Eve Picker is changing how people can get funding for real estate development projects. Eve is the founder of Small Change, an online platform where anyone can invest in real estate development projects. Although she is a real estate developer, she’s trained as an architect and has a master's degree in urban design. This background gave her an appreciation for cities and a passion for working on real estate projects that make a positive impact in neighborhoods.
Originally from Australia, Eve moved to Pittsburgh for her career and unexpectedly fell in love with the city. “Pittsburgh’s downtown is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” says Picker. “It has the most amazing building stock, and I say that as someone who has traveled the world and seen many cities. For me, Pittsburgh was a tabula rasa - a place to become who I am.”
Her transition from architect to real estate development was the result of a series of accidents. She was living in a Friendship, a small neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and was feeling unfulfilled in her architecture job. After becoming really involved in her neighborhood, she helped to form a community development corporation and learned how to finance small but meaningful projects using public and private financing. “I felt like I arrived when I started doing those development projects,” says Picker. “Thinking them through from conception to realization to people moving into them was a really remarkable thing.”
It was through that experience that she decided to shift her work to real estate development and began to build a small but meaningful portfolio of projects. Although she wasn’t the only person doing small development projects around Pittsburgh, she was, however, the only female developer in the city at that time, which wasn’t easy. “I did the first loft developments downtown and I had a banker say to me, ‘Oh honey, no one is going to live Downtown’ and I always wondered if that was really because he thought no one would live downtown or because he thought that I couldn’t make it happen,” says Picker. Each loft in that development was sold before the project was completed.
Eve launched Small Change in 2016, an idea that was born out of the Jobs Act being passed in 2012. These laws allowed crowdfunding to be used for investment, rather than just donations and would allow people who wanted to make their neighborhoods better to become investors in developing property on their own streets. “I knew these people because they would band together and buy houses before they would fall into the hands of slumlords - they were kind of doing crowdfunding before it happened,” says Picker.
Small Change tackles a few issues within the real estate market. The first problem is fixing the lack of diversity in the industry. “How can you create a more equitable industry if the same people are investing in the same thing over and over again?” says Picker. Small Change aims to be a place that is welcoming for women and minority developers and over 54% of developers working with Small Change fit that description. “So we know that they’re out there and they want to become developers,” says Picker. “When I ask these people what their biggest issue is, it’s always access to capital.”
The second fix is helping these developers raise meaningful funds. “We see innovative projects, minority developers, or people who are renovating historic buildings,” says Picker. Developers can now raise up to $5M per year, from anyone who is 18 or over. Small Change also focuses on impact and scores every project that is looking to work with them to ensure that the project is creating impact in one way or another.
To learn more about Small Change, visit smallchange.co and check out the projects that are currently listed on the homepage. You can also contact the Small Change team if you have any questions.
Eve also has a personal website called rethinkrealestateforgood.co. She releases a podcast once a week that focuses on innovation and change in real estate that hosts an amazing array of folks who are working on disrupting the real estate industry in a vast variety of ways.