Deidre Woollard: Caroline, I am so excited to speak with you today. You are the Co-Founder of Giveback Homes. You and I have known each other for a long time. Tell the audience here, how did Giveback Homes get started.
Caroline Pinal: I was hoping that you would say that we've known each other for so long, because you and I go way back. You've been there since the very beginning. I actually would like for you to tell the story of [laughs] how Giveback Homes started. Then if I need to interject or add anything, maybe I will. But I would love to hear your version of it, and then I'll chime in here and there.
Deidre Woollard: [laughs] Fine. I'm on the spot. Here's what I know, is that Giveback Homes started with you and your Co-Founder Blake. It started because he was buying a home. I want to say, I know it was in Southern California. I'm not exactly sure which town. I think it was Manhattan Beach, but I might be wrong. But he was working with his agent. You and Blake had both met at Toms Shoes with the one-for-one program, you guys had gone on some shoe-giving trips and you were good friends. Blake had this idea of taking that model and bringing it to real estate. Since then, I want to say it's been five, six years, maybe longer. You've gradually been bringing this to real estate agents, to real estate companies, and you've been building houses in Nicaragua, in El Salvador. You've been doing Habitat for Humanity Build Days all around the country, and getting real estate agents and everybody in the real estate space excited about getting back and thinking about housing. How did I do?
Caroline Pinal: [laughs] You nailed it. Way better than I would've done. Yeah, you're absolutely right. We are in our eighth year. We've supported affordable housing all throughout the United States. In addition to continuing to build homes throughout Central America, we also have introduced other ways of giving, like providing water, filtration systems to communities in need of clean drinking water. We've helped out communities in the wake of natural disasters. Lots of different things, but mostly home-building. That was great. Thank you for doing that for me. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: You personally, your relationship with real estate started, you weren't exactly involved in real estate. But now you're friends with tons of agents. You've traveled with agents and built homes in foreign countries. What do you think about real estate now?
Caroline Pinal: Like you said, I didn't know anything about real estate going into this. I mostly can just speak to the individual real estate agents that we work with. What I've learned, a couple of things, I guess. One is that, you are who you are at your core, and that's way more important than any marketing, or website, or your brokerages, and all that stuff that a lot of real estate agents focus and worry about. I think people are going to remember you for the person that you are and how you make them feel. At this point, everyone has access to the same tools and things. The differentiating factor is who you are and how you make people feel. I'll also say that a lot of the people that we get to work with, they're top agents. They actually do what they say they're going to do. [laughs] I think that's something else I've learned. They're some of the most successful real estate agents across the US, and they also are some of the most charitable, and it's because when they say they're going to do something, they actually do it. I think there's some correlation there as well. I guess that's what I've learned. [laughs] They also work their asses up. I never realized how much goes into being a real estate agent, and excuse my language, but they work hard. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: They do indeed. One of the things I've always loved at Giveback Homes is, you go on these build trips and you select families, you learn what they care about, you learn their story, you share their stories with people. Wonder if you could tell people one of the stories of one of the families that meant a lot to you.
Caroline Pinal: Yes, we do focus a lot on storytelling and trying to make the connection between the families and the real estate agents who are buying and selling homes here, bridging that gap to these families in Central America who are living in houses made of scrap wood and dirt floors. It's very hard to [laughs] make that connection sometimes unless you actually go with us on these build trips, which many agents have. That's my favorite part of what we get to do. I will say, I just got back from El Salvador yesterday, so I'm just feeling really good. One of the stories were the families there, which we didn't really know until we were getting to the key ceremony, which once the home is complete, we have a huge celebration. We decorate the homes and everything. Everyone gathers around who helped build the home. We give the family an opportunity to say a few words if they want. Sometimes you forget, you don't really realize a lot of these families haven't been the center of that much attention. It can be a little bit overwhelming when everyone's staring at you and clapping and cheering. This father just broke down and he started crying. Of course, it's overwhelming. There's a lot of emotion. You don't always ask why are you crying or whatever, but he shared with us that he's just never stood in front of so many people cheering for him, or applauding him. That's just a story or a moment that was like whoa. Separate from this whole home that we've just built, that will be completely life-changing for this family. On another level, this individual has never had so many people carrying and showing love and attention to him. I thought that was a really unique moment that will stick with me forever.
Deidre Woollard: I love that. I think that some people don't understand how their stories touch everyone else. Why do you think that people in the US should care about housing as a global problem versus just, obviously basing housing problems in the US? But it's also important to think globally, why?
Caroline Pinal: [laughs] I was going to say, I think we should think about our problem here as well too, but I also don't want to think the word should. Everyone [laughs] needs to just do what feels right for them. But I think that yes, we need to focus on housing here as well, obviously. But sometimes it takes going on a trip and going and seeing how people live in other parts of the world, to realize not only how much we take for granted here, but hopefully to motivate them to want to meet this more sustainable how we live here, in addition to helping families make their living conditions more comfortable. I guess the answer is yes, we need to care more about housing in the US. My climate anxiety right at this moment is very heightened. I'm spending a week in Phoenix, and I'm just blown away by, the construction can't keep up with the housing demand. The temperatures are 120 degrees. People are out still working in these conditions. We take things like air conditioning for granted. I think the reason why my anxiety is through the roof, pun intended, is because I have been and experienced to places where you don't have running water. You don't have electricity. You don't get a nest thermostat. You know what it means? I think that in the US, if we expose ourselves to more of those situations, then we'll realize how important it is for us to start thinking smarter about our housing here. Sorry, I went off on a tangent, but [laughs] that's how I feel right now. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: That was a great tangent because I do think that climate change is something we all are thinking about and should think about. Right now the heat wave has been incredible in the South. It's definitely showing what could happen.
Caroline Pinal: People are moving to places like Phoenix and a few other of the bigger areas, the move from LA, or from New York, or whatever, for multiple reasons. But also it's like this is one of the hottest places in the US. I think we need to take into consideration how much it costs to run a fridge. Everything, it just blows my mind right now. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: Well, I also want to talk to you about creating community, because one of the things you're doing is you're building a lot of houses close to each other in a certain area and you start to create community. I think that's really important both in the places you're building in El Salvador, but also here in the US. How do you think people can create a better sense of community no matter where they are?
Caroline Pinal: Let's see. Last year we were all forced to create better, stronger communities with our neighbors and things like that. Hopefully those things stick around. In El Salvador and Nicaragua where we work, they already have such a strong sense of community. When I was there right now, there's families helping other families build their homes who haven't even received homes yet. They just have each other's back all the time because they have to. They have no other option. It's part of then surviving, essentially. How can people build community no matter where they're at? I think one of the things that I love about the communities in Central America is no matter where you are, if you're walking by someone, they all say hello. They say wendia, [inaudible 00:10:06] everything like that. As opposed to here, everyone's like head down, no eye contact. I think a very simple way of building community is just smiling and saying hi to people as you walk by them. That would be my tip. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: I think that's true. I think I am so excited to be vaccinated and be able to have my mask off and actually smile at my neighbors when I'm walking by. It's a huge difference just to be able to say hello to someone on a bike path. It's amazing.
Caroline Pinal: Even with a mask, if you squint, [laughs] you could tell who is smizing. You can give them a little hand wave. I think just basic human gestures can make a huge impact in terms of community.
Deidre Woollard: I think that's one of the things about the pandemic. As we venture out now, we're all very aware of how connected we are as human beings, and that's important too.
Caroline Pinal: Totally.
Deidre Woollard: Let's talk about the future of Giveback Homes. What do you want to do? [laughs] How do you plan to scale? I know you'd like to build a house for everybody who needs one in the world.
Caroline Pinal: What do I want to do? I would like to continue doing what we're doing. I'm very excited about the future of Giveback Homes. As a startup, and you were there in the early days, we were just so numbers focus. I don't know. I think now I'm in a place where I'm very much more focused on the individual experience. Like I said, bringing more people with us to Central America so they can experience what inspired Giveback Homes to start from the beginning, so they can take that back with them and hopefully change their mindset, change their homes a little bit, change their communities. I think by exposing people to those experiences, it will help change their mindsets, and hopefully, long-term, that will help our world all around. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: I love that. You work with companies, you work with individuals, how do people get involved? What are the different ways that people can participate in the Giveback Homes movement.
Caroline Pinal: There's multiple ways. As an individual, you can go and donate on givebackhomes.com. We have multiple projects there, so you can choose whether you want your donation to go to a specific city, in terms of affordable housing, or support water filters, or complete homes for people in Central America. Then there's also volunteerism. As you said, everything is opening up. More people are wanting to get out and volunteer more. Our calendar went from 0-100 overnight. We're definitely loving that demand and want for people to volunteer. Get out there and volunteer as well and we can help you find those opportunities. Or if you're a business owner and you are looking for a very strategic way to include social impact into your everyday business, we can help develop and maintain that for you as well too.
Deidre Woollard: Fantastic. Well, we're still excited, and I'm so excited because we are going to donate a home and we are going to be part of the Giveback Homes movement. Millionacres is building a home in El Salvador.
Caroline Pinal: So exciting. Thank you to everyone at the Millionacres Real Wealth Summit for participating and for listening and hopefully for being a part of Giveback Homes in some way. Actually, I will be going back to El Salvador, so we will be able to report live from El Salvador, hopefully from the home that you guys have donated. That'll be really special. [laughs]
Deidre Woollard: That will be amazing. We'll definitely be sharing those updates with everyone. Well, thank you so much. I'm so excited for this.
Caroline Pinal: Thanks, guys.