Gerard Barrett, founder and managing principal of PrimeLerner Cos., learned about hard work and leadership from his grandfather, a carpenter, who influenced Barrett’s interest in property development.
BlackEnterprise.com talked with Barrett about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, what compels him to give back, and what his ultimate goals are.
BlackEnterprise.com: You are the founder and managing principal of PrimeLerner Cos. Explain what your company is, how long it’s been in existence, and your role.
Gerard Barrett: PrimeLerner Cos. is a vertically integrated real estate investment firm located in Newark, New Jersey. Our model is simple — consistently provide above average returns for our investors utilizing real estate assets. I started PrimeLerner as a junior in college. We’ve been in existence for eight years and have grown to six full-time employees. I manage the day-to-day operations and oversee investment decisions.
How did you become involved in real estate?
I learned early that wealth creation through real estate was very obtainable. My grandfather, a carpenter in upstate New York, shared with me the basics of property development. I continue in real estate today because I love it. Every deal offers a creative outlet and allows me to bring my artistic passions and business acumen to life.
As an entrepreneur, what are the most important skill sets you feel are needed in order to be successful?
I subscribe to the adage: preparation + opportunity = success. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Be confident and persistent. Persistence is the true key to being successful.
What motivates you to get up daily and make things happen? Who or what inspires you to make the decisions you make?
I was raised with the mentality that there is a purpose for my life and I have to be about it. I am always in competition with myself, to get better every day, every month, every year. You are only as good as your last success and must always be achieving. My brother, Brian, has also been a great motivating factor — seeing his success lets me know it’s real. I want to be a role model to young black males that being a successful businessman is a career choice — it’s not something that just happens. If you want something bad enough, you have to go after it.
What was the feeling like when you bought your first property,and what did you do with it?
At first, nervous, and then, excited, but eventually, proud. I initially became a landlord. When it was most beneficial to sell, I sold. I was then able to do more with the cash flow. I collected enough real estate that eventually it became a full-time gig. Eight years later, I’m at more than $16 million worth of transactions and hundreds of properties bought or sold.
Is there anything else you do or would like to do outside of real estate?
I would like to become a husband and father one day. I want to start a school that would promote education, athletics, and the arts. One that focuses on diversity and recruits kids from around the world. I would like to serve the people and run for public office one day as well.
You’re involved with several charities. Tell us which ones and why you feel the need to give back.
I generally become involved with charities that focus on youth and on making them well-rounded individuals. Anything that couples athleticism with education sparks my interest.
Giving back is important because people gave back to me. I didn’t make it this far without people who did not know me caring and lending a helping hand. We need more of this, especially in our community. That is why I give back. It’s an honor to be able to give back. My grandmother teaches that charity begins at home and spreads abroad. That saying was demonstrated in my home by my mother as well. Learning to give to God first and then others —remembering those less fortunate is an opportunity to be a blessing.
Do you have any ultimate goals that you expect to achieve and, if so, what are they and when would you like to accomplish them?
A mentor of mine always spoke of the idea that you have to enjoy the journey! Although I have many goals, I like to find joy in the process. Recently nominated to NJBIZ’s 40 under 40 list, I have aspirations to join the likes of other high achievers on multiple prestigious lists such as Crain’s and Forbes. I would also like to be President of the United States.