40 Under 40: Gururas 'Jean' Khalsa brings an architectural eye to real estate investing

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Gururas ‘Jean’ Khalsa, 38, Owner and Partner, Dharma Properties LLC

Gururas “Jean” Khalsa’s eye as an architect and her sense for design allow her to see the potential of any property. In 2020, she received “The Ugliest House of the Year,” a national award for refurbishing dilapidated homes, for her work on a Fountain City home she saved from being condemned and refurbished. She has worked on commercial projects as well, including the Neyland Stadium Concourse renovations. 

More: Announcing the Knox.biz 40 Under 40 class of 2021

More: This Knoxville home wins ‘The Ugliest House of the Year 2020’ before total renovation

When you reflect on your career so far, which achievement stands out most?

We won a national award in 2020 for “Ugliest House of the Year.” This award is open to all 1,500+ HomeVestors franchises across the country and highlights the biggest transformation of rehabbed homes from before and after.

What is the greatest professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

For many years earlier on in my professional life, I often felt like everyone else knew so much more than I did. My inner confidence would be shaken at times when this was in fact the case, as it always is for most people at some point. I’ve had a number of career changes, although all of them very much related, and it was only when I landed in my current real estate investing field that I was able to truly feel confident in my knowledge and abilities, and I’m no longer afraid of what I don’t know.

What will you focus on in 2022?

Up until now, our primary focus has been on rehabbing existing properties and either selling them, or holding them as rentals. We are currently in the process in obtaining our general contractor’s license so that we’re able to tackle new construction projects.

Our goal is to build mainly duplexes and quad-plexes to fulfill some of the increasing real estate demand in the area.

What is your biggest professional goal?

My biggest professional goal is to own enough rental investment properties that generate income to not only allow us to live comfortably, but also create generational wealth that we’re able to pass on to our children.

What mistake did you learn the most from?

The mistake that I’ve learned from the most, and continue to learn from, is making business decisions too quickly that are based primarily on emotion. While I don’t believe that emotion should be completely taken out of the equation, I do think it’s important to recognize when it’s at play, and how you can best utilize it so that mistakes aren’t made.

What motivates you?

I continually want to do better and know more than I currently do. I’m my own biggest competition.

What is the most overrated piece of business advice you’ve heard?

Many people advise against going into business with friends for fear that it could ruin both the friendship and the business. And typically speaking, I do think that’s good advice. But, as sappy as it may sound, four years ago I went into business with my best friend, my husband, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. We perfectly complement each other in our strengths and weaknesses, and challenge each other against complacency.

What trait do you most want in a co-worker?

I would want a shared sense of goals and priorities, but also people who can challenge your ideas.

What about Knoxville would you like to improve?

Coming from an architecture background and now being in real estate, I’ve always been severely disappointed that Knoxville’s amazing waterfront opportunities have been so underdeveloped, especially when compared to similar cities like Chattanooga, or even Oak Ridge. I think we’re starting to see a bit of growth in that department, especially in the South Knoxville Waterfront area, but we still have a long way to go. There is so much potential.

Who in Knoxville is underappreciated?

I think there are many entrepreneurs, in any city really, that may not operate as much in the public eye as some. The people who grow our economies behind the scenes, rather than in the spotlight.

Family: Siri Khalsa, husband; Manjit Khalsa, daughter; Pavan Khalsa, son; Rai Singh Khalsa and Rai Kaur Khalsa, parents

Years worked at current company: 3½ 

Degrees and certifications: Bachelor’s of architecture, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Community involvement: Momentum Dance Lab, member

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

— Tee Willis