Spotlight on Bryce Fender

Meet Bryce Fender: Long time Next Gen-er, Bryce is President & Co-Founder of Wilminvest, Delaware's first social impact real estate development firm.

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Tell us about Wilminvest!

Wilminvest is “the traditional fixer-upper meeting social innovation.” Our founding team (Joel Amin Jr, Bryce Fender & Demetrius Thorn) is a group of lifelong friends that describe their process as “social impact real estate investing.” We buy vacant properties in Wilmington, Delaware, renovate them, and repurpose the home as permanent supportive housing, an innovative housing model that utilizes public-private partnerships to bring together the private sector, government, and non-profit organizations to house families experiencing homelessness. Thanks to the Next Gen Summit, the Wilminvest Pilot was funded in the latter half of 2018, resulting in the purchase of three homes in the Riverside Neighborhood in Northeast Wilmington. These homes have been renovated to house those who are in need of quality and safe housing. On June 1, 2019, three families moved into our homes from shelters. We're now taking a step back to reinvent our model to maximize the social impact that these tax dollars have.

Wilminvest recognizes that prior public housing programs have been able to place individuals and families into homes. However, few of these organizations have the capacity to tentatively work with the housing provider in ensuring the successful recovery of the afflicted individuals or families. Our strategy is one that utilizes established metrics, public-private partnerships with social service providers, and qualified property managers in order to maintain a holistic approach to public housing. We as a social impact real estate investing company do more than provide beds to families and individuals. We work with them to put together the essential pieces of the puzzle necessary to re-enter society such as financial coaching, employment opportunities, case management and more. By acquiring, renovating, and, ultimately, renting out properties with our core values in mind, we foster a greater collective impact than traditional public housing programs and plan to record the data in order to prove so.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would it be?

Don't be afraid. Things won't work out how you think you will, but that's not what matters. The important part is to keep going; success comes to those who keep pushing and aren't afraid to change. Listen to other people; they will tell you how to solve the problems in the world you want to solve. Cut the ties you have to your own ideas; Winston Churchill says it best - "success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts."

What was your most life-changing experience?

I was very lucky growing up. I lived in a great neighborhood, went to an incredible school, and didn't have any real problems to deal with. By the time I was in eighth grade, I changed schools to a school right outside of Wilmington. One morning before preseason for the school's soccer team, I noticed that one of my teammates was changing from normal clothes into his clothes for practice. It was 7 AM, so I was a bit confused. When I asked him about it, he told me "had work this morning" and needed to make money to help feed his family. He was 14.

This wake-up call changed my life, I realized how badly the world needed change. When I was thirteen I didn't see how much this experience would shape what I wanted to do with my life, but now that I'm looking back I realize it's what started it all.

Words you live by: "We create our own future by acting today as we wish tomorrow to be."
Apple or PC: Apple, only because it (almost) always works.
Fave Film: The ones about the boy who lived, no doubt.

Alex Gordon