Founded in 2015, SoLa Impact’s mission is to deliver superior financial returns by driving positive social change in America’s toughest neighborhoods. With the thesis that a company could “do good” not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it made sense financially, SoLa Impact has grown from “2 guys in a garage” to over 100 employees. Using a data-driven approach to its investment strategy as well as all social impact initiatives, SoLa Impact has become LA’s largest Section 8 landlord and was recently named the Nation’s Leading Opportunity Zone Fund with an Urban Focus by Forbes Magazine.
Acquisitions and Development
Martin Muoto – Chief Executive Officer, Founder/Managing Member
Martin Muoto is the Founder and Managing Partner of the “SoLa Impact” family of social impact real estate funds. SoLa Impact’s funds are the largest purchaser of real estate in South LA and are focused on achieving market-rate returns while delivering on the mission of “Doing Well by Doing Good” and improving the lives of hundreds of residents in some of LA’s toughest neighborhoods. A professional investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years, Martin has been successful at leveraging private capital to drive positive social change. Martin began investing in multifamily real estate in South Central Los Angeles, Compton, Watts, and other neglected communities a decade before these areas became designated Opportunity Zones. SoLa Impact’s $100 million Opportunity Zone (OZ) Fund is one of the few OZ Funds that has already been actively deploying capital in LA’s OZs. Martin was previously an operating executive at several technology companies and a venture capital partner at Accretive Partners and General Atlantic Partners in New York. Martin immigrated from West Africa and graduated with Honors from the Wharton School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania.
Gray Lusk – Co-Founder/Operating Partner
Gray Lusk is the Co-Founder and Operating Partner of SoLa Impact Fund. Gray has been creating and managing real estate investment funds for the last decade and helped launch two social impact funds (SoLa Impact Fund I, II), and an Opportunity Zone Fund, all based in South Central. SoLa Impact Fund II has become one of the most active buyers in the greater Los Angeles area — deploying over $135M and rehabbing over 300 multifamily apartment buildings in the last year, of which a significant portion are already in designated Opportunity Zones. Both of SoLa’s Social Impact Funds are achieving above market returns while creating the real and measurable impact of improving the lives of the residents of L.A.’s most notorious neighborhoods.
SoLa’s Opportunity Zone Fund seeks to continue creating quality low-income housing combined with true social impact.
Sherri Francois – Chief Impact Officer
As Chief Impact Officer, Sherri steers SoLa Impact’s social impact strategy, operations and development. Sherri leads the execution of SoLa Impact’s strategies to improve the lives of SoLa tenants, and provide educational opportunities for underserved youth in the company’s South LA community. In 2018, Sherri established SoLa’s non-profit affiliate, The SoLa I CAN Foundation (I CAN), where she serves as the Executive Director and President of the Board. In addition to I CAN programs, Sherri is leading the development of South LA’s first technology and esports learning center to spur a new generation of technology entrepreneurs in South Los Angeles.
Prior to joining SoLa, Sherri was an Emmy nominated television executive producer and director. She spent two decades overseeing television programs and documentaries, covering social issues from the ground throughout the world. Her work has been featured on CNN, NBC and MTV among other outlets.
A South Los Angeles native, Sherri volunteers her time to local non-profit organizations including the Dream Street Foundation where she serves as a member of the board. Sherri graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology.
Josh Oppenhuis – Director of Development Special Projects
Josh joined SoLa in May 2018 to formulate Opportunity Zone strategies for the company, resulting in an innovative model for affordable housing funded entirely by private equity rather than traditional tax credits. His wide-ranging background includes the technology, project management, and legal fields, which he applies at SoLa to finding creative solutions in land use policy and the building code. With 8 years of experience operating his own consulting firm, Josh leads a Development team that is confronting the housing crisis with a large pipeline of projects. Josh has worked previously for FTI Consulting and Motorola, and holds an MS in Information and Communication Sciences from Ball State University.
Joe El Rady – Vice President of Finance
Joe is Vice President of Finance at SoLa, where he manages the firm’s financial operations, analyses, and reporting.
Joe began his finance career at Houlihan Lokey, Wall Street’s preeminent financial restructuring firm. During his time as an investment banker at Houlihan Lokey, Joe focused on private placements of debt and equity securities in connection with restructurings, refinancings, special situations, distressed acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, and recapitalizations. After Houlihan Lokey, Joe served as Vice President with Frontier Group, helping to manage their Asian Private Equity Fund in Hong Kong before returning to Los Angeles to help grow Roman Group, a real estate private equity firm with $60mm of assets.
Joe is a frequent writer, blogger, lecturer, and speaker on financial and economic issues. He teaches finance at UCLA Extension and is working on his first book. Joe spends most of his private time on sports/fitness and also contributes to various causes and charities. He is a former Chief Financial Officer and member of the board of trustees of the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation. His main passions in life are vintage European cars and coffee.
Joe holds an undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University and an MBA in finance from the Wharton School. He wrote an MBA thesis on the development of the California economy. He speaks fluent Arabic, Armenian, and Spanish and is learning Italian and French.
Bill O’Neil – Director of Capital Markets
Bill brings 20 years of real estate operating and investing experience to the SoLa team, having acquired, managed, and financed 300+ units both on his own and on behalf of a family investment group. Attracted by SoLa’s superior returns and ethos of doing well by doing good, Bill joined SoLa early in 2019 to manage SoLa’s financing, which now includes nearly $200MM in apartment financing and will soon eclipse $200MM in construction financing. When he’s not clicking through cells in a spreadsheet, you’ll find Bill on a mountain bike, on a motorcycle, or in a music studio. He earned a BA, History, from UCLA.
Jessica Coffey – Director of Human Resources
As Director of Human Resources at SoLa, Jessica is responsible for the recruitment and onboarding of new staff, employee relations, professional development, benefits administration, and the implementation of company policies. Jessica graduated from UCSB with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Spanish. She has held administrative roles in various industries, and found her niche in HR while working for an agency that provided therapy for children with autism. It was there she realized her strength in building relationships with employees company-wide, and discovered the true value in being part of a mission for helping others. Jessica believes you should love what you do and do what you love, and working at SoLa has made that possible.
Mike Mahurin – General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer
Mike Mahurin is General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for the “SoLa Impact” family of social impact real estate funds and brings over 20 years of experience in real estate to SoLa Impact. Mike comes to SoLa Impact most recently from the Corporate and Banking Department of the international law firm of Sidley Austin LLP where he represented both the largest developers and the largest financial services companies in the single-family residential financing space helping close multiple billion-dollar transactions. In addition to his experience in real estate law, Mike has an extensive background in the areas of employment law and in both corporate and high net worth individual bankruptcy reorganizations. Mike graduated from Pepperdine School of Law and received his undergraduate education at the University of Washington. Mike is an experienced real estate investor owning properties across nearly every asset class.
Outside of SoLa, Mike has competed in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship, has three marathon victories to his credit and has one cash on the World Poker Tour in his only attempt.
Malcolm Rivera – Director of Property Management
Malcolm joined SoLa in August of 2019 and oversees all of the Property Management activities for the SoLa family of funds. Malcolm relocated from New York in 2016 where he was a managing partner of a property management company for over 25 years. Malcolm has extensive experience with Federal, State, and local Section 8 authorities and managing multifamily residential and commercial properties.
Sheldon K. Powell – Vice President of Development & Partnerships
Sheldon joined SoLa in October 2020 as Vice President of Development & Partnerships to lead the national expansion with the Black Impact Fund. With over 20 years of real estate experience in building and leading teams, his level of experience and expertise is vast. Sheldon’s background includes, yet not limited to; acquisition, design, site development, construction and stabilization of Multifamily Apartments, Mixed-Use, Master Planned Single Family and Light Industrial projects in multiple states. He exhibits core strengths in Executive-Level leadership, Construction Management, Contract Negotiations, Budgeting, Operations and Project Management.
He studied Business Management at Florida International University and received an MBA in Finance and Real Estate Development from Nova Southeastern University. He is also a Certified General Contractor and Licensed Community Association Manager.
Brandi Popovich – VP of Talent Acquisition
Brandi Popovich joined the SoLa team with the launch of the Black Impact Fund after 25 years of experience as a recruiting professional in the real estate and investment management industries. Brandi’s focus will be to continue to scale the senior management and support team with world-class professionals from leading firms as SoLa expands its regional and national footprint. She brings a demonstrated track record of hiring diverse candidates and recruiting for high-growth environments.
During her career, Brandi completed more than 200 senior level searches (and 500 searches overall) throughout the U.S. on behalf of real estate private equity groups, public and private REITs, hedge funds, venture capital firms, family offices and real estate developers.
Brandi graduated with a BS in Business Administration at San Diego State University and is a member of International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP).
Having been actively involved with the Mission and Outreach initiatives of the Presbyterian Church for over two decades makes Brandi an integral addition to the SoLa team, perfectly combining her passion for service with her ability to identify top talent.
Ekta Naik – Director of Development
Ekta joined SoLa Impact as Director of Development. She brings over 17 years of experience in developing multifamily residential and mixed-use projects across the nation. As the department head at Sola Impact, she leads the development team managing full cycle multifamily deals from due diligence, entitlements, design, construction execution, lease-up to stabilized occupancy.
Prior to SoLa Impact, majority of her career in Southern California was with Alliance Residential leading ground up new construction and value add investments with Prudential and AIG as capital partners. In the last 8 years she has acquired and developed 3,700+ units in Southern California with a total capitalization of over $1.5 Billion. Prior to that she worked in the New York and Chicago regions on multi-phase, mixed-use, mixed-income developments.
Ekta holds a Masters in Planning and Architecture from Cornell University and an MBA from New York University, Stern School of Business.