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Bo Menkiti, The Menkiti Group

Washington DC

Menkiti Group founder and CEO Bo Menkiti (right, with colleague Langdon Hample) has worn lots of hats—and a lot of helmets, too. Growing up, the Boston native was a star hockey goalie, and even played in college at Harvard. But he's also excelled in the consulting and nonprofit worlds, and for the last decade or so, real estate. And through the "tremendously powerful lever of change" that real estate can be, Bo is aiming to not only close deals, but change communities.

Bo paid his own way through Harvard by working a number of roles in the school's facilities maintenance department, which he says gave him a solid foundation on business and working with people. "I learned more cleaning bathrooms than I did in the classroom," he says, adding that he also tried his hand at bartending while in college, including at the famed Bow and Arrow Pub, which had a cameo in the film Good Will Hunting.

After college, Bo got a taste of corporate America by moving to DC and working in management consulting and also for Atlantic Media founder David Bradley. In the latter position, he managed a portfolio of publications and even helped with the IPO of Bradley's Advisory Board company in 2001. But a desire to create more social impact led Bo to a role with friend JB Schramm's College Summit, a nonprofit promoting college enrollment among low-income high school students. Calling his time there "like my MBA," Bo helped the company grow exponentially, from assisting 400 students to over 16,000 within a few years.

In the interim, Bo obtained his real estate license for kicks. But during a month-long break from College Summit in 2004, he ended up selling a few houses to friends, which led him to shift career gears again. He built a small brokerage operation (affiliated with Coldwell Banker), and after outgrowing the model in a few years, moved his group to Keller Williams.

The Menkiti Group, as it's known today, is a full-fledged real estate services powerhouse in DC, with a brokerage, Keller Williams Capital Properties, consisting of offices in the District, Fairfax, Bethesda, and Rockville, with 600 agents and $1.3B in sales last year. There's a growing in-house sales team and a commercial brokerage headed by Langdon. It's also in the development game, buying properties along commercial corridors in emerging neighborhoods. Brookland was where a lot of the firm's early investment took place, and Columbia Heights, Eckington, and Petworth are among other spots its redevelopment properties.

Bo believes his firm can make an impact in emerging spots by providing high-quality housing, condos and retailers, as well as the expert brokerage services seen in more established neighborhoods. The firm is identifying other neighborhoods to bring its model to, using its success in Brookland as a template.
Growing the market share of the brokerage operation and becoming the No. 1 residential brokerage in DC is another big goal, he says.

Outside the office, he spends most of his free time with his wife (whom he also counts as a colleague) and three young sons. He also stays active by playing hockey—in an "old man's league"—at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.

And in general, Bo is trying to keep things in perspective, but not lose sight of the details. As he sees it, it's important to "think big, but act small. Have a big picture view, but take daily action."

Bo is part of Bisnow's Ascent community of up-and-coming leaders in commercial real estate. For more info on Ascent, click here.