For most who run their own business, their entrepreneurial journey started decades prior. From a paper route to installing radios in friends’ cars, Kevin Bupp, founder of Sunrise Capital Investors, always knew he was drawn to that sense of freedom, accomplishment and independence.
“I always had these side hustles as a kid, not really knowing what the word entrepreneur was but just knowing I wanted to make my own path,” he said. “By luck, in my first year of community college, I got introduced to a gentleman named David who was a local real estate investor. I made him a plea to teach me what he did, and how he did it and how he became successful and he became my first mentor.”
Bupp would spend a handful of hours each day with David between classes and work. Whether in the office or out looking at properties, he taught Bupp all he knew.
“I started to understand the business inside and out which led me to my own business. After about a year and half on my own, I bought my first property with the money I saved up and that was the start of everything,” Bupp said.
Moving from Pennsylvania to Florida, Bupp quickly dove into his buying hundreds of new properties and opening his own mortgage business. Unfortunately, for many businesses, the recession was a major setback.
“A lot of challenges occurred financially during the recession and I pretty much lost everything. I had to start a few side businesses that weren’t related to real estate,” he said. “My side businesses were health and fitness related because I really didn’t want to think about real estate, it was a really rough emotional time.”
Ultimately, Bupp’s knew his drive and motivation was always in real estate and was drawn back into the market. As any entrepreneur would, he picked up the pieces and started again.
“I started buying new properties which led me to what it is we do today. We own and operate mobile home communities throughout the United States,” he said. “I opened my first community in 2012 and a couple years later, I formed Sunrise Capital Investors. I knew we wanted to do much bigger things and things are going great.”
Sunrise Capital is operating in over 11 states across the nation providing affordable housing to deserving families, with a goal to give everyone the satisfaction of home ownership.
“We look for communities located in great markets with great school districts that are in a high demand of affordable housing demand. We’ll purchase something that might not be so desirable, put a lot of money and capital into it and turn it into a place that for a well deserving family,” he said.
“Even if they could afford an apartment, they still have this American dream of home ownership so that’s our goal,” he said. “We give the average person the ability achieve that dream.”
Keeping a Competitive Edge and Overcoming Challenges One Team Member at A Time
For Sunrise Capital, their competitive edge lies in the knowledge of the market, their team members and their dedication to forming long lasting relationships.
“We understand our business really, really well, it’s all we do. Being an entrepreneur, I think everyone faces the shiny object syndrome at some point, there’s always ideas coming from the left and the right,” he said.
“It’s really hard sometimes to tune out all that noise and focus on one thing, but we try to keep that laser focus. Mobile homes, that’s all we do here at Sunrise, day in day out. We don’t look at other types of real estate investments, it’s only mobile home parks. Having that laser focus has allowed us to master this niche of real estate,” Bupp said.
To Bupp, it’s imperative to form a team who is built around their internal core values.
“We’re very slow to hire team members and we’re very quick to fire. We like to say that who we’re hiring is going to be an extension of our personal family, it’s a long term mission for us,” he said. “They make the magic happen, I think that a big part of our success should be given to the team member snot just the founders.”
From an investment standpoint, Bupp finds it important to build relationships with other owners and operators in their industry.
“We had an entire staff dedicated to building a nationwide database of mobile home communities, which didn’t exist,” he said. “We’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy into building this list and building relationships with hundreds and thousands of owners out there which allowed us to build trust.”
“When those owners are ready to sell they think of us over a broker or an agent. They know what we’re buying and that we know our business quite well. We often become friends with them as well.”
In Bupp’s opinion, this is something other companies in his market aren’t taking advantage of.
“They think of it as just a business transaction, while we really put a personal touch on it. It’s not all about making money for us, but building friendships with owners and operators in our industry,” he said. “That gives us the ability to purchase their assets when they want to sell.”
Over his entrepreneurial journey and expanding his business, Bupp has found the most challenging thing to be growing efficiently.
“It seems like the common practice for a lot of businesses, which we fell into the trap as well until recently, is that they always hire too late. They get to the point where everyone’s wearing multiple different hats and working an absorbent amount of hours,” he said. “Only at that point in time, do we decide it’s a good time to hire someone to offload some of that responsibility.”
After a few years of doing so, Bupp found this system of hiring simply wasn’t working for them nor was it an effective way of growing their business. Instead, they’ve turned to proactively hiring to easily maintain their workload now while still preparing for growth.
“We map out what we want the next five years to look like or the next 10 years and we really get granular with what our companies goals are financially. Then we figure out who we need to hire to reach those milestones,” he said. “We’ve started hiring early which is a tough decision because it is expensive to do, but then it gives us that incentive to grow even faster because we know we can handle it.”
“We know if we double in size this year, we have enough staff here already. It’s been a major mind shift to do that but probably the best decision we’ve ever made as far as overall efficiently of the organization.”
“Our mistake with proactively hiring is not doing it sooner. In the past year we’ve had the most impressive growth since we founded the company which came from hiring some incredible team members.”
What it means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
As an honoree for this year’s Florida Companies to Watch, Bupp says he is extremely humble. Florida Companies to Watch recognizes second-stage companies in the area that have demonstrated notable innovation and growth.
“We all have a shared mission and goals and every day we come in here and do it. I think a lot of entrepreneurs operate that way. You have mindset of things need to be done and you have to find a way to get it done,” Bupp said.
“Entrepreneurs keep driving forward and they don’t really think about much else or take a moment to slow down and look around at what they’ve built or look at the special company they’ve formed,” he said. “So being an honoree this year, it made me slow down and reflect what we’ve done over the past years and how we’ve grown as a company. It’s very humbling and I really appreciate the opportunity.”
Advice for Entrepreneurs
When it comes to entrepreneurs that might be following in the same footsteps as Bupp, he has offered some valuable advice.
“Mistakes are part of the learning process, which I know is said over and over again, but there’s always going to be fear and there’s always going to be mistakes made,” he said. “But take the time to reflect on those mistakes and then figure out what the lesson is and how you can avoid making it again. Put the systems and controls in place needed to prevent that mistake from happening again.”
“I think so many people are scared of losing money or not being successful, if you have an idea and want to put it into action it’s not going to be easy but the challenges are fun. That’s where you grow as a person and as a business. “
Notable Philanthropic Involvement
Kevin began the 72 hours to Key West, a yearly cycling event, to assist in raising money for a friend’s foundation, The Tiny Hands Foundation. This foundation provides Thanksgiving Dinners to single parents during the Holidays and school supplies to children going back to school through the Backpack Brigade. Beginning in 2019, Sunrise will bring the Backpack Brigade to all mobile home parks within its portfolio. Their goal is to give the Backpack Brigade a nationwide reach and encourage others within the cities and towns we serve to expand the initiative.