Where are they now? Barrett alum and real estate professional Robert Collopy named to 2021 Sun Devil 100
Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University is known for its talented alumni. This year, 12 of those high-achieving former students gained another accolade to add to their list of accomplishments when they were named to the Sun Devil 100 Class of 2021.
The Sun Devil 100, presented by the ASU Alumni Association, recognizes the top 100 fastest-growing alumni-owned or –led organizations.
The Class of 2021 features 100 organizations represented by 133 ASU alumni. Companies range from individually-owned businesses to large corporations from over two dozen industries, including architecture, construction, education, food and beverage, legal, nonprofit, technology and transportation. The organizations that make up this year’s class have combined total revenues of $6.67 billion for the last year, employ more than 8,400 people and have locations in 11 states.
In honor of their designation as members of the 2021 Sun Devil 100, we’re profiling these outstanding alums in “Where are they now?” feature stories.
We start with Robert “Bob” Collopy, who graduated ASU in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He is now an associate broker and owner with Fort Lowell Realty Inc.
How do you feel about being selected for the 2021 Sun Devil 100 list? How significant is this designation?
We live in a time where a disproportionate amount of businesses are owned out of state. This means more wealth is essentially exported out of our borders from their operations compared to a locally owned and operated business.
It is with this in mind that designations like these are so important because they bring a sense of local pride not just in the honorees' status, but as a nod to our local ability to serve our local customers as well. It helps show the Phoenix business community and local aspiring entrepreneurs that there is indeed a way to flourish in a time when there are so many sophisticated and well-capitalized competitors that seem to crowd every industry.
Yes. There is a place for out-of-state businesses here in Arizona, but it is proven local industry, from one-man shows to billion dollar Girl Bosses, that should be prioritized and seen as the engine to our state’s economy and quality of life.
Sun Devil 100 recognizes alums for their entrepreneurial spirit, the growth of alumni-owned or alumni-run businesses, and the contributions those alums and businesses make to the community. How do you think you and your business meet this criteria?
Generally, my background is in real estate. Mainly sales, management, rehabbing, and multifamily syndication. It is with this combination we grew Fort Lowell Realty to over 800 homes and apartments under property management in Arizona, rehabbing many of them. You might imagine we got pretty good at managing properties so we started taking on tougher properties to manage and oversee, such as subsidized housing.
When Covid-19 hit we quickly realized around 1,000 of our tenants were going to have issues making rent. Many owners wanted to pre-emptively send scary lawyer letters to tenants telling them they must pay rent or they’re out. We convinced the owners to try another route first.
Instead, we educated and even called nearly every tenant. We told them about programs that could help them pay for their rent, utilities, food, etc. We even helped them fill out the forms in many dozens of cases to help them keep their homes. I created step-by-step videos for them and people going through these related issues in general. There was apparently a huge need. My little videos took off and got over 50,000 views on my YouTube channel, Broker Bob. In the comments section, people seemed to enjoy the useful and sometimes humorous content.
What are you doing now and how did your experience at ASU and the honors college help you get there?
Now I partner with people to acquire properties that house hundreds of people at risk of homelessness. It is through our combined skill set that we are uniquely positioned to serve this local community in a for-profit way. For-profit is the important part in this because until recently only non-profits and the government could directly house a meaningful number of people.
I first learned about “good” for-profit models when my roommate and I started making scuba diving computers in our dorm. It was designed to take the vital signs of divers underwater, like how much oxygen they have. Additionally, it would take the vital signs of Coral reefs, like their salinity levels.
The tech was so simple to use that a teenager, with a push of a button, could collect the data then add it to our database and we would share it across the world. This would effectively create a world view of coral reefs and show how they interconnect in order to save them. ASU funded our little Barret dorm room project via a grant. This gave us the opportunity to develop the invention, file a patent and fly around the country.
Since then I’ve pursued unique for-profit business models that put bettering mankind in the process as my central staple. Hopefully, profitable models like these will inspire new entrepreneurs to push into the market in the same manner.
How are you currently involved with ASU and Barrett, The Honors College?
I am a key speaker at Barrett roundtable meetings. I give students who are interested in real estate investment practical advice on where to start, what the industry is really like, how to succeed, and how to think about certain key areas of our industry.
How did you decide to attend ASU and Barrett, The Honors College?
There are two reasons. It has a really great program. One I knew would teach me what I needed to know. Second, it wouldn’t put me in massive debt. Money and costs matter. There’s no spinning it.
Think of it this way. I could have gone to a very expensive and “exclusive” college. But would I be further in life? I have my doubts. I have done hundreds of investment deals and worked with the largest firms on the planet and you know what has never happened? No one has asked, “What Ivy League school did you go to?”
Not once. What mattered is I actually knew what I was doing in regards to the project and my position in it. When real money is on the line no one should be looking at your degree for comfort, just at what you are doing and if it is working. Barrett helped me learn what I needed to know so I could go do.
How did being an honors student enhance your undergraduate experience? Was being an honors student beneficial?
Yes. Barrett honors is a real leg up. The circle of people I know in Barrett are all doing extremely well. Frankly, I’m even impressed with my Barrett Honors circle’s success rate.
You’re in an environment where people actually want to grow themselves and who think and act in ways that go beyond the party that’s going down on Saturday. Trust me, that environment is every bit as important as the professors.
What is your favorite recollection of your years at ASU and the honors college?
I was in Prof. Amy Ostrom’s class. She is tough, but by far the best marketing professor I have ever had. She put us in teams and we had to act like we were pitching a new product line for Nike. Our assignment was to prepare for this big pitch, backed by quite the essay, for like two months. It was really intense. My team spent a few all-nighters on this and I think we started to get a bit intense, all feeding off each other.
We show up to do the pitch and we’re all rocking suits, ties, sunglasses, and fresh Nike shoes. We killed it. We still got a B+, but we killed it. It’s a bit ridiculous to say, but that may have been one of the most intense pitches I’ve ever given and I’ve done hundreds of them. It was definitely the most fun.
If you were to give advice to a current Barrett student, what would you tell them?
Barrett is a great place with great professors and resources. The craziest (and easiest) thing you can do at Barrett and even across ASU is actually use what is available. So few students use the professor’s open office hours, the tutoring programs for nearly every subject, grant programs, you name it. Just look for them. Use them!
Is there anything that wasn’t asked that you would like to add?
Always clap when someone finishes playing a song on the piano in the Barrett Tempe dining hall. Especially if no one else does.