Meet Heidi Roberts: Disruptor, Social Entrepreneur & Real Estate Investor

As a mother living in Venice, Heidi was really bothered by the problem of homelessness in her community. For years she saw many of the same people living on the streets. She asked herself, how can she make a difference? The fact that she was a mother spurred her into action – after all, she would never want her son to end up in the same position.

Heidi worked in advertising, but began by volunteering with organizations and the local government in her spare time. After years of effort with minimal outcomes, she became frustrated by the limitations of the system. Applying years of problem-solving experience from her advertising career, Heidi asked herself, “What is the solution to solving homelessness?” Her answer was abundantly simple – to provide housing.   

Heidi started a business providing collaborative housing to homeless individuals, buying buildings and turning them into affordable rental properties. Her solution was innovative and effective at a low cost. It empowered her tenants to transform their lives, helped the city by transitioning people off the streets, and enabled Heidi to make a living.  

Her work was featured in the L.A. Times and Heidi continues to expand. She now houses 48 tenants which will increase to 108 by the end of the year, and is in process of advocating for the solution with both government  and private organizations. Heidi is determined to truly solve the problem of homelessness, and hopes to inspire others to do the same thing across the county.

4 Lessons to Take from Heidi Right Now

Start with a side hustle.

While Heidi worked her day-time job in advertising, she and her husband bought and managed rental properties to make money on the side. Heidi also started her advocacy efforts for homeless people while she was still working. Heidi was able to combine both of her side hustles into one business model, providing rental housing for homeless individuals.

Disrupt the system.

Heidi spent years trying to work within the system in order to solve homelessness in her community. Her efforts with local government and nonprofit agencies became frustrating, and one day she decided to just disrupt the entire system. Heidi took a private-sector approach and created a new and innovative solution to address homelessness.

Do good and do well.

Heidi wanted to solve the problem of homelessness in her community, but instead of starting a nonprofit, she started a social enterprise. This gives her the ability to generate revenue and make a good living for her family, all while creating positive community change.

Put one foot forward.

Even when Heidi was afraid of starting a new venture, she decided to put one foot forward and start. She advises that even if it’s the wrong foot, it’s still a step in the direction of achieving what you want to do and to becoming self-made.