- Jalen Uboh built multiple businesses with friends in college from the basement of his parents house.
- In 2018, he and his co-founder landed a six-figure goverment contract. It led to 46 more projects.
- Today, at 26, Uboh considers himself financially independent and is planning an early retirement.
Jalen Uboh, 26, and Anika Carter, 25, have known each other since junior high. They went to the same middle school in Douglas County, Georgia.
In high school, they shared a Spanish class and that’s when “I started getting the butterflies towards Anika,” Uboh told Insider.
They went their separate ways for college — Uboh attended Kennesaw State and Carter started at Georgia Southern University before transferring to Georgia Tech — and reconnected in 2020 when they realized they were in the same line of business: real estate. Uboh had just bought a parcel of land that he intended to build a neighborhood in and Carter was working as a project engineer on a 64-unit apartment complex in Georgia.
They went on their first date in late 2020. In 2022, Uboh proposed.
The couple now work together full-time on the company Uboh started back in 2015, JUBOH Companies, from his parents’ basement. It’s a conglomerate of businesses in real estate, healthcare, transportation, government relations, education, and consulting.
Under Uboh’s leadership, the company has evolved from a “basement business” to a 125-person, multi-million dollar company, according to documents viewed by Insider. The team is currently wrapping up a massive, 250-home development project in the suburbs of Atlanta.
From selling candy in elementary school to starting businesses in college and foregoing the 9-to-5 path
Uboh grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Some of his earliest childhood memories are from the auto-shop that his great-grandfather owned, he said. So it wasn’t completely out of left field when he started selling candy in elementary school.
“I had an entire operation with employees,” he said of “Jay’s Snacks,” which operated year-round. “I had my in-school session, where I would sell candy at school, and then I had my summer-session, where I’d sell in my neighborhood.”
When he started college in 2014, he immediately got an on-campus job working for the stadium’s ticketing office. A big part of his job was promoting the annual hot air balloon festival hosted by Kennesaw State.
One year, he and his team did over $1 million in ticket sales, he recalled: “In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, if I can make somebody else hundreds of thousands of dollars in an eight-hour span of time, why can’t I do that for myself? And that’s what really pushed me to start my own business.”
What has evolved into JUBOH Companies started with about $500 that Uboh and some college friends, including his future business partner, Aubrey Evins, had in savings. They used it to purchase a lawn mower and launch Piedmont Premier Lawn Care.
Any money they made went straight back into the business or was set aside for future endeavors.
In 2015, they started an ecommerce drop shipping company. They leased a kiosk at a local mall and sold drones, hoverboards, kids toys, and other electronics. They even hired four college students to help run the business, said Uboh. It gave him real-world experience with cashflow management, inventory management, business development, and marketing.
A year later, in 2016, Uboh and Evins started Premier Medical Supply Company over their summer break. The company supplied medical equipment to local healthcare systems, hospitals and the general public.
After graduating in 2018, Uboh decided to continue working on his various businesses, rather than interview for a 9-to-5.
“That was probably one of the scariest things: deciding between whether or not I should get a traditional job or keep doing this entrepreneurship thing,” he admitted.
He and Evins decided to go all-in on their medical equipment company, which had received its medicare accreditation as a DMEPOS (durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies) in 2017.
They weren’t making enough right away to afford to live on their own, so they stayed rent-free in the basement of Uboh’s parents house, where they’d been living since 2016 to save on housing.
In 2018, about two years after starting Premier Medical Supply, they started bringing in enough profit to pay themselves a small salary. It wasn’t enough to move into their own place, though.
“At the end of that two-year period, we had done over a million dollars in gross revenue,” said Uboh. “But that’s not our take-home. We had grossed over $1 million in revenue, but we couldn’t afford to leave the basement, so that just speaks to how entrepreneurship can be a financial struggle in the beginning. Even when you are making money, you still have overhead costs.”
Those are the types of lessons about entrepreneurship that he was lucky enough to learn early on, he said, and is one of the main reasons he’s achieved so much success at just 26 years old.
“Most people go the traditional route: They go to school, they may spend a decade working in a corporate environment, and then maybe in their early 30s, they get into the business field,” said Uboh. “I started early. And I was consistent. Just like with compound interest, where your money can compound, time compounds. The more time you spend on a thing, the more you’ll get.”
That said, when it comes to entrepreneurship and running your own business, “there are huge risks,” Uboh noted. “There is also the opportunity for huge rewards.”
Shifting to real estate development and building a multi-million dollar company
In 2017, while still completing his undergraduate degree and working on Premier Medical Supply, Uboh and Evins started learning about how to obtain government contracts. The United States is the largest buyer of goods and services in the country — the government buys everything from construction services to environmental consulting, and awards over 11 million contracts a year.
Uboh and Evins registered as a federal government contractor in 2017, meaning they could start writing proposals and bidding on contracts.
They won their first contract in early 2018. It was a multi-year project with the Department of Homeland Security to demolish an office space that got hit by Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina and provide a new, temporary space.
“After winning my first six-figure contract to the tune of $144,414, I realized that this was a game-changer for me and the business,” said Uboh, who was 21 at the time.
This was his first time working in the real estate space, and he was hooked.
“It allowed us to learn about real estate development, from permitting to the construction component,” said Uboh. “After we built the new facility, we leased it back to the government for about two and half years. It became a commercial rental property. So not only was I the construction person, but I was also the owner of the property and the ongoing landlord.”
That project led to 46 more over the next two and a half years.
“I learned that the federal government has all types of opportunities where you can build, demolish, or lease them office spaces or warehousing or residential,” said Uboh, who started earning enough to move into a luxury apartment building with Evins in 2019. “And so we began to do that all across the country for agencies Like the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
The Covid-19 pandemic put a pause on their government contract work.
“The federal government said, ‘We don’t know what’s going on and we need to stop meeting in person,'” said Uboh. “If you’re building a building, you can’t do it virtually.”
They were told to vacate the properties they were working on for two weeks, but as the uncertainty around the pandemic grew, two weeks turned into months.
“During that time, the stock market was really fluctuating and no one really knew what was going on,” added Uboh. It forced him and his company to pivot. “I thought, the one thing that doesn’t depreciate in value is land.”
Plus, he was paying attention to interest rates, which are heavily influenced by the Federal Reserve: “When interest rates dropped to below 1%, that was a sign to buy land because mortgages would be on the rise and people would be buying new homes — especially here in the South, where we have a really great cost of living. With cash on hand, we began getting our hands on as much land as possible.”
The lower interest rates, coupled with the rise in remote work that would allow people to relocate convinced Uboh that buying land in the suburbs of Atlanta would be a smart investment. He figured that people would be looking for cheaper cities and warmer climates to live in, and start migrating to the south from places like California and New York.
“So we bet on ourselves and we won big on the bet,” he said. “We started building houses and our first house had 26 people on a waiting list.”
To be successful in real estate, or any business, you have to be willing to adapt, he added: “Real estate is just like any other business. There are cycles. There are good times and bad times. Being able to understand those cycles and respond to them accordingly is very important for your success and making the right investments.”
Uboh and Carter, who started working with his team full-time in 2020, are now finishing a 250-home development called Somerset Hills in Fairburn, Georgia. The homes are situated on a 212-acre golf course, range from 5,500- to 8,500-square-feet, and will be listed between $450,000 and $850,000. They have about 10 homes to finish before the development project is complete.
Achieving financial independence and planning for an early retirement abroad
JUBOH is now a multi-million dollar company, which Insider verified, and Uboh and Carter can afford to live the lives they want to live.
They have three main financial priorities right now: a home, which they’re currently building, their wedding, and their student debt. Then, they have their eyes set on retiring early abroad.
“We’re all told that we have to work really, really hard for 30 years, invest in a 401k, and then when we’re 60 or 70, we can retire and enjoy our lives,” said Uboh, “Well, that’s the end of my life at that point! The average life expectancy for a man is around 75. If I wait until 65 to start living, you’re telling me that I have just 10 years to really enjoy my life — and, those are the years when I’m older and don’t have as much mobility. That’s not a good plan for me.”
With early retirement in mind, they pay themselves a “modest salary,” said Uboh, and live fairly simply. “We love a good rooftop bar somewhere and we throw a lot of big family parties. Outside of that, we are just down to earth people.”
Plus, they understand that as business owners with employees, optics matter. “It’s not a good look when you have a team of day laborers that work on your properties who may be having a financial challenge at home and you pull up in a brand new Bentley,” said Uboh. “That doesn’t really look cool.”
They’re not only considering their own futures. They take into account the future of their families and community.
“We make a lot of money and we’re unabashed about it, but we give more than we make,” said Uboh, who claims that he and Anika contribute millions to various philanthropic and charitable efforts. They’ve started a legacy scholarship at the high school they both graduated from. They’re also contributing to a recreational center in a nearby community called Fairburn.
“We understand the value of a dollar because we’ve worked for every penny that we earned,” added Uboh. “I didn’t have a trust fund. I didn’t have a rich uncle. Anika’s parents were teachers; my parents were entrepreneurs.”
Uboh’s resume at the ripe age of 26 is remarkable. His massive successes didn’t happen overnight, though. He started early and he started small: with a candy business in grade school and, later, with a lawnmower that cost a couple hundred bucks.
Those were his “seeds,” he explained: “Seeds never look like the fruit that they end up becoming, and they’re always smaller. You’ve got to start with the small things. Oftentimes we’re trying to start with the big fruit — we’re trying to get to the glamour, the cars, the wealth, and the success — but you have to start with the seed.
“I’m having this conversation with you today because I started selling candy when I was in elementary school. That was my seed.”