JF1672: The Next Great Investing Niche – Nudist Colonies? With Nico Blue
Nico’s investing strategy is a little bit different than most strategies we usually talk about. He also lives a different lifestyle than probably most of us listening to this episode. Nico is a nudist who built a colony of nudists on vacant land that he bought. Hear how he did it, what kind of returns he got, and how he plans on doing it again in a new place soon. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
Best Ever Tweet:
“When investing into a community, you’re investing into the people as well” – Nico Blue
Nico Blue’s Real Estate Background:
- Principal and Managing Broker of Blue Investing
- Before starting the Blue Investing, Nico was a top producing apartment broker in Southern California at his brokerage
- Has a personal career transaction volume greater than $2 Billion.
- Based in Boulder Creek, CA
- Say hi to him at: http://www.mattazark.com/
- Best Ever Book: The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Nico Blue. How are you doing, Nico?
Nico Blue: Hey, Joe. How’s it going, man?
Joe Fairless: It’s going well, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Nico – he is the principal and managing broker of Blue Investing. Before starting Blue Investing, Nico was the top-producing apartment broker in Southern California, at his brokerage, and he has a personal career transaction volume greater than two billion (that’s with a B). Based in Boulder Creek, California.
With that being said, Nico, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Nico Blue: Yeah, for sure. I grew up in Southern California, I was a surfer. I grew up down in San Diego. My dad owned some surf shops; they were like surf/smoke shops. Growing up I was a surfer, helping my dad out in the shops, and then sort of after high school really went into business with him, trying to help get those surf shops up and running.
We had a surf shop right on Mission Beach called “Ridin’ Reef and Smokin’ Reefer.” It was great, we were killing it in the early ’90s. Once I came aboard, I was there to help him open up two more surf shops along Mission Beach. One of them was called was called “Surf’s Up *beep* Down”, the other one was called “Hit, Puff, Pass”, and they ended up sort of being kind of a staple in the Mission Beach community throughout the ’90s.
Joe Fairless: So that’s the ’90s, and just for my own clarification – did you all own those surf shops, or were you leasing them out?
Nico Blue: Yeah, exactly, so they were standalone buildings right along the beach. We did own those buildings, which really helped us keep our overhead down, not necessarily having to be a tenant and pay those monthly fees.
Joe Fairless: Oh, sure. So do you still own those surf shops?
Nico Blue: No, not anymore. Being [unintelligible [00:04:06].27] surfing community, one of the big things we like to do – my dad and I – we would go up to Northern California and surf the epic Mavericks Wave, if you heard of that…
Joe Fairless: No.
Nico Blue: There’s like a whole movie with Gerard Butler. It’s an epic surf location up in Northern California, in Half Moon Bay. Unfortunately, my dad drowned in a surfing accident. That was in ’95, ’96, and that sort of set me on a different path in life. At that point I sort of gave up surfing, tried to take a step back, look internally about what am I doing with my life… And I wanted to move up to Northern California, I wanted to be closer to his energy and kind of where he last was… So I sold off all the locations by ’96-’97, and then took all the life insurance that my dad had, and was able to start opening up Blue Investing up there, in Boulder Creek.
Joe Fairless: So what does Blue Investing do?
Nico Blue: The way we got started was — one of the first purchases I’ve found was this ranch up in Boulder Creek. It was a 25,000-acre ranch. After he passed away, I really started following the Buddhist ideology, started reading a lot more about spirituality, and becoming closer with Earth, and trying to live a more self-sustaining lifestyle. I eventually became a nudist. And I know that’s not the life that most people like to live, but me and a bunch of friends and my girlfriend moved up there, onto this ranch, and sort of started our own little community.
At the beginning we built anywhere between 20-30 little cottages on our ranch, and we started having people move into our community, which allowed us to start charging rent, and own these properties, and really started to build the blue investing.
Then I ended up growing those cottages into 200 different cottages across our ranch. That really allowed us to start bringing in a lot of money, allowing us to start investing into other properties outside of the ranch and into the actual Boulder Creek community.
Joe Fairless: So you bought a ranch that did not have cottages on it, and then you and some of your close friends and your girlfriend moved there and had a couple cottages built, and then you recruited others to come, and then you’re basically renting out dirt with a tent? Or how does that work?
Nico Blue: No, we ended up building this small community. We had about 20 or 30 little cottages built and operating on the ranch. Everything that we were doing up there was self-sustaining. We were growing our own fruits, vegetables, we had our chickens, goats, cows, and it really became sort of an attraction, this sort of Buddhist/nudist community. Popularity started to grow, which allowed for more people interested in moving into the community, to not only move in, but invest into us building — we ended up building over 200 different solid cottages on the ranch. At that point, I think we had between 800-900 people living on the ranch at one point.
Joe Fairless: It’s typically challenging to make land profitable, and with development, in my opinion, the risk is certainly greater than if you buy an existing structure… So what gave you the confidence that when you buy a piece of land, that you’d be able to make that profitable?
Nico Blue: Well, that wasn’t necessarily the idea going into it. The idea was we wanted to just build a place that we could enjoy for ourselves. I think all of us when we moved up there had the idea to live just a more simple, self-sustaining lifestyle. It ended up becoming more of a movement than anything… So as interest and people wanting to invest and wanting to come and live and be a part of the community – as that grew, that allowed us to grow, as well. We started really investing into more the supplies that we needed to build out a lot of these cottages.
Joe Fairless: What were some challenges that you came across — you’re essentially building a town on a ranch, so I’m sure there’s a lot of challenges you came across… What are a couple that you had to resolve?
Nico Blue: Well, the biggest challenge was the city of Boulder Creek, the town, did not like what we were doing. We met with a bunch of resistance from the other people living in the town; they didn’t like our lifestyle, they didn’t like what we were all about, what we were doing…
Joe Fairless: Specifically the nudist part?
Nico Blue: I think that had a lot to do with it. We’re very free-living people. We did grow marijuana up there from time to time, and I think between the nudity and the marijuana… I think some of the old people that lived up there, they lived up there for a long time, and just hadn’t come across people like us… And people get scared of what they don’t know.
Joe Fairless: It was illegal at the time in California to do that, right?
Nico Blue: Exactly, yes. We are running a legal operation up there. Everything about our business is 100% legal.
Joe Fairless: It was illegal before, but what you’re doing now is legal? Just so I’m making sure.
Nico Blue: Yes, 100% of what we do is legal. We didn’t start doing the marijuana growing until way later in the 2000’s, when it was legal to actually grow it up there for medicinal purposes.
Joe Fairless: Got it, okay. So how did you overcome that challenge of the town not having positive thoughts towards you all?
Nico Blue: That’s a great question. I think the sheer number of people that we had moving up there and being a part of the community, and us having the funds to start moving outside of the ranch – I was able to buy two different apartment complexes, both which had about 45-50 unit a piece. The community itself, before we had moved in, wasn’t the richest community, so… Being able to invest in these apartment complexes allowed us to not only get more people, more of the nudists into the community, but we were able to rent it to those people at a much lower rate, because of how much money we saved on being able to purchase these apartment complexes for 50 cents on the dollar. The community had not been doing well.
I ended up getting elected to City Council, along with a couple other members of our community..
Joe Fairless: Wow!
Nico Blue: So just being able to infiltrate the community, from a governmental level, allowed us to pass certain laws that allowed us to continue what we were doing up there.
Joe Fairless: Hm. Like what?
Nico Blue: Just like zoning restrictions, and how many different buildings we could build on a certain plot of land, different restrictions when it comes to nudity around schools, and making sure that everything that our people are doing, that are in our nudist colony – that they’re following the rules and they’re not doing anything illegal.
Joe Fairless: So I noticed that you’re talking about this in the past tense… Is this no longer a thing?
Nico Blue: Yeah, this is something I’m not really a part of as much anymore. I ended up selling off all my shares into this community, me personally. It’s still a part of the Blue Investing Group, but I personally don’t have much to do with it anymore. I’m really focused on trying to find another community in Northern California where we could start to invest into another ranch, or into another small town.
Joe Fairless: I’m just curious, why not continue to build that out, versus — you said it was a 25,000 acre ranch, right?
Nico Blue: Yes.
Joe Fairless: Why not continue to build that out, versus start something new from scratch.
Nico Blue: Yeah, I figured it was just time to move on. I feel that we’ve kind of really pushed the limits of how much we can really grow in that town. There’s only a certain amount of area and a certain amount of land that we can buy, and buildings we can build out there. We’ve really done a great job of building up that community, and I’m just looking forward to the next challenge of my life, and really wanna see… There are other communities that have been asking us to kind of look into bringing what we’ve done in Boulder Creek to other parts of the country, or other parts of the state.
Joe Fairless: You took the profits from that and now — is that currently cash-flowing, by the way? The original 25,000 acre ranch community.
Nico Blue: Yes.
Joe Fairless: You’re still an owner in that, you’re just not focused on it.
Nico Blue: Exactly. I’m still an owner, but I don’t really have anything to do with the day-to-day activity of keeping all the ranch up and running and going. At this point it’s pretty self-sustaining, so it allows me to really focus on the next endeavor.
Joe Fairless: So with this next endeavor, what are some things that you’re looking for in order to make it another financial success?
Nico Blue: Yeah, I think the main thing is we want to really move to an area where we can bring some of the community that’s already embedded from the nudist colony into the town that we’re moving to, as well as trying to get more outside investors… Because we still have a lot of people who wanna be a part of this; they wanna live a simpler lifestyle, they want to move to a place with like-minded people.
There are people who want to invest with us, but right now it’s just trying to find the right area where we can buy, and really buy a lot, and make sure that where we move that we don’t run into a lot of the same issues that we ran into in Boulder Creek. So it’s trying to find an area that has some cheap land, some infrastructure already in place, that we don’t need to start everything from scratch.
Joe Fairless: When you create a community out of basically raw land, what are some income sources that you generate as a result of that? Clearly, renting the cottages is one of them, but do you have any other income sources from the nudists who are basically your tenants?
Nico Blue: Yeah. On our ranch we had like a small little town center where we had our own cafe/restaurant, we had our own bar/nightclub, and the community is really tight. People spend a lot of time within the community, in that restaurant, in that bar… We had a place of worship as well, where we had donations.
We also had people who moved into the town that wanted to invest into Blue Investing as well. So we were getting investors, as well as we had some sustaining businesses up and running.
Joe Fairless: Anything else as it relates to this business that we haven’t discussed, that you think we should mention?
Nico Blue: I think a lot of it is — we really got into this because this is just the lifestyle that we love, and the lifestyle we wanna live. I think that a lot of times people get a little bit too caught up and just trying to “Hey, we just need to make money in any way possible”, but I think if you’re really trying to do something positive in this world and trying to live a nice, clean, self-sustaining lifestyle, you’re gonna find people that are gonna want to invest in you. As long as you’re authentic and you’re speaking the truth and you’re following up and living the lifestyle that you talk about, people are gonna see that. They’re gonna see the passion that you have, and they’re gonna want to invest in what it is you’re doing.
I’d never thought that it would ever grow into something like this, and it’s pretty crazy how bit it’s gotten.
Joe Fairless: What is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Nico Blue: When you’re gonna invest into a community, really try to make sure that you’re investing just into that piece of property that you’re buying; if you can invest also into the people and into the community, it’s gonna not only help your own investment, but it’s gonna help the community as well. And the more support you have from the community, the more that community is gonna want to bring you in as a member of the community, and they’re gonna want to support you, and they’re not gonna try to stand in your way when you try to start new businesses and new ideas.
Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Nico Blue: Let’s go for it!
Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?
Nico Blue: The best ever book I’ve recently read… I think I would probably have to go back to The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm.
Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made when putting this nudist colony together?
Nico Blue: We started to build before we got permits.
Joe Fairless: What happened?
Nico Blue: We had to shut down construction for a few weeks, until we got all that straightened out… But we ended up getting back on track
Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?
Nico Blue: I think the best ever deal had to be buying that 25,000 acre ranch up in Boulder Creek. Just being able to start that, and grow that as a passion project, and then watch it grow into something that is a huge investment opportunity for not only me, but other people. I think that ended up being out of this world.
Joe Fairless: And what is your real name?
Nico Blue: My real name is Matt Azark. Yeah, I’m a comedian up here in New York City. I’m happy to be back on the podcast, man.
Joe Fairless: April Fool’s, Best Ever listeners! We do an April Fool’s day episode every year… Except for last year; we missed it. We’re back, April Fool’s… There is no nudist colony. Well, there might be a nudist colony, but just not in Boulder Creek, California… That I’m aware of, at least.
Nico Blue: If not, there should be.
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Matt, how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you personally have got going on? …not fictitious, Nico Blue character.
Nico Blue: I’m a stand-up comedian here in New York. You can check out my website, www.MattAzark.com. Also, you can go to BombShelterComedy.club. That’s one of the shows that I run out here in New York City. We’re running shows at New York Comedy Club, West Side Comedy Club, and then we run a weekly show at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen called Gap West.
Joe Fairless: And you’ve got a podcast. What’s it called? What do you talk about?
Nico Blue: Yeah, I’ve also got my own podcast called Trophy Dad Podcast. It’s on iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher… Yeah, it’s a podcast by me, and I have other comedians, other dads… It’s sort of like a goof-off podcast; we drink beer and just talk about life.
Joe Fairless: Matt, there might be a couple things I have to edit out of this episode, but I would rather remove than have to add things. You really went above and beyond in this one. Thank you for being on the show, my friend, and thanks for another April Fool’s Day episode. Best Ever listeners, none of what we were talking about it’s true, just to reiterate, it is an April Fool’s Day episode… Besides that contact info.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you later.
Nico Blue: Yeah, see you later. Thank you again.