Milan Cole is the founder of JMA Properties and has been a licensed agent since 2005. He has earned a place among the most successful real estate brokers in the country by selling more than 1,300 homes, and his firm has been recognized as one of the fastest growing real estate companies by INC Magazine and the Portland Business Journal. He is a serial entrepreneur and is also the founder of TransactionManagement.com, eKani, Cole Construction, and the Ojai Real Estate Company.
My Life Story
I was born in July of 1978, in Miami, Florida. When I was two years old my parents separated and moved to California where my brother was born and I gained a step-father. After a brief time living and building spec houses in the bay area, my growing family settled in sunny Ojai, California. That’s Southern Cali and if you haven’t heard of Ojai that’s because it’s a really small town, population 7,461.
My step-father started a construction company in our small town, Andrew Stasse Co., which after some challenging early years grew to be one of the pre-eminent luxury home builders in our area. Working in construction for my step-father is how I got started in real estate, but I’ll come back to that.
As a child I had a knack for technology. I was lucky enough to own or have access to many of the early personal computers, Apple II, Commodore 64, and even Unix systems. I got my first technology internship at Silicon Graphics in High School. I studied computer science for my first year of college, but I decided that it would be more fun to get a Liberal Arts degree. I graduated from college during the dot-com boom, so I knew that I wanted to start an Internet business to “get rich quick” right out of school. I was in such a rush that I graduated in 3-years instead of the usual 4.
My First Business Failure
Although I was exposed early to entrepreneurship, I did not learn all the lessons right away. I graduated with a liberal arts degree in 1999 in New York City and when I finished school the dot com boom was still in full swing. I was pretty skilled with computers and I liked music, so I started an Internet radio startup with a strange name – eKani. I convinced a friend with an MBA to join me, raised some money from my family, and hired a programmer from India. One year later I had spent the family money and our only real accomplishment was writing a 40 page business plan and making a lot of pitches to investors to give us more money – it was probably a good thing they didn’t.
This first failure was a big blow, and the fact that hundreds of other dotcom companies went bust at the same time made the Internet millionaire dream look very far away indeed. However, I always loved the great outdoors, so I left New York City to return home to California and spent a couple years doing white-water rafting and mountaineering with at-risk youth. I traveled all over the Southwest, living in a tent or out of my car for months at a time and I worked for Outward Bound and many other non-profits.
Getting a Real Job
After a few years on the road I was ready to settle down again. I got a date with a beautiful woman, Jennifer Ryan who is now my wonderful wife, and a job as a Test Engineer at an Internet startup in San Diego. At Webmetrics we sold website monitoring, testing and performance analytics, and this was a great place to learn about technology and startups. A couple years after I left, Webmetrics was sold for a seven-figure sum.
Construction & Real Estate
I day-dreamed about starting another business of my own while working at Webmetrics. So when my step-father suggested that I get my real estate license and start a firm of my own then I jumped at the chance. I moved back to Ojai, California, and worked 40+ hours a week as a construction project manager and sold houses on nights and weekends as the Ojai Real Estate Company.
I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008 so that my wife could become a Naturopathic Doctor. We both studied hard when we got here and I was awarded both a general contractor’s license and a real estate license by the state of Oregon. I knew that I wanted to hit the ground running, so I started two companies – JMA Properties and Cole Construction. I quickly realized that my technology and Internet marketing skills gave me an edge in real estate and so I stopped doing construction in 2010.
Real Estate Success
It all started with a website. I built one of the most popular and content rich websites in the city of Portland, writing hundreds of articles about neighborhoods and real estate. After a few months, tens of thousands of people were visiting my website and I couldn’t keep up with the inquiries. I partnered with a very experienced real estate broker, Gerry Mains, and together we hired dozens of agents to serve our clients. Today we have 4 offices across the city and have sold more than 1,300 homes and won dozens of awards.
What am I doing now?
After years of managing a large team, I have recently re-focused on spending more time working directly with home buyers and sellers.
As for hobbies, family is everything to me, and my wonderful baby girl Kaia Grace and my wife Jennifer are the lights of my life. I also enjoy playing recreational sports including basketball and Ultimate Frisbee and I regularly volunteer to coach and support sporting events for youth and adults.
I plan to continue to help people buy and sell homes for many years to come. I am also involved with a small software company that is working on some exciting tools for real estate firms.