How many times have you heard this?
"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."
I have heard it dozens of times and yesterday, I saw and heard exactly what it means when I met Avra Jain.
Yesterday, I moderated a lively panel discussion for attorneys on branding at the Women's International Network's (WIN) Workshop at the Vagabond Hotel Miami. (WIN is part of the International Network of Boutique Law Firms) Prior to my panel, during our intimate lunch at the beautifully renovated hotel, the guest speaker was owner/developer of the property Avra Jain, founder of The Vagabond Group.
When I pulled into the hotel parking lot, it was like arriving at an oasis. The area around the hotel is in transition. But the boutique hotel itself is a gem. It has a chic lobby with a restaurant and bar. The story behind the hotel's redevelopment is inspiring, and so is Avra Jain.
Avra came to Miami from New York and saw potential in an area no one else did. With financial backing from friends and family, she bought the 1953 hotel, pressed for the area to be designated historic, used transfer of development rights to her advantage and pioneered the rebirth of Miami’s MiMo district. She also has bought additional properties in the historic area, figuring out when to restore and when to rebuild.
Several times while telling us her story, Avra excitedly told the audience: I Love What I Do!
Even if she hadn't said it, we could tell.
As a writer, I talk to hundreds of people about what they do for a living and I can tell in their voices when they love what they do. When I hear the sound of excitement and enthusiasm for all that's ahead, I know that person is going to be successful, regardless of the obstacles in his or her path.
Avra's career path sets her apart: She is a woman who understands finances and construction. She has a degree in industrial engineering from Purdue and experience as a bond trader on Wall Street. "That helps me because I know how much you can lose," she said.
Already, Avra has earned a reputation for identifying the next "it" neighborhood. Her vision, and ability to attract investors, has resulted in 26 boutique projects that range from converting a 100,000 square foot warehouse to luxury loft condominiums in New York's Tribeca neighborhood to the remake of The Vagabond, from decrepit motel to quaint hotel on Miami's Biscayne Boulevard. At The Vagabond, Jain spent a lot of time on site, giving directions, analyzing change orders, negotiating with insurance adjustors, installing light fixtures, carrying packages, or picking up litter.
"I love historic properties," Avra told us, explaining how important it is to work with others in the neighborhoods she goes into. "We always leave a little on the table for the community. I do that by buying right."
Avra recently has bought up property in Miami's Little River neighborhood, where she has plans to do some more renovations. At 52, Avra says she is not as naive as she was when she first started out, having learned about working around obstacle and persevering toward your vision. "I'm really lucky I love what I do," she repeated.
Even with all this vision and career accomplishment, Avra called her 10-year-old daughter Alexandra, "my greatest accomplishment." (That really made me like this woman!)
Avra says much more change in Miami is on the horizon. I believe her and I would say Avra is going to be a force for change for years to come. My big takeaway: When you love what you do, others can see it and that can take you far!