How a banker from Ohio became a successful real estate developer

  • Brett Kaufman became a banker in Ohio after graduating from college and he “hated it.” For a long time, he says, he thought “this is just what people did, they worked.”
  • Years in, when he gave banking advice to a real-estate developer, his interest was piqued, and he left in 2000 to take a shot at becoming a developer himself.
  • In 2011, he launched his own company, Kaufman Development, which has since developed over 2,000 units and in developments across the Midwest.
  • Here’s how he did it.
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Brett Kaufman has been redefining community living through art and innovation for over a decade. 

Currently the founder and CEO of Ohio-based Kaufman Development, Kaufman’s story begins as a banker, first as an analyst then as a mezzanine lending team member.

“I hated it. I was not a good banker,” he told Business Insider. “I thought for the early part of my career that this is just what people did, they worked.”

His interest in real estate was piqued when he began banking for a developer in Texas, a job where he learned some of the economics of developing real estate. 

In 2000, he quit banking and landed a job at Schottenstein Real Estate Group in Columbus, where he spent six years growing the company’s development arm. 

It was during that same time, he started taking on some of his own side projects.

“I started to do some things on my own, just little rehab projects here and there, and experimenting with a thesis that I had developed, which was that I thought you could bring really high design to affordable price ranges in urban settings,” he said.

Kaufman said he was always an avid fan of the arts and creative pursuits, and this was the first time he was able to indulge his passion as part of his work. 

“I grew up with the belief that creativity and the arts were things that you did as hobbies,” he said.

In the late ’90s, he bought a duplex and renovated it using things like granite countertops, glass backsplashes, and stainless steel appliances. These are all features that you’ll find in most new apartments in the country, he said, but they were rare at the time, “at least in Columbus.”

Kaufman said that after success on his own, he took his ideas to his company, and they were incorporated into its designs.

Branching out on his own

In 2011, Kaufman took his creative touch to his own company, Kaufman Development. 

Since then, Kaufman has worked to develop over 2,000 units in 10 developments across the Midwest.

The communities created by Kaufmann Development are sustainable and wellness-driven. Back in 2011, this meant implementing things like meditation centers, yoga, community gardens, events and clubs, features that are now quite common.

Kaufman said he’s constantly on the lookout to find unique ways to bring things from people’s daily lives into their living spaces. “There’s a big focus on the mental

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