In the charming neighborhoods of Wayzata, Minnesota, the women of BLV development (BLVd) are building a name for themselves – literally.
After just two and a half years of business, the real estate and development company has built custom homes on numerous lots across the suburb, impressing clients with superior organization and service along the way.
“When a business comes to us and says, ‘we’re contemplating doing this,’ that’s when we can be creative and proactive around finding options to accomplish that goal.”
- Jason Beumer, portfolio management managing director at U.S. Bank
As a women-owned and operated business, BLVd has a recipe for success that comes with a hearty dose of talent and industry experience. Beth Ulrich, the company’s part-owner and real estate guru, first began selling homes in 1992. She took a sabbatical to work in marketing for seven years, where she met BLVd co-owner Virginia Carlson. The women formed a fast friendship before Ulrich eventually returned to real estate and joined the Lakes Sotheby’s office in Wayzata.
BLVd’s third part-owner is building expert and Regency Homes owner Lori Serum. Starting as a receptionist in 1985, she worked her way up the ranks at Regency, eventually buying into the company to become sole owner in 2010.
When Serum fortuitously purchased a condo from Ulrich, they instantly recognized each other as kindred spirits. “I could just tell we did business the same way,” says Ulrich. “I said, ‘one day we’re going to work together.’”
As an investor and advisor in the business, Carlson attests wholeheartedly to the magic that happens when these two industry experts come together. “They are hardworking, they are energetic, they know what they’re doing. I really rely on their expertise.”
Excelling as a women-owned business
BLVd has found remarkable success over the last few years in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Serum explains that as a builder she attends continuing education conferences and is often one of two or three women among hundreds of men. “What’s nice is when it’s breaktime,” she jokes. “We have our own bathroom.”
The BLVd owners have nothing but respect and admiration for their male colleagues. Still, they’ve found that being women in real estate helps them stand out. “People are calling us. They like that we’re women owned. They like that we’re different,” says Ulrich.
Clients especially appreciate the organization Serum brings to the table. “From what I’ve heard from clients, she’s very organized,” Ulrich explains. “When Lori tells you it’s a six-month build, it’s a six-month build. She runs a very tight ship and has great respect in the building community. It’s a different experience than what people are used to, and people like that.”
Teaming up with U.S. Bank
Along their business journey, BLVd formed a strong partnership with U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management to help fund the purchase of land and development costs. After first meeting with their wealth management team in person, they’ve been able to handle most transactions conveniently online or through email.
U.S. Bank Private Banker Peter Begich was deeply inspired by BLVd’s passion in that initial meeting. “The highlight was learning their process and vision for the business – the mastermind behind all of that is the creativity of Beth, Lori and Virginia. It’s quite remarkable.”
Today, their vision continues to evolve. BLVd plans to continue developing real estate in Wayzata, where the community’s charm, walkability and convenience have been their bread and butter from the start. “I would love to see us have a development,” Ulrich hints. “I think it would be fun to have a five or six lot subdivision. We have ideas to keep going.”
No matter what their next steps may be, Serum believes an ongoing partnership with U.S. Bank will help business run smoothly. “The more we borrow and pay back, naturally we hope to continue to increase that credit line so we have more flexibility and more inventory.”
Tips for women entrepreneurs
Women looking to start their own business may be wondering how to dive in. Ulrich, Serum and Carlson keep their advice simple: Trust your gut and find a mentor who has worked with businesses before. “Definitely trust your gut. Believe in yourself,” says Serum.
Jason Beumer, portfolio management managing director at U.S. Bank, echoes that advice, explaining that businesses should approach their bank with confidence and a strong vision. “When a business comes to us and says, ‘we’re contemplating doing this,’ that’s when we can be creative and proactive around finding options to accomplish that goal.”
Most importantly, the women of BLVd believe in loving your work and having fun. “Buying a home is something I totally believe in. It’s your home, it’s your family. As a business, if you don’t have that passion, your customer will pick it up in a heartbeat,” says Ulrich.
“They both have a passion for it,” Carlson confirms. “And their personalities are such a big part of it –that’s what makes it fun.”