A Conversation with Michael Sclafani, Monmouth County Realtor and Business Owner

By:  | June 25, 2024 Features Monmouth County

By Maia Franco

 

Meet realtor and entrepreneur Michael Sclafani, a Wall Street employee turned local business owner from Manalapan, NJ. Today, Michael is a top real estate agent and entrepreneur, known for his innovative marketing and customer-centric approach. His journey from the financial crisis to real estate success is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the power of pursuing one's passions.

Michael’s career at Lehman Brothers began in 2004, immediately following his graduation from Rowan University. When the 150-year-old company filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, it sent shockwaves through the global economy. Amidst the chaos, Michael was one of the few retained to help unwind the company’s complex financial positions.

“They needed people to stay on board even though there was no long-term future at the company anymore," Michael recalls. "Even though the company was bankrupt, there were millions, if not, billions of dollars in assets to unwind."

Despite the fortune of retaining his employment with Lehman Brothers for an additional 8 years to assist with the unwind of the company, Michael’s reality was rocked by the impact the economic crisis of 2008 had on such a stable company.

“Growing up, I was always taught to secure stability above all else,” Michael remarked, “but the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers taught me that nothing is guaranteed, and any company can be a gamble. Why not begin to bet on myself?”

In his extended tenure at Lehman Brothers following bankruptcy, Michael began to consider the desire he always held to become a business owner. He earned his real estate license in 2009 and began selling properties in Union County. It was not until he approached his wedding date that he discovered a business he would ultimately make his first: CKO Kickboxing. While regularly attending kickboxing classes at a CKO gym in Hoboken, Michael lost 40 pounds in 3 months. When he and his wife wanted to return to Monmouth County, Michael realized that his hometown was an untapped market with the potential to make CKO even more successful.

In 2012, Michael and his best friend set out to open the first Monmouth County CKO Kickboxing gym in Freehold. Their secret to the success of their first gym? Michael calls it his own guerilla marketing.

“We would just walk around the Freehold Mall and hand out free passes to the people shopping and working there, hoping they would give at least one class with us a try.”

Once regular customers were coming through the door, they adjusted their schedules, ensuring there were enough classes for working people to come early in the morning and for parents to work out after school drop off.

“We went into it giving everything we had and advertised as much as we possibly could.”

This advertising paid off and Freehold became one of the top CKO gyms in its first year. This tremendous success allowed Michael and his partner to go on to own CKO locations in Wall, Toms River, and Marlboro shortly after. Today, Mike retains ownership of the Freehold location, and his partner sold his CKO assets to invest in another new business. The sales of the additional gyms that Michael acquired allowed him to make his first million-dollar commercial property purchase. 

By late 2017, Michael decided it was time to close the chapter on his Lehman Brothers experience. Armed with a wealth of financial knowledge, entrepreneurial success, and a burning passion for real estate, he dove headfirst into a full-time real estate career.

"Real estate was always a passion," Michael says. "The kickboxing gyms were a way to diversify and create a steady income stream, which eventually facilitated my entry into the commercial property market."

Michael was determined to stand out in the crowded real estate market, drawing on his passion for baseball when he started his second business 3rdBaseRealEstate.com – Your Last Stop Before Home. Michael’s website featured playful, baseball-themed content, and his marketing campaigns were humorous and light-hearted. This distinctive style quickly set him apart from the competition, making him one of the top agents in the area by his 3rd year in real estate. He approaches the home buying process with enthusiasm, saying, “Why not spend your Saturday’s touring houses with someone who is fun and knows their stuff? That is who I have always been for my clients.”

While Michael’s career journey has been anything but conventional, he credits networking as one of the key factors that helped him grow each of his businesses. Attending coaching and networking groups can introduce a new business owner to people who want to see them succeed.

“As cheesy as it sounds, your network really is your net worth! Surround yourself with people who will root for you and will recommend you to the people they meet. You never know where an opportunity will come from!”

 

 

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