Brandon K. Smart ‘03 is the president of SmartEquity, Inc, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm based in St. Louis. He holds a B.A. in Business from Lake Forest College. In 2021, Brandon was selected to St. Louis Business Journal's "40 under 40" which recognizes emerging St. Louis-area business leaders, change-makers, and innovators who are highly engaged with the St. Louis community. Brandon's first job after college was as a student success coach at City Year, an AmeriCorps program that helps students build on their strengths and cultivate social, emotional, and academic skills that are important in school and life. He is married to Nikol, and they have two children.
How did Whitfield prepare you for college and beyond?
Whitfield's rigorous curriculum helped me move confidently into my college studies by cultivating hard work, character, and critical thinking. Reading, writing, and engaging in discussions with books such as Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Catcher in the Rye, and many others were pathways into a workload and structure similar to college. These skills, experiences, and exposures were a catalyst for growth in building a solid foundation needed to succeed in college and beyond. Today, a significant aspect of my work involves legal contracts. My attention to detail and ability to read, interpret, analyze, and explain very complex documents can be attributed to Whitfield's college preparatory program. Aside from the rigorous curriculum, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from my peers who have lived extraordinary professional and personal lives. Knowing that I belonged to such a core community of well-rounded individuals was essential to my personal development. It is not often you find a school where everyone is involved in supporting students in their growth, and this sense of community provided me with a support system that made the transition from Whitfield successful.
What are you most thankful for from your Whitfield experience, both in and outside the classroom?
I joined Whitfield as a freshman and commuted 20 miles every day. As a new student with no previous friendships, I learned to embrace change which was important in my growth. I'm thankful for the memories and friendships forged long ago. Today, my closest network includes relationships that were cultivated at Whitfield.
In addition, the adaptable mindset I learned has proven incredibly valuable as a business owner because every day promises new challenges, some of which are not easily or quickly addressed.
What were your primary interests and activities while you were at Whitfield?
Initially, my activities were centered around sports: basketball, baseball, and track. As I grew, so did my interests, but I am thankful to Whitfield for offering many activities to support my growth. I was encouraged to participate in Model United Nations and theatrical productions. I particularly enjoyed basketball and the long-lasting friendships I built through the sport.
What opportunities did Whitfield provide you that you might not have had elsewhere?
Whitfield provided an opportunity to learn from world-class faculty and staff with state-of-the-art resources in a beautiful campus setting.
Whitfield also allowed me to interact with classmates, faculty, and staff who broadened my worldview by learning through different experiences, which challenged me to think more critically. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from so many great minds and be supported in my growth.
Last, Whitfield gave me a better appreciation for the arts and sciences that I might not have had without the repeated exposure Whitfield offered. This exposure was the perfect introduction to the broad academics and personal growth I experienced at Lake Forest College.
Why did you and your family choose Whitfield?
In addition to all that I have already mentioned, one of the most distinguishing features of Whitfield is the state-of-the-art campus; between the architecture, fields, and gardens, a lot goes into keeping the learning space beautiful, and that kind of commitment to facilities only helps to foster a sense of excellence.
Describe your career.
I serve as president of SmartEquity, Inc, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm founded in 2019 after other roles in commercial real estate brokerage in Chicago and St. Louis. In just over two years, the firm closed more than $20 million in sales and increased revenues by 150%.
We're now pursuing more new commercial construction development and renovating some of St. Louis' notable historic buildings. This kind of work is fulfilling and directly affects how we connect through physical spaces. Our focus is shifting from the most fundamental aspect of real estate - "here's a space you can occupy" - to recognizing real estate's impact on innovation, collaboration, and community.
I'm not sure how I got nominated, but I was pleased to be recognized recently among the St. Louis Business Journal's "40 under 40" for 2021. It was an honor to be included with a generation of key executives and entrepreneurs, and I am grateful for the acknowledgment.
To achieve anything meaningful, you have to go through every emotion while pursuing goals. Most of all, never give up! The road has been long and sometimes excruciating, with some wins and some spectacular losses, but I am thankful for the lessons I've learned, and I look forward to the challenges ahead.