Real estate investor shares journey and success: Insights from Bruce Zake – Ep 389

The Fastest Way To Build A Six Or Even… Seven Figure Real Estate EMPIRE! 

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Bruce is a seasoned real estate investor with over 13 years of experience in the industry. He is the co-founder of Cypress Venture Group, a real estate investment company based in Akron, Ohio. Bruce started his real estate journey in 2009 during the housing market crash and has since built a portfolio of rental properties. He partnered with his business partner, Cos Vasilatos, in 2018 to expand their real estate ventures. Bruce and Kaz have diversified their investments by venturing into multifamily properties and storage facilities. With a focus on the northeast Ohio region, Bruce and his team are constantly looking for new opportunities to grow their portfolio.

In this episode of the Accelerated Real Estate Investment podcast, Bruce shares his real estate journey and how he transitioned from single-family properties to multifamily and storage facilities. He discusses the importance of having a business partner and the value of joining a mastermind program like the one led by Josh Cantwell. Bruce emphasizes the need for networking, creating a website, and utilizing social media platforms to expand one’s reach in the real estate industry. He also highlights the significance of continuous learning and staying up-to-date with market trends.

Key Takeaways with Bruce Zake

  • Partnering with someone who complements your skills and expertise is crucial in real estate investing.
  • Joining a mastermind program can provide valuable education, networking opportunities, and accountability.
  • The use of AI in marketing is an emerging trend that businesses should embrace to stay competitive and leverage the benefits of automation and personalization.
  • Building a strong online presence through a website and social media platforms is essential for attracting investors and expanding one’s network.
  • Networking and attending meetups can lead to valuable connections and potential investment opportunities.

Bruce Zake Tweetables

" Bruce's story is a testament to the power of perseverance, partnership, and continuous learning. He started small, took risks, and surrounded himself with the right people. If you're passionate about real estate investing, don't wait! Take action, educate yourself, and build a strong network."

"One of the key takeaways from Bruce's story is the importance of having a partner in real estate investing. Together, Bruce and Kaz have been able to tackle larger deals and support each other through the ups and downs of the industry. "


  • Cypress Venture Group – Website
  • Dale Carnegie – Website
  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
  • “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki
  • “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

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Connect with Josh Cantwell

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Cameron:  Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Accelerated Real Estate Investment. We have a phenomenal guest. Get ready to be inspired, be uplifted, and hopefully remove some of the doubt that you have in getting and moving into this program. But Bruce, before we get into your background, your company, what you’re doing, take us a little bit through your real estate journey, kind of how you started out, where it was at, and then what you’re doing now because of the mastermind program.

Bruce: Well, I started off about 1314 years ago in 2009, right in the middle of the crash, I found a deal on a house and bought it and fixed it up. Still own it, and I’ve been renting that out since then. And then kind of up until about 2018, I bought eight other doors on my own. I was kind of plodding along doing that. And I had always known my now business partner, Cos Vasilatos, for on and off for three or four years.

Bruce: We met through a mutual friend of ours, and we saw each other periodically, and we would always say, hey, what do you do with your real estate? What are you doing with your real estate? And finally, we were sitting around one day and we just said, we got all these ideas, why don’t we just try and combine it and shoot for the SARS? So that was late 2018, mid to late 2018. And one of the things that we did, we didn’t know anything about anything.

Bruce: We know plenty about singles and doubles and triples and quads and things like that. That’s a whole different ballgame. But I believe it was December of 2018. We drove out to Toledo. Now, we’re from Akron, Ohio, so we drove a couple of hours over to Toledo, and there was a deal out there, 952 units, unpriced. The guy who owned them, built them. He was in his eighty s and ready to retire. Four different sites.

Bruce: And we said, oh, we could do this. And keep in mind, Cos and I were listening to, dare I say, Michael Blanc. So I don’t know, you might have to bleep that. And Cos had subscribed to a bunch of different stuff that he was sharing with me, Blanc being one of them. And we said, well, we could take this down, no problem. And so we threw an offer out for, I don’t know, 29, $30 million. And then we sat back and waited, and of course, we didn’t get it. And had we gotten it, it would have been like somebody pulled our pants down because we wouldn’t have known what to do.

Bruce: So fast forward a little bit. Cos and I get started. We are out to lunch with one of our real estate agents, and at the end of lunch goes, hey, you guys interested in storage? We looked at each other and said, sure, why not? Off market deal, total left turn for multifamily. Nothing we’d ever done before. So he brought us out there. We did a deal. We closed on that in August 2019, and that was kind of the start of it. And always looking for multifamily, but somehow getting sidetracked every once in a while.

Bruce: In 2020, we invested as a partner. We did it for a year with some guys that we know and made some money there. And then 2021, we found out about another storage facility, super small. We bought that. And so we kept having these left hand turns and looking for multifamily. And then last year, we scored on a 66 unit, two building complex in Stowe, Ohio. So kind of near Kent State University. I call it a triangle between Akron, Cleveland, and Kent, but literally 15 minutes from Kent State University.

Bruce: So that’s about as compressed as I could be.

Cameron: I think that’s fantastic. Guys, did you hear what he said? He just kind of, like, chicken pecked along for a little bit. Then he got his business partner. Let’s branch out a little bit more. What the heck are we doing? It’s this constant of man. We’ll just keep moving forward, though. There’s always something better. They’re not something better, but there’s something better to be learned, and I love that. Bruce, you guys were taking risks, knowing that there could be great reward or not ask you this question.

Cameron: Your business partner was on here as well. He’s on another podcast with this one. When you guys were looking into this program, Josh’s program. Take us through the vetting process that you had to go through for this program.

Bruce: Of us vetting Josh or Josh vetting us?

Cameron: Both. Both.

Bruce: Well, again, Cos was going through and trying all kinds of different crazy stuff, which was great, and we learned a lot. We tried vas to cold call people. We tried other stuff to just dig some stuff up. The Michael Blanc thing again. And Taz had gone to a couple of masterminds from another guy in Cleveland, and they know three, four day events. He said, this is something we could glom onto. This might be good.

Bruce: And then I’m not sure where Cos was getting emails from, but he was getting some marketing emails from Josh. Cos said, let’s look into this guy. Let’s give it a shot. We’ve already spent thousands of dollars. What else do we have to lose besides thousands of dollars, which is fine. You got to spend money to make money. So we gave it a fly and we joined, and JJ, who vetted us, we talked about our real estate experience, which obviously, I’ve given you the synopsis of that.

Bruce: And then we had a call with Josh. It’s a good call. I think what the hook was for us is he was okay with us joining for six months for the one big upfront fee. And then I think for me, the twice a week Zoom meetings kind of sealed the deal. And then once we were in for a while, I think Josh decided to make it permanent. X amount of dollars a month. And we know we’ve been in here long enough. We know what’s going on as far as all the education that Josh gives.

Bruce: And so for me, it was whatever that was twice a week, Monday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Thursday. And just listening to this guy talk, he’s the real deal, man. I mean, not to say that there aren’t a bunch of other real deal guys out there, but he’s definitely the real deal. So he sold himself is really what it is. That’s pretty much it. And then, of course.

Cameron: After we had.

Bruce: Been in for a few months, my wife heard me on a call. I don’t know about this guy. He seems like he’s one of these guys who asks you for money and you don’t get anything. And I said, look, check him out. And so she checked him out, and I didn’t know she was checking him out because I didn’t hear about it after that. And her background is in journalism, so she’s pretty good at snooping on people and finding out what’s going on with them. And I said, look, part of Josh’s story was that he’s a cancer survivor.

Bruce: Go to the Cleveland clinic website, listen to his story. And I think she did that and haven’t really heard anything since. So she’s not involved with my business, but she always has questions.

Cameron: Let me ask you this question. Because a lot of people that are listening to probably have the same sentiment as you do. If your significant other, your spouse, your wife, would have come to you and said, I did some research on this. Look, here’s what I have found. Would that have swayed you to get out quicker if there was more negative than there was positive? But she never really came back. I’m just curious, because a lot of people get in the business, if their other partner, significant other, reaches out and says, hey, look, this is a done deal, we got to go.

Cameron: It’s that your partner is always your biggest cheerleader. So if your cheerleader is not fully sold out, would have it been harder to continue, or would it been a lot easier to been like, okay, if you think no, then I’m good, we’ll pull out.

Bruce: Let me tell you a marriage story. There’s three two word phrases every person should know in marriage. Yes, dear, I’m sorry. And you’re right. So given those three two word phrases, I’m sure some other people have additional ones. My wife doesn’t really. We really don’t talk about my business, or she doesn’t ask a lot of questions about my business. She does, and I’ll share stuff with her. And we’ve been married a long time, right? We just celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.

Bruce: So we know what each other is thinking. We know what good and bad stuff is. I’ve been in business before this on my own for 25, 30 years, so it’s really a matter of trust. Had she come to me and said, you might want to consider reconsider this guy, then I would have given it more thought. But she didn’t.

Cameron: Listen to that. Let me ask you this question, then. Sure. What are two or three actionable steps that you took once you were 100% sold out, once you knew this program was for you guys, once you knew that you could see it taking and elevating your business. Give us two or three actionable steps that you guys took to actually really start to receive those fruits of all your labors.

Bruce: To me, the most important thing, and I guess they’re all equally important, you need a partner. You need more than yourself. This is not a solo operation. I could never do a 66 unit apartment building on my own without Cos. I know Cos couldn’t do it without me. So you need partners. That’s the best advice I can give. Listen to your partners, and if you join the group, listen to what Josh is saying.

Bruce: One of the things that I haven’t been on a lot in the last ten months since we closed on this place in Stowe. But when I am on and Josh is going over something, a deal for one of our other masterminds, occasionally he’ll slip up and he’ll say something like, God, he really said that? That’s great, because I don’t remember ever hearing that. Know, we hear the same things a lot, but at the same time, we’ve been with Josh for two and a half years, and I think we’re always learning something new.

Bruce: A couple other things. Get a website, join a meetup group, or start your own meetup group. That’s super important. Cos’s name on his name is on it. But both of us usually go to this meetup group that we sponsor with a couple other guys, and we actually met one of our investors for the so property, and he is a us citizen, but he lives abroad and he brought in some friends of his. So you just never know who you’re going to meet.

Bruce: Meetups are great. Website. Got to have a website. I could keep going if you like. There’s a lot.

Cameron: We could turn this into a lot longer guys. But what you are hearing from a man who has said he chicken picked, henny, picked along, found a partner. They did okay. And then they found a mastermind group that has exploded them through the leadership. And being held accountable for things that I think is the biggest thing that I’ve heard thus far is the accountability process and being held accountable to be the best version, the best real estate investor you can be. I love that you’re not listening to somebody who’s just been around me. Come on. 13 years Bruce has been at this. He worked hard.

Cameron: Then he linked up with his buddy. I love that story. Take us through Cypress Venture Group. Tell us what you guys are working on. Tell us what you guys have going and what you see for the future for both you and your business partner, Cos.

Bruce: Well, I think now, because interest rates have gone up, and theoretically, I believe prices should go down, that’s really not happening. So we’re just looking at deals we’re trying to do. I mean, if you, if you guys think about this, 2018, we got together, we made a $30 million offer on something we wouldn’t have known what to do with. 2019, we bought our first property together. 2020, we were involved as partners with another, with a multifamily small, multifamily. 2021, we bought some more storage units. And finally, last year, we scored on the first multifamily.

Bruce: I think if we can pace along at one deal a year. I mean, if we could do three deals a year, I’d do that, too. So Cypress Ventures Group is our kind of the hub, and all the properties that we own are the spokes. So we’re just always looking for something new that’s going to come along. We like to stay in northeast Ohio. We like summit county. That’s where we live. We’ll go up to Cleveland, we’ll go down to Canton, but that’s where we want to stay.

Bruce: So we’re kind of control freaks. Terrible to say, but we want to have our thumb on it at all times. So that’s where we’re headed. I’d also say, just in addition, again, make sure you have a website. Use constant contact or something like that, surveymonkey, whatever you want to use to put everybody you know into that and start sending them emails on what you’re doing. Make sure you have a company page on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Bruce: And listen, I should talk. I thought we had a company page on LinkedIn, but, oops, I guess one of us forgot about it. I was going over it with someone I know who’s going to help us with some social media when she’s not working too hard. And she said, oh, you don’t have that? Okay, darn it. But that’s what you should have. And network, it’s just like going to the meetup page. Network, network, network. Call all your friends.

Bruce: I think at some point Josh talked about, I don’t remember how he referred to it, but, like, your top 100 in your phone, whether it’s friends or family or even people you met three times, just go through there and throw them on an email. And even if you start out sending out emails on your own from your website, you got to start getting out there. That’s the biggest thing.

Cameron: Love it. Your presence, what people believe in a story, they want to follow. That story Bruce has just dug into and said, this is what I’ve learned. This is what we were taught. This is what we have applied. And now they’re looking for good business deals and not just chasing. I love that. Can you imagine if you would have got that $30 million deal, Bruce? You’d be in a whole other story.

Bruce: Yeah, funny story. Apparently the people who got that $30 million deal got it in whatever year. I said that was 2019, and they’ve never closed on it. They keep pushing it back and adding escrow money, and I think that’s some kind of strategy that I’m not sure I quite understand. So I don’t think that would have been my choice of how to close a deal, but it sounds like it’s theirs.

Cameron: I love it. Guys, look, this has been phenomenal. Fantastic. You’ve heard from Bruce. Take action, get it going, stop waiting, stop dragging your feet, and be mentored by people who have the same mindset, the same passion, the same growth that he does is finding great deals and go crush it. Bruce, before I let you go, give me your top five books. You would recommend anybody? Someone to read. Give me your top five books.

Bruce: Top five books. How to win friends and influence people. Dale Carnegie. I took a Dale Carnegie course umpteen years ago. It was great. It was very enriching. Rich dad, poor dad. Richard Kasaki, the millionaire next door. It’s just a fun read. Just about anybody can be a millionaire, and you never know just by looking at so really, really cool stuff. Right now, I’m trying to get through a book called, and it was, well, obviously written a long time ago, my life by Golden Mayer.

Bruce: And again, number five, I do a lot of Apple news reading. So that’s kind of my off time, wasteful activity. But that way I can stay up on news. So I’m kind of a news junkie. Like I said, my wife is a journalist and I’m a reformed.

Cameron: Guys. This. Oh, man, this has been fantastic. Bruce, your story is amazing. The path you take has absolutely been phenomenal. Thank you so much for sharing how you’ve arrived where it is. Guys, check out the accelerated real estate investment podcast. This has been another fantastic episode. We’ll catch you a little later.


Josh Cantwell: Well, guys, there you have it. I really enjoyed that episode with Bruce. Man, being responsible to others is such a motivator. Giving to others, I feel so good about myself, right? Such and such a good place when I give to others. Number three, making a new decision. I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer and came out of my hospital bed and had an opportunity to restart my life, I had to relearn how to eat, I was not going to go back and redo my life the way I had been doing it, so making that decision. And then finally, as Caleb and I mentioned, don’t quit.

Guys, listen, everybody can do this business. Everybody can be successful. Everybody can be a multimillionaire with real estate. Keep getting your education, keep listening to podcasts like this. But most of all, go execute, raise capital, make offers. Don’t quit. We’ll see you next time on Accelerated Investor.

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