MS in Real Estate Alum Builds Business and Personal Bridges in the Epic Entrepreneurship House

Tuesday, August 20, 2019TOPICS: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

USD School of Business alumnus and CEO of Bullibone, Trevor JensenTrevor Jensen toasts with friends and roommates at an Epic Entrepreneurship House dinner
begin quoteI assumed I would always be in commercial real estate, but one day I had an accident that caused me to make a major life transition.

Recently, Master’s in Real Estate alum, Trevor Jensen ‘08, was included in a San Diego Union Tribune feature on six millennial entrepreneurs co-living together in the self-dubbed “Epic Entrepreneur House,”  where roommates are selected based on the business they started and its financial success -- entrepreneurs in the house must have a business earning $1 million or more per year. Trevor was invited to the house as the CEO of Bullibone, a company that makes chewable dog toys. We talked to Trevor to get a look into the trials, tribulations, and triumphs encountered on his journey going from real estate graduate to ‘top dog’ in the pet industry.

What motivated you to attend grad school at USD? 

Honestly a huge part of what made me want to attend graduate school at the University of San Diego School of Business is San Diego’s unique environment. I was born and raised here and I used to play basketball in the USD gym in high school. I have fond memories of USD.  

Another major factor was the Master’s in Real Estate (MSRE) program and the amazing staff and faculty associated with that program. Real estate is as close to entrepreneurship as any field. As soon as I graduated, I was able to raise money and syndicate some real estate deals with the skills I developed in grad school.  

Have you always had entrepreneurial aspirations?

I’ve always had a very entrepreneurial mindset. I was always looking for opportunities in whatever form they took. In grad school, I assumed I would always be in commercial real estate, but one day I had an accident that caused me to make a major life transition.   

I was walking my dog, Naraku, early one morning and a car ran a red light while I was in the intersection. I had to jump in front of a car and shove my dog out of the way. I was hit by a car and nearly died -- internal bleeding, torn ACL, MCL and a concussion. As I was lying in the hospital bed, I did some major soul searching and realized I wanted to play with dogs for a living. Luckily, I had a very strong foundation from the MSRE program that was instrumental in helping me make the transition.

What lessons did you learn at USD that have been most valuable to your career now?  

One of the most important lessons I learned at USD was the power of networking. I was president of the Real Estate Society and had leadership roles with the Urban Land Institute and NAIOP, the commercial real estate development association. My involvement in these groups gave me the opportunity to have conversations with CEOs, directors and all the major players in the real estate industry. Almost anyone will agree to an interview with a student or an industry organization. I was able to make great relationships that have lasted for the rest of my life.  

How did you get into the pet industry?

After the accident, I didn’t know how to get into the pet industry - it’s a totally different thing. I had no clue, consumer products is way different from real estate. But I was thinking, “If I die tomorrow, is this really what I want to be doing?” Although the answer was yes, it wasn’t a strong yes. What I really wanted to do was play with dogs. 

Not long after my accident, I heard about someone else walking their dog down the same intersection who was hit by a car but didn’t survive. That sealed the deal and I decided to start my first pet company, Pup Protector. We made lighted collars and leashes, hoping to make sure that cars could clearly see people walking their dogs. A couple of years later, I teamed up with Jim Dougherty, the founder of PetSmart and Petsense, to create Pet Industry Experts, LLC (PIE) to provide guidance for new pet companies. I eventually left PIE to become CEO of Bullibone.

What is an unexpected lesson you've learned from your entrepreneurial journey?

Control is an illusion. You can do your best to manage your business and plan the proper foundation, but life will always throw curve balls at you and you have to be ready to shift at a moment’s notice. Being a good entrepreneur is being able to adapt and maintain clear thinking throughout the journey. 

What are the challenges and advantages of sharing a living space with fellow entrepreneurs?

Living in a house full of entrepreneurs is actually pretty easy because all of our living needs are met -- we have a chef, cleaning and laundry services, etc.. Instead of taking care of these needs ourselves, we have the time to discuss our ideas with each other. We have weekly ‘mastermind’ meetings that allow us to tap into each other's networks and solve problems we are facing in our businesses. It also allows us to have a group of like-minded people to celebrate with when we have big wins.   

We also have wine nights and ‘mastermind’ dinners to introduce high level, business-minded people into our network. So far, it’s been a great experience and has helped everyone’s business take off to the next level.  

If you could invite one person to the Epic Entrepreneur House, who would it be?  

Richard Branson. He seems to have a great philosophy on empowering leaders and developing them into valuable teammates. I love the way he gets things off the ground and then lets his trusted leaders step in and manage the company without micromanaging them.  

What’s in store for the future? 

Delegating can be difficult and I think most entrepreneurs struggle with developing this skill set and nurturing teammates you can trust to operate at a high level. Therefore, I’d like to develop my ability to develop great leaders and allow people to flourish around me, as Richard Branson does. I loved playing college basketball and loved leading my team. I always strive to create a similar environment in my business endeavors where I can lead and allow my teammates to grow and prosper around me. 

Bullibone also continues to grow at a rapid pace and we have some really exciting things in the pipeline. My Bullibone team is exceptional and they deserve all the credit for where we are going. I plan to keep my team in place and bring them along with me in whatever endeavors life presents in the future.   

Contact:

Renata Ramirez
renataramirez@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-4658