Linda Schatz, founder and managing member Schatz Collaborative
Linda Schatz crafted her recipe for success at Kwok’s Chop Suey, a Chinese restaurant on Wai‘alae Avenue. Her grandparents and parents ran the place, working 14-hour days, 365 days a year. Schatz grew up working there, first in the kitchen and later as a server. Her parents, first-generation immigrants from China and Hong Kong, poured every dollar they earned into the restaurant and made it a point to employ other immigrants who needed jobs. Having a business that made the family a stable living and supported employees with families of their own was an experience that continues to drive her today.
“I became an entrepreneur through necessity,” Schatz recalls. As soon as she graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa with a doctorate in architecture, focusing on transit-oriented development in urban infill locations, she cold-called some landowners and development companies. She landed at Kamehameha Schools as an intern and then worked her way up to land analyst, then real estate analyst and then development manager. Most of her focus was on the Kaka‘ako master plan, which led her to work with Forest City Hawaii, where she helped develop Kapolei Lofts, Hawai‘i’s first master-planned community for renters in 20 years.
Schatz brings that expertise and knowledge of community-based development to the roster of development partners and investors she works with as a managing member for her real estate development company Schatz Collaborative. Schatz Collaborative manages real estate development projects for partners and investors, focusing on fee development and servicing real estate companies outside of Hawai‘i that need local expertise. Schatz is responsible for running the projects and managing uncertainty and risk in each deal. She’s also responsible for finding properties, concepts, investors and project teams to execute real estate deals.
“My job description is whatever keeps moving the project forward,” Schatz says. “Since we are a small boutique firm, we all do everything.” Since Schatz started the company in 2016, about $200 million’s worth of projects are in the pipeline at various phases. “When we are done with each development and have reached stabilization, we stand to increase that value many times for our partners and investors,” she says.
“The even more rewarding fact is that we will have produced hundreds of housing units and brought commercial activity that creates hundreds of direct jobs and really improves neighborhoods in Hawai‘i.”
In a small market like Hawai‘i, where land is scarce and regulations are tough, Schatz’s team competes for capital with other cities with better macroeconomic conditions. “Flexibility and service are cornerstones of our business,” Schatz says. “We take care of the people we work with and those we serve, no matter what the circumstance, which is why the word collaborative is in our business name. Each project takes a team of people while also requiring community support, so collaboration is key. Our business is such a people-based business. If you treat people fairly, are honest and communicate and execute your intentions with integrity and directness, it goes a long way.”
Motherhood has had a substantial impact on Schatz’s professional life as well. “Because of all the demands placed on mothers every day, it’s given me the ability to make decisions and judgment calls in all parts of my life quickly to ensure I am productive and efficient,” Schatz says. “My partners and clients are lucky to have a working mom on their projects.”
Being a mother also taught her to work smarter by employing the 80/20 rule, which maintains that 20 percent of one’s efforts produces 80 percent of the results. “I’ve learned to cut through the noise so I’m there to watch my son’s tennis match or my daughter’s choir performance,” she explains. “I don’t hide the fact that I’m a mom with kid responsibilities. I take business calls while the kids are shouting in the minivan. I will never be apologetic about being a career woman and a mother at the same time.”
Her goal is simple—help shape urban Honolulu. As for the legacy she leaves behind, that’s more personal. “My son was in the car with me one day and just said, out of the blue, that he wants to live right next to me one day when he buys his own house,” Schatz recalls. “He asked if that’s possible. Of course, every mom tells her kids that everything is possible. But in my mind, I knew if we don’t solve our housing crisis and also generate better-paying jobs and new industries, he may never even have the opportunity to buy a home in Hawai‘i.”
When it comes down to it, Schatz simply wants to ensure that Hawai‘i kids like her son have the chance to come home to Hawai‘i after college and find the quality of life and opportunities she had. “We need to leave our state—and our world, for that matter—in a better place than when we first started our lives and families,” Schatz says. “It’s not a wish, but an obligation.”