additionally, most of the advertisers for our lifestyle magazine seemed to be development projects. I also saw all the building and development that was going on around me. Then one day, somebody told me to read the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kyosaki, and it changed my life.
You have done very well financially by investing in real estate. Would you recommend that as a good investment for other young adults?
TODD: You need to find what’s right for you. I’m biased. I do think that real estate is the lowest risk, highest return investment right now. Plus, real estate is tangible. Stocks are not really insurable. If a house burns down, guess what? It just gets rebuilt. You can go to the bank and get an equity line. You can leverage the equity in your house. Can you do that with stocks? Real estate is something that you can build upon, that you can touch, that you can own. … And the tax benefits are almost endless.
You are writing a book on how to manage risk. What sort of ideas do you have regarding that topic?
TODD: I think people fear their own failure, which is why they don’t go out there and put their dreams into action. A dream is just an empty thought unless you actually go for it. In order to overcome that fear of failure you just need to learn how to manage and control and lower risk. The more in control you feel, the more apt you are to take that risk. With risk comes reward. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth.
Can you offer some advice to college students thinking about starting their own business?
TODD: College is a superb time to start a small business, even if it’s just college-oriented and you plan on closing down the business once you graduate. You have thousands of kids the same age there, [so] it’s probably somewhat easy to pinpoint what their interests are and what they might spend money on. Find a need in the local market and fill that need with low overhead and high returns. College kids have disposable income. They’re not emotionally attached to money because most of the time it comes from their parents, so they’re going to be more apt to spend.
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