Relentless, ambitious and driven, are words synonymous with Valentine Ike.
At 27 years old- Valentine has already become a player to be reckoned with in real estate development, urban renewal and the re-development market in the United States. He started studying Finance at California State University, Los Angeles, but in 2012 the real estate market values had just crashed and he felt it was the perfect time to go into business, so he left school.
Through his company VI Equities LLC, founded in the year 2012, Valentine has redeveloped, facilitated and represented clients on over 100 deals worth over 50 Million dollars. He has set his eyes on even bigger and bolder development projects.
Valentine did not have a smooth start. He was raised by a single mother who was widowed at a young age. At the age of 13, Valentine’s mother sent him to America to give him a new hope and a new life.
She has not been disappointed as Valentine blazes his trail in real estate development, his sister Stephanie writes award winning books while assisting Valentine in his real estate ventures and his brother, a banker in Canada who just purchased his first investment property which he will be re-positioning and marketing for sale.
In this interview with the Publisher/CEO of Life and Times Media Group, Hon Chike Nweke, Valentine talks about his growing up years, his education, his real estate career and his plans and dreams for the future…
Q-Tell us a little bit about your growing up years, the loss of your dad and coming to America?
- Growing up in Nigeria prior to moving to America was quite interesting, I lost my father at a very young age, we watched our mom who held a degree in biology scratch and claw to put us in the best of schools, there was food on the table 3 times a day, we had clothes on our backs and never truly saw or understood all she had to go through until we got older and she felt more comfortable expressing her challenges as a single mother in Nigeria with no assistance but the grace of God.
Q-How did you adjust when you arrived America as a young teenager and how easy or difficult was it for you as a fist generation immigrant with an African accent to integrate into the American society?
- It was quite difficult for me in the beginning as I had to learn and understand a different culture and way of living, having a strong Nigerian accent at the time didn’t make it easier for people to understand me also, but the fact that I played sports and was quite good at basketball I was able to make friends eventually and integrate myself into the American society.
Q- Please tell us a little bit about your primary, secondary & university education and how it prepared you for what you are doing today?
- Honestly I give much credit to the schooling I had in Nigeria. We had the privilege to attend one of the best private schools in Nigeria from Avi-Cenna in primary to Atlantic Hall for my secondary school education which I left to travel to the states going into 11th However, when I came to America I had to be pushed back a couple grades because I was only 13-years-old and they couldn’t have a 13-year-old in the 11thgrade.
I always say it’s the discipline and organization the private schools gave me in Nigeria accompanied with the people skills I learnt in America that equipped me for my business. In the real estate business you have to be able to walk in different shoes; as a developer you need the focus and organization to put together your team of architects, engineer s and contractors in order to deliver a great product to market. As an agent you have to be able to work with people, putting their needs first and making sure you’re not only giving them great customer service but also keeping them informed about the property the y ‘re purchasing and the purchase process, especially when it’s a first time buyer, an international buyer or high end developer.
Q- Was real estate development your first career choice, if not, how did you end up going into real estate development?
- Real estate wasn’t my first career choice, initially I desired to be a professional basketball player until I suffered a knee injury. Nevertheless, real estate was something I’d always been interested in from the design and architectural stand point; designing modern homes, condos, and even cities. I got into the business after watching a house flipping show, “Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis.” There was something about it that stuck with me and it birth the obsession of wanting to get into the business and start flipping homes.
Q- What was your motivation in starting VI Equities LLC, how did you get to and close your first deal?
- My motivation into starting VI Equities LLC is that I want to eventually build out cities, but we all have to start somewhere. In the beginning it was just to facilitate deals and sell my position in the deals I was facilitating and then it grew to flipping homes just in the areas I was familiar in.
Presently, we have done deals in Chicago, majority of our recent deals are in northern California, we have deals in Dallas to begin construction and for the past year I’ve been working with Cameron Crockett at ultra-unit architectural studio designing our first spec development in the city of Los Angeles, 5 minutes away from dodger stadium and 15 minutes from downtown L.A.
Q- Tell us about your triumphs, setbacks and the high points of your career so far?
- Business is a roller coaster, we have done a lot of great deals and we have had some tough deals but we haven’t had to take a loss on any of our projects. One of our biggest deals is actually one of our more recent deals which we sold in Oakland. The property was purchased for $387,000 in March of2016, which I designed, managed, marketed and sold for $715,000 in August of 2016, setting a new benchmark for the area and achieving the highest price in the area for the year.
Q- Tell us a little bit about all the great developments you have done around the country and which ones you consider the most challenging and the most rewarding?
- Our most challenging project is actually our most rewarding project. On one of our projects, we worked with a new contractor who lacked morals and integrity, he created more damages than solutions to the job he was paid for, but after we released him and brought in one of our trusted contractors whom became free from completing a personal job, things began moving along. We had to correct a lot of issues, pull the necessary permits and we ended up selling the house within the first open house.
Another rewarding project would be my first deal out of state in Chicago, Il. It was a Single family residence purchased in the south side of Chicago for $32,000 and sold for $125,000. It wasn’t the most rewarding financially but it was mentally as it gave me all the confidence to know that I can go anywhere in the country, focus in on the numbers, work with the local agents and contractors that are highly skilled in the area and know I can deliver a product that would get a great response from the end-user.
Q- You started very early, you arestill in your twenties and believing God for strength and good health, you have a long future ahead of you.Where do you see VI Equities LLC & your real estate development career- 5, 10, 20 & 50 years from now?
- If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. As an entrepreneur this is very true, so as you ask where do we see ourselves in the next 5-50 years from now, we have put plans on ground as to where we hope to be 5 years from now which is to be well into the commercial side of real estate and having capabilities in construction as I am now taking classes to be licensed as a general contractor. 10 years from now to have developed our first condo project and having an in-house team proficient in asset management.
20 years and beyond to be fully immersed in all facets of the real estate business from single family and commercial development, to marketing and sales, construction, financing, and management.
Q- Am sure a lot of young girls reading this will be asking if this young, handsome, achiever is married? Are you single and there any plans of settling down soon?
- I’m not married, and no plans to settle down soon. I am a firm believer that whatever you do, you should give your 100% attention and focus. At the stage my business is in, I can’t afford to have the distraction.
Q- What would be your advice to a young immigrant just arriving in America about achieving success like you have done and living their American dreams?
- Be focused! Cut all distractions! Believe in yourself! And most importantly don’t be motivated by the money in any career field you choose, be motivated about being the best at what you do, always have the end-user in mind and never compromise on quality service.
A truly inspirational story- May God continue to bless the work of your hands and take you from glor to glory
Wow! To achieve all these at such a youthful age of 27! This clearly shows that Nigerians are hardworking and great achievers.
Hard work surely pays
A true evidence of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Igbos!
I wont mind to hook up with this hardworking, handsome dude! Looks like an excellent husband material!!
Thank you Life & Times for the spotlight on this fine young man. We need a lot more of these positive profiles to dispel the false negative stereotypes on Nigeria and Nigerians
With God all things are possible- despite the loss of his father at the age of 2, this young man is on the path to greatness!
Relentless, ambitious and purpose driven- those are essentials for success
Valentine’s amazing story exemplifies what a mother’s love can do. Despite early widowhood his mother took the wise step of bringing her three children to give them new opportunities and a chance to achieve their American dream. Am sure she is well pleased and happy now
This story sounds like a script from- the art of the deal! kudos Valentine, more grace, open doors & favor
Waooooh! That’s the spirit of the Ike blood. Am very proud of you my dear little cousin. Mum is a blessing and is blessed to have you and Jeffrey and Stephanie. I pray that the Good Lord we serve will continue to protect and preserve you all. Kudos Val, as you keep making Nigerians proud!
Am just loving this… Thank you Val for making us proud and upholding Nigeria good image. May God bless and preserve You, , Jeffrey and Stephanie for me. Thanks to mum for her efforts
Valentine will definitely be one of the names to define the built environment both here and in Nigeria- in the next ten years