Brenton Hayden

Brenton Hayden

Brenton Hayden’s parents weren’t willing to pay for college, so he knew if he wanted to make it in the world, he would have to pay for it himself. And he didn’t have the money.

Name of Company:
Renters Warehouse

Annual Revenue:
$9.9 million

Number of Employees: 
125

City:
Minnetonka

Fun Fact: Owns a Rolls-Royce Phantom that belonged to welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.

 

Flash to today: The 28-year-old is now the majority owner of a $9.9 million rental business, Renters Warehouse, which he founded when he was 22. The Minnetonka-based company has roughly 125 staff members, including 55 agents, and has grown to capture more than half of Minnesota’s residential real estate market.

Originally from Winsted, Minn., population 2,300, Hayden started out working at Lunds in Wayzata. He connected with a sales executive for Kellogg’s, who offered Hayden a part-time weekend job facing product on the shelves and sorting overstock. Hayden was soon offered a difficult sales territory, and quickly turned it around, exceeding budget numbers and elevating it to one of the top-grossing territories. He attributes his success to his skills as a salesman, selling every “cookie and cracker on the shelf.”

At this point, he was 19 and was bringing in $100,000 in earnings. After being promoted to a managerial position, he was forced out because he was too young to manage people much older than he was, he says.

Back to square one with no job, he was determined to maintain his lifestyle, which included a leased Infiniti FX SUV.

“[A head hunter] told me the only way to make six figures when you’re young is to get into real estate. So I did,” Hayden said.

He began selling real estate through Counselor Realty Inc., then Coldwell Banker Burnet, but he wanted to create his own company that would not only sell, but also lease and manage properties.

After recruiting clients, he launched Renters Warehouse’s predecessor, Hayden & Co., in 2007. Two years later, co-owner Ryan Marvin, of the Marvin Windows and Doors family, invested $50,000 and bought 10 percent of the company. Hayden’s company helps landlords find tenants and also oversees rent, building maintenance, leases, inspections, evictions, accounting and permitting.

Timing for this business was just right. Although demand for rental housing was up, real estate markets were plagued with foreclosures, tight bank lending and bankruptcy. Hayden says they had to pinch pennies.

“The tough part was living on $28,000 to $30,000 a year when you had just come from $100,000,” he says. “My goal was to retire early, so I needed to take chances.” By Hayden’s third year in business, the company had reached $1 million in revenue.

One of Hayden’s biggest regrets, he says, was in 2007, when he lost his real estate license. He paid a commission in excess of what the law allowed to an unlicensed person, violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. He was slapped with a fine of $10,000. He rebranded to become Renters Warehouse, hoping to restore his good name, while fighting to get his license reinstated, which came two years later. Meanwhile, Marvin acted as the company’s agent and broker while Hayden remained involved in the management. Things didn’t look bleak for too long. By 2011, at 25 years old, Hayden pocketed his first million, just as the company generated almost $4 million in revenue. At this point, he decided to invest in himself to further the company. He enrolled in two short courses in an entrepreneurial development program at MIT, then at Harvard for real estate management later that year. He had big ambitions.

“I wanted to create the epitome of the world’s best property management company,” he says. “I wouldn’t settle for anything less.”

In October, Hayden handed over the CEO reins to an internal candidate, Kevin Ortner, selling 15 percent of the company to co-owner Marvin. This added $750,000 to the seven figures he made in 2012. He is still involved in consulting for Renters Warehouse’s franchises, which are in 13 markets in nine states.

Now, he says, he’s in his own form of “retirement.”

He says his lifestyle, which includes a Rolls-Royce once owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., is easier than many to sustain because he doesn’t have any children or debt, and owns only one house.

He recently purchased a software company, Rent Feeder, which he bought for $750,000. He is also channeling his finances into young entrepreneurs through his investment company Fiontrai II, which he co-owns with Marvin.

Political ambitions are surfacing, too; he’s Republican Tom Emmer’s finance committee chair. Emmer hopes to snag retiring U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s congressional seat.

“You’ve only got one life to live,” Hayden says. “I don’t want to be 50 or 60 finally enjoying my life.”