12 February 2024

In this week’s episode, Patrick Donley (@JPatrickDonley) sits down with Isaac French, designer and builder of Live Oak Lake, a gorgeous 7-unit nature-immersive retreat located just outside Waco, Texas. In this episode, Isaac shares how he did all of this, his early days as an entrepreneur growing up in an intentional community, the role of faith in his life, and how he utilized social media to fuel profitability, and so much more!

In its first year, the property grossed $1 million, with a net profit of $550,000. He has recently sold Live Oak Lake and today, Isaac teaches others how to build and run hospitality businesses at Experiential Hospitality.



  • What it was like for Isaac growing up in a large family in an intentional community.
  • How his faith impacts how he operates his life and business.
  • Why hospitality and serving others drives his success at Live Oak Lake.
  • How he got the inspiration for Live Oak Lake.
  • What went into the creation and development of the property.
  • How social media fueled his success.
  • Why the smallest details matter.
  • How he came up with the design of the cabins.
  • How you should choose a property for a project like Isaac’s.
  • Why he was able to finish the project so quickly.
  • What he has been able to automate.
  • What it was like building a spec home and breaking his pelvis during the project.
  • What he would have done differently on the project.
  • How selling LIve Oak Lake went.
  • Why he’s offering a masterclass in experiential hospitality.
  • Why experiential hospitality is a mega-trend.


Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

[00:00:01] Isaac French: Yeah, so we didn’t intend to sell, but it was always in the back of my mind that if somebody gave us the right number, we’d sell. That number grew. Initially, that number was 3 million, then that number was 5 million.

[00:00:16] Patrick Donley: In this week’s episode, I had the good fortune of sitting down and talking with Isaac French designer and builder of Live Oak Lake, A gorgeous seven unit nature immersive retreat located just outside Waco, Texas. In this episode, Isaac shares how he did all of this, his early days as an entrepreneur growing up in an intentional community, the role of faith in his life, how he utilized social media to fuel profitability, and a whole lot more.

[00:00:40] Patrick Donley: In its first year, the property grossed $1 million with a net profit of $550,000. He’s recently sold Live Oak Lake, and today Isaac teaches others how to build and run hospitality businesses. I’ve been wanting to get Isaac on the podcast for quite some time, and I could have gone on several more hours talking with him.

[00:00:58] Patrick Donley: There’s a reason that his masterclass and experiential hospitality sells out. Check this one out. If you’ve ever dreamt about creating a unique nature immersive retreat like Live Oak Lake, and so without further delay, let’s dive into today’s episode with Isaac French,

[00:01:19] Intro: celebrating 10 years. You are listening to Millennial Investing by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Since 2014, we interviewed successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors to help educate and inspire the millennial generation. Now, for your host, Patrick Donley.

[00:01:46] Patrick Donley: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Millennial Investing Podcast. I’m your host today, Patrick Donley, and joining me in the studio today is Mr. Isaac French. Isaac, welcome to the show. 

[00:01:55] Isaac French: Thanks, Patrick.

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[00:01:57] Patrick Donley: I am really pumped to have you. I was sharing with you that I’ve been wanting to get you on the show for, since actually I started doing the podcast, so really happy to have you on today.

[00:02:05] Patrick Donley: So thanks for your time. I just want to jump right in. I know you grew up in a really large family. I wanted to talk about what that was like and I’m really interested in like financial blueprints and mental models, financial, mental models that people inherit from their family. 

[00:02:20] Isaac French: Yeah, so I was born and raised here in just outside of Waco, Texas.

[00:02:25] Isaac French: My dad and mom were from Colorado and actually had joined this intentional agrarian Christian community in their early twenties. Met and were married, and then the community eventually moved to Texas. I still live here, was, I’ve been here all my life. I did spend 10 years in north Central Idaho when my family moved up there to start a sister community between 2009 and 2019, but then moved back to Texas.

[00:02:53] Isaac French: My grandparents were here as well, so they were also part of the community. Very close-knit relationships was homeschooled, interacted a ton. There’s 12, 1500 people in this community. So a lot of, the high schooling was, classes were shared on different topics, but the main education was centered around the home.

[00:03:12] Isaac French: And both my dad and mom played equally vital roles in, in teaching us. And they took a very relational approach. So we would have all kinds of we would have writing workshops in the living room as a whole family and everybody is writing on a different grade level and doing similar exercises.

[00:03:28] Isaac French: And we’d have history lessons around the dinner table depending on what we were eating, which we probably grew in our garden. We farm with horses here. We try to grow as much of our own food as possible. Handcrafts are another huge emphasis, so we have crafts people that really specialize in. Every major craft you could think of, from blacksmithing to woodworking, to pottery, to weaving, knitting, painting.

[00:03:49] Isaac French: I’m an artist and a whole bunch more. We actually have a school embedded in the community as well. So we teach folks from all over that want to learn some of these hand skills. And basically the vision is we’re trying to supply the necessities of life as much as possible. We’re not perfect, and we certainly use modern technology.

[00:04:07] Isaac French: We just wanna be super sensitive with how that impacts our lives. And we’ve made some really hardline decisions, like not having internet and not having television in our homes to preserve the values that mean a lot to us. So families are the emphasis, relationships are the emphasis, and I’ve been very lucky to grow up in that environment.

[00:04:25] Isaac French: I really couldn’t have thought of a better environment as a kid to grow up in. My dad had a plumbing company. He was a. A plumber here in Texas for 20 some years. And so I grew up spending time when I wasn’t doing other things at his side and getting to go. Kinda the big treat was getting to go as a little kid, getting to go to a job with him, which was really fun.

[00:04:47] Isaac French: My grandfather was a custom home builder here in Texas as well. Built a ton of really cool houses in the greater Texas area, and so also got to ride along with him. He was really a perfectionist and a master at his craft, and that was, it was hard to describe how impactful that experience was on my life.

[00:05:07] Isaac French: And my brothers as well. We got to work at his ranch, which was just down the road a couple times a week. And in addition to our own farm, of course, where we had all these animals and we were constantly clearing trees and building trails and building structures. And so I’m number five out of 10 children, and my older brothers were really the pioneers when it came to all of the construction endeavors and learning all these other skills. 

[00:05:29] Isaac French: I actually didn’t do any of that until I was late as I was. I was what, 14 or 15 when most of them started like nine or 10, 14 or 15. I started working in the family construction business. At this point we had moved up to Idaho and my dad had transitioned more from plumbing to general contracting. I.

[00:05:46] Isaac French: And so I just started at the ground floor, literally as a general labor, sweeping floors and worked my way up through that. Learned pretty much every aspect of the trades. Did a little bit of everything, concrete framing plumbing, electrical, all the different aspects, which was so valuable looking back.

[00:06:03] Isaac French: And then by the time I was 19, I became a project manager and so was running multi-million dollar projects, which I’ve got lots of interesting stories there too. It’s just a different dynamic when you’re a little 19-year-old pipsqueak. And as much as because I genuinely obviously knew something, I’d been working in it for years.

[00:06:21] Isaac French: There was a ton I didn’t know, but I was, I’ve always been very ambitious and you’re interacting with all these people that are many decades older than you and like looking down their nose who’s this little dweeb? But anyway, going back to your, the one part of your question as far as the frameworks.

[00:06:35] Isaac French: I think this is maybe a funny rule. My dad did study rule when we were really young that there could be no financial transactions in the family without his direct involvement and approval. So I was opening like banks from the time I was six years old and coming up with all kinds of schemes to make money off of my siblings, and some of them did the same way we had a regulatory body there to step in and help.

[00:06:58] Isaac French: But I would actually say that was a valuable lesson because it taught me the value of, there’s a biblical proverb that says there’s wisdom in a multitude of counsel. And having his input still to this day is extremely valuable in every major decision that I make, financial or otherwise. So I would say that was a little bit of a taste of what it was like growing up.

[00:07:17] Patrick Donley: That’s awesome. It sounded like, obviously your family was super entrepreneurial. I know you had a lot of entrepreneurial gigs, like starting at age five or something like that. 

[00:07:26] Isaac French: Was everybody in the family like that. Almost everybody, one of a few of my siblings were less but they have all been very successful.

[00:07:35] Isaac French: And not in terms of money is definitely never been the main criteria of success for us. Like I said, it’s just been embedded into who we are. Relationships, and I know this is, this can sound cliche, but it really is true. Like we, we really wanna demonstrate this with our lifestyle. And so for me today and the businesses that I’m doing and even the ones that my family is still involved in, and they, like I said, they’ve been very successful with a lot of things they’ve done are really just a fraction of the overall lifestyle when you consider all these other aspects of living in agrarian life, living in community.

[00:08:05] Isaac French: And, but yeah, I was definitely on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship, so to speak, as a young adolescent and teenager and had to learn a lot of painful lessons along the way too. I’ve always been a radical optimist. And before the character was really built in me that my parents had the wisdom to really prioritize at certain stages of my life.

[00:08:26] Isaac French: I would just go all in on something and that was really good sometimes, but I. It led to actually some foolish mistakes that I probably could have avoided getting into risky derivative stock trading and things like that. But again you learn from all of those things and really all the major mistakes were just a result of trying to outdo what I thought my dad could probably help, could see as far as what these opportunities were.

[00:08:48] Isaac French: And, but I learned from all of those as well. But yeah, our whole family has been that way. My mom started a cheese making business with a friend of when they were younger, and actually that was another business I grew up working in. I then started an A business with her when I was in high school. We milked cow.

[00:09:02] Isaac French: We had this herd of milk cows and we made fresh artisan cheeses. So I actually went all in on that for three or four years. Learned all about these really specific techniques for creating these really cool cheeses. And then we actually, that business is still thriving. Sold at the Farmer’s Market every single week.

[00:09:20] Isaac French: I had a business making craft sodas brewed with yeast. This was definitely on the experimental edge of my pursuits. That business was really interesting. It had a few built-in liabilities, like bottles exploding randomly. But yeah, also one of my first ideas, which I don’t ask me why I was passionate about this at the time, but I went on eBay and then would also go to old antique stores, find these dilapidated a hundred year old typewriters.

[00:09:46] Isaac French: I was really fascinated with typewriters for some reason, but would take those and then bring them home and then just not knowing anything about them would take them apart. And to be honest, I’m actually not necessarily a mechanical kind of person, but I was passionate about it that I would take it apart and try to just fix it.

[00:10:00] Isaac French: And make it better and then take better photos of them and re resell them on eBay. So yeah, you just see like wide spectrum. My brother had a, this was actually a great idea. I just came across a bunch of these old additions recently and I wanna do this for my own kids, but he started a newsletter when he was like eight years old and we had this fictitious town actually in our backyard called Lake 10 and literally all created roads Streets, built little buildings for it, and then he would publish like in the old Microsoft Paint application, if you remember, that would format and publish these little weekly newsletters.

[00:10:34] Isaac French: And then all of us became contributors. My mom was like the editor and grew this to a network. It evolved over time. It’s pretty cool to look back and see over like a five year process, but grew it to a decent size circulation of friends, family, and then just circles out from there. Which was a pretty cool model, a subscription model, and also helped incorporate some of those writing and English and all the other skills into the businesses that we were starting.

[00:11:00] Patrick Donley: That sounds like an idyllic way to grow up. I just think like making cheeses and working on typewriters and writing a newsletter. You guys were ahead of your time with the newsletter. We talked about our newsletter with We Study markets, but it’s just such a great way to grow up and to be experimental.

[00:11:19] Patrick Donley: I think it’s just ideal. And is the community still going on? The community you grew up in, is it still active and functioning and thriving? 

[00:11:28] Isaac French: Oh yeah. So it’s actually really entering into, its. High growth phase. So my wife’s, I got married two or three years ago. My wife’s grandparents actually founded it 50 years ago last year.

[00:11:41] Patrick Donley: So can I ask, is it Mennonite? I’m in Ohio and there’s like a lot of Mennonites 

[00:11:45] Isaac French: and No, so it’s, it is similar to the Anabaptist tradition, which is what the Mennonites in Amish came out of. In that we prize simplicity in life. Like I said, we make conscious efforts as far as technology goes, but we don’t have certain lines like we’re not going to use modern technology.

[00:12:01] Isaac French: It’s just, we’re very careful as far as how we incorporate that. But yes, there’s definitely similarities. It’s called Homestead Heritage if it, if you wanna look it up. But right now we are like 12 communities worldwide and expanding incredibly rapidly. So in the last 10 years, they’re just popping up all over.

[00:12:18] Isaac French: There’s such a hunger for people, especially as just the entire culture begins to change, and I would say fray in terms of society and relationships and everything. Entire incredible hunger for a genuine shared life like this. And there’s been a lot of models that got this very wrong. And I feel privileged to be in a place that so far has born pretty good consistent fruit.

[00:12:41] Isaac French: So yeah, it’s going strong. And that is certainly my truest passion as far as expanding this vision of these communities, sustainable communities worldwide. 

[00:12:51] Patrick Donley: I would love to learn more about it. We could do a whole episode on just this, I think obviously very fascinating to me. I just for one, like I think you’re a hundred percent right about there is this deep hunger in society for that.

[00:13:04] Patrick Donley: We’ve lived these kind of crazy complex lives, fast technology, and there’s always this hunger for returning to simplicity. And same values, I would say. 

[00:13:15] Isaac French: Absolutely. And it’s just like, where else do you find really the lifestyle that we’re living today, we would argue is not very different from what the normal American would’ve experienced say a hundred years ago.

[00:13:26] Isaac French: But then we’ve seen so many rapid changes and they’re not all bad, obviously in the name of progress, a lot has been done that we would say is not. Progressed us necessarily in terms of where we’re trying to go. And yet obviously we appreciate a lot of different conveniences. And yet we also recognize that even in some of these modern conveniences, there is a very double edged sword there.

[00:13:47] Isaac French: And social media take for example is a great example to show how, yes, I believe it can be a very valuable tool, but in the hands of adolescent kids it can also be extremely destructive. And you’re seeing all of these downstream effects of that are just really kicking in and it’s very unfortunate to see how that has affected among so many other things.

[00:14:11] Isaac French: Just the family unit, the nuclear family, marriages, families. One of the things that I feel extremely privileged, and I think I already described this, is the opportunity to grow up with my grandparents on both sides, extremely involved in our lives, very aligned in terms of the values that they were trying to cultivate as well.

[00:14:27] Isaac French: And there’s just not very many places where you have the opportunity to grow up with such a robust Multidimensional ecosystem of relationships like that is so impactful to a young person in setting the trajectory of their life. 

[00:14:42] Patrick Donley: Oh, it’s huge. And like these skills that you’ve developed at a really young age that most kids never get a chance to do, it’s, yeah, just speaks volumes to the benefits of it.

[00:14:52] Patrick Donley: I wanted to ask a little bit about, in the Mennonite and Amish community, they have this thing called going Yankee. I think when you’re around 16 years old, you’re allowed to leave the community. And go experience what life is like outside the Amish community. Was there anything like that or did you ever hunger for I can’t stand living like this anymore.

[00:15:10] Patrick Donley: I want to go live like a normal life with or not normal, but try what mainstream society or culture is doing? 

[00:15:18] Isaac French: Yeah, so we don’t have some kind of formal program, but I have to say like the older I get and now that we, my wife and I just had our first child last year, and contemplating being a dad and how I wanna raise him and the things I want to instill in him, in my son, it made me increasingly appreciate the discernment that my parents had in, as I would say, giving us enough rope to hang ourselves, but not letting us do that.

[00:15:42] Isaac French: And as a community collectively we host here at the Waco campus, we host two or 300,000 people a year come through here. It’s actually a huge touristic destination. There’s a craft village, the working farm, there’s a farm to table restaurant, all kinds of events that we have throughout the year.

[00:15:58] Isaac French: Music is a huge part of our culture. And so we’re extremely open, like we’re anything but living in a bubble in that sense. Like we have people come through all the time, and so there’s an aspect where we are very familiar with the culture. It’s just, again, I think there’s an incredible level of wisdom and discernment and I can only appreciate what my parents had and hope to be able to have the same for my children.

[00:16:21] Isaac French: I would say another emphasis. In just our general approach to community is there’s, there is not a top down, so to speak, authority structure. There’s very pluralistic leadership and family units, again, are extremely, are emphasized, like the responsibility that fathers have is not trumped by anything else actually.

[00:16:42] Isaac French: So obviously there are certain ideals and patterns that we all very voluntarily agree for identity’s sake, for unity sake to conform to. Though there’s always, that’s a, that’s an ongoing conversation and questions and challenges that are constructive are very much encouraged because that’s what keeps us from becoming just traditions based.

[00:17:02] Isaac French: We’re very, faith is at the center of everything that we do. So I would say, and I’m obviously this is my worldview, but without the faith component, it’s completely impossible to hold together a group of people like I’m describing. There’s just any number of. Relational internal conflicts that will come up and threaten to divide everyone on every level if you don’t have certain ideals that, and we believe it’s a supernatural relationship.

[00:17:27] Isaac French: The creator of the universe with God. So I’m obviously a Christian and Faith has been central, personally in every decision I’ve made. Even through my business, through this entire journey with Live Oak Lake and sharing the story, and again, with every other decision as well, and having a lighthouse, so to speak, to look to and determine every decision for me, which is my own relationship with God himself, but also through the network of relationships with my fellow Christians and community members.

[00:17:58] Isaac French: And as we all determine the direction of where we’re going collectively and individually is just, you can’t substitute anything for that. So that’s answering question you didn’t ask, but Faith has been a central tenant to. Everything I’ve done. 

[00:18:11] Patrick Donley: It’s fascinating to me. I did want to touch on that.

[00:18:13] Patrick Donley: Chris Powers had an interview that he did where somebody asked him when he became deeper in his own faith, becoming more of a Christian and following Christ, if he thought that the question was like, did he think that would hinder his ability to be successful in the business world? So I wanted to touch on that, like how has your faith affected your success in the business world?

[00:18:36] Patrick Donley: Do you think there’s anything that like would hold you back? Business can be fairly cutthroat, competitive and challenging. 

[00:18:43] Isaac French: Yeah. I don’t know if anyone’s asked me that question explicitly. So it’s a good one. Yes, absolutely. It can affect it and. Let me try to give you an example. Even in this whole journey, which was totally unexpected, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later on, but with Live Oak Lake and now growing a little bit of an audience on Twitter and sharing the story and having a bunch of people from all over reaching out and wanting to offer a lot of different opportunities, investors, venture capital, private equity, by nature, I’m a very driven and ambitious person.

[00:19:13] Isaac French: I think my childhood is a testimony to that as I described, but I know that I have all kinds of, so I have this. Built in entrepreneurial drive. And I believe that God gives every human being talents and drives and ambitions that they can either choose to hijack for themselves, to build their own empire, their own kingdom, to ultimately just replace the need for a God.

[00:19:38] Isaac French: Or they can use those and find their higher purpose and their calling and the pathway that God would’ve laid out for them that connects them to other believers that is ultimately, hopefully going to give a testimony collectively of an alternative kingdom. So our view of, my view of Christianity is that we are truly supposed to be a called out people, an alternative kingdom that is supposed to encompass every aspect of business, family life, every aspect of society and economy.

[00:20:07] Isaac French: Our vision as a church has very much been focused on that. Hence the crafts, the agriculture, any of one of these things could become the center. And yet collectively, if they’re ordered appropriately, they can be this beautiful mosaic that I believe can testify to the lifestyle we’re trying to live, the person we’re trying to emulate in Jesus and the lifestyle.

[00:20:26] Isaac French: We’re living more than even just straight up preaching and teaching and traditional evangelism, though we certainly want to do that as well as God leads us to. So there’s a great quote by St. Francis of Assisi. He said, preach the gospel and if necessary, use words. And that’s an unspoken mantra for us, for me.

[00:20:45] Isaac French: And yeah, I think that there’s all kinds of areas where I have to be very careful that the business drives inside of me and just, I would say ultimately this more selfish nature that we all have, that I certainly have, doesn’t eclipse the greater purpose I was talking about. And so how do I harness all of those gifts and talents?

[00:21:06] Isaac French: Again, to contribute to a greater cause that is so much bigger than me that is going to, that started long before me. That’ll hopefully go on long after me. And I don’t believe that means we’re supposed to be living in some sort of asceticism just, and I respect those that, that see that differently, just denying every single earthly pleasure.

[00:21:23] Isaac French: I think God wants to prosper us. But it’s a very fine line, especially in a day and age where the prosperity gospel is preached, where everybody’s just supposed to go out and become a billionaire, and that tends to get people very warped. And church is very warped. So having the balance of relationships, again, the wisdom that comes collectively through these different sources in the community is extremely necessary.

[00:21:46] Isaac French: I’ve especially realized that these last couple years in this whole journey of actually, and it’s, there are areas that we’re still exploring. Like for instance, I’ll just be very vulnerable, like the whole personal brand aspect. I very much feel like the desire to I’m connecting with all these incredible people.

[00:22:02] Isaac French: And I see that as multi-faceted in terms of the opportunities there. But I have also even already identified things inside of me that I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong necessarily with getting attention, but there’s an ego inside of me too and I have to be very careful that doesn’t get out of balance again, in what I believe is my mission in life and what I’ve devoted myself to.

[00:22:23] Isaac French: So learning to navigate some of the nuances of growing a following and all of that and keeping the emphasis where it should be and keeping the negatives, repercussions in check the side effects so to speak, is definitely an ongoing discussion and something that I’m very conscious of. So yes it determines my faith determines every decision I make.

[00:22:45] Patrick Donley: Thank you so much for sharing all that. It’s really some great stuff. Yeah, it sounds like you’re very thoughtful about it, obviously, and like the example of the personal brand. I think that can be very tricky. People have a tendency to go either way too much or way too little, and it, you’re shining your or you’re not, you’re hiding your light.

[00:23:02] Patrick Donley: You mentioned gifts and skills and inherent abilities that we’ve all been gifted with, and we have different ones. I have started this program called Prime Movers with a guy named Chip Ingram who. Who is actually a pastor was in Texas. He’s now out in California. But the idea is to find your, what he calls your holy ambition.

[00:23:20] Patrick Donley: So it’s like using your gifts, talents, and abilities for God’s kingdom. And so it’s something I just started a couple months ago, so I’m very excited about this and fun to talk to you about it, about you’re definitely using your gifts in a great way. And I think it’s awesome that you’re able to come on in a show like this and talk about it.

[00:23:37] Isaac French: I’ll look that up. That sounds interesting. Yeah. 

[00:23:39] Patrick Donley: It’s geared towards business people. There’s a you work with a small cohort of people. There’s four of us in this small group led by a facilitator, and it’s, pretty intensive work. A lot of reading, a lot of deep thought and study and writing and thanks for sharing all that.

[00:23:54] Patrick Donley: I didn’t know that we were gonna go down that rabbit hole, but I appreciate you sharing. 

[00:24:00] Isaac French: Yeah I’ll just say, and I’m sure we can transition into some of the other stuff, but this could be a segue to that. But I see the vision that we have with the Christian communities that are supposed to be a living testimony, so to speak to others as far as to unity.

[00:24:15] Isaac French: We look to, Jesus is saying that in John 17, they’re by your love for one another. The world is going to know that you’re my disciples. And therefore our testimony of unity, again, that should transcend even our words, is going to be the greatest form of evangelism. But with that whole vision of community and entire lifestyle and entire society and everything encompassing a community, encompassing all that, I see the hospitality.

[00:24:45] Isaac French: As such a wonderful way to preach the gospel, actually to show love for others who had not judge them, to serve other people selflessly. And that’s part of the reason I feel so passionate about what we, even the small amount of success and resonance that we found with Live Oak Lake that is very financially profitable to give people what not something that is somehow just a sideshow or somewhat removed from what I actually believe, but what I actually believe life is all about, which is serving other people and meeting their needs.

[00:25:18] Isaac French: And that’s why I’m so excited about this vision of hospitality, which we’ll talk about later, but how we can even incorporate that into the model that we already have, which we’re very hospitality oriented. That’s another thing I should mention. We grew up hosting people at our home all the time from.

[00:25:33] Isaac French: Other places, which again is another huge benefit of the community. Not only are these other community members from around the world that have different cultures and different perspectives that we can learn from and very impactful as a child, but also just strangers, friends, relatives that don’t see the world the same way that we do.

[00:25:48] Isaac French: And again, being so open and hospitality minded was incredibly beneficial, I think. So I’m very excited for how all of these things can work together and again, bring that harmony and cohesion to your own personal existence and your purpose in life instead of feeling so fragmented, which is much more common today it seems.

[00:26:09] Patrick Donley: Yeah, I would agree with that. A hundred percent agree with that. So for our listeners that don’t know about what you’re up to, we’re deeper into the podcast here, but tell us about Live Oak Lake, what it is. The inspiration behind it and just go into the details of what Live Oak Lake is.

[00:26:25] Isaac French: Yeah, so Live Oak Lake is seven modern Scandinavian styled cabins, nestled around a small lake, giant live oak trees, walking trails, kayaking, hammocks, fire pits, just beautiful serene environment. Five acre property here, five minutes down the road from where I live. And the short story is I had been in Idaho, I moved back to Texas, got married, was also doing accounting.

[00:26:48] Isaac French: I didn’t mention that earlier, but I had a small cloud-based accounting firm and had the construction experience, had always been interested in design. I’m an artist, was looking to somehow bring all of these things together naturally. Was curious about real estate to bring all these different skill sets together and have this idea of.

[00:27:06] Isaac French: Why not create this little property that basically a village of really cool cabins and didn’t articulate most of that at the time, but knew that it just felt intuitively like this would work and started looking for property. One morning while scrolling, Zillow found this five acre parcel for $130,000.

[00:27:24] Isaac French: Made an offer that day. Went out, looked at the property, was just blown away. I had driven by this particular spot like tons of times, but it never stopped to actually examine what was there. It just looked like a bramble of trees. It was incredible. Needed a ton of work. But these massive live oak trees were just.

[00:27:41] Isaac French: Awesome. Long story short, bought the property nine and a half months later of intense season of designing, building, furnishing, outfitting the property. All myself, obviously with the help of subcontractors, other friends that helped with different aspects, but I didn’t hire engineers or architects or interior designers or any of that.

[00:28:00] Isaac French: It was really doing that myself, dealing with the bank and all the complexities of actually financing it when it went way over budget, but pulled off this project, opened the doors in January of 2022, and right out the gate was just blown away by the response. So didn’t have any following on social media, hadn’t done any press or any marketing, but.

[00:28:19] Isaac French: Through a series of events, started posting on Instagram, got picked up by a couple other influencer accounts in Texas. Got a ton of attentions. Went all in with influencer partnerships where we would run these giveaways, which just pour jet fuel on the fire. And yeah, grew a social media following to it’s now 150,000 in about 18 months on Instagram.

[00:28:40] Isaac French: About 95% occupancy overall, 80% plus of all bookings coming direct through our own website, 40,000 plus people on the email list, and financially a huge success as well. So really surprised me and blew my mind that people would resonate so strongly. But I think one of the key things that made it such a success is I did accurately realize there was no experience like this in Texas.

[00:29:04] Isaac French: There was no architecture like this. There was nothing that was really thoughtfully planned, at least. On that level in terms of a, an all encompassing experience that was immersive for people to come to. So a common anecdote when people come visit Live Oak Lake, they say, when we drive in the gate, it’s fenced in gated 24 7.

[00:29:22] Isaac French: So again, it it’s this all encompassing feel. They say, it feels like we’re coming to a different world. And there’s a saying, the way you do one thing is the way that you do everything. And we certainly try to apply that with Live Oak Lake from every aspect of design and construction to the programming and the the thoughtfulness of the welcome gift and the messaging and the housekeeping staff and the maintenance staff.

[00:29:45] Isaac French: Another key little comment I’ll make here. A lot of people ask about hiring. How do you find, because at the end of the day, no matter how much you automate and systematize, which we’ve done, a lot of hospitality is all about the heart and soul behind the experience, and there has to be there. There are key human touch points that we do have with the guests.

[00:30:03] Isaac French: Maybe it’s just a chance encounter with the cleaners when they’re leaving the unit and the guest pulls up. And cleaning is all of these different staff roles are so important as a lot of people ask, how do you find these people? I have to just show my cards here. The community was our main source for all of this.

[00:30:19] Isaac French: So having these built in relationships of trust and character and work ethic that I knew I could trust these people to do a good job. I knew I could train them and trust them to interact with the guests in the best way possible, to treat them like family was so immensely valuable and again, inspires me for the potential of how we can leverage that with future projects in the future.

[00:30:39] Isaac French: But. So again, it’s this immersive experience that is a part, a blend of amazing architecture and design with incredibly hospitable experiences with the hosting staff experiences on the property that are mostly self guided, like I said, the kayaking trails, but then also proximity to Homestead, which is where we have this whole working craft village farm.

[00:31:01] Isaac French: There’s other things in Waco, there’s Magnolia, which is awesome, chip and Joanna’s, little empire there. But for the most part, Waco though is growing a tourist component. I should just say it. Waco definitely has a tourism component, but the main demographic of guests at Live Oak Lake have just come from the Instagram following.

[00:31:19] Isaac French: So creating this new lane of traffic, actually where we’re contributing to that has just blowing me away too. The power of social media at getting the message out there, telling your story, but then also other people telling your story, which we’ve had several YouTubers come out and like I mentioned, Instagram creators themselves that have done these giveaways.

[00:31:36] Isaac French: But yeah, it’s been a, an eventful and adventurous ride, but that’s live, Oak Lake. 

[00:31:41] Patrick Donley: That’s a high level view of it. I want dive, drill down a little bit. When you drove by this property, did you have the idea for it already in mind and you were actively looking for the land, or it just you came across the land?

[00:31:54] Patrick Donley: Happenstance you’re looking at Zillow, saw the listing, went to go look at it and decided at that point to do the project or you know what I’m saying? Did you have this idea in your mind like, I need to go find land to go do this? Or did it just come about naturally and organically?

[00:32:12] Isaac French: Some of both. So I had this idea in my mind for a while, but I was actually looking at a property, funny story that was like a quarter mile down the same road that a friend of mine owned and it was on a 50 foot bluff with a white rock dry creek in the bottom, which is really unique and had this cool view component.

[00:32:31] Isaac French: It also had some liability issues. Yeah, the liability issues. But I was like pretty set on this is the place to do it, just ’cause it’s unique. And I knew we wanted something that had some natural land potential just in terms of the beauty of the land. Long story short is. He was moving way too slowly and though he agreed that if he sold it, I would be, I’d have the first right to buy it.

[00:32:53] Isaac French: He just was not in, in a hurry to get that done, to survey the piece off that I wanted. And so I was looking more broadly, hence one morning I opened up Zillow while I was still in bed, literally. And this place had just been listed in the past, in the previous 12 hours had just gone online. And so I literally called the agent up immediately and got dressed and drove over there like in the hour and met them because I knew it would probably go quickly.

[00:33:17] Isaac French: I was shocked ’cause it was a drone photo that caught my eye that I saw this little compound in the middle. And though I’d driven by this place a million times, I’d never known there was any kind of water there. I think it’s actually a spring Fed lake, which is really cool. We ended up digging it out.

[00:33:31] Patrick Donley: And so was it Overgrown and in bad shape when you bought it? 

[00:33:37] Isaac French: It was pure Briar’s brush. And though it had these massive hidden gems, these live oak trees and the water in the middle to even see that was almost impossible. Just ’cause there was so much stuff. There was like this old dilapidated barn in the front.

[00:33:52] Isaac French: So yeah, it was definitely a process of envisioning and I spent two or three days on site just walking around by myself trying to figure out what is the highest and best use for this. How could we lay out structures that would best showcase the natural land potential that we do have and how can we accentuate what we do?

[00:34:10] Isaac French: So we ended up taking out probably 60% of the trees trimmed up almost all the trees that we left, dug out the pond, built out the dry creek on the bottom side or seasonal creek. We drilled a small well to feed the pond in the summer in case it went down. ’cause we knew that was gonna be a really important aspect of.

[00:34:28] Isaac French: All the cabins were situated around it. So yeah, there was quite a bit of land site work, which literally my friends and I and family went out there with chainsaws and just did ourselves for the most part. And again, we didn’t have any engineers or site planners to lay it all out. It was very intuitive, just a.

[00:34:44] Isaac French: Boots on the ground approach of trying to put yourself in the shoes and envision what this place could be. And if you were a guest how far apart would you want the cabins to be and all of that. 

[00:34:55] Patrick Donley: Did you have the design of the cabin already in mind or did that come about after you purchased the land?

[00:35:02] Patrick Donley: Thoreau’s got this quote about when you are on a piece of land, every man takes a look at it and is like trying to figure out where, like you said, the highest and best use. Where can I put a, my house or my cabin or whatever. Did you, when you were walking the property, did you have the cabins in mind already that you were wanted to build?

[00:35:19] Isaac French: I was looking and I did not know. No, I did not know exactly what it was going to be. I found this company called Den D-E-N Outdoors, and they had really compelling designs at the time. I think there were a couple different cabins and process, but they didn’t even have any completed. I. Structures? I don’t think so.

[00:35:38] Isaac French: It was just renderings that I was looking at, but they had done a really good job of selling those, and so I fell in love with some of those designs. I purchased several of them actually, and then combined elements from a few different ones. Like the floor plan of one with the exterior of another that I liked and then tweaked it to taste added spiral stairs added a closet, added a washing machine and dryer.

[00:35:58] Isaac French: Did a few things that fit the use that I thought was best for this property. And hired a hired a freelancer on Fiverr for a few hundred bucks to make those modifications. So all in all, spent a few thousand dollars out of pocket to have designs that we used. They weren’t granted very detailed, which left a lot of room to improvise as we built, which was very helpful actually.

[00:36:20] Isaac French: ’cause I didn’t have any of the finishes picked out really. I didn’t have a lot of the smaller details picked out, but since I was managing construction and over there every single day, I could make all those decisions on the fly, which helped us, again, value engineer to keep our costs somewhat reasonable, but also get things done quickly.

[00:36:36] Isaac French: ’cause that was 2021, supply chain was a huge. Issue just getting doors and windows was like four months. Getting appliances was like six or seven months. Some of those things have become more normal now, but at the time that was really difficult to plan around. So wearing all those hats was very helpful actually.

[00:36:52] Patrick Donley: Yeah, it’s huge to be able to be your own GC and do this on the cheap, cheaper than what most people can do it. And it also sounded like a big part of it was that you were in an unincorporated part of town, that you were able to do a lot of this without. Typically you’d have to go through a lot of hoops that it doesn’t sound like you had to jump through.

[00:37:13] Isaac French: Absolutely. So I actually tell people this when they’re thinking about the market that they should choose, or the property that they should choose to create a property like Live Oak Lake, there’s a few different factors, and my framework is this. Number one, you need to be in proximity to a big population base.

[00:37:30] Isaac French: So whether that’s two hours or three hours driving distance, ideally you could be further if you’re cool enough, say Alman gear, which is multiple hours from a large population base. But it’s such an incredible out of this world experience that they have billionaires flying in to go there.

[00:37:45] Isaac French: But ideally you should be within two hours driving distance of major metro area. Number two, which is tied, maybe even for number one, is this question of zoning and regulation. So in general, you need to just look at the state level. Is this a state that is generally friendly to new development of this kind or not?

[00:38:03] Isaac French: And there are some places, I’m not saying it can’t be done in California, but it is. Entitlement can take so long, can take years. It’s just not for me. Others may have the appetite for that, but some place like generally Texas is a high growth. There’s a ton of people moving here. It’s fairly laissez fair.

[00:38:20] Isaac French: There’s generally a business friendly and capitalistic environment of creating development like this. I think the number one tip is get out of city limits. Get into an unincorporated part of the county. At least many of the counties here in Texas, you essentially have zero requirements for building. Now septics are another question and that’s where they get their foot in the door.

[00:38:42] Isaac French: In our case, that was actually the one aspect where I really needed to hire a good engineer to help us design a system. ’cause it’s one system commercial for the entire property. That’s tricky. Sometimes you, you have to have separate systems for each unit, but as far as the actual build ability of it, all you have to do is file a simple application that tell ’em that you are building and then you get three third party inspections throughout the process, which literally can be a real estate inspector or a independent plumbing inspector, so it’s not even city staff that’s doing this, and then submit those.

[00:39:13] Isaac French: And technically you don’t even have to pass those inspections. They just want you to have them on and then they have that on file so that future property owners can look that up. So yeah super low bar there. I know that there’s two sides to everything and the flip side of that, the argument to make, there’s certainly an argument to make in the opposite direction, which is go to high barrier to entry markets because you know that supply is going to be very limited.

[00:39:38] Isaac French: Yes. That’s certainly a viable model. It’s just, it’s not necessary for a property like this where you’re creating something that’s hopefully head and shoulders above anything else that’s out there. And if you’re really doing it right, which is certainly going to narrow down the pool of those that feel like they either have the gifts or the time to, to devote to a project like this.

[00:39:54] Isaac French: ’cause it’s very multi disciplinary, then nobody else is gonna be able to imitate you at least for a while. And if they do, you’re gonna have the first mover advantage. ’cause you will have built up a following and all of that. So yeah, find a number one, get approximate people. Number two, find a very easy place to build I.E.

[00:40:12] Isaac French: unincorporated parts of the county. And then there are other factors. You obviously wanna have some built in natural land potential. I think that’s important. That could be, I think trees are very important. Water is very important. Some of these things you could add in later. Having some diversity of demand is also important, whether that’s other leisure travel or a nearby university government business.

[00:40:31] Isaac French: We’re in a really great spot because we’re like 15 minutes from downtown Waco. Waco has prominent university. It has, like I said, some localized tourism, other things as well. We’ve got great restaurants, so we didn’t have to have any on-site, F&B offerings, but we’re within like two hours, two and a half hours of really the entire Texas triangle, which is over 20 million people.

[00:40:51] Isaac French: So you have both of those aspects at play. And we’re in perfect proximity to both. If you are gonna be further, let’s say two hours from a major metro area, I would say anything beyond 30 minutes actually, and you don’t have a smaller. A town nearby that has great cuisine available, then you will need to consider F&B, which will probably mean that you need to push up your unit size to like 35 to 40 minimum to make that, maybe 30 to make that viable because that’s just a whole nother ball of wax.

[00:41:20] Patrick Donley: I’ve got a real estate background, so I wanted to touch on the construction of the cabins. Were you pounding them out? Did you finish one at a time and move on to the next one or you did it in nine months? So how were you so efficient in finish these off so quickly? 

[00:41:35] Isaac French: Having that experience in all aspects of construction and then project management was invaluable to that.

[00:41:42] Isaac French: And I also made plenty of phone calls to my older brothers who still, that’s their primary occupation as general contractors with questions. But having the network of subcontractors within the local community was also very. Helpful and finding people to get stuff done. But yeah, I mean we did everything all at once.

[00:42:03] Isaac French: I am very much an all in kind of person and though it financial, again, going back to some of my imbalances, I would much rather just forget leave caution to the wind and go all in on an idea if I believe it’s gonna work. And it worked very well in this case. We did think about phasing it into two phases with proof of concept with two or three units and then expanding.

[00:42:23] Isaac French: But I was just like, look, opportunity cost of this is so big. And that turned out to be a very good assumption that we can’t afford to spend three years dragging this out. Then have the just a new sense of ongoing construction in, which is definitely affecting the experience of those that are staying here once the first ones are done.

[00:42:43] Isaac French: So we went all out, did everything at once, which was also nice ’cause there’s some economies of scale built in there with especially the subcontractors. Like it was very appealing to them to have essentially copy and paste times seven. And each 

[00:42:56] Patrick Donley: cabin was the same? Or did you have, were they basically the same plan?

[00:43:01] Isaac French: There’s two main plans. One is a two, we have five, two bedrooms, and then two one bedroom units. The aesthetic is very similar throughout, and those two unit types are actually extremely similar. It’s just an extra bedroom and so a few extra feet wide and long and a few extra appliances, things like that.

[00:43:17] Isaac French: And then we flipped some of them. So there’s mirrored plans in other places. So there’s technically four distinct unit types, but it’s really just two with mirrors. And then the way in which we laid them out. With the trees that they’re situated around and the topography and the views that we framed through all the windows and the glass openings was our main way of providing some differentiation between them and as, as well as the names of the units themselves, which have to do with their location on the property.

[00:43:42] Isaac French: And I think that’s a, actually a really valid point there too. So you want to have enough built-in diversification that when guests are coming to stay at Shadow Bend, which is our flagship unit under this one massive oak tree, they look across the pond and they see Lakeside South, which is also extremely cool and just beautifully framed in the opening of the trees that it’s in.

[00:44:02] Isaac French: And they’re like, I want to go stay there. That’s a hard balance because you’ve got to maintain the cohesion between all of them and providing that overall brand aesthetic that people. Are going to, though they won’t detect all of the similarities between the decking that we used in the floating dock and the decking on the front porch and the color of the chair on the dock, and the color of the door on the cabin, whatever.

[00:44:25] Isaac French: All those little pieces that are communicating with each other and that are signifying this overall brand, they won’t necessarily pick up on all those, but they will pick up on the general feeling that all of that communicates. And so every aspect, the container pool, all the on-site amenities, the hot tubs, the walking trails, the kayaking, the cabins themselves, interior design, the front gate, the landscaping, all of these different components are all tied together in a very intentional way.

[00:44:52] Isaac French: And that’s, I would argue, one of the most important pieces of creating that ambiance and environment. The lights, the way that when the lights turn on, the time of day when they turn off, which is all automated. So many different aspects of it that you don’t think of in at least immediately. But when you go to build it and you operate it, you realize the importance of all of these things.

[00:45:10] Isaac French: And yes, so those potentially create a massive workload to keep on top of all of these just maintenance alone. And yet, as I already said, that’s a very important role, a maintenance person, but there’s a lot of things you can automate. So with smart home technology, we’ve taken away so much of more of the menial, mundane things and yet been very intentional about what those key touch points are with the guests.

[00:45:31] Isaac French: Like the welcome gift, like the messaging, like the chance encounters with the onsite staff. That will mean a lot to the guests when they do have those. 

[00:45:41] Patrick Donley: It just sounds like you said, how you do anything is how you do everything. And it just seems like you guys have been oriented to attention, to detail that everything has been very thoughtfully constructed.

[00:45:52] Patrick Donley: Thought about it’s just an amazing place. I think I started following you, it must have been right around the time you had finished the project and I immediately I think just, I think most people’s experience of seeing it, it’s oh my gosh, this place, and it’s hard to describe it if you have not seen the photos of it it looks like this little European village at night.

[00:46:14] Patrick Donley: It’s just such a cool place. So congratulations first of all for just pulling off something like this. The other thing that I found out recently that I didn’t know about is while you were doing this, you also were building a spec home and it, and broke your pelvis. I’m just astounded that you were able to pull all of this off.

[00:46:32] Isaac French: Yeah, so after I bought this property, actually it may have been like a month before, I bought another five acre piece just down the road, and the spec home market in Waco was just. Through the roof. So I decided to try my hand at that, which was also helpful because there were more economies of scale and lessons learned with subcontractors and just building processes.

[00:46:53] Isaac French: But yeah, I built a. $750,000 spec house in four and a half months, listed it before it was even complete and sold it and did very well on that, which was essential because we were just completely strapped for cash to get the Live Oak Lake project across the line. So it was very nice having that infusion towards the end, especially when we were in that stage, which is so important of furnishing and landscaping where you don’t wanna make compromises, but you have to maintain that overall aesthetic and experience.

[00:47:20] Isaac French: So yeah, built a spec house and then a few months before we were done in the punch list phase of it was like two months actually before we were done with live Oak Lake. One day popped into one of the cabins to check on progress, and one of the subs was putting in a spiral staircase, was working by himself, didn’t have his helper that day and needed help holding something.

[00:47:39] Isaac French: So I jumped up on a extension ladder that was leaned up and was holding this piece of steel up there as he bolted it in. And the ladder slipped out from underneath me and the ladder was leaned against a balcony. So as soon as it got past that second floor, it just fell and I just went straight down and belly flopped onto the concrete, which was quite painful.

[00:47:59] Isaac French: But yeah, broke my pelvis. Didn’t even realize what had happened. I just couldn’t hardly move. And some of it was shock. Initially I was like, no, we’re not calling an ambulance. I’m just going home. I need to rest. And I couldn’t even get in the car and it was, something was wrong. And so ended up going to Quick Care, they took me to a hospital and then, yeah, I had multiple surgeries and was overall I.

[00:48:18] Isaac French: Recovered extremely well. It was three months with crutches, but yeah, I, so I was leaning on my friends and family a lot more, even in that last stage, which again, couldn’t have done it. I had my brother and brother-in-Law come down from Idaho, and they helped with the whole setup and furnishing phase. So I was just hobbling around on crutches and they were doing all the heavy lifting, literally.

[00:48:38] Isaac French: And that was definitely a little bit of a wrench in the works. But even in that, I feel like I, I learned a valuable lesson. I was going, so I’d gone, I was going 80 miles an hour in every aspect of my life through that summer building, both those projects. And I think there are seasons of life where you just have to push.

[00:48:54] Isaac French: I, I certainly think that people need to lean into those when they’re in one of those, we didn’t have any kids, which was also, we’d just been married a few months. Previous to that, we didn’t have any kids. And so I was just like spending 60 hours, a 60 hours a week plus over there at these two projects in addition to all these other aspects of my life.

[00:49:13] Isaac French: And that’s just really hard. But yeah going from that to. Literally laying on my back on a hospital bed unable to move for seven days was actually extremely healthy. ’cause it just made me slow down, zoom out a little bit and reevaluate what my priorities were. And I think I was though I believe that you need to push in certain seasons.

[00:49:37] Isaac French: I think I was overdoing it a little bit. And again, that was another example of when my priorities can get out of whack. Sometimes though a lot of other relationships weren’t suffering yet, if if unhindered and unbridled, I think a person like me can just fly out of orbit like that. So it was actually really helpful.

[00:49:53] Isaac French: I just personally realized that there was a silver lining in all of that. And then just. Also realizing how valuable, truly good friends are and family like I have, that stepped in so many ways to help our family out and help me out. Even finishing that project, so made me appreciate them a whole lot more, and also I think enabled me to empathize with others that are suffering in other ways that I am.

[00:50:14] Isaac French: Again, just because I can be so tunnel vision and so focused on whatever I’m doing, I just ignore other realities around me, and so I’m thankful for it for that. 

[00:50:24] Patrick Donley: Yeah, it’s an amazing story. I wanted to touch on a little bit about what, in retrospect you would’ve done differently, any mistakes that you made that you, I.

[00:50:31] Patrick Donley: Looking back on things you would’ve done things a little bit differently. 

[00:50:35] Isaac French: I think the number one mistake I made was I was in such a hurry that I didn’t document or film any of the process of building. If you’re gonna go to the hassle of creating a project like this, which is what do they say about entrepreneurship that it’s like eating glass and look and staring into the abyss or something like that.

[00:50:53] Isaac French: Building a project like this is similar and thinking about all the aspects that go into it. It was so consumed that I didn’t create anything and I just wish I had documented the process a little bit better. Even if I hadn’t used it at the time, I would have that. I have plenty of photos, but even some videos, there’s simple things too.

[00:51:10] Isaac French: You don’t need a whole film crew, just some time lapses and like before and afters can be so powerful visually to storytell when you’re thinking about marketing that experience to guests. ’cause the story is such a big aspect too, of the experience. Like our family, my wife and I, we’ve since sold it, but our family was I spent as much time as I could over there just interacting with guests and our stories in the welcome manual, which we very carefully crafted.

[00:51:34] Isaac French: And it’s again, baked into all the details of it, how we created it, what we do, why we enjoy it. And so even the construction phase is just pure gold from a content perspective to capitalize on. So that’s one. Another one is I didn’t originally have any of the units that were ADA accessible and it’s a little bit of a gray area even legally, but.

[00:51:54] Isaac French: If I had to do it again, I would certainly do one of them accessible. It’s never impacted our occupancy. We’ve been so busy, but it’s just a bad feeling to have to turn people away. And it’s not even that we don’t have bedrooms downstairs. Stairs aren’t really the problem. It’s just basic things like doorway openings and turn radiuses.

[00:52:13] Isaac French: So that’s another thing I would certainly look I guess also that’s maybe a negative side effect of the lack of regulation and professional input from architects and engineers. But yeah those are the two main things overall. There were lots of little tiny things like I forgot to wire in under cabinet lighting, so I had to use battery power.

[00:52:30] Isaac French: There’s just lots of little things. I think most of those actually could be attributed to the lack of professional input. But they were all great learning experiences too. ’cause I’ve got a long list of. Nitty-gritty details that I can’t wait to incorporate into my next project. 

[00:52:43] Patrick Donley: And it sounds like you and your wife, like you spent the night in each cabin.

[00:52:47] Patrick Donley: You you learned every aspect of the business so that you could properly teach somebody else how to do it really knew what was going on. You mentioned that you had sold the property, so I wanted to touch on that a little bit. A project like this becomes your baby, right? This is like your pride and joy and so I wanted to hear like how that was for you selling it.

[00:53:11] Isaac French: Yeah. So we didn’t intend to sell, but it was always in the back of my mind that if somebody gave us the right number, we’d sell. That number grew. Initially, that number was 3 million, then that number was 5 million. And I’ll just be very transparent ’cause that’s what I’ve done through the whole journey, sharing all the numbers and it’s a double-edged sword because just as a side note here, some people are just automatically angry when you are financially successful or assume that you must be a grifter because you’re sharing all these numbers.

[00:53:40] Isaac French: So you have to be careful, obviously. But I’ve found overall that just being truly authentic and transparent, even with all of the numbers that go behind something, everything about the story, it’s like social media again, is such a, it’s so tempting just to tell the positives or just to be hyperbolic in exaggerate.

[00:53:58] Isaac French: Your storytelling. I’ve tried to just share everything, unfortunately, I guess I should say. We’ve had so many wins that it can appear like this was, this is a little unbelievable. But yeah, we, so we built the project for 2.3 million all in, financed it through a line of credit. I got through my family with their construction company, which was essential to supplement the main construction loan that I got from a local lender, some personal cash.

[00:54:21] Isaac French: Four months after we opened, we reappraised, refinanced, locked in a great rate long term. This was July of 22 before the rate crisis that we’re in and was able to pull out all the equity, all of the short term debt, pay off everything and have like $400,000. Tax free in addition to that. So that was a huge win.

[00:54:42] Isaac French: And then I was like always thinking if somebody wants to pay us the right amount everything has gone so well from a media perspective, from a just high level, just basic numbers perspective here with the business side of it that we, man, we would be stupid not to consider it. So we ended up listing it for a few months.

[00:55:00] Isaac French: Last year it was actually 2020, late 2022. Had several interested parties, had several private equity shops that were interested. Most of them lowballed the number I was wanting. And also one of them gave us a very fair offer, but they wanted to buy 70% and then basically retained me, go build them a portfolio.

[00:55:20] Isaac French: I wasn’t particularly interested in that and it just didn’t feel like the time was right. So we took it off and then beginning of last year, we relisted it with another broker and had a bunch more offers. Were under contract to sell for 6.5 million and got down to the day before closing. And then the buyers.

[00:55:37] Isaac French: Had to back out. Their hard money lender had backed out on them. They were pretty amateur investors and weren’t prepared to handle this. And then five days later we get another LOI from another buyer for a half a million, higher for seven, and. Initially they wanted to sell, they wanted us to sell or carry a big portion of it for a time.

[00:55:58] Isaac French: We weren’t interested in that. We ended up negotiating a deal for 7 million that didn’t require us to sell or carry anything. And they actually passed their dates, like multiple times. We had to extend the contract. The due diligence was fine, but they had a key investor back out from a random unrelated circumstance.

[00:56:15] Isaac French: And different things happened. I, it was such a masterclass in, in real estate transactions, which I’d never been involved in. What’s the saying? Birds fly, fish swim and deals fall through. And it definitely felt like that everything that went wrong or could go wrong went wrong. And then finally, multiple months after we were, we had originally gotten under contract, they finally got it together and were able to close like the final day of the final extension that we had agreed to.

[00:56:39] Isaac French: Because at that point, like you’ve invested so much into the process and though there’s a lot of lessons that you can take away, like having enough earnest money and hiring the right attorney and all of these other things. It’s just a little bit emotionally exhausting. ’cause it’s are we selling?

[00:56:52] Isaac French: Are we not selling? To your point. It’s very much feels like my baby. It still feels like that in a certain sense and I’m always gonna be proud of it, but I’ve already made the break from it and yet we’re still in this no man’s land. So it was actually a really great feeling when it finally came through last October and it’s been an interesting season since then too.

[00:57:12] Isaac French: I’m hoping to 10 31, a good chunk of the gain there into the next property, which I’m still looking for. I did take a little bit of cash off the table and it’s been nice to take a little bit of a break. In the meantime, I’ve been building this personal office slash art studio out here at my house, which is a dream project for me.

[00:57:29] Isaac French: I designed and built this new iteration of my taste. So it’s, we’ve incorporated, it’s got a lot of similarities to live Oak Lake as far as the. Aesthetic, but it’s definitely incorporated some new elements as well. And then, yeah, I’ve been also very focused on the masterclass and the community. I was doing a bunch of one-on-one coaching with folks when I started telling my story in 2022.

[00:57:50] Isaac French: And then after about 20 of these calls just realized I’m getting the same questions over and over again. Took the time last year, it was a lot of hard work, but spent a few months and thought through. Crafted the syllabus for the course and then filmed everything on site at Live Oak Lake brought in a whole panel of guest experts and assembled this resource that is hopefully as comprehensive and top to bottom as any out there and as highly produced as any out there, if not more and then basically sold that to a first round of students last summer. Got a ton of amazing success and feedback from that success stories from the students, which I was able to then iterate the process and then have since built out this community. So the idea there is bringing together the collective wisdom of all these other operators that are out there, most of which I’m still learning about new ones on a daily basis.

[00:58:41] Isaac French: There’s such a wave of experiential hospitality right now, and I’ve built a small following, but, so I feel like really privileged to be in a position where I’m getting a lot of people coming to me, but I’m going, I’m just realizing how many amazing people are out there already that we can learn from each other.

[00:58:56] Isaac French: So it’s basically a sounding board for this. Collective wisdom. If you have questions, if you need feedback in the process of raising money, of constructing, of operating, of selling a property like this is the place to be. We have bi-weekly calls. We have the ongoing discussion groups in chat format.

[00:59:13] Isaac French: We have shared resources like our underwriting models, our message templates, pitch decks, all the things that we all are needing. We have a member map where people can see where other community members are, so it’s very visual as well as other projects and properties that are inspirational, which is something I’m always selfishly interested in because I’m trying to figure out not what the competition is, but what the inspiration is out there that will help expand my own thinking of what’s possible in the space.

[00:59:38] Isaac French: So the, yeah, the masterclass in. Community have been super fulfilling. If anyone wants to check that out, it’s called experiential hospitality. The domain is experientialhospitality.com 

[00:59:48] Patrick Donley: and it pretty much gives the whole playbook of what you learned and how to replicate what you’ve done.

[00:59:56] Isaac French: Exactly. It’s, it is the top to bottom blueprint where I’m just candidly sharing everything and divide it into all the major phases of a project from conception through design and construction through. Automation, the software stack through marketing, social media, building an audience, and then yeah, now selling.

[01:00:14] Isaac French: So the whole life cycle, 

[01:00:17] Patrick Donley: I may be taking it or I’m definitely interested in it. I think I shared with you, my wife and I are looking for our next project and we’ve got six acres of land north of Columbus, Ohio, right On a river. Huge mature trees in a flood zone though. So we’re thinking like along the lines of Ben Wolf doing.

[01:00:35] Patrick Donley: A spyglass kind of thing, and she’s super excited about it. We just finished a project here, which is totally separate and I wanna put the brakes on, but she loves ideas and loves this kind of stuff, so we’ll see. 

[01:00:47] Isaac French: Yeah, you totally should. It’s amazing opportunity right now, wherever you are. There’s a lot of places, Ohio is actually the has one of the epicenters of what I would call this burgeoning experiential hospitality movement.

[01:00:59] Isaac French: I’ve never actually been to the region, but the Hawking Hills area is just loaded with these gems of a property. So I need to come check it out myself.

[01:01:07] Patrick Donley: Yeah, you should. You definitely should. Hocking Hills is gorgeous. There’s Amish country. My wife and I stayed in a super high-end tree house for market research and It was our anniversary.

[01:01:18] Isaac French: Fun parts of the job. 

[01:01:19] Patrick Donley: Yeah, it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. But this is a good place to, to stop. Isaac, I really appreciate your time. Really congratulate you on selling Live Oak Lake. Looking forward to seeing what you’re up to next. I’m gonna check out the master class for sure. But for people who want to learn more about you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

[01:01:38] Isaac French: I am on Twitter and Instagram at Isaac French underscore. I’ve been taking a little bit of a much needed break from those platforms, but I should be resuming that shortly. And then I’m also one of my New Year’s resolutions in addition to reading a lot, is writing a lot. So I’m writing a weekly newsletter at IsaacJFrench.com where I’m for free, breaking down a lot of the lessons that I’ve learned through this whole journey and hopefully giving people a lot of value that they can actionably, go and implement.

[01:02:05] Isaac French: So those are the two places. 

[01:02:07] Patrick Donley: Awesome. I’m gonna sign up for the newsletter. Thanks so much for your time, Isaac. I appreciate it. 

[01:02:11] Isaac French: Thanks for letting me talk your ear off Patrick. Hopefully it wasn’t too much, but appreciate the opportunity.

[01:02:15] Patrick Donley: Okay, folks, that’s all I had for today’s episode, I hope you enjoyed the show and I’ll see you back here real soon.

[01:02:22] Outro: Thank you for listening to TIP. To access our show notes and courses, go to theinvestorspodcast.com. Follow us on TikTok @theinvestorspodcast. On Instagram and LinkedIn at The Investor’s Podcast Network (@theinvestorspodcastnetwork) and X @TIP_Network. This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decisions, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Written permissions must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.


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