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Daughter provides motivation for T-bird venture

A passion for real estate investment comes naturally for entrepreneur Jim Small ’04, who grew up in a family that moved 15 times during his childhood. “I always found it interesting and exciting to check out new houses,” says Small, the founder and managing director of Arizona-based Santé Realty Group.

Small has an even stronger passion for his family. When doctors diagnosed his daughter, Sophia, with Rett syndrome at age 2, Small knew the medical bills would be significant for world- class care. He launched Santé, which means “to your health” in French, with his daughter in mind. “Motivation this strong ensures successful deals that will help fund therapies, treatments and ultimately a cure,” Small says.

Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that often results in seizures and loss of verbal skills, but Small says his daughter, who is now 9, has learned to communicate with an iPad. “We want her to grow and continue to make progress,” Small says. “That’s why we are focused as a company.”

Santé specializes in helping non-U.S. investors earn fixed rate income in the United States without paying taxes. Using an IRS incentive that many people overlook, accredited investors lend money to Santé, which then invests in apartments, retail centers and other income properties in the Western United States. Small says his agents analyze about 100 properties for every one that they buy. “We haven’t found anyone who does it the way we do,” Small says.

Current Santé investors come from about 10 countries, and the client list includes T-bird classmate Frederic Belaigues ’04, based in Andorra.

Small has launched other companies besides Santé, but always with the intention of selling the startups when they became profitable. He says Santé is different. “I see myself doing this for the rest of my career,” he says. “I want to pass it on to my children.”

Small established Santé as a part-time venture in 2009 as an outgrowth of a business plan he developed at Thunderbird. He says he has used his Thunderbird skills to grow it into a full-time operation. “Thunderbird gave me the confidence to go into a foreign country, connect with people, analyze the tax and financial environments, and find solutions,” he says.

Caption: Jim Small ’04 and his daughter, Sophia, play at a park near their home in Arizona. (KEVIN SILVERMAN)

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