Margaret Curlew, Ph.D., is a “mompreneur,” a real estate investor and a specialist in income generation and wealth-building. Her new book is Mom to Millionaire: Finding the Path to Financial Peace. She is based in Toronto, Ontario.
Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Margaret Curlew. From an early age, I had the deck stacked against me. Escaping from my home in civil-war-torn Africa didn’t make things any easier. However, we survived it. From then on, I realized that we all have a say in our destiny. We cannot just sit back and expect someone to plan our life. We have to be in the driver seat and go through life’s journey with our heads held up. I have a Master’s degree in International Commerce and I also hold a Ph.D. in Business.
I wrote Mom to Millionaire: Finding the Path to Financial Peace to encourage and motivate others. I wanted to share with the world my struggles, hardships, disappointments, and also successes. I wanted to connect with those who feel stuck and give them some hope. The book provides someone with meaningful financial and entrepreneurial tips.
I’m also the founder of Rywak Homes (www.rywak.ca). When I was a refugee, housing was a serious issue. I later made it my mission to help reduce homelessness. That’s why the housing/real estate business has always appealed to me. I’m glad to have found success in it while at the same time providing shelter for other families.
What exactly does your company do?
My company buys single-family homes and converts them into multi-self-contained rental units. I’ve been doing this for more than six years. I didn’t really know what I was doing initially, but I persevered, learned from my mistakes, and became successful. We now have over a dozen properties and are renting to some 30 families.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
I have faced some major challenges and they don’t appear to be slowing down. It’s part of the game. Life is like swimming in the ocean. It comes with many waves, which you can’t control or avoid. You just have to learn to deal with them. Like everyone, my major challenge right now is the coronavirus pandemic. I cannot fight it. I just need to learn how to protect myself and my family from contracting it. This pandemic has also affected our business. Some tenants can afford rent, but choose not to play because they can’t be evicted. They forget that small businesses like us provide shelter for multiple families and, most importantly, we create jobs for plumbers, electricians, contractors, etc. It’s another challenging phase that we will survive.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
I wish someone had explained a whole lot more to me. I’ve made so many mistakes on my entrepreneurial journey. If I have to narrow it down to one piece of advice, I would say I wish someone had advised me to jump into entrepreneurship sooner. Everyone advised and encouraged me to strive for academic excellence and career advancement/development, which is great. However, it’s entrepreneurship that has provided me with financial peace. It has helped me achieve some of my childhood dreams and will continue to help me achieve more.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
I love and admire successful individuals. Unlike some people who just detest the rich and successful, I admire them. It takes guts to
- Escape the rat race and venture into the unknown
- Risk your life savings, effort and time on a business idea that no one believes in
- Start a company and create one job, then five, then 10 and so on
- Work without pay for years
- Work towards a cause so that humanity can benefit from your efforts.
That’s why I admire successful moguls like Bill Gates, Robert Kiyosaki, Steve Jobs, and others.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My mom gave me the biggest boost in life by sending me to Europe to study, even though she had lost everything she had in the civil war. She saw a lot of potential in me, which I wouldn’t have been able to reach had I not been in a land of opportunity. For that, I’ll always be grateful.
I’m also grateful to a real estate agent, Sylvia, who helped me purchase my first four rental properties. She was crucial in the creation of my portfolio. She also brought on board a mortgage agent, who saved the day when the banks said “no.”
Finally, I’m also grateful to the people who I counted on but said “no;” to those who overcharged for a small piece of work; to those who got paid but didn’t deliver; and to those who thought I was new in the business and did a bad job working on my properties. They’ve made me 100 times smarter than I would have been otherwise.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
I appreciate life and everything that comes with it. When I was younger and in school, passing from one grade to another used to be my greatest success. Then it changed to getting straight A’s, then getting my Bachelor’s degree, and so on. I’ve come to realize that high achievers are always on the go. We set goals and reach them. We know we’re here to make a difference. We know we have to leave our positive footprint on the earth. One greatest success is followed by a few failures and then another greatest success, and then a few failures, and then another greatest success. This will keep happening because we are relentless. In a nutshell, every day is a success for me when I wake up in a healthy body, do business deals, reduce homelessness by providing homes for lower-income families, and share my story with the world so that people who feel stuck can learn from it and unleash their inner power.
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