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June, 2017 Facebook Twitter Instagram School Seal
Alumni Spotlight
Blair Brandt, '03
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T his past spring, PBDA headed to New York City for the alumni reunion reception held at the home of alumnus Blair Brandt, class of 2003. Blair and many others formed an excellent host committee, working tirelessly to contact their fellow alumni and get them involved. Their hard work paid off and our alumni came out in droves. Blair’s love for Palm Beach Day and his strong ties to friends and classmates shined throughout the evening and we were so grateful for his hospitality. Feeling inspired by his enthusiasm for life and his many successes both personal (newly married and welcomed a son, Louie!) and professional (founder and CEO of Next Step Realty), we’ve reached out to Blair once again to ask him to indulge us and tell us about what’s going on in his life since he left Palm Beach Day.
Featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 at the age of 23, entrepreneur Blair Brandt is the co-founder & CEO of the real estate brokerage, Next Step Realty. Blair, a Pelican and a ‘Lifer,’ attended Palm Beach Day Academy from 1993-2003. After Palm Beach Day, he went on to Deerfield Academy, followed by the University of Richmond. He spent several years in his native Palm Beach, Florida, working as an assistant to one of the town’s premiere luxury real estate brokers. During this entree into the market, he learned the values of integrity, efficiency, and professionalism in the high-end sector of the industry. Brandt observed a lack of emphasis on these values in complex urban residential markets and, particularly, the problems this posed to recent college graduates, entry-level professionals, and other millennials moving to New York City as first-time renters. As a response to this deficit, Brandt co-founded Next Step Realty in New York City, to provide this demographic with a seamless, trustworthy, and one day home search experience. With Next Step helping thousands of clients per year find their first homes in New York City, Brandt recently formed a new partnership between Next Step Realty and North Shore Animal Rescue League. Brandt and his team join Animal League in their no-kill mission to rescue nearly 20,000 homeless, abused, or neglected animals every year, and place them into loving homes through a comprehensive adoption process. He is married to Margit Brandt and has a son, Louie Laurence Brandt. They are currently living in New York City.
Q When you think back on the time you spent at Palm Beach Day School, now Palm Beach Day Academy, what memories come to mind? Looking back over your years at PBDS what do you think were the most valuable aspects of our school?
A One of the most memorable moments for me was definitely being Captain of the Pelicans during my 9th grade year, and participating in the Knowledge Bowl. We actually lost to the Flamingos in both instances, but it was an incredible leadership opportunity in which we staged two spirited comebacks. Truth be told, we probably learned more from losing than winning. Overall, what I remember most about my time at Palm Beach Day was certainly the people - the friendships, the teachers, the coaches. The PBDA environment provided me with the confidence which comes from learning and encouragement, combined with a desire to always strive for more. I had a particularly great experience on the soccer and lacrosse teams with Mr. Caruso, even though I struggled on the basketball team. Unfortunately, we lost two peers way too soon during our time - Jeffrey MacIntosh and Katie Tummon. The loss of these friends left me with a deep appreciation for every new day, and an urgency to follow my dreams. I remember reading my first book with Mrs. Carnes in first grade, feeling smart carrying the book into class each day, but struggling to actually read it on time at home. Mrs. Calhoun’s second grade class. Mr. Gramentine’s third grade class. Mrs. Constantino’s fourth grade class. My fifth grade class with Mr. Tummon. Of course my English class with Mr. Greco, and my French class with Madame Finney. My math classes with Mrs. Barbieri and Mrs. Close. I could go on for a long time with all the memories.
Q Where did you continue your education after PBDA?
A Deerfield Academy and then the University of Richmond. I would consider some of the best education I received to be outside of the classroom, however, working jobs and internships.
Q Would you describe the steps that led to your current position?
A After studying finance at the University of Richmond and applying for an internship at Lazard Freres for the summer of my junior year, the recession at that time caused many of the banks to shut down their entry-level hiring and internship programs, and I was left unemployed. I later met one of the top real estate brokers on the island of Palm Beach, who took me under his wing and introduced me to the residential real estate brokerage industry. After taking a liking to the Palm Beach market and the overall brokerage process, I ultimately decided to go out on my own, and into a different marketplace entirely, co-founding Next Step Realty in 2010, as a service which would relocate recent college graduates from campuses around the world to cities like New York, San Francisco, and London. Our services would include many of the positive traits which I had observed in the Palm Beach sales and acquisition market. Ironically, Next Step now finds homes in Manhattan for recent graduates who have been admitted to Wall Street jobs similar to the one I had applied for years ago. Today, we focus on entry-level corporate relocation, providing a one-day apartment search, complete with discounts on broker fees and bespoke luxury amenities like our branded SUVS, to the new talent for over 60 household name brands and blue chip employers in the area. We are the market leader in post-graduate relocation to the New York City area and will have facilitated over 5,000 relocations by the end of 2017, 99% of them rental transactions. Ultimately, we are taking services, amenities, and a level of efficiency originally designed for multi-millionaires in luxury markets like Palm Beach and making them available to up-and-coming professionals who are only just beginning their careers and renting starter apartments in cities like Manhattan. To bring things full circle, the original angel investor and current Chairman of Next Step is Jason Briggs, parent of PBDA student Charlie Briggs.
Q When did you know your interest in real estate would lead you to where you are now?
A You never really know, but there have certainly been a number of milestones that kept us encouraged enough to keep going. I remember the first time we were invited onto Bloomberg TV to talk about Next Step in July 2010, we were only 2 months out of college at 22 years old. Most of our friends were still traveling on graduation trips, and we were building a business from the ground up. And then came Forbes 30 under 30 in 2012, followed by our own prime-time docu-series on ABC/Disney which filmed and aired in 2015. Today we have three office locations spread across the city and over 40 staff. As you go on, it becomes more and more clear where your passions are taking you, and the hope is that you are always excited enough to show up the next day.
Q Can you tell us what it has been like to be in real estate in New York?
A Extremely competitive. New York City is one of the largest, busiest, and most expensive cities in the world. We aren’t the “pioneers” by any means of the real estate market here; we have simply found a niche which was previously neglected, ignored, and left without viable relocation and housing guidance. The second you let your guard down, there is another provider ready, willing, and in some cases able to take your place, so quality control is crucial. Nonetheless, to stay competitive, you also need to be growing at abnormal rates, which of course makes quality control even more of a challenge. All in all, it has been a great experience though, because I believe that what we do is important, and helps turn what used to be a nightmare for of thousands of deserving graduates and their parents every single year, and turns it instead into the fun, exciting, and inspiring process your first home should be.
Q When time permits what do you enjoy doing? Hobbies?
A My primary passion is my family. My wife Margit & I welcomed our son Louie Laurence Brandt to the world in December 2016, and we have also rescued two dogs from local shelters - Georgia and Penny. My other passion is as an activist for pets in addition to an advocate for breeds like PitBulls who are particularly suffering and discriminated against. With companion pet welfare as a large priority of mine, I’ve not only worked on the North Shore Animal League America Gala Committee with fellow Palm Beachers like Beth and Howard Stern, but also served on the New York State Council for the Humane Society of the United States, working hand in hand with HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle to drive forward systematic change for companion pets, including in areas such as puppy mills, dog-fighting, breed restrictions, and animal homelessness. When time permits, we also still maintain a love of travel and exploration, which will lead us to our wedding in Lake Como, Italy this August 2017, followed by a brief honeymoon in the Amalfi Coast in early September.
Q What advice would you give the current students at Palm Beach Day Academy?
A The harder you work, the luckier you get. Remember that even at your worst moment, you are being given an opportunity to learn something that down the road will help you in ways you can’t imagine right this minute. And start dreaming big early on, because the more your life goes on, the more narrow things become. Whatever your biggest ideas and goals are, start pursuing those now. Remember that Palm Beach is not your oyster - the world is your oyster. In a globalized world, it is easier than ever to follow your dreams from wherever you want, but you have to see the world and venture outside of your comfort zone to get the inspiration, encouragement, and drive you’ll need. Figure out what it is that you would love doing, even for free, and figure out how to get paid to do that. And remember to have fun, enjoy life, and stop every once in awhile to appreciate what you have, not what you don’t have. As you get busier, come up with habits and practices which will help you create balance in your life and manage time properly. Read as much as you can - the perspectives of smart people who came before you will only help you shape your own path more quickly and effectively.
Intended Colleges of The Classes of 2014

Zara Barrett
Drexel University
Anderson Bishop
Syracuse University
Christina Caristo
Pennsylvania State University
Addie Cramer
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Brad Deflin
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Madeline Elhilow
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Jack Farris
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Elisa Flaminio
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Rodrigo Haberfeld
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Ben Kern
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Teddy Kramer
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Robin Koch
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Madison McAuliffe
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Katie Morgan
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Jack Petricig
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Lauren Pflaumer
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Matthew Reyes
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Kole Rosen
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Atticus Stonestrom
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