Start Small Win Big 2015: Houston House Flipper Wins the Annual Entrepreneur Contest

A few years ago, Hector Perez of Houston met a friend with 16 rental houses who used the equity from those properties to quit his corporate job and start his own insurance agency. “The cash flow from those homes helped him pay the living expenses for his family,” Perez says. “When I learned that, I was convinced real estate was the way to financial freedom.”

Perez started learning everything he could about real estate, picking up books and reading blogs. After convincing his wife, Sarah—which he says was the hardest part—the two embarked on the “crazy new venture.”

“As we were learning, we made lots of mistakes,” Perez says. “It was harder than I thought to get the business going. It seemed very simple in books, but in real life, it was way harder. At one point, I questioned if this was a good idea after all.”

That’s when Perez teamed with Daren Jennings, a co-worker who was also interested in real estate. After a few meetings, where they exchanged ideas and tips with each other, Jennings and Perez joined a local real estate club, took classes from local investors, began networking and even hired a mentor. They called their business Sell Your House Any Condition. Perez and Jennings renovate older homes and then either sell or rent them. “Our goal is to provide quality homes to our buyers and renters, so they will be proud to call it home, as well as make older neighborhoods beautiful once again, one house at a time,” Perez says.

As a birthday present, Perez’s wife gave him a subscription to SUCCESS. In the first issue he received back in May, he learned about the Start Small Win Big challenge for business owners and spent a few days contemplating whether he wanted to participate. Contestants must read eight weekly blog posts, following the prescribed steps to improve and grow their businesses, and share the results with fellow competitors.

“I realized that if I wanted to be coached by the best,” Perez says, “the only way was to take action and to commit. So I registered and started reading the articles each week, doing the assignments and implementing some of the ideas into our business.”

Perez says the most difficult aspect of the contest was time management. In addition to running his real estate business, Perez holds a day job in sales at PipeLine Machinery International, which sells and rents heavy equipment for the pipeline industry. During his lunch breaks, rather than wasting time surfing the web, he makes calls to potential home sellers and conducts other real estate business. When he leaves the office, he’s on his way to appointments, courses, networking events and more phone calls.

“All of us have the same amount of hours in a day, but to learn how to maximize every minute is the hardest part,” Perez says.

While Perez was learning to maximize his time for his business, one of his biggest challenges was making time for his family.

“I got so caught up in the business and making the most of my time for the company, that my wife and kids were left aside,” Perez says. “My son cried one day because he had not seen me for almost two weeks. I had been coming home when they were asleep and leaving before they woke up. My biggest obstacle is balancing. I want to have a successful company while continuing to put 100 percent effort into my full-time corporate job and have quality time with my family. After all, my family is the reason we started the company.”

As Perez continues to strive for balancing work and family, he says the biggest lesson he learned from Start Small Win Big was overcoming a fear of failure.

“There is a quote I love—I even have it on a large whiteboard in my home office: ‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail?’ Fear is what stops us from making the next move, and this is something I always have to remind myself.

“When we started this business, we didn’t know anything about real estate, but we put a plan together from the steps we thought were essential and kept track of it. Along with taking massive action, we were able to see the results and progress right away. This gave us confidence that we were on the right path.

“Daren and I think the best way to overcome fear of failure is to do what you fear. If you are afraid to make calls, call more people. If you are afraid to speak in front of large audiences, introduce yourself to everyone in the room.”

Perez competed against hundreds of entrepreneurs in the Start Small Win Big challenge. When he was selected as the winner by a panel of SUCCESS judges, he could hardly believe it. “I had to read [the email] three times, to make sure it was real. Then when reality hit, I started jumping up and down in my office and celebrating like I was watching my favorite sports team win the championship.”

As the winner of the contest, Perez will receive personal coaching sessions with contest mentor and CEO of GrowBiz Media Rieva Lesonsky and SUCCESS Publisher Darren Hardy. Perez says he hopes to learn tips on organization, delegating, marketing and fundraising. By the end of the year, Perez aims for his business to own 20 single-family homes and generate $250,000 in net revenue. In early 2016, he wants to begin acquiring small commercial properties while continuing to grow a network of private lenders.

“[We want] to organize ourselves better and start adding personnel to do some of the tasks we are doing ourselves so we can focus on growing and expanding the company into other areas,” Perez says. “Also, I hope to learn how to become a marketing expert so we can market for success and bring our company to the next level.” 

Meet the Finalists

Almost 1,000 entrepreneurs entered to participate in our annual contest to help readers take control of their lives and supercharge their businesses. Here three finalists share lessons they learned from the SUCCESS Start Small Win Big challenge:

“When a mentor talks, you should not only listen, but take action!”

Tyler Bentley, Hope in Homes

“Business owners must be ready to pivot or adjust their business plans and business models to do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t. Flexibility is fundamental to small-business success. Flexibility allows businesses to accommodate market demands such as advances in technology, social trends and fiscal changes. It is essential for an entrepreneur to create an atmosphere of flexibility in his or her business.”

Angela Harris, ALHsuccesslines

“The most valuable lesson I learned from the SSWB experience was the importance of community. Although each contestant had a different business, we still shared the common ground of being entrepreneurs. There was such a loving spirit within the community, and I genuinely felt supported and respected as we collaborated and helped one another with any challenges and/or celebrations that arose. I am humbled and honored that I had the opportunity to be surrounded by such talented individuals from within this community. As the owner of a preschool, I understand that it takes a village to raise a child, and now it has been proven that it takes a community to build a successful business.”

Birgitta Jorgenson, Irblich Schools

To catch up on 2015’s Start Small Win Big challenge, visit Stay tuned for next year’s contest! #SSWB


This article appears in the November 2015 issue of SUCCESS magazine.


Jesus Jimenez is a staff writer for Dallas Morning News. He eats, breathes and sleeps Texas Rangers baseball. He also enjoys running, traveling and buying cool socks. 

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