How an Immigrant With No College Climbed Corporate America Ladders While Building Seven Figure Businesses

Secret to Success – Pejman Ghadimi

Secret Entourage Success Story
While we’re all born under different circumstances, some of us don’t stay settled but move forward in life against all odds. When Pejman Ghadimi moved to the States with his mother, he had no choice but to work to survive. Becoming business and financially savvy allowed Pejman to become a multi-millionaire by age 27 while at the same time holding a prestigious role at a Fortune 500 bank. While having made money, Pejman did not feel like he left his mark on society and 7 years ago Pejman set out to create a new unique platform called Secret Entourage to motivate and educate Gen-Y on entrepreneurship. Secret Entourage has now become a movement supported by hundreds of thousands of followers worldwide.
Tell us about your beginnings…

I was born in Paris, France and as an only child to a single mother. I was not born into money or an estate of any sort. As a matter of fact, my mother was fairly poor but we found ways to make ends meet, despite very poor economical times. We escaped as refugees from Iran and I grew up in Paris for most of my childhood. Around the age of 12 I moved to the United States, after my mom had attempted to do so for a decade. Los Angeles was our first destination where I completed two years of middle school and one year of high school. I was never very good in high school, and was often found arguing with professors about my poor grades. It was three years later or so that I moved once again and found myself in the calmer state of Virginia where I guess you can say is where it all began.

How were you able to support yourself when you first came to the states?

Coming from a struggling single mother, luxuries were never part of my lifestyle growing up. Instead, my mom worked really hard to enable her and I to have a good life where food, shelter, and our basic needs were always taken care of. Seeing her struggle and wanting to help us pushed me to start working early on. At the age of 14, I started wanting things like everyone else from your video games to saving up for a nice car for when I turn 16. I started dreaming as every other teenager does so I decided to get a job.

There was the small issue of immigration that kept me from working at most local chains or malls, so I had to choose a different line of work, one that was more discreet or work at a smaller company that wouldn’t ask too many questions of a 14 year old with a work permit from school.
One day I walked into the school cafeteria to discover an opportunity to work as a telemarketer and earn wages of $12 / hr plus commissions which I felt was more than fair especially considering my friends were earning only $6 / hr working at the local malls.

The downfall here was that I had no idea what a telemarketer was, but yet still took on the challenge thinking I would answer phones all day. Little did I know this experience would change my life forever.
I worked for this company for about 5 years, one and a half of which I spent as a telemarketer, and the other three as the director of the company. After my first two years there, the owner noticed me and decided to promote me on the basis that I was the only employee that had stayed and worked for him for 2 consecutive years without a single complaint. I had no reason to complain as I was making $2500 / week being only 15, part time, having no expenses, and all the while going through high school. My commissions alone earned me more than my mom’s salary, which now made me an asset to my family.

Why did you succeed more than your peers and coworkers, and how were you making $2500 / week?

I was given a lead sheet and was told, “Here are leads. Call them.” We were selling windows, siding and roofing. The difference between me and everybody else was that I knew that I had to keep this job. I had no choice and there wasn’t anybody that was going to hire me without a piece of paper that said I was legal to work. These people didn’t know either. While people made 20 or 30 calls a day, I made 100 but that still didn’t work. I realized then that my strategy wasn’t going to work. People were creating fake leads to look better and I said, “You know what? There’s got to be a better way to do this.”

What I learned really early on was the law of supply and demand. So I thought, “We’re selling goods to people who probably don’t need this and they are spending tens of thousands of dollars on windows that they probably don’t have to have.” It’s hard to justify someone to pay $500 a month for something that will save you $100 on energy bills. They were like, “What if we don’t have $15,000 to spend on windows?” I came to the conclusion that the only people that would really spend a lot of money are people that had a need, and therefore looked at how to identify demand. I figured people with damaged windows and roofs are more likely to actually replace them.
Because I was in Northern Virginia and there is lots of bad weather like snow and hail that would damage roofs and windows, I started looking up the last few places within a 100 mile radius that had been hit by hail damage in the last 6-8 months. Then I started learning how insurance companies paid up for hail damage so consumers wouldn’t even have to pay for them. I was able to call the neighborhoods and persuade many people to get estimates from us because they needed a roof and made sure they knew they weren’t going to pay for it. I learned that the demand was there and the receptiveness to my call was greater because I was offering a great solution to an existing problem. I became successful in that way going from making $12 / hr to making $2,500 / week in commissions instead working part time.

Around this time you were approaching college. What is your position on education?

Years passed and I entered my college years, which were honestly very short lived. As a director of the company since the age of 16, it seemed logical to keep making money rather than focus on school, and so I spent 70-80 / hrs a week working and decided to cut school down to just part time. I felt running the company that I was entrusted with to be of more importance.
A year or so went by before I felt myself going into a comfort zone with money and job security where I simply was no longer applying myself. I was making $75K / yr but had reached the top tier based on the small company I worked for. My dreams drive me and my efforts lead me to my dreams but it was time for newer and bigger dreams. I decided to continue my effort with school and simply gave up my $75,000 / yr for my own potential.

“In other words, I used the opportunity to maximize my learning by using nothing more than my existing free resources. Knowledge is the most important aspect of business, as it never leaves you but rather grows with experience.”

– Pejman Ghadimi
I already had a home I owned, the cars I wanted, and my life was no longer that of a survivor, it was in growth mode. I was only 18 yrs old and had room for error so risks were necessary. A few months went by and I realized that despite the fact that I may not need such luxuries as cars, homes and gadgets, I wanted them and nothing would stop me from earning them. I look at myself as an opportunist and found a great opportunity that at the time seemed golden.

What was the great opportunity that arised?

Finance was my next venture, as I always believed that meeting wealthy people would make a difference in my life and it did. I started with a local bank as a manager trainee for the retail side of the bank with a lower salary than what I was making before. My job consisted of opening accounts, managing people, assisting with service issues, and growing revenue for the bank. I was young and was trusted with a bank, which was huge responsibility, and I found that to be enormous opportunity. My past experience in management, sales, and service enabled me to fit right into the role despite my lack of education. I later found my niche in banking and it was around educating and training people, rather than stocks and real estate as I originally envisioned it would be.

So why would I leave a high paying job for a lower paying one? The main reason people never achieve their dreams is their inability to leave their comfort zone and assume risk, even if minimal. I was young and mistakes can be fixed much easier when you are younger. While working as a bank manager I met many people in various fields, most of which were real estate based. They all seemed successful and were bringing in checks much larger than my monthly salary for one day’s work. Real estate intrigued me, especially as I already owned a home and was witnessing a rise in my equity.
This intrigued me and so did economics so my journey on self-education began at the age of 19. I spent most of my ‘fun years’ studying topics of interest such as economics, financial history, management, real estate, and the stock market instead of partying. Small sacrifices must be made for a greater return to be earned later. This not only allowed me to hold deeper conversations with my clients improving my relationships, but also made it a gateway for me to ask experts I saw at work every day on matters that required further explanation.

In other words, I used the opportunity to maximize my learning by using nothing more than my existing free resources. Knowledge is the most important aspect of business, as it never leaves you but rather grows with experience. For about seven years, I had a great career in banking where I focused on leadership, sales, but more importantly, training and teaching others, and made it all the way up to the Senior Vice President level where I learned the hard way that there’s no loyalty left in Corporate America and was kicked out.

How were you able to put your learnings to work in the real estate market?

During my time with the bank, I went and borrowed money against my property to invest in real estate, which seemed wise at the time based on the investment potential that presented itself in the market. Financial history repeats itself but it appears in different forms and at different times. I saw an opportunity to buy and sell homes as the area I lived in had a serious supply and demand imbalance.
I took a risk by borrowing money to invest, studied the history of the market, earned my real estate license for less than $125, and I educated myself on my financial options during my finance years. Once again I used nothing more than free available resources to help myself. I wasn’t a realtor, but I got my license to learn and understand how things worked.
My hunch proved right and I kept moving ahead of the market till 2005, in which I had earned well over $2 million dollars in profits alone. 2005 was the last profitable year in real estate, despite the fact that many believed 2006 to also be, it simply was not guaranteed. As they always say “When people invest, be afraid but invest when they are afraid.” When a market becomes saturated with new investors that are simply following a trend as the real estate market was in 2004, then the time window is open to find the next opportunity and get out of the old one as soon as possible.

Can you break down a little bit of your investment strategy at the time?

After I created a few side businesses, one of which was a detailing company that specialized in high-end cars, I started learning how to write off cars and my lifestyle elements to lower its cost on my overall life. I increased not only my net take home income from my corporate job, but also gave myself the greatest gift in the world, access to unlimited creation of my own pay stubs. By being able to write my own income in a “stated” income loan environment meant that I now could buy just about any home I wanted, even those I couldn’t afford.

With an income of roughly $60,000 when I first started banking and depleted savings, it made it difficult to own and hold multiple homes so I used a different strategy to get myself in the game. I found pre-construction homes in further places that were not due to build for another year and so and all I needed to secure a lot was $5,000 to $10,000 with an approval letter from the bank, showing I could afford to make the purchase when the time would come.
I forecasted those properties demand would exceed supply as I had seen it in closer areas to my own home. I understood people would look for value further away from the city and positioned myself ahead of the market by securing as many lots as I could all while working hard in my bank. In 2003, people started lining up early to buy some of the lots from those places that I held with deposits, and as expected my 17 lots at the time in new communities were highly valued and demand far exceeded supply, so “premium” would be added to all homes sold and sometimes in excess of $40,000 and in some cases as high as $100,000.

Even so, I was almost broke, as all my money was tied into these lots I had secured way ahead with small amounts. I often held some of the best and first lots since I locked them in over a year before they were built. I would go wait in line with those buying at 1 AM as lines formed for the 8 AM opening only to wait for the builders to ask for their $20,000 – $40,000 premiums.
When I saw that people were willing to pay $40,000 just to have a lot, I offered them one of my premium lots at $50,000, which would be ready next month and would not make them wait months to move in. They paid $10,000 extra but saved 6 months and made me $50,000 cash. By being in line, I got to know who was a cash buyer versus those that were seeking financing. It helped me differentiate who to approach and at what dollar amount.

By 2004, I had acquired over 72 lots and accumulated over $2,000,000 in gross revenue, which I used to get into the already built real estate in South Florida and commercial real estate market in Virginia. I stopped this practice as builders caught on to my flipping habits and enforced new policies that prevented me from buying and reselling my lots.
In the end of 2004, I saw the potential for a storm coming and decided to look into a very strong and quick exit strategy. How did I anticipate the storm? I simply paid attention to mainstream as my indicator of Wall Street’s future. I knew how I was using the system to secure lots and loans and so it only made sense that normal people would catch on too. That was my signal to get out. Knowing what I knew about supply and demand and the way banks wrote off losses and gains, I started rethinking my views on how long this ride would last. I also started to see that foreign money was pouring into the country as investments and therefore the whole system had become a giant game, which meant less profits and eventually no profits, followed by massive losses.

Long story short, I liquidated over $2 million in properties in South Florida and $350,000 in commercial properties in Virginia in less than 90 days while the market was still hot. Those condos I had bought for $250,000 to $300,000 were now selling as high as $700,000 and sold quick when I listed them in the $600,000’s. I did keep several very nice townhomes I bought really cheap that were in great locations in order to live in one for free and rent the other two so as not to lose my cash flow entirely. I knew that despite the incoming financial storm, I was still in a good equity position.

Where does entrepreneurship come into play with all this?

When I left work at my bank I was about 25 years old and had a $250,000 salary that wasn’t going to happen again. I had no degree since I chose not to finish school, and I realized that there’s no way someone is going to pay me that amount again, especially when my last reference fired me. Either I can go back and start again from the mid-level and try to make my way all the way up to the top or I can never believe in that crap again and start fresh.
What I did at that point was I decided that I would start a few companies. I had a side business when I was very young. During my telemarketing career, I started a car wash business and I used to wash cars in a parking lot during my breaks from telemarketing. For one hour, I would just go out there and just clean up cars to make a few extra bucks on top of what I was making at the telemarketing place and then that evolved into a car tuning business, and eventually what is known today as VIP Motoring, the ultimate luxury concierge.

VIP Motoring quickly grew into $500,000 / yr revenue, but more importantly a giant tax write off. I would help people acquire luxury lifestyle at a cheaper rate than they would normally pay because supply was scarce for luxury cars, watches, and homes. With whatever I would save them, I would keep 50%. The beauty was that I acted more as a locator of goods and operated referral business than actually hold inventory. This enabled me to position my services from an educational angle, as well as a wealth management one helping turn our client’s liabilities into assets.
At that point, I also started Secret Consulting, which became a huge branding and digital marketing agency to help individuals with coaching and small businesses with growth that’s now well over seven figures. While I say this in one sentence, do understand that it took 2 years for Secret Consulting to even produce any real revenue. There were many hiccups and mistakes along the way.

As incredible as it was for myself with all the money I was making, it was still not enough for me to feel like I was leaving a mark on society. So I decided, “You know what? I’ve got to do something that matters; something that means more than just making money.” That’s when I realized that there’s a true difference between being an entrepreneur and being a business owner. That difference was in the value entrepreneurship provided versus the monetary focus that made a business.
At that point, I decided that with all my experiences coaching and teaching people and my huge lifestyle background, it would only make sense to focus on a longer term project whose sole focus would be value creation. This gave birth to project Secret Entourage.

What is the secret for the success of VIP Motoring and Secret Consulting thus far?

The way we’ve been able to dominate that field for the past few years for VIP Motoring is that we have a very personal approach. Everyone that works with us as a concierge are all successful in their own way. These people also are in the lifestyle scene themselves and understand what people need. Everyone at VIP Motoring has a stake in the business, so that actually helps me a lot because they own their client list but they also own the business part of it so they can never take it elsewhere either. There is also the element that we have a very unique in-house financial advisory model that helps tailor finances to the lifestyle, rather than the other way around.
The fact that we have a vast pool of services in-house, meaning we don’t network out or we don’t refer out, makes our clients very comfortable in conversing and sharing all their information, and then if we need to, we’ll even go as far as hiring a financial adviser from another institution that we know is really good with our clients just to bring them in-house.

Bringing all the services in-house has been one of the key successes to VIP Motoring as well as Secret Consulting because on that end, a lot of people in the advertising and digital branding outsource a lot of what they do. They find cheap designers, developers, and everything else. We found that it was much more valuable to pay local people in the United States that are willing to work for more money but because we give them continuous work we’re able to get them at a much more reasonable rate than if we give them part-time work.
At the same time, we’re able to have clear communication, quick enough turnaround on work, and also have a very close knit team that understands all of our clients instead of just getting a job they don’t really understand. They are part of different processes and I think that bringing people in-house has been the success of VIP Motoring and Secret Consulting.

Secret Entourage has been around for over 6 years now. Tell us about its growth…

Secret Entourage was terrible in the beginning. It was awful because we had a blog and it just completely sucked. It sucked because we didn’t have good designers whose past work was within the same Gen-Y type field or luxury lifestyle related. We didn’t understand really the logistics behind running a blog. I figured, this was more of a side project and never intended it to become a business. We figured if we put some articles up, people would read them and get motivated.
What ended up happening though was a lot of negativity from people around us. A lot of people were like, “Oh, who are you guys? We don’t care. This is bullshit. You have these cars. You are trying to like sell people crap,” and we weren’t even selling people anything. We had no product nor did we have any kind of service. We were just giving information but we were taking on a lot of negativity.

After taking a lot skepticism and negativity I realized that every business that starts is always going to be taking negativity because anytime you do something that people haven’t done or don’t understand, people start assuming this is a scam or it’s bullshit. We used to get kicked out and banned from forums where we posted pictures. The reason was really funny.
We tried a lot of different things and a lot of things didn’t really work. We had no consistency. We had a branding identity issue and we didn’t really know what we wanted to do with it. It didn’t really get better until a few years later when we started getting systematic in our approach as to how we handle our business.

Although we never said it wasn’t, we realized that Secret Entourage was a business. All of us had different sources of income, which was nice so we didn’t have to focus on the monetary aspect. We learned that all of these years working weren’t for nothing. It was just a learning that accumulated over time. We understood that no matter what you do, if it’s new and entrepreneurial, it’s not going to be accepted right away. No matter how good of a product or service it is, it is going to be intercepted with some skepticism and negativity.
Today Secret Entourage caters to millions of people and has become one of today’s most accepted forms of entrepreneurial education for Gen-Y and millennials. We have found that we have solved many problems with this platform, and its reach is much more significant than people can imagine. You see, we have not only successfully built a platform that creates tremendous value for our audience, but we have been able to successfully monetize the platform without using ads and without losing our audience, but instead adding even further value. The greatest part of this is that we have now become one of the very few companies who has tapped into this specific audience of ours really well, something many companies have tried to do but failed at miserably.

Secret Entourage expanded last year with the introduction of the Secret Academy. Tell us what it is…

I engage in conversation with thousands of people throughout the year. Selectively, I find that some people are extremely good at what they do. They have a niche for being excellent at their job or having found something that has positioned them ahead of other people doing the same thing – either that’s a skill, a way they think about a business, or their past experience.
In the Secret Academy, we interview these people and you’ll find a variety of entrepreneurs, people who are starting up, have mastered a niche, or other people who have been very successful at creating multi-million dollar companies and have done that time and time again. But then there are other people who are strictly profit driven, but who share tips on specific things that entrepreneurs need.

We recently did an interview where someone shared tips on how to build your credit and while other people may say, “That’s not entrepreneurial,” everybody needs credit so everybody should understand that. We catered the Secret Academy to teaching people what they need to know. The misconception is that we are just sharing success; we’re not. We are sharing specific skills and stories that inspire and motivate but also helps drive people to actually take action because we found that motivation just isn’t enough these days. You need that motivator to take the next step.

What makes the Secret Academy different from any other online program?

I think that’s the biggest difference between Secret Academy and other places is that we don’t try to portray how to make money and we don’t try to tell people that it will be done overnight. We share a very down to earth realistic look at business and entrepreneurship, and focus our efforts on helping others tell their stories and teach, rather than make the academy about our own teachings. We love talking about the failures more than the success. We do that because we find it very important for people to be able to relate and understand that everything great takes time, and starts small at some point.

With the Secret Academy, we made it very clear we are not going to hold your hand. We are not going to tell you what to do. We are going to give you the tools to make up your own mind. If you are smart, learn, and work hard enough, you’ll eventually be able to get there. We don’t make promises. We don’t tell you, “By doing this, you’ll be successful.” Instead, we show you other people who have learned the concept, followed instructions, and as a result have been successful in their own right and that success looks different for everybody. There is no right or wrong, only perspective and experience shared so that you can find your very own way.

Perhaps your proudest achievement is your book Third Circle Theory. Tell us about that…

Third Circle Theory is the framework that connects the dots backwards and not forward. Steve Jobs said it best, “Don’t ever try to connect the dots forward and when you do connect the dots for your own life backwards, you start realizing why certain things made a lot of sense.” In my life, I’ve had a lot of experiences coaching people, improving people, leading people, and through these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about how people learn and what works or doesn’t work. I’ve learned everything from what builds trust to what doesn’t function.

With Third Circle Theory, I have been able to bring together all these learnings to help someone become self-sufficient in their life, and not be dependent on a book, or even dependent on Secret Entourage, but rather understand themselves enough to know where their shortfalls are, when they move forward, and when they are going to get to the next place in their life. It is a road map not to business success, but rather a very high level of awareness and self-perspective that leads to the ability to succeed in entrepreneurship.
The way I’ve written the book is by breaking everybody’s life into three circles and how I’ve connected the dots backward for myself and progressed through these three circles: as a child to someone who succeeded in society, working for others, as well as someone who is succeeding in business and then entrepreneurship.

I have been able to create a map that I believe based on my learning about people and my own journey, applies to just about everybody. Everybody will look at it differently, which will change based on your own perspective of yourself, which is important, because nobody sees the world the same way, which is why we are all very unique and awesome.
We all see different things in life, which enables us to enjoy life for different values and convenience. The most important factor here is that my book doesn’t tell you or teach you, it influences you and challenges you to re-evaluate yourself. You and only you can create change in your own life, and this book is that catalyst for tens of thousands.
This idea of the three circles is simple but very in-depth and shares the three pillars that everyone must master in order to move forward. The mastery of circumstance is circle one, the mastery of society is circle two, and finally the third circle is the mastery of life. To reach a very high level of fulfillment and to live a life with purpose, one must understand these three important components of their own lives.

“Failure is part of the learning process that is a must for every single person on earth. You have to fail in order to know what didn’t work so that you can eventually tweak it enough to find a way that works.”

– Pejman Ghadimi
After all, we all live within the same common compliance – we are all born, we all live within a society wherever that is, and we all have a life to prove that we can take full advantage of. All of these things are true to every human being regardless of where they live, that you live in a forest, you live in Africa, or you live in United States, it doesn’t change anything. The context of how you view life changes based on where you are, which is why everything in circle one is about perspective and just the way you see things.

What advice do you have for people who sense failure?

I don’t think there is this thing called failure. I don’t think failure is real. It’s an illusion we create for ourselves. It’s self-inflicted. It’s something that’s in our minds where we tell ourselves we haven’t reached our goal. The problem is that we associate that attempt to reach our goal with failure, which is not accurate at all.

Failure is part of the learning process that is a must for every single person on earth. You have to fail in order to know what didn’t work so that you can eventually tweak it enough to find a way that works. When you actually fail per se is when you choose to no longer pursue something you believe in. That is true failure and I think people misunderstand that when they’re talking about having these little setbacks in their lives not working the way they want to so they associate that with failure.
That becomes a tremendous mistake because what ends up happening is you hurt your own self-confidence instead of helping yourself get further because you just believe that you are not doing well, when in reality you are doing very well, you are learning and moving one step closer to your goal. The key to my successes was not being afraid. If you can get rid of fear, you can be successful and I think as long as you can learn that, that’s much more important than learning a skill that’s going to make you some money.

What’s next for you?

Secret Entourage has already reached a level far above and beyond what I expected it to reach and I’m very proud that Third Circle Theory was the catalyst for that change. It was very important that Third Circle Theory came into the equation because it helped piece together what Secret Entourage really is. I think with the Secret Academy being on its second version and getting praise everywhere, we are now in the final stages of making Secret Entourage what it was meant to be.

I think that my vision for Secret Entourage in the next 10 years is to really be able to continue running it for the next five years and then enable people, the same people that have helped grow it and build it, to really take over and continue running with it. I can’t keep doing it forever, and I don’t want to. There are people that are going to be more qualified to do it and I’m glad to step down and give the right person the tools necessary to continue building the momentum to getting more people exposed to entrepreneurship. Creating entrepreneurs so that we can create a legacy for not only ourselves, but also for the people that are there creating their very own legacies. That’s the key part, and it must be pushed forward.

As for myself, I’m now involved in over 10 different types of businesses. I’m in the credit industry, I’m in the finance industry, I’m also still in the concierge business and consulting as well as the digital marketing and branding business. I definitely think that there is a future for all these companies. They are all different and doing great things on their own.
I would say that my biggest focus in the next few years is to really focus on helping people with credit issues and help educate others around the finance arena. That’s somewhere where you will be seeing a lot more projects coming up. I’ve got a few companies coming out around helping people really take their understanding of the exotic car and watches industries to the next level with an educational platform for it.

Secret Entourage will remain this motivational platform with Third Circle Theory remaining the framework people need and the Secret Academy helping people take action. I once said that one man by himself certainly cannot change the world, but he can ignite a spark strong enough for other to carry on true change. I look back at the past 5 years and can say with peace “That spark has been ignited.

“Failure is part of the learning process that is a must for every single person on earth. You have to fail in order to know what didn’t work so that you can eventually tweak it enough to find a way that works… If you can get rid of fear, you can be successful and I think as long as you can learn that, that’s much more important than learning a skill that’s going to make you some money.”

– Pejman Ghadimi