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K.I.S.H. Magazine Exclusive interview featuring ‘Selling Sunset’ fan favorite, Micah McDonald! Interviewed by Torree Munson

Selling Sunset’ fan favorite, Micah McDonald. Micah can recently be seen guest starring on the hit reality show “Selling Sunset” as a multimillion dollar property developer and the seemingly ‘new boo’ of The O Group real estate agent Emma Hernan. Since the prePhotog: Rowan Daly

Stylist: Mary Francismiere of Season 5, Micah has quickly risen as a stand out of the season and everyone’s favorite. 

In addition to his property development projects, he also owns a mezcal bar in LA’s Atwater Village neighborhood. Since filming, Sagrado Mezcaleria + Kitchen has opened, and the eatery does include “Emma’s Empanadas” on the menu.  The restaurant has ties to the Oaxaca region in Mexico, with a menu inspired by the area. 


Torree Munson-How did you get started in becoming a property developer?

Micah McDonald- I knew that I had to make my money work for me, I realized that concept, this was early on I was pretty big in savings, saving as much as I could and I knew I wanted to make that money work. I would always stay close to this individual, listen to what he was doing, listen to his projects, staying close enough until I knew he was working on his next project and I said,” hey I have some money to invest”.   He would be doing big projects and my money was literally you know, nothing. He would tell me no, no, no. He said 4-5000, it was a strip center project and it was so far over my head. I built a relationship with him and worked well with him till he was like give me your change and I will add it to the group. Sure, enough about 18 months after it was done, a few more months after that we filled it up with tenants, a couple months after that my 4 grand was worth 10 more of what I put into it. The company was getting quick investments, so very quickly I was like hey this property development is something, so that is when I started kind of looking more into it obviously started saving money along the way until where I could go into the next project. I did a few projects with that group actually, and I started to build up. I started to do more things myself and kind of leverage the money I had myself through construction loans and things like that. So, it’s kind of organically grown, I knew nothing about it.  I always had an interest in it.  I mean there is something to me in either taking raw land or buying an old house and tearing it down and rebuilding something brand new that is great, especially like residential.  It’s interesting for someone that buys a brand-new house generally speaking, they live in it alone time, so many memories, right.   There’s a lot to it and I like it.  So, is the whole kind of building something out of nothing and watching the final results. I’m really big on starting a project and seeing the project complete, then you either get it rented out or sold whatever you are going to do with it.  Then you are kind of on to the next one, so this kind of checks all the boxes for me personally. I’ve been in a lot of different industries and a lot of businesses. I guess I tried my hand in so many different things I’m not scared to jump into something. I knew nothing about Real-estate development is one that has stuck with me and t I’m definitely going to focus more and more on it. 

Torree Munson- That’s good, that is good that you are a person that likes to jump into stuff and have no fear because I always say you only live once. This could be that moment, you took a risk with your money and was like let me get a piece of the pie, that is an amazing story.

Torree Munson- What are some of the struggles you went through in becoming a Property Developer and a restaurant owner?

Micah McDonald- Definitely Property Developer, you hear a lot about real estate is the number one way to invest. The way it’s kind of portrayed is that you can just throw your money into real-estate and you’re going to make money no matter what. Like that is the furthest thing from the truth.  I know a lot of people that have done really well with real estate, and a lot of people that have done really, really poorly and lost a lot.  I kind of learned a lot of lessons the hard way, what contractors to use, which vendors. I’ve had money put into projects that were lost because using the wrong team, wrong individuals, maybe not doing enough due diligence on getting the property for the right price. All these things, I kind of learned the hard way, you know you learn those hard lessons once, (as he laughed). You get burned for maybe over paying for a piece of land that you shouldn’t, maybe using the wrong contractors or GC’s. You don’t have to learn that lesson twice. So, definitely slow down, be a little patient, never overpay on a piece of land first and foremost and never overpay coming into it because there is always going to be a little slippage in the time and budget, always going to cost more to develop. So, if you ever pay on the land first you are not going to make any money. Those are some of the challenges I’ve learned. You know, focused on making sure I’m getting the right properties to start with the right price and definitely putting the right teams in place now. You have the team in place that you can rely on, trust to do a good job and it all comes through. A lot of hard lessons learned taking a couple of “L’s” here and there. (As he is laughing).  Then you start building your team, and you kind of realize the strategy you need to follow.

Torree Munson- Is it the same way with the restaurant?

Micah McDonald -Restaurant is a little different challenge; you know leave it up to me to jump into a restaurant during a pandemic (he is laughing while speaking) I love the space it’s a Mexican restaurant. 

You know you scale out the best locations, they are a lot of fun. As of right now getting the right resources setting the right teams in place to run those, make sure you are working with the right people, and the right teams. The challenges I face with that is as the people come back and start eating out again from the pandemic and all that good stuff, it those types of challenges. It’s been fun. The food is delicious and has amazing reviews. 

Torree Munson- You know I always hear that the restaurants are the hardest to run. It takes about four to five years to see a profit.  Would you say that this is true?

Micah McDonald – Absolutely they are very difficult to run, a lot of challenges you have to see if you can scale out to have multiple locations the ones that do the best generally have a few locations. Things like that so I think that is 100% true. They also could be a lot of fun too and a really good experience. So, some of the same principles like setting the right teams in place that’s all very important in any industry, so making sure you have the right teams in place is to run those obviously you can’t be in every place with different project so for me is making sure you’re working with the right people the right teams.

Torree Munson- So are you interacting with your team a lot? You know some owners are not there, some on site and some not on site.  Some talk to the customers and just are around.

Micah McDonald- Absolutely, whether it’s in person feedback or whether I’m sending someone there and getting their feedback to. So, obviously whenever I’m here it’s a little bit different because is everyone watching obviously Micha is sitting at the bar are they always this happy and chipper or is the bartender always that quick. So, I will send people too. I prefer sending people feedback as well. How did it go or telling them to do specific things, I guess I have my own secret shoppers(laughing). I’m very much into real-estate development. I’m the same way as well, I’m very hands on with all of it from every house is laid out. I’m working very closely with architects and designers. I’m close to everything from pretty much start to finish. I just want to make sure everyone has a good experience.  That’s kind of how I approached everything.

Torree Munson-It makes you feel good when you can go to a restaurant and the owner comes by and makes sure that everything is ok, and or even the staff show that they care. I’m sure it makes the staff feel good to know that the owner is around to show he wants to be around us and not just tell us what to do.

Torree Munson- What advice would you give someone that wants to become a Property Developer or restaurant owner? What are the first couple of things you would tell them to do in building their brand rather it’s a Property Developer or restaurant owner?

Micha McDonald-Well if they are just getting into originally, be patient, take your time and try to get close to the people that are already doing it. Try to learn as much as you can from the people that paved the way.  For me I didn’t know a lot of people that had their own business or anything like that, that paved the way. A lot of things I learned the hard way. It took more time to make money. You will be surprised that there are some people that love to talk about their business. If you have a successful restaurant owner, they would love to talk about how they did it. That’s what they do, how they did it, that’s their passion. Real Estate Development I would say get close to whatever business industry you are trying to go into, get close to the people that have done well in that business, create a relationship, start to foster those relationships.   Also, be patient because it’s going to be a tough road. There are very few quick success stories. So, you are going to have to be very resilient. You have to have a very thick skin and take a lot of no’s.  Learn how to navigate when things don’t go the right way, cause it’s not going to, whatever you think it’s going to be regardless you have to be creative and a problem solver.  Just don’t get down on it, be extremely resilient.  Refuse to give up and refuse to give in and keep pushing through all the problems, you will breakthrough and it will be worth it.  As long as you can get with someone that has already done it, that will be the key. 

I found that regardless of the business, people that are in the business that love what they do are more than happy to talk about it.  I would say that is where networking comes in. Get close to those people, spend time trying to find those people.      I have a good friend of mine I learned from watching him, he’s big in real estate in Huston. He would go out and ride the neighborhoods, find the developers, find the construction crews and pull over.  He would ask who’ in charge here? What are yawls doing? That is how he spent his time before you knew it, he knew the biggest builders.    
He would pull over in the park, and start talking, if you want it, you will go out and get it, you will find ways to do stuff like that.  Just keep pushing through no matter how many no’s.  Be patient, don’t allow the no’s to bother you, (he is smiling and laughing).

Torree Munson- So he was grinding to get what he wanted. He made things happen for himself, he was not going to stop, listening to the no’s meant nothing to him. Full throttle determination.

Micha McDonald- He did that for years; he did that for two to three years. He spent several years just learning on site, on the job, builders, investors talking about how to finance the deals he just put so much work in, he really wanted it.

Torree Munson- Wow! That is amazing. That is what you call dedication and determination.

Torree Munson- Tell us something we don’t know about Micah. Everybody wants to know your age, nationality, hobbies, interest etc..

(He is smiling)

Micha McDonald- Absolutely! (He is laughing)

There is a slot of guessing too… I’m 44, I grew up in Houston, Texas. I was homeschooled through school and just had a love for sports. I mean I wanted to play basketball in college even though I was better at basketball and football. I worked hard and played basketball in college in Houston where I grew up. I love everything outdoors now, I taught myself golf 2 years back um, I’m from a fitness Health lifestyle standpoint. That’s every single day, I prioritize that over any and everything. That’s probably how I manage everything I do, it’s more like therapy than anything. Single, never been married, no kids, traveling and working a lot on projects.

Torree Munson-That’s good, the readers are going to love all this feedback. (Micha begins to laugh)

Micha McDonald- I know a lot of folks will have many things come up on the internet, a lot of guesswork. No guess that is straight from my mouth.

Torree Munson- What is next for you? Are you opening more restaurants? What can we look for next?

Micha McDonald-Defiantly stay tuned to season six Sailing Sunset. I have a lot of good projects going on here in the southern California area, an amazing remodel that I’m doing in West Hollywood. Looking at a development in Laguna which I am really excited about.  The restaurant Delgrado in Glendell is doing amazing so looking to replicate that concept.  From A Real-estate development standpoint I’m really going to push myself. I’m really going to get a little more laser focused on it.  I’m going to do a lot more on the real-estate side as well as projects that are a little bit bigger. Look at more commercial, large apartment buildings things of that nature.  Mescal is coming soon; it is called Beso Salgado. I’m working on a deal with Tequila as well that will be coming soon.  A lot of stuff going on but all very exciting stuff.

Torree Munson- That is exciting, I’m going to look for that.

Torree Munson- Are you involved in the community? Any plans to give back to the community? Open a program for students, for property development or business?

Micha McDonald—Absolutely, So I grew up in Houston, in Alis Texas where we still have a place. I’m in LA right now but I’m back and forth. I have a business in Houston. Any of the charity work that I have ever gotten involved in has been in Houston just so far.  That’s kind of where my roots are, so I worked so hard on the grind but it takes a lot of energy and energy.  So now I’m going to take some time and start a non-profit organization pretty soon that will be focused on mental health in younger folks. The real-estate standpoint of that nature there a couple of people I’m looking potentially to partner with the cause unfortunately, I don’t think the schools teaches these types of things unfortunately they go to school, but how does this work, how does finance work, you don’t have to wait until you are in college.  You are interested in real-estate and you are fifteen. There needs to be a way to learn about it.  If you are interested in how money works, how credit cards work, how banks work, those things are massively important.  I see people learning that as an adult.

I mean I would love to see these types of things that are so important taught to kids that kind of know what they want to be doing and learn from people in different industries, kind of help teach them as they grow up.  I mean a lot of the basic fundamentals in school are fine but some things you have to know to be successful.  So, I would love to see something like that.  Now that I have hit some goals and financial

You grind hard and you grind hard for yourself but that is not as satisfying what you can do for other people.  More directed, my roots in Houston, that where my heart is in Houston. So that is where I would potentially start.  So those things are in the works and coming.  Starting to make more time for those priorities. 

Torree Munson -Well, that is beautiful, that is a lot. A lot of people go back to their roots because they want to go back to the place where they were. They want to help those people come out of the place they were in. That is just powerful in itself. I must say this is very enlightening to hear your story, it’s very enlightening to hear where you come from and how you built up to where you are. You know everybody looks at people that are famous, or on TV, or millionaires or property developers and wonder, you know there are stages to this thing and that’s the thing to hear how you went from 4,000 to a multimillionaire Property Developer. It took work,  it took for you to grind, it wasn’t easy but you did it and all that stuff is the principles that I love to hear that you are ready to give back to the younger adults some of the kids in high school. That’s amazing and we are going to look for all the stuff you are doing. I can’t wait to see what is next. I can’t wait until season 6 of “Selling Sunset” I’m going to be tuned in. Definitely, we appreciate you for taking your time to sit with me and interview me.

Micah McDonald-Thank you for having me I appreciate; it was a good conversation. 

Photog: Rowan Daly
Stylist: Mary Francis

Last modified: November 1, 2022