CEO of Ivan Estrada Properties and author of Brand With Purpose, Ivan’s tenacity to accomplish his goals is unmatched. From being bullied because of his sexuality to his courageousness to come out to his religious family, Ivan sits down with SUAVV to discuss his childhood as a young child navigating Los Angeles and gives us a personal insight into his new book, Brand With Purpose, which encourages and teaches young entrepreneurs how to take their brand to the next level.
SUAVV Magazine: Can you please tell us about how It was to grow up as a gay person, and the impact it had?
Ivan: I grew up in a very conservative Mexican family. We grew up to be lower middle class. My dad always had two jobs. He was a janitor and actually still is a janitor at the same school, and he used to paint houses in the morning before he would do his evening job. My mom was a seamstress, and she did pretty much anything she could to put food on the table. I also grew up very religious, but in a very good family. We never felt that we couldn’t get the things that we needed. If I wanted karate lessons, I got karate lessons. If I wanted to play the piano, I got piano lessons, which I did. I was also a swimmer and played the violin.
But the only thing I think as a kid that I knew was that I was different. I always knew something was different. I thought maybe it was just like a personality trait or it was just that I wasn’t exposed to, you know more kids because I always had this very outgoing part of myself. But then as I started going through elementary school, I started feeling like I didn’t know if it was something mental. It didn’t even cross my mind that I was gay because at that time I liked girls. I had my girl crushes on TV and my goal crushes on the playground.
For me, I didn’t really realize it until I was in high school, so it hit me later. But I did know how my parents felt about people from the LGBTQ+ community. It was something that was frowned upon. It had some, you know, a lot to do with culture, tradition, and religion. Both of my parents were raised very conservative, so anything out of the norm was just not tolerated, right? Like you had to kind of fulfill the status quo. You had to do what everyone else was doing, and what other people thought of you. And so, growing up with that mindset it was always about pleasing other people and about not doing anything out of the ordinary because you didn’t want to rock the boat, so when I did come out, which I had never been on doing out of fear of what my parents would do, such as disown me.
Growing up Catholic and very religious, I thought God, why are you doing this to me like I liked girls? I wasn’t normal, right? I hate the word normal because what is normal but normal to the standard of how I was raised in the community that I was being brought up. And so, when I realized that something was different and what was different was my, you know, my sexuality, it was very hard to accept. Unfortunately, at that time both my mom and dad, and my whole family, hit a rough patch for many, many years. Very rough, but honestly, because of that journey, I feel I was able to kind of step outside and grow as a human. My whole family. We had a very rough patch for many, many years when I came out to them. Very rough, but honestly. Because of that journey, I feel like I was able to kind of step outside and really grow as a human.
SUAVV Magazine: Because you started your career in the music industry, how did you overcome discrimination as a gay artist?
Ivan: In the music industry, I was told by several people that people thought I might be gay. That’s the case. If you want to be successful, you need to shut that out. And so I’ve always been to play a role. I need to talk with a deeper voice. I need to start using my hands less. I need to walk a certain way so they molded me to play a part in order to fit in. I did that for a very long time. I think you know, as a gay man we come in different shapes and sizes and even growing up I had my own family using stereotypes to define me, and I had to tell them we all come in different colors and sizes—even to how flamboyant is on a spectrum.
I mean I was pretty lucky living in Los Angeles when I came out. And when I moved graduated from college I moved out to West Hollywood, so I mean out of all places it was a place where people respect you for who you are. They don’t judge you. I was pretty lucky in moving there because if I would have moved back home, it would have been different. Like even your neighbors are seeing what you’re doing, and I’m pretty sure people would have judged me or treated me differently. I’ve never really felt that. I think if I was living somewhere else right in some other state in some other city in the country, that would be, you know, probably the opposite.
Obviously, I’m Mexican, I’m gay. I’m not, you know, a cookie-cutter. But I was very lucky where I just like, really circled myself with good people with good mentors. My college mentor and counselor were gay and so he really introduced me to a lot of great people, who really took me under their wing, where I never really felt judged.
SUAVV Magazine: How was the transition from music to real estate?
Ivan: In real estate in Los Angeles, I would say a lot of the men who work in real estate are part of the community. Not everyone but a lot of them, and so I think for in real estate I’ve had clients say, well, I hired you because you’re going to be out with my wife all day and I could be comfortable at work and I know that my wife is having a good time and there’s no risk of anything happening. So it was very easy. Again, things would be different if I was in some other part of the country or state, I mean state or city where you know part of people in the community is not embraced, right?? I think we have so much to offer. I tell my clients “look when you hire me, you hire a real estate agent, along with other traits” and people value that so I think in real estate and especially in this city it hasn’t been an issue.
SUAVV Magazine: What made you choose real estate as a career choice?
Ivan: Out of college, I graduated with an accounting degree from USC and I’ve always been good at numbers and so I thought accounting was the way to go. I did that for several years and I can honestly say towards the end I felt trapped. I felt like I was drowning. I would be in my cubicle at work and thinking this is life. Like this, this is it? It’s just working your way up the totem pole and I remember having a conversation with someone at work and saying, ‘I don’t like what I do’ and they said to me, ‘Tough, this is life. No one likes what they do, they just do it like you have to make a living.’ And for me that was not an option. I’ve always had this fire inside me to do great things and even though I didn’t know I wanted to be in real estate it was something that I was always attracted to.
For example, Oprah, who I love, she’s one of my greatest mentors. Even though we’ve never met, I want to meet her. One day, I listened to all her YouTube videos and how embracing and inspiring she is, and she says, ’You have to be conscious and aware enough to listen to God’s messages for you.’ And someone came into my life, who said, you know, real estate would be a great opportunity for you and. I heard it once and heard it several other times. From then on, I put in the time to do an internship to get educated, to listen to as many podcasts, books, and videos on real estate. And I thought, wait. This is something that I could do where I can bring in all my talents, right? Like I’m great on video. I could make videos. I’m great with people. I hate my cubicle. I love talking to people. Amazing, I’m good with numbers so when it comes to finances and having a client trust me because I have a degree in accounting and business background from a university here in Los Angeles, it’s very reputable.
Great, it’s going to be part of my brand, so I feel like everything happened for a reason, but I just, you know, sometimes we’re not ready to hear it right. And Oprah says, you know, sometimes it’s a little flicker in the head. And sometimes it’s like a little rock and then a bigger rock and then a brick right until it’s like, ‘Boom, did you get the message, or did you not?’ And so for me, it was a brick and now I just listen to the messages whenever I don’t know what to do on a major decision and I’m very spiritual.
SUAVV Magazine: In Brand With Purpose, you give your readers the chance to flip through different chapters, as each chapter pertains to specific entrepreneurial skills on branding. One chapter was called Pivoting. The chapter addresses people’s fear of taking risks and how usually people tend to run away from it. How does one apply this chapter to their own life if they want to become a successful writer?
Ivan: Most importantly, I think it’s first putting a plan together, right? Because if you’re going to do a pivot, you know, a lot of us say, ‘oh, I’m tired of this job and I want to go and do something else,’ or it might never be a job pivot. It might be a life pivot, right? Like, I don’t want to live in Los Angeles anymore, and I want to move to Boston. Right? Ok, great, you want to do a pivot. You need to have a plan—a concrete plan of what that looks like. You need to have a plan like what is like a written concrete plan of what that looks like. Sometimes when we think of doing something we don’t think of the steps or actions that come with it. So, I think having a plan is super important.
For example, I’ve known of people who’ve made life pivots, right? They moved from Miami to LA or LA to New York, but before they moved without a plan, and so I think having a plan and immersing yourself as much as you possibly can in whatever pivot you’re going to make is very important. Another one is having a good mentor, having someone taking you under their wing to show you all the good and the bad.
I’ll use real estate as an example. People see nice cars and you sell these cool houses. You post videos on social media, and they think that that’s the job. That’s five percent of what I do, the other 95% is the endless hours that I spend working sometimes 7 days a week or going on appointments and working with clients for months, all comes with it. All the other sacrifices that I had done, if not spending time with my family or my friends or spending enough time to form a relationship. I think I just gave you a long-winded answer, but I think a lot of us want to pivot into things that we think pivoting into this industry or business or city is going to change my life in this way. But really, do the research, and see if it coincides with you. Sometimes it’s a fantasy, right? It’s fantasy, and once you’ve realized what it takes to do that, pivot
SUAVV Magazine: You also bring up striving for perfection, which I think most people can relate to. It was something that you had dealt with as a child while growing up in a religious family. From your perspective, how can a person avoid that from happening in their own life?
Ivan: Yes, I always wanted to be perfect because growing up I was told not to tell people I was Mexican because then I wouldn’t be successful. And then obviously don’t be gay, right? You’ll never get to the positions that you want. Positions of power, respect. I felt I had to overcompensate for those two things, so that drove me to do well and accomplish many achievements. I felt broken for a very long time, and I felt to mask and look as put together as possible I had to be perfect, right? I had to be perfect in everything else because I felt like there were these two broken pieces in my life that couldn’t be mended. And so, the only way to do that was to try to be perfect in everything else, right? Perfect grades, perfect this, perfect that. But I was doing it for someone else, right? I was doing it for other people.
Obviously, no one is perfect, that’s impossible. I think the strive for perfection actually holds you back from really getting to know who you really are, because, in my times of imperfection and dealing with challenges and obstacles was where I really got to figure out who I was and what I was capable of. In my business, I hate using the word perfect, but I try to do the best that I possibly can with what I’ve got right now. If that’s not enough, then it just wasn’t meant to be right. It wasn’t meant for me, but to try to strive for perfection is impossible.
SUAVV Magazine: Also, in your business, you have had discussions about the five pillars of how you run your business: One of them is community. Why is community so important to you?
Ivan: The community aspect is important to me because for example, when my parents and I went our own separate ways for a little bit, I was adopted by a new community in West Hollywood. They were my family for a long time, and I’ve realized that my community has supported me along the way. All of my success has come through my community. The people who’ve supported me, the people who were there when times were tough. Another thing is the more the older I get and the more I speak to other entrepreneurs who are very successful I am reminded to never forget my community.
These are the people who’ve supported you day in and day out, and these are the people that you have to give back to right. I always feel I’m endlessly climbing a mountain and then I hit a peak where I’m like, ’Yes, this is the goal,’ but one of my mentors said, “Don’t forget to throw the rope down to your community.” For me, they threw the rope down, helped me get up to another point in my life, spiritually, economically, emotionally, spiritually, all of that.
SUAVV Magazine: As we continue to be surrounded by challenges due to COVID-19, how can the young generation maximize their opportunities to become successful in whatever they choose to do?
Ivan: You just have to put in the work in the effort to reach out to other people who you could look at and say, ‘I want what they have. I want the job that they have. I want the happiness that they have’ and if you come from a place like the messages that I have gotten from adults, ranging from 20-30 years old, ‘Oh my God, I read your book. I love this. It made me feel this way.’ How can I not respond to that? As long as you’re coming in from a place of vulnerability, that is what matters.