It's time for a new interview here at CGF! Meet AdaPia Errico, the chief marketing officer of Patch of Land and one of four founding members. Patch of Land is a marketplace lender that uses automated data-driven underwriting to make smarter and faster lending decisions on residential and commercial real estate. In this interview, AdaPia provides some really great insights on business profitability, how they determine the value of their services and her biggest challenges in her current and past businesses. She emphasizes why you should research EVERYTHING and discusses the most important elements of a successful business. The information she shares is invaluable food for thought. A must read! Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services or products do you offer
My name is AdaPia d’Errico and I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Patch of Land. I’m also proud to share that I was also the fourth person brought on to the team more than two years ago and am one of the founding members.
Patch of Land (POL) is a leading online marketplace lender that uses automated data-driven underwriting to make smarter and faster lending decisions on residential and commercial real estate. We’re in the fintech industry, specifically in the online lending or ‘crowdfinancing’ category.
An easy way to describe Patch of Land is that it offers investors a great and easy way to diversify their portfolios by seamlessly investing in real estate with low minimums and a best-in-class, secured loan structure. On the other side, we provide borrowers access to reliable capital and pre-funding for residential and commercial real estate projects so they can do what they do best and make homes beautiful and ready for sale. At the company, I’m responsible for all things ‘brand,’ communications and marketing.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
Before joining Patch of Land, I owned my own consulting agency where I worked with a variety of companies, brands, startups, and individuals in the Los Angeles area. I began working for Patch of Land as a contractor and quickly took on a much larger role in the company.
The co-founders could see my tenacity for growing the business and my passion for the concept of real estate crowdfunding. Having the opportunity to dig in and build the brand was very exciting.
Working so closely with the other founders have always given me a sense of passion for this being ‘my business,’ and I’ve always treated it this way. I give it the same passion, dedication, enthusiasm, and energy that I’ve put into past businesses I’ve started.
Do you have any special training?
I went to college in Canada where I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a specialization in personal finance. I also earned a securities certification and took certified financial planning courses.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
I would say that being part of Patch of Land’s founding team and taking an idea and turning it into a venture-backed leader in its category is the biggest accomplishment to date.
In your experience, how long does it usually take for a business to become profitable and what are some tips to measure profitability?
Profitability depends on the business, the industry, and the company’s goals. Many venture-backed, tech startups are generally not profitable for many years and that’s a function of focusing on growth over profits in order to gain market share and users.
With a finance-oriented tech startup, profitability is more within reach because the underlying product or service exists on the premise of making money - unlike app-based or user-based companies, which often offer their services for free in order to attract an audience.
Profitability is measured with a thorough understanding of where you are charging revenue and where you are spending money. Being able to put together a financial model that projects revenue on a low, mid and high basis allows for a business owner to make provisions for scenarios around spending, pricing, and growth in order to stay on top of their break-even point.
How did you determine what your services were worth?
The product at Patch of Land is a lending product so the pricing is based on a risk-adjusted analysis of the underlying loan; which includes the borrower and the property, as well as economic and market conditions.
By investing in technology and data, we’re able to price risk on loans in a more accurate, streamlined and homogenized manner. This provides a high value to the borrower because it also enables us to provide speedy and efficient service, which is a meaningful value proposition to our customers.
What mistakes, if any, have you made in business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
I’ve made mistakes ranging from not properly researching information to trusting the wrong people or not trusting myself. I’ve also made really simple, small mistakes that are all opportunities I’ve learned from. My biggest challenges have come in the form of being ‘ahead of my time’ with many ideas, including one of my businesses a few years ago.
I’m a forward-looking, optimistic believer in making meaningful changes for the betterment of many people, which doesn’t always mesh with a world where business has often and still continues to be about profits over people.
The biggest challenge is not giving up when you hear the word ‘no’, or ‘can’t’ or any form of denial. It’s important to fine-tune your message and pitch. Keep carrying on until you find the right people who also believe in the same things. I would point to impact investing as an example of a major shift in the way we, as a society, want to deploy our funds - beyond profit for the sake of profit above all else. We can call it the double bottom-line of people and profits.
When I walked away from one of my businesses, because I was too early and did not have the connections or capital needed to follow-through, I learned a lesson in knowing when to walk away. I’ve never thought of it as a failure, either. I’ve always thought of it as a very smart thing to do because I recognized who/what/where/when I was and that the timing wasn’t right.
I believe that every experience, no matter how it ends up, is a piece of your journey and a chapter or lesson that simply makes you stronger and wiser. I have learned to practice non-attachment to many things in business and that has served me very well in knowing when the ‘loss’ is not a bad thing, but a necessary one.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
I believe that running a business successfully requires passion and persistence, a certain doggedness and an unwillingness to take no for an answer. Having a great support structure of family, friends and advisors keeps you sane and realistic, which helps a business owner stay focused on what matters - driving forward.
However, it’s also important to know when to cut losses, pivot or make changes that an otherwise, an emotional ego-attachment would not want to let go. Business is all about movement, change, fluidity and flowing with the inevitable and constantly shifting environment of customers, economics, digital, social, etc. It’s a complex world out there so adaptability and a humble yet determined attitude are very important.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
I always recommend doing a ton of research before launching into anything— there are so many opportunities to bring a good idea to life and there are millions of good ideas. Before committing to something as important and life-changing as starting your own business, make sure you’ve researched the market, user demand, competition, economic factors, social factors (fad vs. solving a true need) and costs to launch, market and get ahead.
What’s encouraging for aspiring business owners today is the potential to raise money for a business through crowdfunding or borrowing through an online lender, without needing to rely on banks. Also, I highly recommend having at least one person who can act as an advisor, mentor or coach.
Do you have any advice on managing your business finances?
Managing business finances requires a good amount of attention to detail and awareness of where every penny is spent. I rely on software like Expensify to help with things like tracking receipts, which is very annoying, but adds up!
Taking the time to research various pricing options before purchasing anything, from a software to a service, is also time well spent. Correctly planning when and what to spend money on also makes a huge impact on cash flow. Planning cash flow is one of the most important aspects of managing business finances.
How do you balance work and life?
I place a high priority on my mental, emotional and physical health, which allows me to always feel balanced. I meditate, practice yoga, exercise, eat well and get outside on weekends as much as I can. This year I’m prioritizing concentrated time away.
For example, taking small vacations or staycations where I literally will not turn on my phone for days at a time. I’m making an effort to realize when I am not in the present moment, especially when enjoying time off work. It’s crazy to think that one needs to be concentrated on being relaxed!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Five years from now I hope to be enjoying the rise in property prices in the Inglewood area of Los Angeles, where I just bought a fixer-upper. The announcement the NFL team, The Rams, made last week should also give my home a boost! By then, I will expect that I’ll be building my real estate portfolio even more and working in more interesting fintech ventures, as we truly hope and expect Patch of Land to achieve an exit within that timeframe.
Please share a fun fact about yourself?
I’ve traveled around the world and had incredible experiences, like hatching baby sea turtles and swimming with a whale shark!
Thanks so much for this wonderful interview AdaPia!
You can find AdaPia via her company website PatchofLand.com