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How To Sell to Mix-use Developers & Build More ‘EPIC’ Communities

After the pandemic, homeowners across the United States have discovered different ways of living, working and playing in their communities — and developers have taken note. This week, we talked with a mixed-use developer whose innovative, EPIC projects are getting noticed.

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Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

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The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

McKenzy Braaten is the Vice President of Communications for EPIC Companies. The Fargo-based firm is a commercial and multi-family developer with a big vision and bigger plans for mixed-use construction. We were thrilled to have her on the show to talk more about how manufacturers can improve how they sell to developers.

Beyond Building More Homes

“EPIC Companies is — I'm just going to say it — doing some really EPIC things. Sorry,” says Beth. It’s easy to understand why Venveo and Beth are so impressed with EPIC, though.

“We are a regional development company, and the unique thing about us is that we do investment, development and management,” says McKenzy Braaten, who oversees marketing and communications at EPIC. She’s been with the company for a few years now and has a background in communications.

“I decided to get a job in the agriculture industry after college,” she explains. “[It] wasn't quite the best fit for me, but kind of kept exploring options and then ended up getting my master's in communications [and] started with EPIC.” She joined when the company was focused on leasing properties and just starting to grow.

“And now, we've kind of evolved into this larger company with a lot of different roles. And my PR communications side has definitely been used quite a bit in the last few years,” she says.

EPIC has evolved from only leasing to tenants, and the brand is paving the way forward for the nation’s live-work-play communities. “We don't just want to put up another multi-family building. We look to see what's unique for that community and what could be a good fit,” explains McKenzy.

EPIC is currently developing a concept for an indoor water park in one of their projects — it could potentially be North Dakota’s largest park after it’s built. “That's something that we really strive to do when people move into our buildings,” she says. “You can invite people there and there's so much more than just being an apartment or a place that you live. So I think that's really been a big part about what EPIC does.”

An EPIC building is located on the corner of a street.

Growing in A Changing Building Market

When McKenzy started with EPIC in 2017, there were only a few other members on her team. Now EPIC has over 80 employees.

“Primarily what we try to stick with is the mixed-use concept,” says McKenzy. They have been focused on developing vacant lots and run-down communities in need of revitalization, like their recent “EOLA” community.

“The Fargo park district put it out for bid, and we decided to take a shot at it with some ideas that we had,” she explains. “They were mixed use with a park plaza, green space in the middle and just kind of having that option for the community there to be able to come hang out. It was connected to the baseball diamonds, really close to the Red River Zoo here in town.”

Working with the surrounding community and available resources allowed EPIC to create a space with opportunity for the once-dilapidated part of town — and “also support those businesses around and encourage them to come utilize this space, but also build up the taxable value, bring something to the community,” says McKenzy.

Community-focused and family-friendly concepts, like the water park, make EPIC communities “regional destination locations.” These spaces provide connectivity, not just for the people living in the area, “but also hopefully regionally to want to come to the area, come to the water park, come to the skating rink, get a condo here, have a lake home,” says McKenzy.

It’s an attractive lifestyle option for families and a huge opportunity for today’s building product manufacturers who want to jump into the game.

How Manufacturers Can Ride the Same EPIC Waves

Building products brands and manufacturers have an opportunity to sell more to forward-focused developers and builders like EPIC, but we wanted to hear from McKenzy about what she looks for first.

“I think the biggest thing that comes to top of mind is customer service,” says McKenzy. We know how important transparency is in communication, and McKenzy emphasized how crucial clear lines of communication are for developers like EPIC.

“If stuff's not arriving on time or if stuff's not going to be here and we're going to be missing some building timelines or whatever, we need to know, we need to know in advance. There's usually a solution to a problem,” says McKenzy.

Because of the numerous stakeholders on EPIC projects, finding solutions on the job can make a huge difference with McKenzy’s clients and investors. “It's important that we stay competitive,” says McKenzy. “And we make sure that we're offering, taking the best price with our investors too because all of our buildings are private investments. So we want to make sure we're doing what's best for them.”

McKenzy offered manufacturers a few final tips on how to win more innovative customers and sell to developers like EPIC.

Stay Solutions-Driven

Manufacturers will stand out more when they come to the table with solutions in mind. “Those that help us solve those issues,” she explains, “I think that's huge. And follow through, of course. Those that follow through on their word, those that show up when they say they're going to be there — it just makes you want to use those people time and time again.”

Commit to Communication & Collaboration

Much of what McKenzy and her team do is relationship-focused. “But also in order to make this work, it has to be a team. We don't want to be kind standing up to the line just ourselves. We want it to be a team thing. We want to be working with those communities and making sure that they're on board,” says McKenzy.

“So although sometimes we are facing the supply chains and the concerns, I think the biggest thing is [that] we have a lot of great people who are coming to the table with us with creative solutions that are going to help out in this challenging world that we're working through right now.”

Finish With Integrity

Manufacturers can also help guarantee the success of a multi-family building project by helping with installation — and finishing the job. “If you say you're going to come back and finish it, please come back and finish it. That's turned a lot of bridges for us and changes for us because in turn, if we don't have the manufacturer or the contractor come back and install the product correctly, it kind of falls onto our maintenance team. It makes the tenant's life a little bit harder. It really is a trickle effect,” explains McKenzy.

Want Even More Insight?

McKenzy’s biggest tip for manufacturers and building product brands is to stay focused, but flexible. “Try to keep an open mind about what's going to work,” says McKenzy. “There's usually solutions, so just make sure that you're competitive. You're communicating, completing the work, talking about timelines and deadlines — and getting there.”

Learn more about EPIC Companies and the projects they’re focused on by checking out their website. You can reach out to McKenzy over on LinkedIn or via email at: [email protected].

For more great marketing and business ideas for your building products brand, subscribe to Smarter Building Materials Marketing and check out our other episodes and interviews.