Husband and wife real estate team Melissa Oliver and Paul Ferra are Topanga residents who are passionate about their community. Melissa grew up in these hills and bought her first home when she was just 18 years old. Paul came to Topanga as a young man to pursue an education at Pepperdine after earning a full academic scholarship. “We met, had an instant connection that’s grown every day since and we’re clear that the greatest part of our success has been to reach the level of contribution,” Paul says. He and Melissa took a moment to share their thoughts on what makes their life in the Canyon special and the challenges and rewards of working together.

It’s quite an extraordinary feat to be not only partners in marriage, but successful business partners as well. What are some practices you both rely on to balance work and home life?

We’ve always lived life as a whole, with no separation between what we’re doing and who we are for each other. As a couple, business partners, parents, or any role, we work as a team. It’s become so natural that we live and work in anticipation of what the other needs and then we put it there to say in the flow.

What advice would you give to other couples interested in becoming entrepreneurial partners?

Communication is everything in any partnership. When a couple has alignment in what they’re up to creating anything and everything is possible. Learning to communicate is a process and building it as a foundation of support is a skill. In our 23+ year partnership we still actively seek technique, coaching, and to master the methods of communication in all areas of life. An entrepreneurial relationship brings fulfillment on a whole new level.

Tell us about some of the philanthropic endeavors you both steward in the canyon, notably your family adopted a section of our beloved Highway 27.

Contribution to our Community has always been our North Star. It’s an active passion to give back to Topanga and in the past decades we’ve donated tens of thousands to Topanga Elementary, served on it’s board as members and President, and chaired fundraisers that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

We were the visionaries and creators of what is now Manzanita School and, against all odds, we used partnership and our love of children to acquire Big Rock Ranch, hire and lead the team of expert consultants, and most importantly, after over a year of “never take no for an answer,” enroll Dr. Paul Astin to implement his gifts as Headmaster. As a side, we reinvented Cali Camp into the world class entity it is today.  

We also donate to TCEP, the Topanga Women’s Circle, and several other local non-profits, and yes we adopted a section of our beloved Highway 27. It gives us the opportunity to physically contribute to the unbelievable beauty of this place we call home.

It’s another fine day in the canyon, no showings…what would that day entail? (ie homestead, gardening, cooking, etc.)

Motion creates motion. We live lives of momentum and nothing turns us on more than a body-busting run through the endless trails in the Santa Monicas. In the summer we play in the ocean and time with our children is what fills our hearts.

This pandemic has radically shifted our way of life, in so many ways. What are some ways you’ve embraced the changes as business owners, parents and friends?

The pandemic showed us as an opportunity to create new ways of being in business and all areas of life. In business we’ve invented new and incredibly effective ways to market and share the Topanga Life and the properties we sell. As parents it has brought the opportunity to really focus on what’s important: creating memories as a family and being present to all of the beauty and abundance that’s always surrounding us. As friends it shined a light on just how grateful we are to have each other’s backs through anything that comes at us. For us, in the end, it’s all about the opportunity.

2020 showed us once again that we are the only ones that create how our life goes, whether in business, family, or anywhere in life. It’s not “what’s going on out there” that matters, it’s about looking for new ways of being that light us up in an ever changing environment.  

Difficult times are an opportunity to develop character, to thrive, and to step up our game. They guide us towards keeping it simple and doing what needs to get done with intention, power, and grace. We used it as a time to teach our kids how to use what’s available in a constantly changing world to be nimble, flexible, and intentional in keeping to the course in the process of creating the lives of their dreams. 2020 caused us to feel massive gratitude. Gratitude to the Canyon itself, to the community it holds, and for all that there is to come. We wish everyone the best in 2021…see you around town!