Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Munif Ali, Founder of Ensemble Digital Media, Pacific Playa Realty, New Era Escrow, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
At the moment, I handle three businesses under the same umbrella. Ensemble Digital Media (EDM) is a digital marketing company that caters to businesses of all sizes. It covers web development, graphic design, video production and editing, content creation, and online marketing. EDM's goal is to lift up each of our clients to their fullest potential, maximizing their business by highlighting what makes them special. We've offered our services to include Urb&Lux, Chainbytes, and Runamante. Our Target market for EDM is millennials with medium to large-scale businesses in English-speaking countries who want to grow their online presence.
Pacific Playa Realty is a collaborative real estate brokerage that covers residential areas in Los Angeles, from Baldwin Hills to View Park. Our agents go through consistent training and coaching programs to get the competitive edge our clients need. They can help you search the listing for your ideal home, along with key information about nearby households and neighborhoods. They can also assist clients during open houses and ownership transactions. Basically, our target market is those who are looking for property in Los Angeles, whether as a family home or those interested in real estate investment opportunities.
New Era Escrow is an independent escrow company that has handled multiple transactions throughout California. Our team has helped residential and commercial clients handle their financial affairs, from real property to stock holdings. The target market for NEE includes individuals and businesses involved in real estate transactions, such as homebuyers, home sellers, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and title companies. Specifically those in California.
Tell us about yourself
So, growing up, I didn't have a dad. We lived in government housing, also known as the projects, in a tough neighborhood with a lot of crime. When my dad left, we went from being middle class to having no income at all. It was a big change - we went from having a nice house and lifestyle to struggling to make ends meet. My mom had to take us to the projects because we didn't have anywhere else to go. We lost our house and everything else pretty quickly. So, my brothers and I were raised single-handedly by our mom.
My mom was your typical middle-class housewife when we still had our dad. But when our dad left, she was suddenly thrown into an unfamiliar and very chaotic situation where she needed to raise all her children on her own. But my mom at that time, instead of giving in to despair, was instead very motivated and determined. She has this blazing and unwavering focus to raise us and get us out of our situation at that time. And so my mom learned about real estate, and it basically became the vehicle that led us out of the project. So she got multiple jobs, and when she was able to save up, she bought a triplex, and that's how we were able to buy our own house. So, growing up, I saw a woman who had almost no education and no funds, struggled, worked hard, and became successful through real estate, and so that kind of sparked my interest and passion for it.
I don't remember exactly how old I was, but I remember saying that I would never want something I couldn't have if I really wanted it. So, I decided to start saving money as my mom did, but on a bigger scale after leaving the military. Along the way, I read a lot to gain knowledge and expertise, especially in real estate. I saved and invested my money, buying apartment buildings and converting them into condos to sell.
As for my other businesses, like I have a digital marketing company and an escrow, and I also developed apps, well, they kind of come from my personal interest. I love entrepreneurship, and I love providing solutions for the people and the community that I serve. And So that's how I came up with Ensemble Digital Media and the New Era Escrow.
I said earlier that I came from poverty, right? So, every day I wake up feeling grateful, having everything I want in life, not in the material sense, of course, and so what motivates me is that I want to give back to others, to my family, to my employees and to the community where I belong to. I think that the biggest reward for me is to be able to do something for others.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
For me, the biggest accomplishment I've had, both as a business owner and as a person, is helping others become leaders in their own right. When I hire someone in one of these businesses, I'm not just asking them to do one job. I want them to succeed and become the best possible professional they can be. I truly believe that everyone has the power to become a leader. It's not about who's in charge or who's ahead of everyone else. For me, it's about making sure everyone can succeed in their own right. That's why I make sure to teach my team the power of "TCTC," which means Trainable, Coachable, Teachable, and Collaborative.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I think that one of the hardest things about being a business owner is accepting responsibility. I've met and talked to many people who want to start their business but always have some excuse they lean on to back out. "Oh, I haven't studied enough," "Oh, I don't want to lose money," "Oh, I'm not ready to work that hard," and all these other ideas. In my opinion, excuses are never valid. You don't need to be the smartest or the richest person in the world to be successful. In fact, you don't even need to have a large budget or a thorough plan at the start. The most important thing that every business owner needs is accountability. Once they're willing to accept responsibility for what happens, whether it's learning from their mistakes or adjusting their plan, they'll overcome the toughest part of the job. I know for a fact that I've made mistakes, found myself in bad situations, and even failed in the plans I set. But I didn't blame anyone for that. I knew it was my error, just like I know that I can always learn from them to do better. That's why I think accountability is the toughest part of the job. Of course, I'm not saying that everything gets easier once you cross that bridge. But if you take that initiative to try, to risk, to experiment, then you gain lots of opportunities in your life.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, regardless of your socioeconomic status, when you make the right moves and investments and save your money, you don't need to wait for someone to save you or to get you out of your current situation, you are already empowered, and you already have what it takes to become successful. (From PPR interview)
Next, your mindset needs to be unlimited for you to accomplish great things in life. Often, people limit themselves by thinking that they're not capable of achieving their goals because of their background, education, or experience. However, by adopting an unlimited mindset, you can let go of these limiting beliefs and focus on what you can do to achieve success. I am saying this from what I have experienced and witnessed myself. You might say that I am a "mama's boy" because I keep mentioning my mom, but yeah, I am a "mama's boy," and I am proud of that because my mom is really the definition of success from an unlimited mindset. Even though she had practically no education and no generational wealth, she was able to get us out of the projects because she believed that she could.
And lastly, regardless of where you came from, in order to succeed, you need to cultivate professionalism, integrity, honesty, and accountability. As well as to equip yourself with knowledge and training relevant to the field of your choice.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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