In the latest episode of The Come Up, meet the guy every entrepreneur dreams of becoming.
He is owner of a thriving Florida investment group which means recently he has been printing cash …
He is one of Gulfshore Business’ 40 under 40 …
He is a former model …
Meet Brad Cozza.
Things weren’t always so rosy. In his earlier days, he took stock of his life after couch surfing in the Big Apple.
Now he is the founder of Cozza Investment Group which The Wall Street Journal named #10 in the country for volume produced.
The Come Up Episode 4 Highlights
The Come Up is a short video podcast produced by Content with Teeth that documents the up-and-coming entrepreneurial scene in Southwest Florida.
In Episode 4, Everyone Loves Brad Cozza.
Jumping between different companies and industries, from real estate to restaurants, you definitely want to follow this guy’s career arc.
Back in his school days: Brad was a hungry hunter for investment opportunities at FGCU when it was a lonely outpost with more snakes than students.
Cozza’s advice to entrepreneurs: Take risks, but calculated ones only. Learn how to adapt and NOT die.
Real estate success: learn how to work the genie to up your odds of being in the right place at the right time.
Watch the episode and learn the connection between Cozza and Pitbull and the ultimate advice on unlocking a real estate gamechanger.
About Brad Cozza and Content with Teeth
The Come Up Episode 4 Transcript
Scrappy Jackson: What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? I’m Scrap Jackson, and this is The Come Up, a video podcast celebrating Southwest Florida’s most interesting entrepreneurs. We’re brought to you by Content with Teeth, a creative content marketing agency right here in Southwest Florida. They do all kinds of good stuff: copywriting, video production, HubSpot services, and based on this big ass Fathead logo behind me, you can tell they do it big, real big.
Scrappy Jackson: Our guest today is Brad Cozza, an FGCU grad who’s turned his business degree into a Southwest Florida real estate and entertainment empire. He’s done it with moxie, risk-taking vision, passion. It’s awesome to have you here, Brad. We really appreciate it.
Brad Cozza: What’s up, Scrap? Thanks for having me. How you been?
Scrappy Jackson: Good. Really good. Really good. Southwest Florida is alive with real estate entertainment. You’re on the cusp. But I’m thinking back in the day, when you were in West Warwick, Rhode Island, you’re playing shortstop for your little league team, in your wildest dreams did you think you’d be here today?
Brad Cozza: Well, everybody in their wildest dreams in West Warwick, Rhode Island in little league thought that they were all going to play for the Boston Red Sox, so that was, I guess, my dream back then. But no, I’m very blessed to have made that move to Southwest Florida, because it was just a golden opportunity and moved at the right place at the right time, and I was very happy to go south.
Scrappy Jackson: And then you went to FGCU. Tell us about your experience there with Business Administration.
Brad Cozza: I did. So I was one of the second, I think it was the second graduating class at FGCU. So back then, you would take a ride to your dorm room down Ben Hill Griffin. And I felt like Jack Hanna, basically looking for boar, for reptiles, for snakes. It was just before there was any growth pattern, that now you take a look to see Gulf Coast Town Center, you take a look at Miramar, it’s a completely different environment where it was 15 years ago.
Scrappy Jackson: If you only had one acre of Miramar land back, then you’d be pretty much set. Right?
Brad Cozza: I would have bought something, I just didn’t have any money.
Scrappy Jackson: So, you get involved in modeling. You go to Miami. Perry Ellis, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, you’re doing really big for the Miami modeling scene, but I read somewhere where you were stuck on a couch and you wanted more out of life?
Brad Cozza: So, the modeling industry was for the time being. It was one of those situations where you would go to the coolest parties, and I had a vast appreciation for fashion, but it’s one of those industries where you don’t make any money.
Scrappy Jackson: Yeah.
Brad Cozza: And I went to college and wanted to, obviously, use my college education. And I found myself one morning in Queens, basically living on a couch. I was like, “Okay. This was fun, now it’s time to actually do some work.”
Scrappy Jackson: But in many respects, it was the groundwork for your perspective today, because your real estate vision involves somewhat of a metropolitan, cosmopolitan feel. Right?
Brad Cozza: Sure, absolutely. So, definitely, the real estate investment arena in Southwest Florida has been what I actually focused on when I first got my license. When I was a licensed agent, typically you get into real estate and you do cookie-cutter showings and working with buyers. I knew right off the bat that I had a passion for ROI investment, development, and was in the right place at the right time during the market boom of 2005. And we started marketing to major metropolitan centers. We would run ads in the San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, New York Post. And it went from five deals to 10 deals, and in 2006, our company was ranked number 10 in the nation by the Wall Street Journal for volume produced nationwide. So it was a great accolade and definitely found my sweet spot with working with investor.
Scrappy Jackson: Foreclosures, pre-construction, flips, sales, what do you like the best? What’s the most exciting to you?
Brad Cozza: Depends on what the market is.
Scrappy Jackson: Really, because you’re a businessman. Right?
Brad Cozza: So, right now you read the market and there’s a housing scarcity. So what makes this market different from ’05, ’06 is back then it was just anybody could get a construction loan, state-to-state programs, everybody was irresponsible. It was investors buying from investors. It was all hyper appreciation, false appreciation.
Brad Cozza: In this market, the game changer was COVID. 2020, our governor, you never actually bring up politics in business, but you have to state the obvious. When our governor DeSantis basically said, “Hey, listen. Florida’s open for business,” it just really spiked our local economy, spiked the economy of Florida. And from 2020 to 2021, it was the largest economic boom that Florida has ever seen.
Brad Cozza: Now you’re seeing the drip, drip, residential effect, where there’s a huge demand for housing, because people are being relocated here from their northernly blue states. And you’re starting to see for the first time, you’re seeing New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, you’re seeing New England, you’re seeing Washington, you’re seeing California. So it’s good to see that we’re now increasing the people that basically are actually coming to this area, in addition to the Midwesterners that historically come to South of Florida.
Scrappy Jackson: From a complexion standpoint, where do you see the demographic texture going here in Southwest Florida?
Brad Cozza: Major metropolitan, which is very diverse, and you’re going to see, which we love, we love a melting pot. We love different concepts. And especially to see that this market is very educated and metropolitan-oriented, it’s completely different where it was five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. This market is looking and feeling more and more of something you would see in the East Coast.
Scrappy Jackson: And you’re on the cusp, that’s for sure. Gulf Shore Magazine’s 40 under 40. And I was doing my homework on you, Brad, and I came up with this idea. Now tell me if I’m wrong. Modeling was an indoctrination, real estate, a foundation, food and entertainment, an avocation.
Brad Cozza: I think I might use that. That’s IG-worthy.
Scrappy Jackson: Yeah, man, because your avocation-
Brad Cozza: Yeah. Listen, hospitality has always been a passion mine, and I consider it a fun environment to be around. And I really think that Southwest Florida is ready for some major metropolitan ideas and some concepts that more and more we’re seeing that. We’re getting away from what historically would actually work in Southwest Florida five, 10 years ago, because it is so diverse and we are seeing such migration to this location, to Southwest Florida. So it’s getting that metropolitan vibe and we love it.
Scrappy Jackson: Yeah. You’re not satisfied with just real estate. Colleoni’s is a wonderful Italian restaurant. Tell us about that.
Brad Cozza: Yeah. So I was always one of their biggest patrons. I used to go there all the time. And COVID happened, and they have some family back in Milan, so they said, “Hey, Brad, would you be interested in promoting and selling our business?” So I said, “Well, how much do you want?” And we actually came to terms, and I said, “I’d like to take over the tradition itself.” So we hired a really good team, hired a really good chef that basically provided a little, had that whole Colleoni family recipe, but added a little modern touch to it. And it’s been great. We’re looking for expansion, and it’s been a tremendous opportunity.
Scrappy Jackson: That’s great. As an entrepreneur, you’ve definitely carved your own path. You’ve taken risks. You faced adversity. What kind of advice can you give a young entrepreneur today?
Brad Cozza: Take risks, but definitely diversify. Take calculated risks, do your homework. What works in one market might not work in another market itself. So just really dial into what market you would like to take that risk in, and take that jump in the pool.
Scrappy Jackson: Another piece of advice; I want Brad to give advice to his 20-year-old self.
Brad Cozza: Get in real estate before you’re 25. But again, the experiences I had with modeling and hospitality and so on and so forth, I like to be well-rounded, and I like to do numerous things at the same time. So I would not second guess anything, and I’m very happy and very fortunate to be in such a growing, explosive marketplace.
Scrappy Jackson: As ambitious as you are, how do you keep all these things, how do you keep them balanced, work/life?
Brad Cozza: That’s always the challenge. The challenge is I always like to work. I work when I’m basically not working if that makes any sense.
Scrappy Jackson: Yes.
Brad Cozza: I always, whenever I go on vacation, I’m basically looking at other concepts, I’m looking at other ideas. And so, it’s always churning in order to basically stay ahead of the game and ahead of curve, especially in a market that you can definitely actually take advantage of in a positive way, and basically actually impact some positive changes.
Scrappy Jackson: Cozza Investment Firm. Tell us about it right now, and how can we participate with you in future opportunities?
Brad Cozza: So, we’re working with some large institutional hedge funds, as well as individual investors. Again, we never want to basically overplay one specific marketplace, so we’re very flexible. There’s a huge demand for affordable housing, so we’re taking our investment group and our investors, our builders, and we’re moving north. We’re actually going to Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, North Port, Claremont, center of the state, anywhere where it makes sense where you can create affordable housing. That’s where the true demand is, and that’s where you’re going to have your exit strategies in a very safe, relative marketplace compared to what it was in that 2005, 2006 market. So we like to be flexible and we like to… Because the more investors make, the more they’re going to invest back with us.
Scrappy Jackson: Given your flexibility, do you still have a niche?
Brad Cozza: We do. We do. Pre-construction is definitely a huge niche because we’re in such a hot seller’s marketplace right now that the cost of reproduction is the only way that we can show an equity position for our investors. Because we give our builders such high volume, they can afford to scale it, and basically, actually reduce the price per square foot. So pre-construction is the niche now, but again, you never know. The market changes. Who would have known in 2008 that our sole business plan would be attending the foreclosure auction every day?
Scrappy Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve seen you on IG, family, fun, friends, entrepreneurship. You’re a good dude, and I really appreciate you, man. And one of the things that I kind of correlate with is Pitbull. He says, “Live life. Don’t let life live you.” And you’re certainly doing that.
Brad Cozza: That’s correct. It’s got to be a well-rounded lifestyle.
Scrappy Jackson: Brad Cozza, I appreciate you, bud, really do. This is The Come Up, a video podcast celebrating Southwest Florida’s entrepreneurs. It is brought to you by Content with Teeth, a creative content marketing agency right here in Southwest Florida. From copywriting to video production to HubSpot service, they do it really big, just like this Fathead right here, Content with Teeth. Brad, thanks again, man. I really appreciate it.
Brad Cozza: Scrap, you’re the man. Thanks, brother.