Jim Yong Pan came to America with a paltry $40 in his pocket at the ripe age of 24. After going to school, getting a degree, and eventually retiring from P&G before the age of 50, he pursued the life he truly wanted. That life, as it turns out, included renovating 100 houses in and around Cincinnati's urban core. With no sign of stopping, Jim and his team are continuing to spruce up the city one house at a time.
We jumped at the opportunity to ask this incredibly successful Cincinnatian about his labor of love.
Cincinnati Refined: Who are you and what do you do?
JYP: My name is Jim Yong Pan, and I currently I live part time in a renovated century-old home in Mainstrasse Village, Covington and part time in a modern waterfront home in St. Augustine, Florida. I dedicate my time to house renovation, community services, and traveling.
CR: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into renovating homes in the area.
JYP: I grew up in China and came to the U.S. when I was 24 years old with $40 in my pocket. After getting my doctorate in Physical Chemistry, I worked at P&G as a Principal Scientist specializing in MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for 20 years. I worked on over 40 P&G Brands, including Crest, Pampers, Tide, and Olay.
My first major house renovation was in Covington. I completed the transformation of a 1950s ranch to a two-story contemporary home with a spectacular river and city view. The home was featured in the Home and Gardens section of the Cincinnati Enquirer. That process awoke the artistic and creative side of my brain.
CR: How many homes have you renovated?
JYP: I just completed the 100th.
CR: Do you plan to do more?
JYP: Yes. Currently, we are doing one in Covington, one in Clifton, and three more in Northside.
CR: What do you look for when you consider which homes to renovate?
JYP: The Cincinnati area is fortunate to have a wealth of historical homes with amazing architectural features. Many of them are in despair and are functionally obsolete. I love to take them on, keeping what we can, and injecting them with modern flair and convenience.
CR: What inspires you to take on these projects?
JYP: Candidly, my early inspiration was gaining my financial freedom, not getting rich nor for financial security, but financial freedom. I dreamed of being able to do what I wanted to do, when, where, and with whom. Before turning 50, I was able to leave P&G and live the life of my dreams.
Over the years, what continues to inspire me are the people I come across. I have worked with so many talented people; also people whom I would never have met if I worked only at P&G. Our work touches people’s lifes every day.
CR: How do you think your renovations help the community?
JYP: My mantra is “Renovate the world one house at a time!” I have always believed in the area’s urban core. I started in Clifton, OTR, Mount Auburn, and the West End in early 2000, and I have now moved to Covington and Northside. I am very proud to be part of the renaissance of our core.
CR: What’s the biggest challenge when taking on a project?
JYP: Staying within the budget and finding a good balance between preserving historical features while adding modern conveniences and flair.
CR: How does it feel to complete one?
JYP: Of course it is amazing to see transformations just like on HGTV. As much as I like the result, I really enjoy the process.
CR: What advice would you give to others who are also interested in renovating homes?
JYP: Inspired by HGTV or Poor Dad and Rich Dad, there are a lot of people out there wanting to renovate houses but very few are successful. My advice is that you need to have a great team along with clear objectives, goals, strategies, and measures. A strategic thinking process called OGSM that was widely used at P&G has been helpful for me. That will be the subject of a book that I am working on.
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Check out photos of Jim Yong Pan's 100th renovation (a house in Northside) in the gallery above.