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DBT40

DBT40 Honoree: Bryce Fender

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AGE: 23
President & Co-Founder, Wilminvest

Why should you be chosen for DBT 40?  Many people my age have given up on Delaware, and in particular, the City of Wilmington. I’m committed to make sacrifices to build something incredible right here in my hometown. Indeed, Wilminvest has already changed lives, but what’s more important is that we’re building a model that will change how organizations from the government, nonprofit world, and the private sector look at public housing. It all started when three lifelong friends, native to Delaware, came together and wanted to give back to their home. It was apparent that people much older than us had already given up – how could we let that be the same story for our generation?

Professional accomplishments: In an attempt to do my part to fix our broken education system, at the age of 15 I started an organization that united high schools around the state through service projects, talent shows with Gable Music Ventures, and other activities. This opportunity opened many doors, including a lasting relationship with Gable Music Ventures. Gayle, the company’s CEO, called me up four years after working with them in high school and offered me a job. I was their first employee tasked with maintaining existing clients and being creative to help the company grow. Over the past 18 months, the number of paid events per week skyrocketed, many internal operations are now automated, and the company is growing in directions that we never thought we could have gone. My partners and I founded Wilminvest when we were only 20 years old as college sophomores, and I’m leaving Gable to focus on it. We’ve created a repeatable and scalable model, raised money, and are now seeing the model we built work within our projections. We’re showing Delaware that for-profit social impact does exist.

Vision for Wilminvest: The last thing our founding team at Wilminvest wants is to scale something that doesn’t work. We’re working over this summer to figure out what the “social impact” part of social impact real estate investing means. We’re focused on outcomes, or how quick a family can move out of our homes into homeownership or stable housing. Our team has aligned our own corporate structure to allow for a focus on data, public-private partnerships, and collective impact to focus on one thing – home ownership. Buying and fixing vacant houses to be used as supportive housing isn’t anything new. At the end of the day, residents of the City of Wilmington need beds. We recently created an arm of our business that pairs real estate investors to state housing programs, utilizing our process to focus on positive outcomes for the families we support.

 Community service: My Eagle Scout project had a huge goal. Forgotten Cats is a cat shelter that takes feral cats from neighborhoods, neuters/spays them, and then puts them back into the neighborhoods they came from. This model controls feral populations and decreases the number of cats that are euthanized in shelters. However, this organization had a huge problem with the number of cats that died in their facility from the spread of disease. I wanted to take that number down to zero. Over nine months, I planned and executed a project that divided their facility in two and built a large room with movable walls inside to quarantine the cats. The amount of deaths in this facility has plummeted, and their internal capacity to do great work has skyrocketed.

Fender while clearing out the last three tons of trash from Wilminvest houses.

Favorite work moment:   Definitely when we finally finished renovating our first three homes and placed the tenants through DHSS. It was around the end of spring and beginning of summer (June 1) so it was such a bittersweet moment. Something we had been pitching, talking about, dreaming of had finally happened.

Advice 10 years ago:I would have been 13, in seventh grade at Brandywine Springs, getting ready to apply to Conrad Schools of Science to finish out eighth grade and start high school there. I remember being terrified; I only knew my little bubble and hardly ever dared to go into the city of Wilmington. I would have told myself to not worry about a thing. Maybe to talk a little less and listen more, because the people I was about to meet had been through so much more than I could have ever imagined. That they’d open my eyes as to what bigger problems in the world were, and that I needed to be ready to be inspired to do what I could do to make the world a better place.

Family and education:  I just moved back to my parents’ house from college life down at UD. I live with my mother, father, older brother and younger sister. I’m a middle child.  My mother is a teller at M&T Bank while my dad is currently overseas working for Bombardier. My brother is in school for kindergarten education, and my sister also just started college for an education degree as well. We have two dogs (Lucy and Ozzie) and two cats (Pippin and Kiwi). I’m set to graduate this December of this year with a bachelor of science degree in business administration, with majors in management and marketing and minors in Spanish and social entrepreneurship from the University of Delaware.

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