- Isaac Vaisberg moved from Venezuela to the US when he was 16 years old.
- At 22, he bought a failing gym in Washington state with around $20,000 from his savings and built it into a six-location franchise called Sasquatch Strength.
- Vaisberg told Insider how he accumulated more than $1 million in residential and commercial real-estate investments.
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At the ripe old age of 28, Isaac Vaisberg is a millionaire real-estate investor.
Vaisberg’s journey to financial success is an unconventional one: After growing up in Venezuela, he moved to the US permanently at age 16 after surviving a kidnapping by corrupt police officers.
Once in the States, he studied law. But after three years, he left college to pursue his passion: fitness.
In 2014, eager to be his own boss, he bought a failing gym in Washington with roughly $20,000 from his savings. Marshaling advice from his father and one of his first clients, Vaisberg turned that outpost into a franchise called Sasquatch Strength, which has four locations and is about to add a fifth and a sixth.
At the same time, he started building an impressive real-estate portfolio in the greater Seattle area — worth well upwards of $1 million — worth that has spanned properties from a house he flipped to an office park.
In an interview with Insider, Vaisberg broke down how he did it.
His first business was a real flex
When Vaisberg arrived in the US in 2008, he became an instructor at a North Carolina-based camp for youth and young adults called SOAR that offers adventurous outdoor experiences for kids with ADHD and learning disabilities. He spent one year at a Massachusetts boarding school before enrolling at American University in Washington, DC.
There, he studied law and worked for a legal firm, but left school after 3 years.
“I spent about 60-plus hours at a desk a week,” he said. “It just wasn’t something that was conducive to the lifestyle I wanted.”
Soon after, Vaisberg continued, he was offered the opportunity to help pioneer a program similar to SOAR in Washington. During the launch, he developed a passion for fitness.
When his work was over, he decided to remain in Washington full time and got certified as a personal trainer.
In April 2014, at just 22 years old, he bought a failing gym in the city of Sammamish using around $20,000 from his savings.
“There were just a stack of papers on the desk. There were no systems, no exterior signage whatsoever,” Vaisberg added, emphasizing the emptiness and decrepitude of raw space he purchased.
So he started buying equipment, repainting, and updating the facility’s technology. Those changes caught the attention of one of the gym’s clients, Tim Shoultz.
Shoultz, who founded Puget Sound-based commercial real estate investment firm SmartCap, quickly became a mentor to Vaisberg, teaching him how to manage, structure, and grow his company.
His portfolio started with just one house
Toward the end of 2014, Vaisberg bought a house in Sammamish.
“I bought this property with the intention of renovating it, making it look nicer than it was — I kinda got it for a steal — and then reselling it in a year or two,” he said.
Then, in December 2015, he invested in a Colorado strip mall with Shoultz. From there, he rolled his earnings into more investments.
In July 2016, he sold the Sammamish house for around $780,000 and used the profits to buy a second gym in the city of Redmond. He also used the proceeds to invest in a business park, or a group of office buildings, which had a 46% internal rate of return (IRR) per year. When it sold in 2018, Vaisberg more than doubled his investment.
Also in 2016, Vaisberg partnered with another gym client, Jason Cobb. Together, they started the Sasquatch Strength brand. In 2017, they brought on a third partner, Troy Morse. Today, the trio owns 90% of the franchise.
From 2017 through 2019, Vaisberg made additional real estate investments into two of Shoultz’s commercial real estate funds, an opportunity fund, a residential property (which he bought for around $800,000 and sold for about $1.15 million), and a third gym location.
Vaisberg and his team decided to franchise Sasquatch Strength in 2018 with the help of Franchise Founders, a private equity group that focuses on incubating early-stage franchise concepts.
Today, there are six Sasquatch Strength locations. Three of those are franchisees, two of which are still in the process of opening due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He told Insider that the most important lesson he’s learned in his career is that “if you do good, good comes to you.”
“My dad used to tell me that how you make your money is more important than how much money you make,” he said. “I think that’s the most valuable lesson I have learned from my short, if very exciting, time in business.”