A Man’s Journey to Helping the Less Fortunate Through Real Estate
Written By: Taylor Simmons
Photographed by: Jonathan Meiners
The Expert: Blake Andrews, Founder and Creator of Give Back Homes
Life Motto: “If you fish in muddy waters, you will catch muddy fish.”
Home. A place of security. A place of safety. A place with a certain feeling and smell — a smell of comfort, cleanliness and free of chaos. A place filled with love. This is how I would define my home, and many others around me would give similar definitions. It is a luxury we have, to give definitions filled with stability.
Blake Andrews, the founder of Give Back Homes, believes safety should be a common denominator when it comes to homes and the houses that create those homes. As a man who found his strength in working with people through his father’s beer distribution company, he decided to move to California to give back. He began his work for TOMS Shoes, and after meeting a little girl in Nicaragua, he decided he wanted to give more, and so Give Back Homes began.
Blake has pride in his company’s transparency. It is the first of its kind, and he is adamant about trust. Give Back Homes is a for-profit company made up of a network of real estate professionals who are excited and motivated. It uses 100 percent of its donations for the building of homes for those who are not able to give definitions like mine.
Blake is a man of values, and you can see with your own eyes his compassion for his employees and the passion he has for what he is doing. As a purist, he believes in communication skills and hard work.
From giving shoes to giving houses, Blake has become a true humanitarian, fighting for people who don’t have the strongest voices. Join me for the ride as we get to know him as well as his life changing company.
Q: Could you explain how the company works?
Blake Andrews: What Give Back Homes is, is a network of trusted real estate professionals that come together and want to differentiate themselves. After learning there are two million realtors out there, you have to figure out a way to differentiate yourself. A lot of times, realtors get a bad rap. This is a way for them to turn their clients into humanitarians and have a way to gain the trust of their clients. One thing that is so cool is that 100 percent of all members’ donations goes directly to building homes for families. We are not a charity. People ask me all the time why we aren’t a charity. We wanted to provide a service, but we didn’t want to ask for money. It’s very transparent. I always tell people that what makes our company so powerful is that we can say 100 percent goes directly to building homes for families. Our building partner is Habitat for Humanity, and a lot of people do give to Habitat, but when you just give money, you don’t always know where it goes. So what we want to do is be very transparent about where the money goes, and then you get to see the families that you have helped.
Q: How has traveling inspired this company?
BA: A lot. Traveling inspired it all. I spent 3 years traveling around the world, and putting shoes on kids’ feet, working for TOMS. In Nicaragua where I put a pair of shoes on this little girl’s feet, it just changed me. I saw what that pair of shoes did for her. That day, I looked up and said, “I have to figure out a way to build these people homes.” They lived in wood shacks with tarps, no windows, no doors and no floors. I made a commitment to finding out a way to build them homes.
Q: Could you talk about your lightbulb moment?
BA: My lightbulb moment actually was when Tricia, my wife, and I were looking to build a home, and our realtor got to know me. He one day came to me and asked, “What can I do? I know you worked at TOMS. What can I do to differentiate myself?” Most realtors say they give back. He wanted to do something different. He wanted to stand out. That’s when I had the thought, “I think I can figure something out for real estate professionals to give back with tangible results, similar to TOMS.”
Q: Could you talk about the little girl in Nicaragua? Why did she stick out to you?
BA: You see how happy these kids are. What they have is pretty much nothing. Every day is tough, but the kids remain happy. There was something about this little girl. When I put her pair of shoes on, she said something about how happy she was and how her life was complete with this new pair of shoes. I took a step back and decided that it was insane to think that a pair of shoes had completed this girl’s life. Something so small that we take for granted can mean so much to somebody else. That is why I wanted to go even bigger with the homes.
Q: Do you have any real estate experience?
BA: I do not and that’s the neat thing. We are so focused on the giving part. Our first year we built 25 homes in Nicaragua. Our members donated 150, 000 dollars that all went to building homes. But I don’t have any experience. Just last week we brought on a girl who has worked for a realtor in San Diego. She will work more on the realtor side of things. But we have some really exciting things that are happening and some really exciting people joining our team.
Q: Where do you see the company in 5 years?
BA: Well I would like to see the company at our 50, 000 membership. We’re going to stop at 50, 000 members. We don’t want it to get diluted. We want it to be exclusive. We want it to be a trusted network, and build thousands of homes. Right now, we’re only in the U.S. and Nicaragua. We want to expand to other countries.
Q: What are some future projects?
BA: We have a very exciting project that we are working on right now. Alex Rodriguez, the baseball player, is getting involved. He built a home in Nicaragua, and now is very excited to get more involved with the company.
Q: When you were a child, what did you say you wanted to be when you grow up?
BA: I never said I wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut. My father has been in the beer business for 39 years. I just figured I would follow and I did. I worked for him for 12 years out of college. But then I wanted to do something different, away from family. That’s why I started working for TOMS and moved out here.
Q: What’s the ideal home you’d like to give those you are helping?
BA: Well that can vary. At the end of the day, they are living in homes without windows or doors, and there is no safety. Their dream home is simply to have one with doors, floors, windows, and it’s amazing to hand them a key for the first time.
Q: How do you pick the families?
BA: We don’t. Our building partner does all that work. Here in The States, the families have to go through a big process. We don’t consider it a handout. We consider it a hand up. They have to pay their mortgage. The last thing we want to do is give them a home and then not keep it. They need to put in 200 – 500 hours of manual labor so that they understand and have a sense of accountability towards the home.
Q: Do you have a life motto?
BA: I have a few, and they’re from my dad. One of them is, “If you fish in muddy waters, you catch muddy fish.”
Q: How would you describe the company in three words?
BA: Innovative. Life changing. Socially driven.
Give Back Homes
132 16th St
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266