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Building Permitted Constructing a new life from the ground up

By Sara Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2004, Tom Pfister broke ground and started paving his way to a brand-new life--literally. In 2002, he had purchased a franchise from condominium builder Epcon Communities and was finally ready to set to work on shaping his first condominium community in Pickerington, Ohio. Now, with every road paved, every pipe connected and every home constructed in the 68-condominium community, the 45-year-old entrepreneur is forging his own path to a new future. "I was looking for something new," says Pfister, who had just come off a 20-year stint in investment banking. "I was looking for something challenging. I still felt I was young enough to attack something like this."

With no previous experience in construction or real estate, Pfister certainly found the challenge he was looking for. Though subcontractors do the actual building, he is in charge of all aspects of marketing and finding tenants for his communities, as well as keeping the construction on schedule. It helps that he doesn't have to do it alone. As a franchisee, he has received assistance in identifying the market opportunity, putting together sales materials and training employees. So far, his location has four full-time employees.

"[The franchisor] offers everything from the design of the homes to laying out your community," says Pfister. "Everything you need is there to draw on."

Pfister is expecting the rate of return on this first project, which will be completed by early next year, to be approximately 30 percent. In the meantime, he is thrilled to see his vision come to life. Says Pfister, "It's rewarding to take a piece of ground that's just that-it's dirt-and build a community out of it."

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