In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.
mbaMission connected with Chris Brusznicki, founder of Gameday Housing, the leader in the sports vacation rental market. In Part 1 of this four-part series, Chris discusses how guest speakers at Kellogg inspired him to consider different business models and roll up his sleeves.
When I decided to leave the U.S. Army to go to the Kellogg School of Management in 2006, I decided to sell my rental property, because I did not want to manage it from afar. I wanted to invest in real estate in Chicago or in Evanston (where Kellogg is located), but everything was so expensive, as the bubble continued to inflate, so I started to look “afar” anyway. I had gone to college at Notre Dame in nearby South Bend, Indiana, and a friend of mine from college who was studying at Northwestern Law School was looking at property in a town we knew well. We decided that we would buy a place in South Bend, hoping that we could rent it out on game days and make our payments via the rent, as the price of the property appreciated. As it turns out, in only three game weekends, we made enough money renting our place to cover our mortgage for the year and to also pay for our furnishings. It was pretty clear to us that we were on to something, so we started to pay for more houses using our rental cash flow. As we purchased more and more homes, we started to develop a centralized rental business, which would ultimately evolve into GamedayHousing.com.
As we grew Gameday Housing, I was in a perfect place, through Kellogg, to live the experiences of other entrepreneurs and see other business models. There was a constant stream of entrepreneurs coming through, and it didn’t really matter to me whether their business models were anything like ours or not—I just enjoyed listening to those who built interesting companies that endured. I loved listening to the bootstrappers—the guys who had no financing and had unsexy ideas. Wayne Huizenga spoke at the school and told us about how when he was growing Waste Management, he would pick up trash during the day and then get into a suit and sell his firm’s services at night. We had “lunch and learns” with CEOs of all sorts of different companies—like a retailer who was trying to carry very few items and had no checkout line, in order to cut down on rental costs and create a certain feel in the store. I went to as many entrepreneurial events as I could and kept thinking, “How can I apply this?”
I graduated and took a job with Goldman Sachs, while keeping our rental business alive. As the financial crisis came, I saw the lack of professional security and realized that with my rental business taking off, leaving Goldman was fairly low risk. In 2009, Gameday became my everyday focus.