Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hey, it's Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. Speaking of which, my guest today is an ambitious and creative woman who has done just that. Cortney Novogratz is a designer that you may know from Bravo's 9 By Design and HGTV's Home by Novogratz. Along with her husband Robert, she's been designing and developing spaces around the world for 25 years. She's a mom of seven with impeccable taste and a love of design, art and architecture, which have driven her career, rebuilding entire city blocks, renovating a Hollywood Hills castle, and even building a treehouse in Brazil. She's an entrepreneurial powerhouse who has a passion for bringing beautifully designed products to the world. Cortney, thank you so much for making the trip and being here today. Thanks for having me, Marie. Take me back to the early days because you did not start off knowing what you were doing to do today obviously. From what I read from my research, you were actually an actress starting out in New York City, and your career took a whole 'nother turn. Tell me about that. I don't know if we found our career or it found us, but my husband and I bought our first building, it was a condemned building, while we were actually planning our wedding. My job, of course, as an actress was ups and downs and I had a little bit of free time, so I went to work on the jobsite. Opening up everyday, learning everything on the job and renovating it pretty much ourselves. We realized we were kind of great at it. In one sense, I was only 24 at the time, but I knew exactly what I was doing and then I had no clue of what I was doing. It's kind of a great way to live. Well, let me ask you this, how long had you been pursuing acting when you guys got the place? Probably about two or three years. I'd had some small things, jobs, but we always... The one thing is that my husband and I have in common, and still do to this day, is the love of architecture and designs and flea markets. We knew we would always dabble in that because it was something like a hobby that we enjoyed, but we never realized we would actually turn it into a real business. He was on Wall Street. You're an actress. Exactly. You started doing this. And was there something inside, and the reason I'm asking these questions because I know that there are many folks in our audience who find themselves, whether they're in their 20s or 30s or 40s or 50s or 60s or 70s, looking at a next chapter. Perhaps having been going in one direction and then maybe want to take a right turn or a left turn. I would love if you can articulate what was happening inside of you that was like, "Oh my goodness. This thing is so fun. Bye, bye acting," or if there was a bit of tension in that decision. It actually was so fun. I knew I was great at it in one sense, meaning that it felt so easy and comfortable. Even the smallest most daunting or biggest daunting task of learning how to dig out a basement or pour foundation or all these things that I had no clue about, I felt comfortable doing it. It felt very easy. Even as scary as a new project is today, the unknown, I still know I can navigate through it. Yeah. The same with my husband. We felt pretty confident with each other, and we knew we were going to make mistakes and not have all the answers or even have all the money to do a proper renovation, but we knew we wanted to take that risk. I think it was like a calculated risk and the fact that we knew that we would succeed somehow in the end. Then did help that Suzanne Vega, the singer/songwriter, approached us to rent our house out after we finished it. How did she know about it or how did you know her? She actually a friend of hers that was a broker and he had said that this kind of fun groovy couple just renovated a house and maybe they'd be up for it. She kind of kickstarted our career and the fact that she believed in us. She rented our home. We became friends. We then moved out of course and took that money and did it all over again. Really? It just kind of snowballed from there. What came the point? Was it really when she rented the house that your husband said, "Okay. Bye, bye Wall Street. We're doing this." Was that it? It took probably the second house to be honest and then it was really scary because at that point we already had three children. We were going to start a real business. All of our insurance was covered under his job as a broker, but we knew no matter what, we can do it on our terms. If we fail, we fail together. If we succeed, we succeed together. And so he literally walked away. With that, there was all these side steps. We had to sometimes downsize in order to buy up the next property or things weren't selling when it should have. We definitely sacrificed to live the life we want to live. Right. We still do to this day. It started off it sounds like more flipping than anything else. It was. I mean this was 25 years ago before people even called it flipping. We were in the middle of Downtown Manhattan, so most people don't flip homes. That's right. But for us, we knew we didn't know how many children we were going to have, but we knew we wanted a large family. We also used to, side note, promote parties in New York. Did you really? We were like party promoters even though we were a couple. I love this so much. We've had friends that actually have gotten married from some of our parties. We're talking like club party promoters? Yes. You know, Cortney, I may have been at some of your... You probably were. You probably were. I'm doing the math in my head. I'm like, "Oh yes. My clubbing days in New York City." Yes. We would rent crazy spaces and throw parties. We kind of just always created the life we wanted is why we even bought a condemned building in the first place is we were like... Before even Airbnb, we were like we could always rent it out if something goes wrong and we don't have to ask our neighbors. We can do whatever we want with the place. Was it scary renting a condemned building? I'm sorry for anyone who doesn't real estate, but I happen to love real estate. Every time I seem to come across new friends, it's always like our little dirty secret. I'm like, "Do you do real estate porn like I do?" They're like, "Oh my god, yes." I find myself on Realtor.com and sometimes it's just fun. I just find it so fascinating to see architecture and to see different style homes and all the things inside and outside, the décor, exterior, everything. In terms of a condemned home, were you guys nervous on that first of all? We were very scared. It was a single room occupancy for anyone that knows Downtown Manhattan. It had a fire, water damage. It had been empty for many years. We literally had no money to renovate it, so we would... Where'd you get it? We would get like beers and we would have his brothers come over and we'd rip up a beam or we'd say, "It looks pretty good. Maybe we should leave it." We literally were going through the yellow pages saying, "Okay. We need a drywall guy." We just learned on the job. We would lean on professionals in the business, maybe a friend that was an architect or an engineer, come by and say, "Okay. This looks good. This looks sound." We had an expediter. I never even knew what an expediter was. I don't know what an expediter is. An expediter is what gets everything passed through the city, gets rezoning and things like that. He became very key throughout our career because then we walked away from traditional houses and started buying gun shops, parking lots, night clubs, anything that could be a house that bigger developers would have passed up. We thought, "Hey, it could have a roof over our head and space and we can create... Four walls can be a home. We can create the home we want." I wanted to go into this because I feel like no matter what you want to do, even if you don't have an interest in real estate or physical buildings or physical products, there is something so genius for all of us that's available if we want to do something that you can just start. You can start before you're ready. You can figure it out as you go. I think each of us can have a part of our brain where we kind of hold back or maybe go like, "Oh…” You're scared. Yes. You're like, “I need to know everything I'm doing before I get into this new career or this new business or this new endeavor." I think there's so many lessons in that.