At the end of each year since 2007, I have been asking myself, "am I better off this year than last?" I can say that as of 2011, I can finally answer this question with a "yes." However, this road has been full of twists, turns and potholes.
When I opened my mortgage brokerage firm back in 1998 I would never had imagined how far I would go, and then how far I would fall. Previously, I had worked my way up from being a Loan Officer in 1990 to being a COO of a mortgage brokerage firm. Then in 1998, I knew it was time for me to follow my heart. Entrepreneurship was awaiting me and I was ready.
I had a friend who was a title attorney, and he introduced me to a partner at the title company's law firm. It was he who lent me $2,500, which would pay for my licensing fees as well as my first desk, file cabinet and fax machine. I was in business.
From 1998 until 2007, with the help of my husband as well as many great employees, I grew my company, from the small operation funded by that borrowed $2,500 to a seven figure business employing over 22 people. There were many long nights and hard-fought battles to achieve this, but I felt on top of the world.
Then, in April of 2007, I read an interesting email. One of our larger lenders was not funding loans anymore. This was not a fly-by-night lender. We were careful to only associate with top tier companies. What did this mean?
Within four weeks, there were more and more of these emails. In my 17 years in the mortgage business I had never seen anything like this, and neither had my peers. I can now say that those initial emails were the signal of the end, not only of my company but also of my current identity.
By July of 2007, just 90 days after that first email, my staff was gone and I moved my company into my home in hopes of salvaging it. However my husband and I were virtually out of work. Our industry had imploded around us in a blink of an eye.
Once the sky stopped falling around me, I found myself virtually penniless (we had used all of our savings to try to save the company) and with no industry on which to rely. Then an ex-employee called to see if I would be interested in partnering with him to launch a SEO (search engine optimization) firm. I had no idea was he was talking about since I was not a "techie," but I knew that I could sell and I knew that I caught on quickly. We launched this company after a few months of that initial call. I was starting a new life.
However, within six months it was evident that to save our friendship, we had to part ways. My new life was stopping as quickly as it started. My now ex-partner had confidence in me, though. He said I didn't need him, and I could do it on my own. It is funny how it took me another two years to really believe that.
I re-launched my new life under my current company's name and began on my own. I had many cheerleaders and people who believed in me throughout the journey on this new road. They believed in me before I did.
I had to make this work. I had no choice. Each day I woke up to a plaque by my bed which read, "Dream It. Believe It. Be It." This is what I used (and still do) as inspiration each day. Each night I would peek in at my daughter sleeping soundly, and that was my motivation to get up the next day and do it again.
I found that I began to gain my self-worth again, even though some days I struggle with that still. I think the hardest part of this transition wasn't starting a new company -- I had done that before with less business experience. I think the most difficult obstacle was believing that other professionals would actually pay me for my knowledge. How do I value that? What I tended to do was actually devalue my knowledge. I just recently stopped doing that, by the way.
My story is not complete, and I am still pulling myself back up the ladder of success one step at a time. But, looking back at that twisted road full of potholes which I have walked these past few years, I can finally start saying I am doing better than the previous year-- thanks to so many who kept pushing me along and never let me give up.