I’m mixed race, from a single parent family in London, England that polite company like to call “of modest means” (I call it broke — think using tape as a vacuum!).
According to statistics I should at best, be in jail, and at worst, be dead.
But I was the first person in my family to go to college and graduated with honours. I graduated in 2007 as a physical therapist and I was really good — it just so happened that it came naturally to me.
Quickly, I was travelling internationally and working with top sports teams. I had made a commitment to making a difference and helping people so I set up a private health care practice in 2010, after three years in the field. I wanted to reduce wait times for the public accessing affordable health care.
In the first year or so it was awesome: hundreds of happy clients, cash was flowing and my shoe collection was growing. I thought I was on top of the world, and complacency came knocking.
I was young and naive. Things were good, so I assumed they would always be good. Rather than save up and create financial walls around my family for security and stability, I spent and reinvested every penny I made, which left me vulnerable when things began to slide.
What happened next hit me so hard.
Businesses need leaders, strategic thinkers, and great planning. In the middle of a global economic crisis they need this more than ever, and back then, I didn’t have any of that.
A lot of our revenue came from insurance companies dealing with work injuries or car accidents. As the recession took hold these companies went under, not only taking large portion of our turnover with them, but also owing us tens of thousands of pounds.
Quickly, patients dried up. In a recession, who needs a back massage, right?
It spiraled out of control and before I could blink I was selling cars, shoes, books, CD’s, everything I had to pay my rent, bills, tax, and put food on the table. It got so bad that, because of personal guarantees, to close the business would have cost around $US25,000. I felt like the only person in the world too broke to fail!
Eventually there was nothing left to sell and I was forced to move into the office in August 2011 with the one bag of clothes I had left and a blow up bed that always went down in the middle of the night.
The next few months were ugly. I cried constantly, ate garbage comfort food, and drank too much alcohol.
About four months into my meltdown, the next light bulb moment happened. I realised that right then in that very moment there were successful people in the world making money, creating wealth, and having a great lifestyle. Recession or not, people were making money and I was going to figure out how.
Over the next few months I read hundreds of books, listened to hundreds of audio programs, went on seminars and conferences and spent thousands on credit cards I couldn’t afford to pay educating myself.
Quickly I noticed a trend: A whole lot of people had made a whole heap of cash investing in real estate. I had no interest in reinventing the wheel, so that’s what I decided to do.
Having no money or experience wasn’t about to stop me, so I went networking as often as I could to real estate and investing meetings, which is where I learned my first lesson: Build your network before you need it.
I started building relationships and adding value where I could, expecting nothing in return.
Before long I had offers of investment and joint ventures. In December 2011, my first investor gave me $US200,000. I’ll never forget the feeling of pride, when I realised of all the places he could choose to invest, he chose me.
Lesson No. 2: People buy from people. The investment opportunities I’d found were good, but not amazing. However, that didn’t matter. The investor had bought into and believed in me. I was educated, smart, hard working, and worthy of investment.
From there, my investments and portfolio snowballed. Within 12 months I’d raised $US1 million in investments and bought a real estate portfolio of $US2 million. Along the way I also paid off the majority of my credit card debt I spent educating myself (I could have paid the rest but was too busy reinvesting every penny) and moved into a stunning flat in central London.
At the time I wasn’t sure what it was that made investors believe in me, realtors want to work with me, and vendors sell their houses to me, but now I get it, because I now get to see it in others.
I was hungry for success and security, I had educated myself and taken action, but most importantly I was authentic and acted with integrity.
Whatever situation you are in, the chances are you are better off than I was. I had no money, no confidence and no clue. Of course there have been challenges and it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but if you are willing to work for it, financial freedom and security is possible.
Kemi Egan is co-founder of Freedom Academies, Freedom Investments & Freedom Homes. She is a real estate investor, mentor, wealth strategist, and author of the #1 bestseller “The Power of Real Estate Investing.”