OSU Senior, 22, Builds Real Estate, Construction Companies Before Graduation
KTUL- Jennifer Maupin - December 5, 2022 6:41 am
Elian Trujillo OSU Sr.
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — An Oklahoma State University senior will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree and a business empire.
Elian Trujillo, 22, is a real estate investor and has owned RT&E Construction since 2019.
One day this semester, Trujillo had a packed school schedule, including a tough test. He also had to close on a house for his growing real estate and construction businesses, and the other party was pushing him to sign the paperwork and present a cashier’s check that day.
He normally conducts business in his hometown of Oklahoma City, but Trujillo and the other party coordinated with a closing company that was able to meet him on campus. He got the deal done and then he passed his test.
“I did pretty good,” Trujillo said. “I prioritize my school above everything. I still love my businesses, but I have to prioritize school.”
Trujillo said he was 12 when he started mowing lawns around his neighborhood and he ended up with so many clients that he had to attach a trailer to his bike to get all his equipment to the 20-plus lawns he mowed each week.
“I was making pretty decent money for a 12-year-old,” Trujillo said. “At that time, I didn’t realize I was an entrepreneur. I didn’t realize that I was developing sales skills and building a product and a business. It all came naturally to me, and it was really easy to get yards.”
With nothing to spend his earnings on, Trujillo said he invested the money back into his business, leading him to expand his lawn empire to around 80 yards over six years.
At 18, he sold his lawn business to a friend and moved 70 miles north to Stillwater to attend OSU. He is the first member of his family to attend college.
While studying at OSU, Trujillo picked up shifts at O’Reilly Auto Parts to pay the bills, but one day an older friend and mentor took him to a real estate event that sparked an idea. One of the sessions was about working with contractors, and the speaker mentioned how tough it was to find reliable workers in his area.
Trujillo said he knew the labor side of home construction and he knew how to run a business. Within two months, he started RT&E Construction.
“I have a fire in me,” he said. “When I get motivation, there’s no stopping me.”
To find work, Trujillo said he would get up early and drive around to construction sites or the local hardware stores to advertise his services and network with the crews.
While the returns were small at first, Trujillo once again invested heavily back into his business and his employees. He started advertising on social media and bought better equipment, but he also invested in things like higher-end insurance benefits that appealed to his workers and incentivized them to stay.
Slowly but surely, RT&E’s jobs went from remodeling rental houses and getting apartments ready for new tenants to new home construction and extensive gigs in high-end neighborhoods. Work at RT&E got so steady that Trujillo said he had to quit his job at O’Reilly.
“If I were to mentor anyone looking to start a business, I would say that you have to learn to break out of your shell,” Trujillo said. “We all have a lot of insecurities, but you have to dive in and not think twice. These types of things will really help you grow. They did for me.”
As of last month, Trujillo has purchased 15 homes.
“It’s been hard to balance everything going on, but I love school,” Trujillo said. “I don’t come from a high-end neighborhood. Not a lot of people go to college. So, I love inspiring people to make a change and showing them that the only thing limiting them is their own mind. I never thought getting to this point was possible for me, but here I am.”