We all started from somewhere and some of us end up in a completely different career than what we started. Cori started off young as a teenage owner of clubs, but ultimately ended up investing in real estate. Real estate investing allowed Cori to enjoy the benefits of passive income while helping communities progress. Learn the progress, growth, mistakes and wins of Cori Zigman on this episode of the Real Estate Investor Goddesses Podcast.

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From Being A Teen Entrepreneur To Real Estate Mogul: How Real Estate Investing Let Cori Zigmen Help Communities and Her Family

Welcome to the Real Estate Investor Goddesses Podcast. I’m your host, Monick Halm. On this show, I interview amazing badass women, and real estate investors who share their stories, their wins, and mistakes and I am super excited to have you with us today Cori Zigman. She’s a very seasoned real estate, investor, and entrepreneur. She went from building and running her businesses at the age of seventeen to helping support others build theirs.


She’s been in real estate for the past thirteen years, and has been, and continues to be a successful multifamily developer across several states. When not traveling and enjoying the life she supports real estate investors that are new in the season to build portfolios and rental properties. 


She builds with her the profits that she gets from her investment. She builds primary schools and wells in six countries and continues to support clean water and global education. I love being able to do well to good by doing well. She’s spoken on stages all over the world, helping to inspire people to take action and try new things in their financial lives, so that they can live the lives they want, and I’m so excited to have her here. Welcome, Cori!


Awesome. Thanks, Monick. I’m so grateful. It’s always when you hear about yourself you’re like “Oh, did I do all that?”


You should pat yourself on the back. This is amazing. All the things that you’ve done. So I’m excited to have you here now. You have been an entrepreneur since you were seventeen. What did you start doing at seventeen?


So I started working in nightclubs very young. I went to Miami, to South beach, and I went to New York, and then to LA!I loved it. I was extremely good at it. And then ah! As with every business you’re going to have won, and you’re going to have not wins, and just kind of crash and burn my last business. I lost multiple millions and said I don’t want to do this anymore. Um. So I got into real estate.


So okay, before we get into the risks of like, I’m so fascinated by this nightclub. There’s like you weren’t even legal, to go into the night. 


It was not legal, but in South Beach, at that time nobody cared. So one of those like you can see over the bar.


Right! And so you own nightclubs. That’s amazing. And so then, what got you into real estate?


My last club was falling apart. I had an owner who had just gotten into some personal challenges, and we’re just watching money tweed out. I didn’t know how I was going to keep it together. I’m at home eating Top Ramen, and we’re just, you know, taking care of all these people trying to just keep my employees together. I had eighty-nine employees, and I just didn’t want employees anymore. I wanted a business where I could do business with other businesses, and someone had been like real estate, and I had thought real estate was either flipping houses or being an agent.


So like in a part-time alternate life I used to raise cars, so I was like nobody wants to ride the car with me, so being an agent, unfortunately, was just not on the rear of me, driving people around all day. So I was like I’m gonna flip houses, and I want to invest in somebody to teach me how to do it, and that’s kind of how I got started. I gave my employees like a year that I was going to build out something else for myself and I knew I was going to exit that.


Amazing! So you started flipping. Tell us about your first flip.


It was a historical home in the Midwest. I was living half between here in New York, and it was one I’m very averse to these now like in 1905 to 1915 Sears house. So anyone that knows those houses, I mean, there used to be somebody with a catalog that would sell these out of a catalog for like five thousand dollars, and you can pull this piece off the wall, and you see, like the receipt in the house. It’s like the coolest thing to me, but that was my first one.


I learned a lot, I think like living in New York in LA, like everything’s shiny and seen knobby wood floors, and my friend, who was my agent at the time, Ashley, she’s like “well, no, this is the way the wood floors are” I’m like “No, no! We got to sand them down and make them smooth! and then she’s like “this is what is would people buy?” And I was like okay, and I had my contractor put in like railings.


You can’t do that on a historical, they’re like we need you to take those down and put the old ones back up. I’m like Well, the old ones were not great.


But it was like that’s what they expect. So it was just a learning process. I’m thinking if I had a contractor that had the massive patience of an angel, and I mean, we still work together. So it’s been thirteen, fourteen years now, and we’re still doing houses, and any time we get to see our house it feels like Christmas morning.


So I know you’ve done a lot since that first one. And what are you currently doing now?


Currently, I’m developing a 900-unit in Santa Barbara, a little north of Los Angeles. I’ve got a 36-unit luxury development outside of Boston, about twenty minutes outside of Austin. So both of those projects. And then we’ve got 1100 in Pomona. So those are so outside of things that I know how to do. I wouldn’t do not have any idea like my partners. I say, all the time “ I don’t know” and they’re like “No, you do!” because every time I get on calls, I think the questions I asked are always like, Whoa! She knows what she’s doing. Um, because I came from, like fifteen to thirty units. I can develop those all the time. That’s just a specialty I’ve done for years. But these were like Wow, but it’s just been so fun to relearn and like re-engage, and I think that’s what I love about real estate. There’s always something you think you’re proficient to something. And then something else comes out and you like, Oh, No, I did not know, but it’s cool, because like you’re learning. What you’ve created is a community of people to go to, and so I built my community, and I worked with a company and consulted with them for years, and they’ve got a great community that I can consult with other investors, and it’s just good to be in communities where, when I’m in that moment I’m like “Oh, my gosh! I have no idea what I’m doing here!” that you can go to different people and like, Oh, okay, yeah, Actually, you know, I do you? Or “Oh, wait. Okay, this is what I have to do!


That’s incredible. So what helped you make that leap from, you know, like smaller, smaller, multi-family developments to about one thousand one hundred? How did that leap happen?


Everything was accidental. I mean, I always was like, I’m gonna flip houses till I die, which I will. I got to bring my mom and dad into the business. They’re in Florida, the other coast. It’s cool, because, like I still flip with them. And I love that they’re doing these big ones, but I love flipping. It’s just It’s a start-to-finish close loop. But this just kind of fell in my lap again. It’s just different networks that have been in masterminds that I’ve been in and creating relationships where people were like. All right. Can you like? Just come, help us?


Um, you know. I think there’s an advantage always as a woman that does a lot of real estate. We get a little more advantage of like, Oh, hey, like come in? Um. But yeah, I mean, I think you have done a lot of different types of real estate, and it’s just the different networks of finding this to be asked to be partners in these opportunities, which has been really really cool.


Why do you think it’s an advantage as a woman?


I feel like it was just such a male space when I first started this years ago, the same as you. Yeah, I think we’re almost the same amount of time, and that this was just like what I found at the time, and it was just the group. So I was in the circles I was in it was just a very male-dominated arena and like now it’s cool, because, as I said, I used to consult with a company for like six years, and we were helping investors and teaching them and training them. And all these women were coming in, and they’re like, Oh, my gosh! You get to see a woman, because, like I was with all men all the time and I mean one of there was two women that time, literally. They’re just crushing it. They’re on like their thirteenth flip in California out here in Los Angeles and I mean they’re just doing multi-million dollar projects, and like we just never would have thought that, because we never saw women in but as an advantage men are always like, Oh, yeah, we’ll just have this, you know, unassuming token female on our team, and it’s like, Yeah, I’m probably not. That’s going to push all this stuff through, but it’s fun. I think they come with an advantage, too. 


I think it’s an advantage too. You know we’re not Waldos, we don’t fade into the background and they’ve shown that women prefer working with other women, but also men prefer working with women. So there is an advantage for women. So I’m here. Any of you ladies are out there going? I can’t get in because it’s too male-dominated. It’s an advantage.


You’ve done a lot of different things, and you know we met through this organization that you’re now part of to retirement when it tells a little bit about them what they do there, and what you do.


Absolutely so. I love it because I remember Zach had approached me. They just kind of got a call from a friend of like. Oh, they’re looking for a female in real estate again. Just advantage, because there were all these men that wanted to work for this company, and we’re a very small company, and they sold um turnkey properties, which are fully renovated, ready to go cash flow is kind of how I perceive it, for people that are just busy, and they don’t want to have to find that.


And I called, and he called me, and he was like I was like I’m going to take this call. I’m not really looking for anything he’s like. Do you think you could talk to people about real estate all day, I’m like I don’t know.

I mean, I really was like I really don’t know if I want to talk about real estate all day because I don’t know if I have enough to talk about. And the Owner’s Act was just going.

The owner’s act was like. Well, let’s just give it a shot. Let’s see where it goes. I think we have a lot of women that are requesting women because we know that. But we get to help people build portfolios of rental properties and have access that they wouldn’t have access to where they don’t have to get on planes. They don’t have to. I mean, I have investors that are like. Should I get on a plane and go see it? I’m like if you want to, but I would take the money from that and go somewhere you actually want to go.

So it’s just a cool opportunity to provide a really good product and give because I’m across seven different states, currently and actively in my business. But to also be able to talk about. Okay, like this is what’s good about this market. This is what’s not good. I mean, there are just times that we’re just like, hey? This is a great property, and this one might not be for you, and that’s the cool thing about retirement. And what I do is I can just, I’m, only giving people opinions based on my experience, but then it just gives them a little bit more information, so they can make a better decision of like, Oh, wow! Maybe you wouldn’t have gone to that market, had you not like kind of highlighted that?


I love that. And you know it’s great with the turnkeys, and you know a lot of people want to own real estate. They want the benefits, the tax benefits, and passive income, all the things. But they don’t want to have to go to a different market, or find the tenants, or do their property management, or do all the renovation, and they, you know their companies like rental retirement. That will do that for you, and you can still get this cash-flowing property, and have your portfolio without having to do the work, which is great.


So I want to ask you my favorite question because I feel like we learn so much more when things don’t go well. So what would you say was your biggest mistake, And what did you learn from it?


Currently, there’s like a hundred things I mean we. So I mean just currently, I would say, this large, You know we’re doing this land and the acquisition on this land, 

Austin was thirteen million, and the day before we were getting ready to close the lenders like, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to lend on this anymore.


I was at a local bank, and we had all these conversations. We had flown out there, and we had met them. They had surveyed, I mean we were like one or two days before closing, and it was one of those things that it’s like, you know the seller is expecting, and we’re expecting, and we have all these people in place to start moving and putting the roads in and clearing things. And it was like. Well, that didn’t happen. But again, thank goodness, I built the relationships I built, and it wasn’t it was a hiccup. Okay, I guess I really better lock this stuff back because it was just like all right. They’re in.


Mistake of vetting out the lender, and what they actually carried in their paper, like what they had lent on. And they had lent on this, and if I really would have looked deeper into researching who they were. How many of these are you doing? And like actively and currently? I think I would have had better optics of what it was kind of at any deal is, you know where I’ve made a mistake is that there’s there was something that I didn’t look at. That probably was staring me right in the face like that. If I would have known like, hey? They just don’t do these types of loans, but they said they were going to. And if I would have really known that, and just not taking their word of like, Yeah, yeah, we got this, we thought, Oh, my God, we’re so excited I would have known that they just don’t do them, and I probably should have had a backup at that point.


That’s good advice, and that’s so. It’s such a good insight too to look at,


The lenders are obviously doing due diligence on you because they’re the biggest investors in the sense of your deals.


Monick Halm: But you, too, should do due diligence on the lenders, and make sure that they’re the right lenders. and it’s not just about the terms that they’re offering, and things like that. But who are they as lenders? You do not want to get stuck with your and they’re pulling out on you. 


 It’s the same as it likes. You have a contractor like yeah, don’t have a commercial contractor doing a rental renovation. It’s a different type of system that they use, and you’re you could it could work out. But at a certain point, it’s just not. It’s not the same. It’s not what they’re there for.


Different people will have different specialties. And so it’s getting the right people that have the specialty for what you need. So that’s yeah, that’s really good learning.


This is the flip side. What are you most proud of?


Bringing my family into the business and knowing what I did was good enough for my family,


I bring a lot of other families in, and I take care of their families. I’ve been teaching and training for a long time, but like when I got to bring my own family in and watched it work and watch my dad be like “this is the best thing ever! Why was I not doing this forty years ago?” I was like,

Okay, awesome. So I felt like I knew that I was doing the right thing. And again, as many times as your other families be like “thank you. You’ve done this and that”. But when you hear about your own family. Say it. It’s like It’s a cool thing.


Amazing. My parents are about to escrow on something that they’re selling, they’re about to make over two hundred and fifty thousand on it and it’s like that feels good.


It’s so good to be able to bring in the family.

It’s not just like leaving a legacy but helping them to do business as well. It’s amazing.


To what do you attribute your success? Because you’ve had a tremendous amount of success.


Paying people to teach me what to do when I’m lost, is 100%.

Not everybody I’ve invested in has been the right fit. I don’t think we’re the right fit for everybody. But there’s no way I’d be where I’m at or continue to be where I’m going if I didn’t keep investing.


And what advice do you have for a woman just starting in this field?


Pick one strategy that you want to do and don’t do it because it makes sense to you. For example, when I used to coach people. I’m going to start with wholesaling, but I want to flip houses, and I’m like. Well, then, why don’t you start flipping houses? Why are you starting with wholesale? I understand there’s a tier of certain people, but you know there are always ways to get the money, and there are always ways to get the deals, and there are always people you can partner with, and that I mean when I started my clubs at seventeen I did not have that kind of money. I was the working owner part of it, if you have to give up fifty percent of your deal to do what you love, and what you’re passionate about, and that you want to start in real estate, instead of learning a whole process that you don’t want to do, just because that’s where you have to start. That would be my suggestion.


That’s great advice. I want to ask you a question that is my new favorite question.So what is the worst advice you could give somebody?


To just give up like it’s not working. You cannot fit a square peg in a round hole, but there are some times you’re right there. 


People think “I’ve done everything and I’m not there”. I remember an analogy about the Bamboo plant. When you have Bamboo you have to water it for 5 years and it looks like nothing is happening for 5 years. But after that, it suddenly shoots up six feet! You wouldn’t know if you stopped watering it. I think the worst advice is to stop doing something because you don’t know how to do it.


There’s always something. Sometimes there are deals that you don’t know how to finish or something goes way off track and that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. There are always things that will make you go way off track, but I’m not forcing a deal to go through. That deal is not for me. We can’t make magic numbers in real estate. In real estate numbers make sense or they don’t, if you’re trying to force numbers then it won’t make sense.


No deal is better than a bad deal.Sometimes a particular deal may not be the one, but don’t give up on that. Not over the price.


Sometimes it’s like you. You’ve done some work on something, and it’s not meant to be, and that’s okay. But don’t quit real estate investing


Don’t quit real estate investing It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ll never stop doing this!


We all have that one deal that we remember. Mine was on Gregory, and I didn’t take it. The numbers didn’t make sense to put enough money up where I was like, Okay, and this is my highest and best, and it didn’t work. It was ugly. It had blue tar on it, the fireplace was falling down. It was a three-story old home, but it was in this area where I know we could do good with this house. But you know what at the end of the day the numbers just did the numbers didn’t work and thank goodness. I had people around me who told me now if you go now it’s all upside down, it’s too skinny. Glad I had those people round me.


No deal is better than a bad deal.


Before we get to our famed end of show’s trinity, which is a brag, gratitude, and a desire; what is the best place for people to connect with you or find out more about what you do?


If you’re looking for turnkey investments, reach out to me at https://renttoretirement.com/. Let them know you found out about it through Real Estate Investor Goddesses on Cori’s episode.


I love talking about real estate. I’m always here to support and help. You can email me at [email protected]. You know, if there’s any way that I can somehow support somebody, I always feel free to reach out.


So now it’s time for our Trinity, which is a brag, gratitude, and desire. So what’s one thing you are celebrating right now as your brag?


My brag is that I’m just really living my life the way I want to.


I do About three days a week, about twenty, eight hours a week, and that’s what I work, and I’m able to kind of flexibly 


I work about 3 days a week, 28 hours a week, and with this flexibility, I can fit in everything else.

And I’m very grateful that I’ve built my life to be able to do that because it did take some time.


Well bragged. What is one thing you’re grateful for?


My God, I have so much at this moment. I’m grateful to connect with you as always. 

Be a part of different communities, and I’m just so grateful to always be able to serve. If somebody here learns one thing from what I said, it makes a difference. I have a lot of gratitude. If I can help somebody, my heart will be happy.


Beautiful! And last, but not least, what is one desire?


would say just that all my projects go well, and my family is taken care of, because the more success that I have, I get to help a lot of people and by helping those people I get to support my family.


So shall your desires be, or better than you can imagine.


I’m grateful for it. Thank you, Monick.


Monick Halm: Thank you. This was so fun. Yeah, you can connect with Cori at [email protected] or @czigman on social media. 

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About Cori Zigman

Cori Zigman is a seasoned real estate investor and entrepreneur. She went from building and running her own businesses since the age of 17, to helping support others build theirs. She has been in real estate for the past 13 years and has been and continues to be a successful rehabber and multi-family developer across several states. She currently, when she is not traveling and enjoying life, supports other real estate investors new and seasoned build portfolios of rental properties so that they can grow passively while doing what they love. With the profits from her investments, Cori builds primary schools and wells in 6 countries and continues to support clean water and global education. Cori has spoken on stages all over the world helping to inspire people to take action and try new things in their financial lives so that they can live the lives they want.