gb&d: What was going on in your life as a young adult that led you to the path of entrepreneurship and philanthropy?
Mayer Dahan: Growing up, it wasn’t that I didn’t fit in, but I never felt that I was quite in the place I should be. My mind was always off dreaming. I didn’t make the best employee. I wanted to create things. I wanted to see if I could do green, eco-friendly, modern homes—simple, uncluttered, clean. It’s my personality. It was the way that I wanted to live, and it was how I saw the future.
gb&d: Why did you choose to enter the luxury real estate market?
Dahan: I think the luxury home market is somewhere that you can flex your muscle when it comes to being green. There is a bigger budget for experimentation. It’s much more difficult to be sustainable and green when it comes to lower-income housing. The margins are smaller, and the budget is tighter.
gb&d: How did your commitment to environmentally friendly building practices come about?
Dahan: It happened pretty naturally, to be honest. I was raised in Los Angeles, a very liberal city. When I started working in West Hollywood, I noticed there was a push from the City to be more green, but there was a huge pushback from the developers, so I saw an opening there. [The City] told us to implement certain green standards about seven years ago. I thought they were great. Instead of just doing that, we went way beyond, whether it was with solar panels or recycled materials. We became more and more green, and the company became more and more popular. So, they kind of fed into each other.
gb&d: Your companies—Dahan Properties and Prime Five Homes—give back five percent to the Dream Builders project each year. Beyond this financial commitment, what is the relationship between the two?
Dahan: My companies support the nonprofit not only with money, but with staff and organizational structure, social media. So, we can run our charity without having to pay a staff to run it. We volunteer, we throw fundraisers, we’ve thrown feed-the-homeless events all over California. It’s a cycle of good karma, I like to think. I’m shocked more people don’t do that.
gb&d: You manage several businesses. How do they all fit together in your vision of entrepreneurship?
Dahan: They’re all under the same ideology: to create business, create jobs, and give back to the community. Dahan Properties is the larger parent company that is responsible for supervising the others, through PR, social media, marketing, research, etcetera. Having that main company to keep everything organized and to keep all the ideology on the same page keeps everything clean and kosher. It’s kind of a godsend.
gb&d: What’s your company culture like?
Dahan: I love employing people; it’s probably my favorite thing in the world. I didn’t see the work environment I grew up with as very successful in allowing people to grow and become their best. So instead of micromanaging people and controlling them, we create an environment that allows people to learn and feel comfortable and safe. I give individuals as much responsibility as I can while being responsible myself about it.
gb&d: What types of projects are you currently working on?
Dahan: I just finished a house last week that probably took me longer than any house I’ve ever worked on. It’s actually next door to another modern house I finished last year. That’s important because in my neighborhood there are houses built all over the place. It’s very disorganized; there’s no planning, no ideology, no theory going on behind the construction. People are just trying to make money. I want to restructure my neighborhood with much safer, more sustainable houses that are going to last hundreds of years and that look good together. So, with two houses now side by side, I can show people what it would look like if every house was built in unison.
gb&d: Where do you see your work going in ten years?
Dahan: I want to bring this idea to the masses—regardless of the profits—that there is a better way of building, and I hope to morph it into some larger-scale community planning. Have you heard of the LA River project? They’re going to redo the entire river, tear up all the channeling, bring the wildlife back, put parks in, put trails in. I absolutely love ideas like that—where the city, nonprofits, and companies are coming together to organize something. It is very eco-friendly and sustainable, but it’s much greater than that. I really admire people for doing such big things for the community. I would hope for our company to grow to do things like that one day.