Arnold Kubei’s first big gamble as an entrepreneur was, he admits, a calamity.
After starting his own janitorial business, amassing $30,000 in savings, and maxing out his credit cards, Kubei had struck a deal to buy a gas station and convenience store in the eastern subway suburb of Maplewood. It was a huge opportunity for Kubei, a Cameroonian asylum seeker who came to the United States with his mother and brother in 2007.
But the gas station dream turned into a nightmare when he discovered an underground gas storage tank on the property was leaking – a flaw Kubei says the seller should have disclosed. Either way, the repairs were too expensive for Kubei’s budget. Without revenue from gasoline sales, the business failed.
âI lost everything. My car was repossessed. I was taken to court for not paying my rent,â Kubei recalled.
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He then landed a job at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake, where he worked as a security advisor. The grueling commute from the Twin Cities became too much, so Kubei moved on to a job at the city of Minneapolis.
After six months, he knew he wanted to work for himself. He took the plunge and incorporated Metro Care Human Services. The company’s mission: to leverage state and federal funds to find community-based housing alternatives for nursing home residents, people with disabilities, ex-prisoners and other hard-to-house people.
From humble beginnings and a handful of customers, the business grew rapidly, prompting Kubei to start a second business, Home Sweet Home of Minnesota. This company, based in Woodbury (where it shares offices with Metro Care), acquires duplexes and apartment buildings in the Twin Cities, then converts them into assisted living facilities. The Company offers a range of services to tenants of its properties.
âLast year our combined revenue was $3.7 million and we expect $5.5 million next year. We have 45 employees,â said Kubei, 33, who now lives with his wife. and her two young children in the leafy metro east suburb of Lake Elmo.
Kubei spoke to Sahan Journal about what he learned from his early failures and how he changed things.
Bankruptcy is not eternal: “The biggest snag in my story is not giving up, not getting discouraged. I failed. I went broke. But I stayed consistent with my vision.
“Since I lost everything in 2014, I haven’t failed in any of my actions. Bankruptcy was a learning experience.
On navigating state bureaucracies: âOne day, I got my first recommendation. I did not know what to do. But I did the paperwork and asked a friend how to bill the state. Got state login info, created an account, got billing training. Â»
A risky loan can be worth the risk: “When I started, I thought, Why can’t I just open mine [assisted living] residence? But because of the bankruptcy, I couldn’t get a regular loan. When I took out a mortgage for a duplex in Burnsville, it was 15% down and interest only.
âAfter COVID hit and everyone was told to quarantine, I started investing more in housing. I knew providing housing for people with disabilities was going to be a niche.
Once you’ve found a business plan that works, keep building the business: âAs soon as I started making some money, I forced my wife to quit her job so she could be in the office while I looked for more clients. Long story short, one day she quit his job and used the money from those first customers to continue to develop.
When we got to five employees and 30 clients, I decided to leave our small office and we moved into a 2,400 square foot space. I knew we would grow into it.