Ashley and Andy Williams are veterans with extensive experience in real estate. They’re founders of Recon Realty and Veterans Buy America, and hosts of HGTV’s Flip or Flop-Fort Worth.
Currently, they are empowering veterans to not only successfully reintegrate into society, but do so in a way that leaves a sustainable impact on the economy, local communities, and the country.
We sat down with them to hear more about how their passion for real estate, lifestyle, and design has empowered veterans to take ownership of their own home.
What are some of the ways that you’ve created viable opportunities to create a sustainable impact in community revitalization and veteran reintegration?
Our company, Recon Realty, is a partnered back public benefit corporation with a clear mission. We provide veterans with unprecedented access to capital, people, properties, and training as they seek to pursue this industry.
We allow selected veterans the opportunity to utilize our projects as a way to get exposure to the industry. Additionally, we have a workforce development component built into our practices. With each project, we learn a little but teach a lot. It’s not just a transaction, it’s a transition.
In early 2018, I ran a successful pilot empowering a dozen veterans to buy, flip and rent income properties. Taking that pilot to the market, I built it as a partnered back organization. We took RECON nationwide overnight because we strategically understood the problem and created a solution.
What drew you to real estate after you returned from war?
Real Estate was a safe haven for me and Ashley. It was a safe investment vehicle that allowed for us to serve our community in a small way as we built a portfolio of rental properties. After a few projects, we realized that impact investing was our calling. We used it as a bridge to get back home from Iraq, to start a family, and ultimately build a business.
As a veteran what was the catalyst for you to start Team Recon and Veterans Buy America?
Ashley and I grew to love turning old homes new and going into distressed communities to give them a second chance. In a way, it’s our little way to continue to serve. After we started to identify that we could create a massive impact by empowering the veterans to take the same journey we have, this social venture took shape.
Veterans Buy America is an initiative to empower our fellow veterans with the tools, resources, training, within a community built on purpose. We noticed after being landlords for 10 years, it as a viable career path for those wanting to build value over time and serve in this industry.
We noticed all the initiatives surrounding veterans and housing were geared toward workforce development and/or homelessness. Recon Realty is B-Corps — America runs on capitalism, not charity.
Today’s veterans are uniquely qualified to properly engage America’s communities to revitalize and rebuild as a continuum of service to our nation.
It might look like it happened overnight, but we have consistently been mission-focused. That’s been a key to our success.
We built out a fully functioning ecosystem where veterans can take their own journey to create and grow their business in and around their local communities. This is our way to continue to serve and pay it forward, while creating independence.
Any major goals for 2019?
We have been busy with press releases that are positioning us nationwide. There are exciting partnerships in the works that have a unique capability to execute our mission.
Ashley has been busy with designing more impact homes as we focus on the next community to serve. We are working on a few high impact projects from Single Family Residential to 96 Unit Senior Housing — It’s exciting times.
We will be busy with serving the local community as we invest more time and resources in veterans, as they begin to serve. While empowering veterans, we’re carefully on-boarding Corporate Partnerships that align with our vision of veteran impact.
Also, we still have a working relationship with HGTV so just make sure you keep up with us on the gram (@ashleyandandy_ft)!
What are some special impact projects you’ve been working on lately?
We’re partners in creating a sustainable impact and we put together a business model that serves the community. If we take a step, we’re stepping as a team.
Our goal is to show veterans that design and luxury is an affordable lifestyle. We give them the option to try out different designs and color palettes, instead of going for a typical, neutral color palette.
Ashley: I want to create a high-end home where the veteran can showcase the space for family and friends. My goal is to provide open spaces for entertaining and making homes that are family friendly and/or couple friendly.
Andy: For us, location and affordability are key. For one impact project we recently worked on, everyone was going for “brand new construction vertical” but we want the veteran to take ownership of their home and feel involved in the process.
We didn’t skip corners and we risked our own capital. The house is $250,000 below the market price with the equal finish out, so it’s currently on the market for $569,000.
Ashley: Our focus is to customize the home and experience for the veteran. For us, it’s not just a transaction, it’s a transition. I like to think of it as my own, and it leads to how the design and finishes go.
For this veteran we worked with, we went to the tile store together and he was so excited to pick out his own tile and choose the type of design finishes he was looking for.
Andy: Our aim is to create a very sustainable impact. One of the questions we often ask is: Can we rebuild America as a collective community? And the answer is yes we can. We invest in veterans who then invest in the community, and it creates a lasting sustainable impact.