Real estate developers are pros when it comes to building everything from the apartment towers that are changing the skyline of downtown San Diego to single-family homes. But when it comes to making a name for themselves and establishing a brand identity, that’s another matter entirely.
Amber Frankhuizen means to fill the gap.
With a background in marketing and real estate, Frankhuizen is the founder and CEO of AFMKTG – a firm she started in 2018 after working as vice president of sales and marketing for real estate developer Zephyr of Encinitas.
Working for Zephyr “was like getting a PhD in development,” Frankuizen said. But as much as she learned, Frankhuizen said “my passion lies in creative and in marketing, not in sales.”
AFMKTG has a variety of clients from a yacht builder to cosmetic dentists but real estate companies are the core of its business.
“One of the reasons why we work so well with developers is, honestly, because of my history,” Frankhuizen said. “I’ve worked in development for so many years, I know what developers are about and need.”
Frankhuizen earned a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing from San Diego State University.
Growing up in Folsom, Frankhuizen said that she became interested in real estate through her grandmother and mother, both of whom were in the business of selling homes. “I knew that I wanted to be in business,” Frankhuizen said.
When someone asked her as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, “I always said I wanted to be happy, but the truth is, I always wanted to be the boss.”
She saw marketing as a way to marry her love of real estate with her love of art.
“I felt quite lost in college and didn’t have a lot of direction.”
She found her way with the help of a mentor, and has become a mentor herself at SDSU, bring on two to three interns per semester.
“I’m on a mission to change what people think about mentorship programs,” Frankhuizen said. “There’s no fetching coffee or dry cleaning or running errands.”
Frankhuizen started her business in a Carlsbad coworking space with a staff of one – herself – and a single client.
“Now we have a team of five in San Diego and contractors all over the U.S. that we work with,” Frankhuizen said.
Among her San Diego clients is CityMark, a developer that has built more than 1,550 homes over the past 22 years and built 23 housing developments.
AFMKTG came up with a new look and logo for Citymark.
“Our brand was getting stale,” CityMark Vice President Russ Haley said.
The company hadn’t changed its look and logo since CityMark was created in 2000.
“We were able to take a step back to memorialize what our company stands for and what are our key drivers are,” Haley said. “We were able to come up with an exciting brand and back that up through all our media, including a new and exciting website and a social media campaign.”
Frankhuizen “took the lead in that holistic approach, literally holding our hands as a group,” Haley said. “Amber’s agency is more than just real estate. She’s able to pull from different industries and make sure we’re deploying a cutting edge marketing campaign.”
CityMark’s color scheme was green, purple and blue – colors that were popular when the company was founded.
“Brands are emotional, not just for consumers, but for the people who work for those companies as well,” Frankhuizen said. “CityMark wants to feel and communicate that they’re urban, they’re forward, they’re contemporary.”
The company’s new color palette is copper and tan – colors meant to evoke a feeling of warmth.
Frankhuizen also used a triangle in spelling out the company’s name in its logo – a symbol of change.
“CityMark evokes change all over San Diego by pioneering urban development,” she said.
“A brand is not just a logo,” Frankhuizen said. “It’s a collection of ideas. It’s the identity of the company. It’s their core values.”
Long term, Frankhuizen said she wants to keep her company small, but expects to double her staff within a year.
“I would like to stay relatively boutique,” Frankhuizen said. “I like to be really hands on with our clients.”
Starting her own firm as a woman was a bit of a challenge.
“Quite honestly, I found it harder to navigate being a woman in a very male dominated industry such as real estate development, especially being young,” Frankhuizen said.
“But honestly, I have to say there’s a lot of really wonderful women’s business organizations in San Diego that I jumped into right away in starting my business that I found to be very supportive. I joined a lot of different masterminds and a lot of different organizations.”
Her advice to other women who want to start their own business is “find mentors.”
“There’s nothing wrong in asking for help or not knowing what to do, but having too much hubris and moving forward, pretending like you know what you’re doing is a surefire way to crash and burn,” Frankhuizen said. “And doing anything scary like building a business is best done with a community of support around you and I think that was the best thing I did in starting my own business.”
Founder/CEO: Amber Frankhuizen
Headquarters: East Village
Business: Branding and marketing
Social impact: Amber Frankhuizen is an active mentor for San Diego State University students and graduates.
Notable: AFMKTG Founder Amber Frankhuizen has been responsible for the sales, marketing or branding of nearly $1 billion of real estate assets in the last decade.