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  • 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, thecor, 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.