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OMBA Alumni’s Commercial Real Estate Investment Group Helps Trojans

OMBA Alumni’s Commercial Real Estate Investment Group Helps Trojans

Marshall’s Online MBA program inspired these friends to start 1880 Capital, an investment group geared toward the Trojan Network.

1880 Capital principals Jim Resha and Ron Johnson.

1880 Founders, Jim Resha and Ron Johnson.

[Photos Courtesy of 1880]

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Die-hard Trojan fans Ron Johnson MBA ’20 and Jim Resha MBA ’21 had always dreamed about earning a degree from USC. A few years ago, they made those dreams a reality by graduating from the Online MBA (OMBA) program at USC Marshall. They knew the degree would help connect them to the expansive Trojan Network, but neither expected to make a lifelong friend and business partner.

Following graduation, the pair started 1880 Capital, a commercial real estate investment group that specifically focuses on serving clients from USC, tapping into the university’s vast network of alumni. Named for the year USC was founded and created with fellow OMBA alum Antoine Harden ’20 and member of the Town and Gown Philanthropic group Heather Francine, the founders always intended 1880 to build upon their Trojan connections.

“It was really important to us to give back to the Trojan Network and provide this platform for people to diversify their portfolio,” Resha said.

Johnson and Resha can’t say enough about how the OMBA program has catalyzed 1880’s growth. On top of the boon in their network, the founders still use their former professors and classmates as resources. Resha feels Marshall reframed his approach to business. He finds himself emphasizing collaboration, delegation, and trust in his co-workers, and consistently applying the real-world lessons he learned at Marshall.

“We have referenced specific classes in our planning and in our strategizing,” Resha said. “It became second nature for me to think that way.”

The pair’s unlikely friendship began while visiting campus during the school year. Despite being in different cohorts, Resha and Johnson hit it off, attending USC basketball games, golfing together, and even tailgating outside the Coliseum. Soon a business partnership developed, thanks to a group commercial real estate assignment in one of Resha’s classes.

Resha had over 30 years of commercial real estate experience before he joined OMBA, but working with his classmates opened up new ideas for him. “I learned a lot about how I could be better at what I did through OMBA,” Resha explained.

As a result of the course, Resha, Johnson, and several of their classmates started work on the company that would eventually become 1880 Capital. Over time, separate commitments took priority for the other students, but Resha and Johnson stuck with it, officially founding the firm in 2020.

Earning an MBA from USC Marshall has given me an even greater level of confidence. There isn’t a room I walk into where someone has superior business school credentials.

— Ron Johnson

Chief Operating Officer, 1880 Capital

1880 found fast success, thanks in large part to its connections to the Trojan Network. Though not officially linked to the university, the company flourishes its USC roots whenever it can. In addition to the name, its website features the school’s signature cardinal and gold colors and uses its own special Trojan logo to harken to their alma mater.

Johnson hopes the emphasis on USC will open doors for 1880 that might have otherwise been shut and, in turn, the company can offer a platform to those looking to break into commercial real estate investment.

“When someone from the Trojan Family reaches out it’s incumbent upon us as USC alumni to take the meeting and assist however we can,” Johnson said. “The OMBA program has been great about connecting us with current students and recent graduates who are looking for advice or who want to tap into our network.”

Resha and Johnson may live in different states — California and Arizona, respectively — but the founders don’t let that stop their partnership. In fact, Johnson says they’ve turned their relative distance into an unforeseen advantage.

“I don’t believe we’d be more successful if my partners and I all sat in the same office. The network I’ve built in Phoenix and Scottsdale is different from the network Jim and Heather have in Orange County or Los Angeles,” Johnson explained. “We view this as a huge advantage for our company. The lessons learned in OMBA have been put into practice to help us successfully collaborate as a virtual team.”

The OMBA degree has helped in more ways than one. Not only does it connect 1880 with the entire Trojan Network, but it also gives a major boost to each person’s professional aspirations.

“Earning an MBA from USC Marshall has given me an even greater level of confidence,” Johnson said. “There isn’t a room I walk into where someone has superior business school credentials.”

The firm is thriving, but for Johnson and Resha, it’s always been about the connection to USC. Whether talking about going to tailgates, collaborating with classmates, or guiding a new Trojan client to financial success, the pair always bring the conversation back to the university they love.

As Johnson likes to say, “Trojans help Trojans.”