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8.5.21   7:56 PM

It may not sound glamorous, but you can earn a healthy income from owning trailer parks. Or maybe investing in laundromats, car washes, or tiny home Airbnbs is more your speed. These are the kinds of straightforward, but perhaps overlooked money-making ideas that Codie Sanchez both practices and preaches.

The 34-year-old self-made and self-styled investment expert is the co-founder of Unconventional Acquisitions, an educational provider that helps people learn how to buy small businesses. She also founded Contrarian Thinking, a newsletter that discusses investment themes and trends, as well as offering a “how-to playbook on ways to cash flow.”  

We help people think critically, and cashflow unconventionally while allocating to what we call ‘sweaty & boring’ small businesses,” she explains on her LinkedIn profile. That concept, especially the "sweaty" part, is gaining some popularity among young entrepreneurs like Nick Huber, who spent years running a self-storage business and now hosts the Sweaty Startup podcast. 

“Unconventional” is certainly a good word to describe Sanchez’s own career path. Originally from Phoenix, she started out as a reporter covering human trafficking, drug smuggling and other border issues at the Arizona Republic, winning a Robert F. Kennedy journalism award and a grant from the Howard Buffett Foundation.

But she quickly shifted her professional focus from journalism to the world of high finance — working for Vanguard, Goldman Sachs and State Street, and becoming head of Latin American investments for First Trust. She also served as a partner at Entourage Effect Capital, investing in the growing cannabis industry.

Along the way, she picked up investing tricks, which she eagerly explains to her 46,300 Twitter followers and tens of thousands of newsletter subscribers. Through her latest venture, she says she wants to help people expand their options for generating income and win financial freedom.

“I was burned out in finance, working on someone else’s schedule, tired of having my time tied to $,” she says in a Tweet pinned to her profile. “So I started investing in cash-flowing biz’s. No sexy startups, but boring businesses.” 

We caught up with Sanchez and asked her to explain a little more about what she does and how she became an investing expert. Here is what she had to say.

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

  • From reporting on human trafficking to breaking into the finance business


    Business of Business: You have such an interesting background. I saw somewhere on your website that you call yourself a "reformed journalist," I think. What do you mean by that?

    CS: I used to be a conflict journalist covering the border regions of the US and Mexico. So I wrote stories about human trafficking and drug smuggling, and anything that was dealing with sort of separation of humanity by a physical border.  I realized at some point that I thought it was wonderful to bring awareness. But I wanted to do more than that. And so I started to see a few of the problems of journalism, at least in my day, and I think they've probably manifested maybe a little bit more today, and felt like bringing awareness was important. But you have to back it up with other things like, you know, money, business circles, power. And so I think that's what I mean by that. 

    How did you make that transition into from from that what you do now?

    CS: Well, that was quite a few years ago, like 13, or 14 years ago. And at the time, I was in college, when I was writing those stories. I graduated a year early...and did my dissertation on human trafficking. And, and at that point, I had one individual mentor, that was actually my law professor, I was considering going to law school at the time.

    "I didn't come from wealthy family. We were very middle class. I said I want to understand how finance works." 

    And we talked about sort of what I thought was the epicenter of power, we just talked about money. I really didn't understand it very well, you know. I didn't come from wealthy family. We were very middle class. I said I want to understand how finance works, and how does money work.

    I ended up going and working in finance for a series of years. And I think, you know, with an eye of how could I bring more people that looked like me, or more people of different, you know, opinion and background into the finance industry, so that we could understand this language of money and maybe make a little bit of difference.  And so I think the way that I got that first job was actually just from going to a Latinos in finance convention, and sort of ask him a lot of dumb questions about an industry that I didn't really understand too, all the time.

  • Building a fund business in Latin America to investing in the cannabis sector


    You talk about being contrarian investor? What exactly made that seem appealing to you?

    Well, I think the things that were taught in school aren't what we should be taught. This is maybe more of a normalized idea now. But, you know, I can't remember the last time I had to name different types of mitochondria. And I can certainly remember the last time that I needed to figure out how to decrease my tax burden.

    And so when I think about being a contrarian investor, for me, there's sort of a three pillar approach, which is, I'm trying to get to free thinkers. That's what I'm really interested in. At the end of the day, people who can think for themselves think critically and emotionally remove the emotion from the rationality.

    But the way that you get there, in my opinion, is first, you really can't have anything until you have Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? Financial freedom being, in my view, sort of the Maslow's hierarchy of today. And so once you have financial freedom, then you can get to personal freedom, you can decide what you want to do. With your day, you can decide how you spend your day, you can decide how you spend your money. And then finally, you can get to philosophical freedom, which is your ability to think freely or critically.

    So when I think about contrarian investing, it's all about how can I get as many people as possible to financial freedom, in order for them to move up through the hierarchy to eventually get to philosophical freedom or their ability to think for themselves, then I think if we had more people that were actually able to do that, that weren't scared by what other people think, that aren't scared by sort of conventional norms, then we'd have a more interesting and perhaps free, free society. And so that's what I mean by contrarian investor as many ways to get people to financial freedom as possible, that typically weren't taught.

    And you've been investing in the cannabis space, right, like you have done some work there. What, what drew you to that? And what kind of what do you think are some of the trends that are going unnoticed in that space?

    So I really invest in what I see as emerging markets. That started off in exchange-traded funds when those were new to the financial world. Then it went to Latin America, and building up a business in Latin America. And then cannabis. And now small and medium businesses are what I call boring businesses.

    "Each time I'm looking at a new asset class or a new type of sector to invest in, I'm curious as to whether there is some stigma, some noise, some narrative that keeps a lot of people out, so that there's an unfair advantage for those people that get in early." 

    Each time I'm looking at a new asset class or a new type of sector to invest in, I'm curious as to whether there is some stigma, some noise, some narrative that keeps a lot of people out, so that there's an unfair advantage for those people that get in early. And I like to be on that cutting edge of whatever the new investment type is.

    And so for cannabis, I started investing in cannabis in 2014. And I started investing for really a nonprofit reason, because I saw there was a correlation between it helping with that, and depression and mental health and suicide. And so that's why I started investing. And then I realized, oh, it does that. And it's also very profitable. And so we ended up having a fund group surrounding it, investing hundreds of millions of dollars into cannabis.

    As far as trends in the space, I mean, too many to count. Really, but but I think the biggest overarching trend is just the normalization of cannabis as a wellness tool, as a medicinal tool, as a vector to invest in from a profit standpoint. And I think that's just going to continue. And while many of us talk about it, very few people have an allocation to cannabis in their portfolios, I think that'll change. And so I think it's smart to have, you know, a small percentage of any portfolio allocated in space, because it will be, you know, a trillion dollar industry, in my opinion.

  • Founding Contrarian Thinking and Unconventional Acquisitions


    Good point. So, looking back over your career thus far, like, what are some of the biggest success stories you've had? Maybe one of them that really comes to mind?

    You know, I'm not sure. I think I've been lucky in my career in many aspects to continue to just curiously ask a lot of questions, and have that drive to some sort of return. I built up a pretty big, you know, multi-billion dollar business in Latin America. And then our couple of $100 million businesses in cannabis. And then, you know, now I think the part that I'm most interested in is, we have a hundred thousand people that are that are on our email list at Contrarian Thinking. And now thousands of people that emailed us and called and said that, you know, they have actually taken action on some of the ideas that we have, and move themselves towards financial freedom or actually achieved it.

    And so, at this point, I think that's the thing that I'm most proud of, I suppose, is that I wish that I had known how to derive passive income streams. So I didn't have to rely on a job that I didn't love at a certain point. And I love being able to have a hand in helping people achieve it, although they have to do all the work themselves. But yeah, I mean, those are those are some of the wins, I think.

    So Contrarian Thinking and Unconventional Acquisitions, what are those? What exactly do you do with those? 

    Yeah, so Contrarian Thinking is our email newsletter. It goes out to 100,000 people once a week. And basically how I explain that is we're getting people to free their minds and their bank accounts. And so it's this two pronged approach. And we have a premium newsletter that goes with it, where every single month we have a playbook. And in this playbook is actual guides, steps resources for how to achieve a new income stream.

    "They say that the average millionaire has anywhere from seven to 10 streams of income, right?  And my goal is that for each person that comes into Contrarian Thinking, by the end of a 12 month period, they can have 12 different income streams." 

    So you know, they say that the average millionaire has anywhere from seven to 10 streams of income, right?  And my goal is that for each person that comes into Contrarian Thinking, by the end of a 12 month period, they can have 12 different income streams with a guide book and how to actualize those. And these are everything from, you know, investing in RV parks, to vending machines, to starting a newsletter business to buying a small or medium sized business. You don't have to go and create the next Tesla or YouTube or SpaceX. [These are things that are] very accessible for normal people like me and you. And so, I think that that part's kind of fun.

    And we've had automatically printed like 67 different newsletters through it. We've had people buy over 100 plots of lands to do RV parks and camping on it. So we have a lot of people taking effect on it. And that's Contrarian Thinking, and Unconventional Acquisitions - I run that business with a partner Ryan Snow - that started because I've been mergers and acquisitions, your private equity for many years now. And the processes that we use in private equity really can be applied at a granular level to what you and I do every day.

    And so I realized for years that I made a lot of people a lot of money. Why wasn't I applying the same theories of going out using leverage ,aka debt, and buying assets that produce income with somebody else's money, the bank's money in order to buy a revenue stream day one, as opposed to create a startup hope that somebody buys it, go out there and try to wrangle people up to buy the thing. Not as easy to do. And so Unconventional Acquisitions, we've had, I don't know, probably 2,000 students go through Unconventional Acquisitions, we've had, I don't know, 130, or 140, go out and buy a business, and get themselves anywhere from five to six figures to seven figures in profit and remove themselves from the job that they have today. And create no more owners instead of more employees.

    So that's the goal of Unconventional Acquisitions. And then we have a holding company, which is basically a company where we buy businesses inside of that, and put it operators in place.

  • "If it doesn't come out of you like a fire, then don't do it."


    So you are basically helping other people become business owners, or you know buy businesses. You were a journalist, and then you kind of got into investing and finance. And now it's like, you're taking that into becoming a business owner who helps other business owners? How did that transition happen?

    Well, I started Contrarian Thinking in January of 2020. And for a long time, I've focused pretty exclusively on buying businesses, for myself on investing for myself on building big teams. And I think just a natural progression at some point, you end up wanting to bring other people along with you, instead of just do it for yourself.

    Money is awesome. I like to accumulate it, I'm not done accumulating it. But at some point, it's kind of like, you know, that's the only thing you're pursuing. Maybe it's not that interesting. And so I think the part that's interesting for me is being able to share some of the secrets that I wish I knew when I was first in finance. And maybe it comes back to that original comment on being a journalist, you know, that's like, you kind of can't take it out of your bones. And I'm sure you can relate.

    "We all have some sort of pursuit that calls to us like a siren song, right...I'm supposed to write about things, I'm supposed to break them down, I'm supposed to share." 

    But, you know, if if what you do is ask questions, break things down, try to get to the heart of it, and then regurgitate it so that you can understand it better. You can't help but continue to do that in different iterations. So I think that's what Contrarian Thinking, Unconventional Acquistions is, it's worth going out and doing the thing, why not pull other people along with you, instead of just make money for yourself? And thankfully, there's like a whole universe of humans that do that, these days, you know, and so I want to keep doing more of that. And as much as it's useful for other people. 

    Where does this drive come from? For you, like, you know, in terms of your background, or, you know in your family history, or whatever you attribute it to?

    I mean, we all have some, you know, some sort of pursuit that calls to us like a siren song, right? I don't know about in your career, but for many, many years, I've worked in, you know, investment banking, and, and I've worked on Wall Street, and I kept starting things where I would write again, you know, I started like four or five different blogs, and I got them shut down. I got told by compliance, that I couldn't have that. And I just, I kept coming back to it again.

    And again, because it's the thing that I'm supposed to do, I'm supposed to write about things, I'm supposed to break them down, I'm supposed to share. It's like, I can't stop it. And I think... if you wouldn't die for the want of doing it, if it doesn't come out of you like a fire, then don't do it. And I think, you know, for me, this is one of those things where once you start to realize what you are uniquely placed here for you can't help but continue to do it.

    And there are much better ways to make money. And there are much I mean, it's most of my money is made through holding companies, through investing in companies. You know, 10x, anything that I do from from doing education online. So I feel very lucky that I found that early on, and I think everybody's got that thing. They just kind of cram it down and don't listen to it and focus on whatever is paying the bills, or whatever is the job in front of them. Because it's scary to go out and do the thing that you're really supposed to do. Because what if you fail at that, you know, that's the real scary thing. Who cares about failing as an accountant, right?

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