Monday Meeting: Lawyer leads company specializing in EB-5 program

Lauren Cohen is founder of e-Council Inc., a Boca Raton-based firm that helps businesses obtain financing through the federal EB-5 visa program. Through the program, foreign nationals that invest in U.S. businesses and create jobs can receive green cards for themselves and their dependents.

Cohen said her team of about 30 professionals provides a range of services, from the development side to the investing side. Importantly, her team vets proposed business ventures to ensure their likelihood of success. Businesses helped by e-Council include green fuel-type companies, hotels, assisted-living facilities “and a ton of restaurants,” Cohen said.

Among the restaurants: The recently opened Meat Market on Palm Beach.

Cohen said the most important element for success with the EB-5 program is for the business to be “viable.”

The company must create 10 jobs per investment by a foreign investor seeking a green card.

Vetting companies also is important because fraud has emerged in the EB-5 world. While the U.S. government is trying to crack down, Cohen said it’s important for businesses and investors to seek out credible entities with which to work.

Name: Lauren Cohen

Age: 47

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Education: J.D., Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto

Family: Divorced, doting mom to an amazing and very active 4-year-old boy

About your company: e-Council’s mission is to deliver superior-quality business plans and related services for EB-5 and other business visa cases. The requirements for these business plans are complex. As a result, business owners such as real estate and hotel developers, restaurateurs, franchisees and a wide range of entrepreneurs, as well as investors from countries all over the world, use us to help them navigate it all and ensure they get it right the first time. Every business plan is tailored to each client and we focus on quality rather than quantity: We do not accept more than 20 cases at any given time. Our revenues exceeded $500,000 in 2014 and are growing rapidly. Our attorney-driven team consists of 10 professionals, most of whom are women, as well as several contractors and strategic partners.

First paying job and what you learned from it: I had a job teaching swimming lessons to children of all ages. I learned the importance of being on time as the kids were counting on you. I also learned to respect other peoples’ time as it would irk me when people were late.

First break in the business: My first EB-5 case represented a turning point in my business. This opened doors to many future EB-5 cases. Our company is now regarded as one of the top-tier service providers in our industry, whether from the perspective of our competitors, clients or referral sources.

How your business has changed: The focus was originally on general business plans for companies seeking to raise capital from traditional sources, then moved to visa business plans after my own immigration attorney asked me to try my hand at writing a business plan for a foreign investor visa. Since that time, our business has morphed into a company that offers a full range of services for both non-immigrant and immigrant visas (EB-5).

Best business book: The e-Myth

Best piece of business advice you ever received: Stick with this – it makes sense – you’re an attorney, an immigrant, and a business plan specialist – when you put it all together, it’s a recipe for success!

What you tell young people about your business: Our work is all-consuming, but it’s incredibly rewarding. We are lucky enough to learn about a wide variety of cool businesses and work with business owners and other professionals from all over, all while knowing that our work is bringing money into the country and creating jobs.

Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? I could never find my “place.” I kept starting and stopping. When my son was very young, and the business was struggling, I nearly gave up. We didn’t have enough revenue to cover our expenses. But I stuck it out and persevered and now am giving back to all of those who helped me get through the tough times and turn the business around.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I think there will be a lot of development in the EB-5 space and I look forward to playing a part in making it happen!

Power lunch spot: Farmer’s Table, Houston’s

Where we’d find you when you’re not at the office: My son is my highest priority, so either I’m with him, at the Y trying to work out the insanity of my busy life, or supporting causes that inspire my passion. I’ve sponsored the annual Jewish Family Service luncheon and am a member of the Business and Professions cabinet of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. In 2013, my hero, my dad, lost his battle with ALS, which led me to sponsor the Palm Beach Walk to Defeat ALS in his honor.

Favorite smartphone app: Amazon. It’s so convenient for the busy life I lead! I love being a Prime member and my son is always so excited when the doorbell rings because it often means, as he says, “another delivery!”

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? Integrity.

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