Ivan Estrada is a first-generation college graduate and young entertainer-turned real estate dynamo. His passion has led him to be named on the National Association of Realtors’ “Top 30 Under 30” list and earned him guest appearances on NBC’s Open House, HGTV’s House Hunters, and Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing. He’s also been featured in the LA Times, Forbes, Hollywood Reporter, and Dwell Magazine among others. Now, he's releasing his own book, Brand With Purpose, which reflects on Estrada's journey of growing up Latinx, queer, and working-class, as well as providing expert business advice from leading thinkers and critical lessons on personal growth and self-discovery.
The book, which entrepreneur powerhouse, David Meltzer called ‘a must-read,’ serves as a guide on how your own experiences, challenges, and obstacles hold the key to creating a timeless brand that builds loyalty, influence, and trust―a brand with purpose. I spoke with Ivan about how this project came about, why branding with a purpose is different that branding as often practiced, and what it means to live authentically when branding.
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Interview with Ivan Estrada:
James Grady: Leading up to writing a book about branding with purpose, you had a long and storied career. So why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got to this point where you wanted to write this book?
Ivan Estrada: Absolutely! So I feel like a cat where I've had seven lives. So I started in the music industry as a teenager as a recording artist. So that's where my branding journey began.
I went from the music industry, to then going to business school, to working at a retirement home, to then working as a CPA, to a cater waiter! Now, I'm in real estate: it's been 13 years, and this is it guys, real estate.
And then there's my new startup Brand With. There's Brand With Video (the course), Brand With Purpose (the book), and Brand With, our podcast where we interview influential leaders from all aspects of business to give people inspiration, motivation, and some key success tips.
So it's been quite a journey for me, I feel like I lived many lives in just one. Being in my mid 30s, I just, you know, there was a time of reflection due to this worldwide pause, where I just looked back, and I thought, you know, I've been very lucky to have incredible mentors and coaches and experiences. I wanted to put it all in a book, I wanted to make it accessible to anyone, you know, it could be a young kid in Missouri to a single mom in San Francisco who's looking to make a pivot in her career.
And I thought, 'I have a lot to offer, I need to do what I can to make this world a better place so that people can live as authentic as possible, a place where my nephew, who was one of the biggest motivators for me writing this book, could live in a world where he can be himself and not have to deal with a lot of the peer pressure and bullying that I had to deal with just for wanting to be Ivan.
James Grady: How much does that search for a career, that search for purpose that you experienced—your own process—play into the book? Is it is it more of a memoir, or is it something else?
Ivan Estrada: All my experiences that I've had in business or in life that I felt were going to be of impact to the reader are in the book. So it starts with ... some of the chapters are me as a kid. And then it fast forwards in time into now. And then it goes into some of the interviews—I had a ton of great interviews, with Belinda Carlisle, Wilson Cruise is in the book, The Princess of Sierra Leone.
So it goes back and forth between me as a kid and you know, being authentic, because as a kid... I was looking at videos of myself a couple of months ago, at age five, at age six. And that was a very different kid, than the kid who was a teenager, the young adult... There were these other filters that I was viewing my life from, and I wanted to give back to that five-year-old who felt like he could be anything, do anything, and just constantly do everything with a purpose and with intention.
James Grady: And I definitely want to talk with you a little bit about living authentically and branding authentically, especially as an LGBTQ+ person, especially in a town like ours, where country music is dominant. But before we get there, what is the difference between branding as sort of crafting to market and branding with purpose?
Ivan Estrada: So the difference between branding to the market versus purpose... with purpose, there's more intention behind it. There's more of that authenticity that people are looking for.
I think in a world right now where it's covered by filters, we want the world to see the best of ourselves, right? Our best vacations, we just, you know our best bodies or where we live, and we kind of live in this world where we've kind of lost that humanity. And branding with a purpose is not just showing people your wins, but also your challenges, your obstacles. I too was guilty of just putting the awards and all everything that was amazing on my Instagram and social media and wanting people to just see one side of me.
Being able to brand with purpose is having intention and showing all aspects of your journey because I think we all want someone to root for. If everyone sees that everything is going great for Ivan - awards, awards awards, he's doing great - there's no human aspect to that, because that's not real life. We're all struggling to try to be our best selves, to be happy, to live in this ever-changing dynamic world.
Businesses are changing, the way that we live is change, the way that we communicate... We're having a zoom meeting, where before, I'd have to be sitting in front of you, or over the phone. So, you know, branding with purpose is having intention. And most importantly, for me, it's branding with heart.
James Grady: So somebody is wondering at home, 'How do I figure out what my purpose is so that I can work from that place?' How would you suggest people get started with that?
Ivan Estrada: Finding your purpose, it's a journey. I'll give you my example. For me, it was trial and error, trial and error, trial and error, right?
My parents did not want me to go into the music industry at all. That was not a thing: you go to college. As immigrant parents from Mexico you go to college, you work your way up the ladder. My dad wanted to be an accountant. So, of course, he said, 'You should be an accountant.' And so I lived my dreams for someone else.
I knew I loved music. I knew I loved being in front of the camera, I knew I loved making people smile. And although music wasn't the end all be all for me, the training that I got, being in front of an audience, being able to speak and connect with people through music ... that is how I feel like I can connect and speak through this book.
So finding a purpose is figuring out what you love doing. For me, it's helping people, it's being able to be creative. Like with my real estate career, I do my Real Estate Minutes on camera, I do them every week. I get to do these crazy stunts.
Last year, during the pandemic, I took my work desk all over Los Angeles, every location that meant something to me and that triggered me in a different direction. There was LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], the Walt Disney Concert Hall where I used to cater... tTere was Sunset Boulevard, which was my first real estate job in West Hollywood. And I took pictures there. And I took video of the whole experience to capture my journey through the last several years.
Finding your purpose is allowing yourself to do what you love doing no matter what the outside sources say. And I hate saying this, but mom and dad, right?
My dad wants me to be a lawyer, my mom wants me to be a doctor. If you want to be a doctor, then go be a doctor, if you want to help people do that. But if you're going in for the wrong reasons, or because you want to make someone else happy, that's not the way to go.
For me, it was just a bunch of trial and error, trying new things, reading books. When I got into real estate, I read 23, 24 books before even making the jump to figure out if that's something that I wanted to do. And when I made a list of all the things that I love to do—real estate, that was it for me. And I love it, I'm living my purpose.
But also now I'm gearing up with this book, Brand With Purpose, to explore new avenues of myself. And so that's very exciting for me.
James Grady: So people in our community especially hear this a lot: 'Why do you have to make everything about sexuality? Why are you bringing this into the conversation?' To live authentically and to speak out of that place, how can LGBTQ+ people navigate that in a way that is authentic to them?
Ivan Estrada: My journey was not an easy one. Growing up in a Latino household where it was not okay to be gay. I actually went through some shame of being gay, because I felt being gay was going to keep me away from my mom, or my dad, or my family. They're very conservative people. I took that with me for many, many years. I had this tape in the back of my head that kept playing: If people know you're gay, they won't love you, they won't support you.
So I had to deal with that head on through getting help. The LGBT Center in Los Angeles, that was my saving grace. Because of them, I was able to step into my power and feel proud of who I was. Because that's who I am. I'm a gay man.
That led me to a journey of being the president of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. I started PREPA, which is Pride Real Estate Professionals Association, the first LGBT realtor association. I started that with my partner.
So I think for all of us, it's figuring out what makes you comfortable, right? My journey, it took me a really long time to feel comfortable with who I was and to feel empowered. And to tell people, yes, I'm gay and get used to it. So I think for all of us, it just depends on ... especially in Nashville [music industry] and some other parts of the country, it's a little harder than others.
For this book, I got so much help from the LGBT Center. So if there's a kid who's reading this book where there is no LGBT Center, I hope that this book can help him with the advice. I mean we have a lot of case studies and self reflection questions and exercises that helped me, that helped me see myself from a different perspective. And I hope that that can help change someone who might feel afraid, might feel alone, and not feel comfortable with who they are.
James Grady: Mentioning kids reading this, I know you're very supportive of youth entrepreneurship. Tell us a little bit about this program that you have that will get this book in the hands of youth.
Ivan Estrada: We started a program called Gift A Book, Get A Book. And so if there are kids out there who cannot afford the book, or young adults, I'm getting sponsors to contribute to our cause. And we can get a book to them.
On our website, IvanEstrada.com, if you want a book you can go on there, you can register, if you're willing to sponsor, you can go on there and sponsor as well, if you want to send it to an after school program, a scholarship program, the LGBT Center ... we will make sure to get those books to them.
I keep telling people, this is the book that I wish I had when I was a kid. All the advice, not just from myself but from all the interviewees who were vulnerable enough to not just give me their secret sauce of what made them a success, but also how that how they dealt with the obstacles and challenges.
I think all of us, regardless of age, gender identity, we're all dealing with something. And if we could have a book that can help us along the way and kind of push us off the ledge a little bit, to kind of make us make that jump that we know we need to get a better life, to feel better about ourselves, to find our purpose ... that's the goal.
Life is so short, and it's so precious. And, you know, I feel very blessed... Every moment of the day, I am very grateful, because I love every second—almost. But that's what I wish that our people get from reading this book, I hope that they get the courage to be bold, and to step into their power.
James Grady: What other projects are you working on besides the book?
Ivan Estrada: Well, other than the book launch of Brand With Purpose, we also have the Brand With Video. Video was how I was able to set myself apart in my business in sales. And I think for anyone in like the sales industry, or if you have a product or service, video is the way to go. And so I took about a year to write a program that could help people become authentic on camera to better build their brand.
A lot of us, when the camera goes on, we freeze! We're afraid of how we look or how we sound or the fear of judgment. And so we have this course coming out at the end of September, beginning of October, Brand With Video—it'll help entrepreneurs brand themselves, create videos we grade it for them, we help them along the way. It's been very interactive. I'm incredibly excited about that.
And if people want to know a little bit more about myself and our ecosystem, my Instagram is at @IvanEstradaProperties, that's the real estate stuff, and we have @TheRealBrandWith, which is the Brand With ecosystem where people can find the book, the course and the podcast.