The Power Lender: Steven Kaufman

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Now a successful businessman and entrepreneur, Steven Kaufman has certainly not taken a traditional path. 

After moving from New York to Texas, his family settled in the city of Baytown, an industrialized area outside of Houston known for its oil refineries. 

It was difficult for us to afford housing, so we moved to a Baytown trailer park. It was tough, though I’d say my childhood has without a doubt shaped who I am today and has been entirely woven into my character.

Steven was one of five children, all of whom dropped out of high school. Steven himself dropped out in the ninth grade. After working three jobs he realized that an education was the only answer to escaping poverty, leading him to eventually re-enroll. 

Getting an education has without a doubt transformed my life, my siblings’, and even my parents’ by showing them what was possible.

Steven went on to receive his degree from the University of Houston and has remained a Houston man ever since.

Steven is now Founder and CEO of two successful Houston-based companies — Zeus Equity Group, focusing on commercial real estate acquisition and development; and ZeusLending.com, a leading online lender for real estate financing. He stumbled upon real estate in his early 20’s while working at a public accounting firm and getting his degree. He was assigned a real estate client and found himself in an exciting position. The industry was booming, sparked by lower interest rates and Clinton’s looser lending standards. Steven quickly decided to switch gears into the lending industry and eventually start his own business. 

I’d say it was my ego that finally pushed me to do my own thing 15 years ago. I was a naïve dumb kid thinking I was contributing to our success, forgetting that a rising tide, or the market in this case raises all ships, not just one. 

In addition to ego, Steven saw an opportunity to provide a more honest way for families to obtain financing. 

We have a great opportunity in the real estate business to educate and help families make better and smarter financial decisions. It feels great and we get paid to do it, so it’s kind of like cheating the universe.

It’s no surprise that this same intensity carries over to Steven’s charitable work and hobbies. In 2008 after Hurricane Ike hit Texas, Steven sought out a way to help. After struggling to find a charity that met his own personal requirements he decided to found his own, creating the Fanatical Change Foundation, to raise money for those impacted by the event. That same year, Steven decided he needed an activity to de-stress, but one that could still push him to his limits. He decided to seek out the world’s strongest powerlifter, who happened to be located in the area. Over the next eight and a half years of training Steven went on to win four world championships, set a world record, and compete across the U.S. and Russia. However, this all came to an abrupt end when Steven found himself in the hospital for surgery in 2016 to treat an injured back. 

In order to get better at powerlifting you have to push yourself not just to the edge, but over it. I couldn’t do it anymore and realized I needed to change hobbies for a better quality of life. 

It didn’t take long for Steven to delve into the world of yoga, adopting the hobby with the same intensity. He is now a certified instructor.

So how did we come to meet Steven? Three years ago, Steven came to the conclusion that he needed to simplify his wardrobe in order to avoid decision fatigue. He was in the market for black shirts that could somehow withstand the Houston heat. 

I have enough going on in the day, so the last thing I want to worry about is what I’m going to wear. I work long hours in and out of meetings and traveling to properties, so I needed something that was presentable and comfortable. 

He stumbled on Ministry of Supply and now owns 16 black Apollo Dress Shirts. 

It’s become my everyday uniform. I love that the shirts don’t wrinkle and have a quality look. The shirt is something that can be “man folded” and doesn’t require me to carry any extra luggage.

How do you balance everything?

There’s no such thing as balance. The older I get, the more I know that life comes in seasons and you have to adjust accordingly. That said, I always make time for my family. My daughters are actually going to be the first sisters to run on the same ticket: 2044, President and Vice President.

Who are your influences/role models?

Three years ago I became involved in an organization called Tiger 21. I’d say the people I have met through this organization have had a huge influence on my personal and professional development. I’m a big fan of the plus one, minus one, neutral mentality. You need people to emulate, people to help, and people as peers. That’s what I’ve found in this organization.

Physically and athletically my role model would probably be Andrew Dugas, founder of Yoga Better in Texas. I’ve learned so much from him.

How would you describe yourself in 10 words or less?

Passionate, empathetic, driven, courageous, strong.

How do you take your coffee?

Black as frequently as possible, though I do enjoy Hazelnut Creamer every so often.

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What TV shows or movies have you seen recently?

“Men in Black: International” and “Naked and Afraid.”

What’s one place you would love to visit?

I’ve been wanting to go to Bhutan for awhile and [I’m] excited to finally be visiting soon. There are very few places that have the special secret sauce and Bhutan has it in my eyes. It’s run so differently than all other societies and is a unicorn. For instance they don’t measure GDP, they measure Gross Domestic Happiness. They’re more interested in how happy and fulfilled their citizens are than [being] financially profitable.