Meet the Muskegon resident behind ‘Coffee with Craig’

Craig Person found the first investment property he bought in Muskegon Heights on eBay when he was living in California’s Silicon Valley.

“When I was in California, I realized that we were all on a hamster wheel and always chasing that carrot,” Person says. “I realized that most people never owned their houses and never would, but I could in Michigan. 

“That’s when I realized that we were all asleep. I asked myself, ‘What would wake me up?’ The company I was working for was allowing me to do these great out-of-the-box ideas, but I also realized I had hit the glass ceiling. What if I could do something that could be more self-reliant and empowering?”

He started searching on eBay for houses around the country about nine years ago and stumbled upon cheap houses in Muskegon Heights. He bought a house, moved across the country, and took up residence in Muskegon Heights. And he started buying and rehabbing residential properties locally.

Back to the basics

“I feel like we’ve gone asleep as Americans, and we’ve lost touch with the fundamental reason why we’re living,” Person says. “I went back to the basics and decided to be my own boss and take on the risks and rewards of being self-employed.  The projects I kept taking on were bigger and bigger, and I was doing things I’d never done. Coming here gave me the opportunity to learn new things and critically think through how to survive and how to work as hard as necessary to distinguish myself from my peers.”

His biggest project: Buying a four-unit apartment building in Muskegon seven years ago and trying to breathe life into the old building. He just finished the project. 

“Like so many other buildings, had I not saved this building it may have been knocked down,” Person explains. “The previous occupants were hard on the building, but I wanted to save it. It took seven years, but I was able to revive it through hard work and persistence.”

That’s when Craig realized that he could help others realize that they could do this themselves.

“I said to myself, ‘It might be useful if I try to share my real estate investor journey with people so they can learn how to invest,’” Person says. “I thought Facebook would be a great place to showcase how to get started and throw out the I-can’t mentality.”

Some California friends eventually started noticing his posts, and he was able to persuade a few others to buy and revive properties in the Muskegon area.

“I decided to think outside the box, observe what other landlords were doing wrong both in rehabbing properties and managing tenants to create better policies that would preserve my property, promote the neighborhood, and create passive cash flow that would enable me to pursue other projects,” Person explains. “Mission accomplished when Blue House Manor Apartments finally became fully operational.”

Bigger role in social media

In 2020, Person started a Facebook Live series in his backyard called “Coffee with Craig.”

“I felt so unnatural putting myself out there initially, and I didn’t get a lot of views in the beginning,” Person says. “A native of Muskegon noticed my hard work and invited the mayor, vice mayor, and a commissioner to the grand opening of my apartment building, and they were the only ones who showed up. 

“That’s when I realized that the people active in the community were watching my journey. I gave this old building a second chance at life. I want people to live here, be safe, and pursue their dreams living here. I wanted my tenants to feel like they had a real home and could make memories and celebrate life.”

Person started to find new and creative ways to promote the neighborhood and the city.

“My goal is to make it safe for my tenants and encourage them to contribute to the neighborhood,” Person says. “My objective is to help change the narrative in Muskegon and celebrate all the good things about our city and county by using social media and video productions to tell our story of revival. I provide best-in-class living spaces and have set a high bar so that people know when they walk into a Blue House property. I challenge people to follow their dreams and step up. It’s important to get people connected to something.”

Supporting others – even competitors

Person’s apartment renovation and “Coffee with Craig” series snowballed into something much bigger.

“I did something unexpected: I promoted my competitors,” Person says. “Since I’ve been living in Michigan, I’ve learned to live my life in reverse: If you have an instinct to respond in one way, do the opposite and see where it gets you. 

“I have found it opens way more doors when you support others.  Instead of being separated because you’re black, gay, or don’t feel recognized or valued, I found that the attributes that make you different can inform your decisions and become a superpower, even in business. Being transparent, kind-hearted, honest, and promoting others quickly opens doors that people work years to open otherwise. It’s also important to tell people who you are so they don’t make as many assumptions, and that is always a key part of my messaging.

He then asked himself how he could do more.

“When you create environments that invite diversity and new ideas, you can learn from others who aren’t like you, and that’s so impactful,” Person says. “People are starving for getting out of their heads and to do something new and meet new people.”

That’s why he decided to find a way to learn more about Muskegon’s people and tell their stories.

Docuseries on Facebook
 
Enter the docuseries “Muskegon What's to Come?” Its first episode, which Person released on his Facebook and YouTube pages, is titled “The 'Unsung' Heroes of the ‘US’ Café” and is 46 minutes long.

“I always like to see people succeed, and I felt initially insecure interviewing other people, so I knew that’s what I needed to do,” Person explains. “I looked at Muskegon and everyone trying to do social media, but no one was focusing on Muskegon Heights. 

“So I met Kaia, who’s been getting recognition, but not enough. I decided to interview her. Every time I go to Kaia’s place, there’s someone at her place doing something big. I invited whoever wanted to show up and I followed each and every one of them after the interview and got info on each person, and it was the most wonderful experience for me. Every single person is doing something unique and different.”

The first episode broke 4,000 views in its first week, and Person says the feedback he has received has been overwhelming.
His goal is to continue to grow this project: “Don’t lean back – lean forward and engage. I like getting people to interact to start new relationships and businesses.”

Plans for more

He plans to start working on episode two soon. He’d like to try cross-linking the viewers, characters, and followers.

“I want to develop roads and highways of relationships, because communities can’t grow if there’s no capital in your area,” Person says. “I want to cover the entire county.”

He says that episode two will be completely different and hard-hitting: Why Muskegon County and the city are so critical to the U.S.

“My goal is to make people open their eyes and see Muskegon really differently,” Person says. “Heroes are created every day through the good times and the bad times. There’s someone in this area always making a difference.”

Person has the title of  qualified fund development manager at Blue House Investment Group LLC. He is owner-operator at Blue House Manor and executive producer of “Muskegon What’s to Come” and “Coffee with Craig.”