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The Zero Partners Origin Story

Josh Levine and Lev Kushner have known each other for over 20 years, but worked, it seemed, in completely different fields. Lev started out as a city planner and urban designer in the public sector. He’s worked on the political end of large-scale urban projects and has run his own real estate strategy business. Josh, on the other hand, got his degree in design and made his way from the aesthetics side of brand into the strategic side, better known as brand strategy.

So it was a little out of left field when Josh asked Lev if he would be willing to work with him on a brand strategy project. (until relatively recently, Lev had no idea what brand strategy was.)

The conversation went something like this:

Lev: How can I help you with creating a brand strategy when I don’t know what it is?

Josh: You know exactly what it is. It’s what you do to make sure your real estate and economic development projects succeed. You just don’t know that it’s called brand strategy.

It was a short conversation.

Josh taught Lev what a brand was and what brand strategy meant and Lev realized that Josh was right: they had both been teaching people how to define their priorities and communicate them through words and deeds the whole time. Lev realized that a key tenet of brand strategy - empathizing with your audience and telling a story that helps you speak their language – was a new way of explaining what he did and that it would be enormously helpful in the real estate and economic development world.

  • Developers need to tell a compelling story to get their project approved and, later, to find tenants.

  • Cities need to craft narratives about themselves to lure and keep development, to transform neighborhoods for the better, and to encourage tourism.

  • Public agencies need to better understand and communicate with their constituents in order to deliver high-level services and projects.

And so they launched Zero Partners, a real estate brand strategy shop – the first and only –to help their clients achieve clarity on their values (brand!) and make projects that tell the story that grows out of those values in every possible way (strategy!), all in the service of making buildings, neighborhoods, and entire cities more alive with stories and the people who tell them.


brand: [n] the personality of a company or place that communicates its fundamental values and mission.

brand strategy: [n] how a company or place communicates and strengthens its brand, achieved via ensuring all its actions and communications are executed in service of the brand.

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