With the rising tuition fees, it’s not unusual to hear of students working one or two jobs while managing a full course load.
A student who goes to school full-time and owns a business, however, is a less common story. UC Davis senior and economics major, Frank Song, is one such individual.
“Some people sell coffee. I sell companies,” said Song, sipping his Starbucks.
The career Song is referring to is investment banking, a field he first began working in 2008. In fact, Song has a new job offer at Thomas Weisel Partners after his graduation – a public investment bank that trades on the open market.
Song’s position at this company was not something he coincidentally came by. On the contrary; Song has been working towards this goal since his senior year in high school when he began his career in real estate.
“Senior year my whole life changed. I used to sell random things just to get by, get cash in my pocket and get through,” said Song.
Fremont-born Song said he even used to sleep at Wal-Mart.
“Every other month I’d be gone for two weeks. I stayed at Wal-Mart because it was open 24/7. I even used to wear my friends clothes,” said Song.
He began work at a real estate company in the Bay Area, Alliance Financial, after a friend from the business said he made a good salesman.
“She said I was good at selling things, and that I should sell real estate. I took the [real estate] test on my 18th birthday,” said Song.
Song passed the California Real Estate Exam on his first attempt and fulfilled other state requirements to become a licensed real estate agent. The other conditions included passing three real estate courses including the principals of real estate, the practices of real estate and finance.
Song achieved success in the business early in the game. He made his first sale on his second day of work. He still has this first check framed on his wall to remind him of where he started.
During Song’s time at Alliance Financial, he became close friends with another one of the business’s agents, Ireland Bowens.
“He took me under his wing,” Song said. “He’s been my mentor.”
Unbeknownst to Song, this mentorship would soon develop into a business partnership. Song and Bowens opened up their own real estate firm in June 2009, Wynand Financial. Song named the business after a character from the book The Fountainhead, Gail Wynand.
In order to start this business, Song had to first earn his real estate broker’s license. Song said there is a difference between a real estate agent and a broker.
“Real estate agents actually have no power. They are the representative of the broker, and only the broker has authority to sign papers,” Song said.
He said the process of becoming a broker was more rigorous than the process of becoming an agent. Broker candidates must take at least eight real estate courses, work two years as a full-time agent and receive written approval from the broker they had worked for.
The final step in the process is to pass the California Real Estate Broker License Examination. Song passed the test, and claims to be the youngest real estate broker in the state of California.
With his new role as a real estate broker and business owner comes new responsibilities and risks.
“I’m now the broker and I manage the agents. My job is more about compliance,” said Song. “All the liability is on me. If one of my agents commits fraud, I can get dragged in.”
Outside of his beginnings at Alliance Financial and work at Wynand Financial, Song has worked at similar businesses within the past four years. Instream Partners and Kayne Andersen Capital Advisors are just two of his former employers. Song’s job at both companies was to advise clients on what companies they should buy.
While Song was accepted to UCLA, he explained that it was his employment in northern California that ultimately swayed him toward UC Davis.
“In the Bay Area, I already had a mentor and clients. If I screwed up at UCLA, I might have had to leave because I couldn’t afford it,” said Song.
Recently, the Marketing and Business Association had Song speak at their Jan. 28th meeting.
Song’s presentation gave club members tips and advice on landing their dream job or internship. Song included pointers on how to write cover letters, fine-tune resumes and follow up with potential employers.
Song said he attributes his success in investment banking to his mentality.
“I think it’s my drive and work ethic that put me where I am today. My drive, my hunger and my ability not to take no for an answer,” Song said.
AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.