“In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.”

That’s a piece of wisdom from Peter Gallagher playing Buddy Kane, the trite mantra-spouting real estate king in the 1999 film American Beauty. Of course it’s utter B.S. because Buddy, well, he was B.S..

But there’s a Realtor out there right now, down on her hands and knees, scrubbing dingy bathroom carpet in a late ’70s Fox & Jacobs tract home, saying (or pleading) to herself “I will sell this house.” And like Annette Bening playing Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty did, she’ll hear advice like Buddy’s and believe he’s the smartest man that ever lived. And that’s why self-help is a $11 billion business.

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Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate that focuses on Oak Cliff. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate who focuses on Oak Cliff, champion the idea of small business ownership to rebuild communities. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson thrives on shaking up standard ways of thinking about development in Dallas.

After he sold the historic Belmont Hotel five months ago, a bellwether renovation and restoration project that put his name on the map in 2005, he got right back to work doing what he does best.

“I took all the money from the hotel sale, and we invested it into more ugly properties to turn around, every penny of it,” he said.

Those “ugly properties” are in south Oak Cliff, around South Polk Street and South Beckley Avenue, and Anderson is ready to perform microsurgery.

“With microsurgery, you go into an area that has good bones, like Elmwood southwest of Bishop Arts, and you start by buying one property and fixing it up or building one small building and making it into a good retail or residential space,” he said.

He’s one of the original Dallas pioneers of urban “gentlefication,” moving into distressed neighborhoods and slowly redeveloping in an effort to reduce crime, create harmony, and build community.

This is radically different from gentrification, which usually forces out low-income residents with high-income folks seeking the next hip place. Gentlefication helps long-term residents take back their neighborhoods, stabilize property values, and build safe communities for their families.

It’s also different from what Dallas is doing with its Grow South plan, Anderson said.

“The mayor’s Grow South plan is nothing but superficial marketing—it has no sustainable wealth-building characteristics,” he said. “Find the one deal that has changed somebody’s life that lives in South Dallas. It’s typical Dallas thinking: the rich people in Dallas think it’s got to be big; it can’t be good unless it’s big. Yet all the special places we love are small.”

Anderson is a self-proclaimed “hard-core new urbanist,” spreading his message of gentlefication with his company Options Real Estate, which specializes in southern Dallas County.

“Owner-occupied neighborhoods is really the message I have for gentlefication,” he said. “The only way they can get in and own is to get in early…I’ve got so many of these kind of business success stories, everything from pet stores to call centers and yoga studios to insurance offices and restaurants, all kinds of people that own their own buildings now, not to mention the housing.”

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Mortgage loan

Getting a home loan can be a challenge for self-employed people: A typical mortgage lender wants to see one job with steady month-over-month income.

But an independent contractor might have time off between jobs, varying amounts of income each pay period, and business income that looks low because of capital investments, which are common tax write-offs for the self-employed. This often means they can’t qualify for a traditional home loan, even though they’re earning enough to afford it.

In fact, about one in four borrowers see their traditional purchase loan applications rejected in areas like Dallas and Travis counties, where self-employment is roughly 30 percent, according to Zillow. Around the rest of Texas, the chances of being rejected can be even higher for well-qualified borrowers, including small business owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and self-employed borrowers.

“It’s not that they aren’t financially capable of buying a home—it’s that they’re up against a traditional lending system that hasn’t adapted to a changing workforce,” said Michael Slavin, CEO of online mortgage lender Privlo, which rolled out its services in Texas Friday, one of nine states in which it is currently doing business.

“We underwrite each borrower and are able to tailor the loans,” Slavin said. “We’re using technology to be a lot more flexible because we deal with the exceptions to all the lending rules.”

Because of those exceptions, Privlo considers many more data points beyond the typical W2 used by traditional banks and institutions to assess a borrower’s creditworthiness, like tax returns and bank statements.

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Maybe you’ve had a great idea for a business but didn’t know where to start to get it off of the ground? Perhaps you need some inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs who have made the transition from big ideas to big business. That’s what Dallas Startup Week is all about! It’s five days full of talks and workshops built around the pitfalls that many would-be entrepreneurs face. From proposals and funding to branding and marketing you’ll learn everything there is to know about building momentum for your a business from the ground up.

Dallas Startup Week, which runs Monday, March 2 through Friday, March 6 in Downtown Dallas, features tons of great speakers that have real-world business-building experience. Nationally known entrepreneurs such as Project Runway alum and Dallas native Shirin Askari will share tips and advice on harnessing your creativity and personal brand. You’ll also find out about how to partner with corporations from business executives such as Clinton Anderson of Sabre.

“This is all the rage right now in the Downtown community,” says Ashley Stanley, founder of Ashley’s Apartments. “We are drawing business leaders from all over the Metroplex.”

Of course, we’re pretty excited about the ULI FlashTalk about Innovating for Real Estate. It will feature 7 minute talks from John Adolph of Parquer, Matt Alexander of NEED, Daniel Black of Glass Media, Brandon Castillo of ASH+LIME, Saurabh Gupta of CoHopping, and Christopher Haley of the Dietrich Von Hildebrand Legacy Project.

Best of all, this event is free! Yes, you can pick the brains of all of these successful business men and women at no cost. You can register here. Find the complete schedule of events here.