In this monthly column, Victoria Shapiro asks top young business leaders in the DC area to share their thoughts on succeeding in business and life.
Business Leader of the Month: Morgan Greenhouse, founder and CEO, verdeHOUSE
Relationship Status: Single
Education: University of Pennsylvania, BA
About verdeHOUSE: The company identifies and markets unique, unoccupied, underutilized and/or emerging spaces. For events, verdeHOUSE secures venues for companies and individuals in need of a venue. For real estate companies, verdeHOUSE provides a variety of marketing services and facilitates events to help showcase and brand developments. No other company in the DC area does what they do.
Victoria: Morgan, your name has come at me from all directions as a great person to profile for this column, which spotlights business leaders who have shown a sense of adventure, innovation, tenacity, and commitment to community. It’s really nice to meet you.
Morgan: It’s very nice to meet you too, Victoria. Thank you for this opportunity.
Victoria: I’ve checked out some of your interviews and media coverage; you have a talent for public relations. It was great how you jumped right in there in response to The Atlantic Wire’s September article calling DC “unhip” with your Twitter campaign, defending our city. You received some nice media coverage. Talk to me a little bit about that and your general public relations approach.
Morgan: In terms of PR, I feel lucky and honored to hear you say that….The Twitter campaign was a product of wanting a platform to discuss why DC is such a great city. The key is to embrace what makes it so special; DC is simply a different brand of hip…. It is important that brands stay relevant, and we spend a lot of time considering ours. We make sure our values are solid, and our marketing reflects a thoughtful and meaningful brand. When engaging externally, we consider ‘What do we stand for? And, what do we want to represent?’
Victoria: How does your business model work?
Morgan: There are two sides of verdeHOUSE. We have clients who constantly come to us for space for an event such as a celebration, fundraiser, or pop-up (short-term retail event). Finding the right venue is often an onerous task for those who are not familiar with the process. It’s nice to be able to help with that. On the other side, we work directly with real estate developers, owners, and reps to understand property goals. We then create event concepts and marketing to project the desired brand and messaging.
Victoria: Where does the revenue come from?
Morgan: Primarily, we receive compensation for connecting events to spaces, and consulting with real estate clients.
Victoria: How do you attract business?
Morgan: That’s the special sauce (laughs). A lot of our business comes through word of mouth. Events themselves provide great marketing for the company. So, it is fairly perpetual. Hosts, attendees, and media coverage from successful events tend to generate client leads.
Victoria: You jumped in and took a risk when you were 25. Did you encounter any difficulties specific to being a young woman starting a business?
Morgan: To be honest, I didn’t find it to be an issue. Perhaps I chose to ignore it, but I found the opportunity to be more exciting than feeling any threat or concern for risk… It didn’t matter who I was, there was a demand for space and the facilitation of the use of space. I think people admire innovation and change as long as it’s done effectively while providing valuable services. What matters is that you’re successfully addressing goals and needs…. I really admire women who are leaders and game changers, especially in real estate…. Though the question is very relevant, I don’t have a very strong response. That’s likely reflective of my experience.
Victoria: You launched a few years ago. From that time you’ve grown from a one-person shop to managing several people. What has that process been like? What have you learned?
Morgan: It’s been a remarkable learning experience. On one hand, it has been a great exercise in identifying core values and non-negotiables, things as basic as treating people with respect, doing what is ethical, making sure everyone onboard is willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard. I also learned how important it is that as a team we are all on the same page in regards to values… also, it’s important to have a team that both enjoys what they are doing and feels challenged. I learned a lot of this along the way and continue to do so.
Victoria: Talk to me about taking on your business partner, Christin Martinelli.
Morgan: Christin and I met serendipitously at a Georgetown University roundtable right when she moved to DC from California to get a master’s in real estate. Within two weeks, we were working full-time together. Within a few months, it became clear a partnership was forming. It has been a remarkable partnership so far. Our vision and values are well aligned.
Victoria: That’s a very significant relationship. I suspect you two have become good friends as well. Can you talk a little bit more about the relationship?
Morgan: Yes, through business the relationship turned into a friendship…. Just as this is my first time starting a company, it is my first experience with this kind of relationship. It really is quite unique. We have tremendous admiration and respect for each another… in many ways, we feel we are raising this company together. I do understand that to be somewhat of a female perspective, we are nurturing a concept. And, an important bond has been a by-product of that. It’s a great lesson and experience in growth and trust.
Victoria: What role has Judaism played in your life and in the company?
Morgan: For me, Judaism has been a strong source of values, community, and tradition. The community has played a very supportive role to me in starting and growing this company, from referrals and business, to exceptional advice and mentorship…. In running the company, I resort to key values as well as find ways to give back to the community.
Also, the first time Christin said she was ‘kvelling’ was such a proud moment for me. You’ll often hear an ‘oy’ from someone on the team. Love the inadvertent Yiddish integration in the company culture (laughs)!
Victoria: That’s funny (laughs)! What you’re doing is cool. It was fun talking with you, and thanks for your time.
Morgan: Thank you!
We at GTJ wish Morgan and verdeHOUSE continued success and expect to keep hearing great things from the company!
Victoria Shapiro is a senior account executive at Susan Davis International, a full-service communications and public affairs firm on K Street. She is also an advisor to her family’s company, The Donald J. Ross LLC, the licensing company for the 20th century golf course architect.