We had the good fortune of connecting with Malena Bennett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Malena, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born in Puerto Rico, the daughter of immigrants. My mother from Cuba and my father’s family from Italy. Being significantly older, my father’s family came to the US in the early 1900’s. That experience, growing up through so many challenges that our country faced and heightened discriminatory attitudes toward Italians at the time, shaped my father. My mother’s reality, fleeing Cuba during the Castro regime, also had tremendous impact on her. She left everything behind to come to the USA for a chance at a better life. A strong work ethic was paramount in my home. Self-reliance and doing your best in all things was a given. Success was measured by your impact to your family and to others. What did you do today to make things better?
When I was 5 years old, seemingly endless trips to the hospital to visit my father changed my life and forever set me on my course to becoming a philanthropist. During his stay, I grew curious (as 5-year-olds often do) and decided to visit the other patients in his wing. It became my “job”. I would bring artwork I made and notes, talk with them briefly, and move on to the next room. My mother asked me what people’s faces looked like when I walked in versus how they looked when I left, and I realized that I had made people happy. I had made a difference in their lives that day, and I liked it. I had also learned so much as they shared their pearls of wisdom with me, gleaned over a lifetime.
To know me is to know that promoting the welfare of others is my life’s true passion, and “See A Need, Fill A Need” is my life’s core philosophy. Over time, I have been very fortunate to be involved with many non-profit and philanthropic organizations, and have seen first-hand that people really do want to help each other, and that we’re better together.
The youngest of four, with three older brothers, and a father born in the early 1900’s as my primary caregiver, my childhood was a bit different than my peers’. My family, predominantly male, is comprised of many engineers. Working as a commercial broker, industrial, warehouse, manufacturing and mixed-use spaces are all second nature to me, they’re my niche, and I’ve worked hard to challenge the perception that a woman is best suited to only selling homes. However, I do bring my talents to bear in the residential market as well. Serving my clients with primary residences on which they can build their financial futures, as well as investors looking to build their wealth with real estate holdings.
It takes imagination and experience to see how industrial and flex zone spaces can benefit a variety of clients, from manufacturing spaces to a doctor’s office handling biohazards, to a photo studio or coffee shop/brewery looking for a fun and funky open-ceilinged space. Or, which single family home provides the best overall options for a family.
Armed with a master’s degree in psychology, I am able to easily hone-in on what people want and need. My experience with in-patient clinical trials, clinical testing and data-collection for the FDA has given me a passion for doing research. And with experience in interior design, I see things differently than my peers and understand the visual potential of a space. By being scrappy, nimble and creative, I have found clients spaces that maximize their bottom line while reinvigorating their businesses and enhancing their family’s lives.
My parents instilling that work ethic and the can-do spirit in me is something for which I am eternally grateful. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Dig deep and figure it out!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Supporting small businesses has always been a focus for me. They are the backbone of our communities. They provide venues for neighborhoods to convene, sponsor our little leagues and troops, provide opportunities for our youth, seniors and folks with varying abilities, anchoring us together in a variety of ways. From an early age I saw the beauty, opportunity, vitality and comfort that local small businesses provided to communities. Being a part of that, be it in the for-profit or nonprofit space, is essential to me. My first jobs as a child were at small businesses.
My educational background is in the field of psychology. With my master’s degree I worked for decades in the psychiatric research and triage world. Taking action by providing resources and hope to individuals and families in need. It was within this work that I was also able to expand my knowledge of business structure helping to launch successful small businesses in the realms connected to that field. Utilizing wealth building through real estate provided small businesses the economic resources needed to heighten their impact to the populations served.
Fast forward to the launch of a commercial and residential brokerage in 2021. Pivoting just under a decade ago to focus on real estate (Malena & Associates, Malena Bennett DRE 01970291), I have been afforded the opportunity to create a company with a team of exceptional brokers in San Diego County. Together we are excited to share with the community many opportunities to thrive via real estate. It is not solely a vehicle for the uberwealthy. Certainly, many of the wealthiest people have gotten to that point by growing real estate investments. It starts with one property. Is that your home, a place to do business, an income property? It varies. Malena & Associates, together with strong leaders in real estate, seeks to bring the expertise needed in the commercial space blended with the intangibles in the residential world to each real estate deal. We value the trust that clients place in us to assist in the purchase of their home as well as to establish or grow their business. Helping their families grow and prosper has a profound ripple effect that positively impacts each community.
Sincerely looking after our client’s best interests and working to help them realize their goals is a privlige we don’t take lightly. Working to build and strenghten our communities one family or business at a time is our focus. Each step, any of us take, in the right direction pulls others around us forward as well. We enhance our landscape and move the needle farther when we come together. We are thankful to have a role as a trusted partner to so many in our community.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Living in San Diego is sensational. There is so much to do and see, as can be attested to by the millions of people who travel far and wide to check out our city. With an extensive family who are spread out all over the world, my son and I find ourselves often as happy hosts to visitors.
An iconic landmark, the Hotel Del Coronado is one of our must visits. Fantastic landscape and ambience add to the rich history as you soak in the architecture and story of the Del. The food and beverage offerings there are wonderful as well – so guests get nourished in many ways. We enjoy the fun of riding as a group in a Double Surrey bike around Coronado and stopping in to the local restaurants and pubs along the way.
Thereto, Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter offer a wide variety of tastes and experiences that visitors and locals alike savor.
No trip is complete without a visit to San Diego’s expansive coastal communities. From Del Mar to Oceanside, we take our visitors to the often eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and retail spaces set in the breathtaking views of our beaches. Carlsbad Flower Fields, Oceanside Museum of Art, drinks and music in the Village – it all paints a picture of the style of living in SoCal.
As you can imagine, we can fill up months of fun and interesting things to do here which is wonderful as it creates an added pull for more frequent trips from beloved family and friends!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The seeds planted and nurtured by my parents to work hard, always continue learning and to strive to give back to one’s community profoundly shaped my life.
While learning and honing skills in my business endeavors I’ve been fortunate to have exceptional mentors along the way. They shared their time and insights with me while providing opportunities for growth and development. One such opportunity with Tim Lopez, a highly successful and seasoned commercial broker with decades in the field, is the launch of a brokerage in California. The future of real estate! As one of their Directors here in CA, I am proud to collaborate with other experienced brokers as we build this company, a commercial and residential brokerage, that will positively shape the real estate market in California enhancing opportunities for clients as well as agents and brokers.
Various organizations in the community, with whom I’m involved, have connected me with extraordinary people. Tireless servants to those in need who engender me to do more. From the fabulous people in the Rotary Club of Carlsbad (where we are working on a Global Grant to help survivors of human trafficking locally), Palomar College Foundation, Oceanside Museum of Art and North County Lifeline to the nonprofit I co-founded, Giving With Impact, with the amazing Lane Keifaber, I’m blessed to be energized daily by a multitude of community leaders. Each of the driven souls in these organizations has contributed immeasurably to my life and path. I whole-heartedly thank every member for their leadership and inspiration.
Leigh Castelli Photography