Letting go of fear, taking that leap of faith, and creating your path to success is never easy, but it is always possible with the right amount of courage. In this episode, Monick Halm chats with real estate businesswoman Brenda Gooden, the President and CEO of Island Management Services. Brenda is a great example of someone who has not let her early circumstances limit her in any way. From poverty, she’s managed to create financial wealth and independence in business and real estate. She has over 20 years of successful ownership and management of Medicare-certified home health and hospice agencies and 30 years of profitable real estate investing. Listen to Brenda as she narrates her rags to riches story about how she made her first real estate investment, relied on passive investments, and has become an inspiration to her children.
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Interview With Brenda Gooden, Business Woman & Investor Extraordinaire
I am excited to bring you our guest, Brenda Gooden. She’s somebody I met through an apartment investing group that I’m in with Brad Sumrok. I met her through there and gotten to know her. I spent some time with her in Dallas a while back. She started telling me her story and I knew that I needed to bring her to you guys so that you could know her. What I love is that she’s a great example of someone who has not let her early circumstances limit her in any way. She’s going to share a little bit about her background. She grew up without a lot, with very little, but managed to create financial wealth and independence in business and real estate. She has over twenty years of successful ownership and management of Medicare Certified Home Health and Hospice agencies and she’s been a profitable real estate investor for over 30 years.
She is the President and CEO of Island Management Services, otherwise known as Hospicio Divinas Manos of Manati Puerto Rico. It’s a hospice agency that serves the terminally ill in the Northwest region of Puerto Rico. She is an international businesswoman and she also has real estate. She has over 720 doors as the sole owner, key principal or passive investor in Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia and New Mexico. She is also a mama of two great kids, Brittney and Jeremy, and a proud member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Welcome, Brenda. I’m happy to have you.
Thank you, Monick. I’m excited to be here. What an honor.
The honor is ours. I love to start at the beginning. How did you get started in real estate investing?
I got started shortly after college. I graduated from college, got married and moved off to Des Moines with my husband. Our first order of business was to save up for a down payment on a house because we had no money. I graduated and I had nothing. I got a job and I worked and saved up so that we can make this down payment on a house. I’m a country girl. I grew up in Mississippi, in the country, poor. This apartment living thing was not working for me. I was thinking, “We have to get out of here.” That was my first priority. The first piece of real estate that I ever owned was my first home and I was excited about that. We built it from scratch or from the ground-up, as people say. I had no prior interest in real estate, no prior knowledge, nothing. Somewhere in that process of getting ready to purchase that first home, I got bit by the bug.
Back in that day, at night, the infomercials would come on late at night. If you were up, you would get to hear them and I listen to one of those. I got excited about the possibilities of owning and investing in real estate. I went down that path. I started reading and learning everything that I could about it. I didn’t know anyone in real estate investing. I had no mentors or anything. I’m sitting out on my own to do this real estate investing. At that time, my husband wasn’t interested in real estate but being the loving and kind husband he was, he supported me in my desire to invest in real estate. We got moved into our first home and then I started looking at the newspapers. I was like, “I’m going to find this real estate to invest in.”
Back then, we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have all of the means that you have now to find different properties, or at least I didn’t because remember I’m new to this and have no background in this and no knowledge or what have you. I searched the newspapers and I found a fourplex that was for sale. Back then, for hood properties, you could make a down payment, assume the note and carry on. That’s what I found. I thought, “This was easy.” The only problem was I had no money. I’m thinking, “How am I going to do this?” Back then, it was the no money down program. I ordered one of those and they came up with all these different strategies. I thought, “I have a credit card.” I took my little credit card and marched into the bank and I said, “I want to get a cash advance.”
The teller said, “How much is it?” I said, “$7,000.” I’m 23, 24 and she goes, “That’s a lot of money. What are you going to do?” I said, “I’m purchasing real estate.” She goes, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. It’s an investment property.” I told her my story. She looked at me with this blank look on her face like, “Really? You’re mighty young to be venturing out or going down this road.” I’m excited. I’m not thinking about anything. I’m happy. I’m getting ready to buy my first property and that’s what I did. We bought that first property, a fourplex. We called it our baby because at that time we didn’t have kids. We managed it ourselves. It was cool for us because that’s how we learned about real estate. We did it. I had no fears. There was no fear of failure. I never thought about it. I’m going to do this and I’m going to succeed. I think about it now and I shudder. We did not know what we were doing. I knew enough to get it, but everything else we learned by doing and it worked out well for us.
There are a couple of things I love about what you did. You saw this infomercial that got you inspired. You didn’t do it without knowing what you were doing. You read books. There’s no money down program. You did take the time to get educated. You weren’t quite going in totally blind. You did it and it was successful.
I learned enough to be able to move forward. That’s how I taught myself everything, I read. I love to read so that was easy for me. I have every financial book that you could think of back then and I still have them now. I packed up a set of the first original financial books that I bought. From time-to-time, I’ll go back through them and see if there’s anything that’s still applicable. I didn’t have a formal education in real estate, finance or business. I didn’t even get a checking account until I went to college. All of that had to be self-taught. I had to learn how to balance a checking account on my own and how to handle my finances. I learned that by reading. I had no mentor, nothing. It was self-taught.In the school of hard knocks, you learn by trial and error. Click To Tweet
In the school of hard knocks, you learn by trial and error. I would ask questions. People are generally friendly to give you advice. People tend to want to help you. That’s how I learned and I did it. We never looked back. From that day to this, I’ve been investing in real estate and doing business. The same scenario in business, it was all self-taught. My background is in Computer Science so I had no formal training in business. My husband’s degree was in Accounting. We did have the accounting side but as far as formal education in business, we didn’t. We were successful in both arenas.
There is a lot of overlap in both. Ultimately, real estate investing is a type of business. A lot of the principles are the same and that’s great. From that fourplex years ago, what are your investments? Share a little bit. What are you invested in?
Investing passively in larger properties is where I’m moving toward. I have been liquidating some of the smaller properties that I’ve had for a while or they’re underperforming or for whatever reasons. There’s a sellers’ market in Dallas, I’ve taken advantage of that. I’ve always been in multifamily, but in a smaller arena. I’m migrating into larger properties. I am liquidating and doing those and always looking for other opportunities to invest in. I will be doing that in Dallas and some other markets outside of Dallas. I’ve decided, “The market is heated in Dallas. It’s time to start looking outside of Dallas.” I still have my own individual properties but I’m moving more towards passively and then eventually syndicating my own multifamily deal. That’s the goal.
Share a little bit about why you like being a passive investor in deals.
Passive investing is easy. In its simplest form, you buy into the deal and someone else does the work and you reap the returns. That’s how it’s supposed to work. It didn’t always work like that. We were passive investors in an assisted living facility in Hillsboro, Texas. We got our money back. We didn’t make any money on that deal because one of the partners stole the money and ran off. It was a nightmare. It was bad. We didn’t lose. We got our money back, thank God.
You didn’t grow it like you wanted to.
It was unfortunate because it was a good market and we were doing well as far as getting it leased up and on track to do well. When the partner absconded with the money, it was a mess. We eventually got out of it. I learned from that.
What did you learn from that?
You need to know the sponsors of the deal. You don’t just hand your money. One of our partners that we were in business with in our healthcare business in Puerto Rico was one of the general partners in this deal. We knew her. We didn’t know the other partners. What I learned is if you’re going to invest passively, you need to know who you’re investing with or who the sponsors of that deal are. When that money leaves your hands, it could not return to you. You have to be cautious about it. If you find the right partner or sponsors, then it’s an easy thing. What it does is it allows me, when I invest passively, to then do something else. That money is working for me in making money. I’m over here doing another deal and making money. I don’t have to manage both of those properties or deals. Passive investing is a good thing. I wish I had known more about passive investing early on in my career.
I’m on the active side and on the passive side. It’s a lot easier to be on the passive.
It is. Because I hadn’t had that experience with the other passive deal, I was hesitant about doing it again. It took me a little while before I made that leap into it again. I had made sure that I knew whatever deal I got into that I spent enough time with them and I felt reasonably comfortable that they would act responsibly and in the case that they did and that they had insurance to cover us so we didn’t lose our money. That’s important.
My next question for you, and this might be something we’ve already covered, is in terms of your real estate career. What do you consider to have been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
There certainly were mistakes along the way but that’s how we learn. My biggest mistake was I bought a fourplex and at the time that I bought it I had a lot going on and I wasn’t able to manage it because, up to that point, we managed all of our properties. We never had a property manager before. I felt like this time, I didn’t have the time. I wasn’t going to be here to take on that role. I thought, “I’m going to hire a property manager.” I hired a property manager, but the mistake was I didn’t properly vet that manager and I didn’t manage her. I said, “Send me my check and I’ll catch you when I can.” I didn’t do much. It’s my fault because I know better. She quickly ran that property right into the ground. It took me a while to dig it out. I changed property managers and turned it around. I learned from that point and from that experience to never do that again.
Always properly vet your property managers and then you have to manage them. It’s your property. They’re not going to care about your property like you do. They don’t have anything invested in your property. They have nothing to lose other than whatever the fee is that you’re paying them. You properly vet that property management company and then manage them, even on a smaller property. I meet with my property managers quarterly to go over whatever we need to go over relating to that property. I want reports. I do my drive-by. I don’t tell them when I’m going to drive by, I just drive by. If I see something I don’t like and they’re on the phone and like, “I saw this and this is not good. What are we doing?” I actively manage my property managers even on smaller deals. It’s important to do that. That was my biggest mistake in all of the years that I’ve been buying and selling real estate.
I did webinars on the team because that’s the foundation of any deal. Who you have working the properties on a day-to-day basis, they will make or break your investment and you have to stay on top of them.
A lot of people do that. They buy those properties and they think, “I’ve got a property manager. I can ride out into the sunset and they’re going to send me my check.” That may or may not happen, depending on their property management company. It’s important to stay on top of them. When they’re not performing then you have to get them out of there and get someone else. That was my biggest mistake that I made.
Thank you for sharing that lesson because it’s crucial and important. On the flip side, what are you most proud of?
The thing that I’m most proud of has nothing to do with real estate. I am most proud of my two wonderful children. They are out in the world being productive citizens and living wonderful lives and being good Christian people and that makes me most proud. As it relates to real estate, the thing that makes me proud is that I am a living example of someone who started with nothing and was able to be successful in business and real estate. I’m able to say or show to others that they can do it too. If I can do it, you can do it. I’m a shining example that you can start with nothing and invest in real estate and be successful at it, especially women.
I want women to look at me and say, “She did it. I can do it too.” They can. That’s what makes me most proud. A lot of us women think that we can’t, like, “I don’t have any money. I don’t have the education. I don’t have the time.” Whatever the excuse is, you can do it. I did it. I worked full-time at real estate. At some point, I even had two businesses going at the same time, raising two children, full-time mommy. If you want to do it, you can do it. That being said, that makes me proud if someone can look at me and says, “She did that and so can I.”
To give some background, because I know that you grew up poor, what specifically does that mean? Where did you start from?You can start with nothing and invest in real estate and be very successful at it. Click To Tweet
I started with nothing. I grew up poor, a little poor country girl. I mean financially poor. I was rich in love. I had two wonderful parents who loved me and did the best that they could with me and gave me what they could. They gave me love and support, which was a crucial foundation. They believed in me. I had that. That’s a lot. When you have that, you have a lot. It wasn’t like I was financially poor and then emotionally poor as well, because that’s a big hurdle to overcome. That wasn’t the case. I went to high school, I graduated college and that was it. I had nothing. I may have $200 to my name after paying for this beautiful wedding and that was savings from when I did my little internship in college.
Financially, I had nothing. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. I started from scratch. That’s difficult to start from scratch and build something in one generation. Especially once we had our kids, it was important to both of us, my husband and I, that we leave a legacy for our children. First of all, we wanted to educate them and give them the best education. We wanted them to graduate college with no debt, as we had, and then leave a legacy for them. That’s a tall order. We set out to do it and that was our focus. We stayed focused on that goal of doing the best that we could for them and by them and providing them with some of the things that we didn’t have, a lifestyle that we didn’t have. We did it. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. That’s why I had to do a cash advance to get that first down payment. There was no money. There was no savings account. When I say scratch, I mean scratch and nothing. It was quite a feat looking back at it. Sometimes I don’t know how we did it. Sometimes I do. That’s where we started, with nothing.
You should be proud. That’s why I’m excited to share your story because a lot of people come up with all of these excuses about why they can’t do this. You either have excuses or you have results. You had a million reasons why you couldn’t have done it, but you didn’t allow them to hold you back and you did it. I love that.
I cringe, especially the excuse that I hear a lot of people in general say, “I don’t want to be a landlord. I don’t want to be fixing broken toilets.” I cringe. I’m thinking “Really?” In 30 years of investing in real estate, I’ve never fixed a broken toilet. I’ve never gotten a call in the middle of the night about a broken toilet. I don’t know where that started. I don’t know who did that or started that. It’s such a disservice to those who may otherwise get into this business and become successful.
That isn’t fear though. I had that fear. In twelve years, I’ve had one broken toilet and I sent the handyman to fix it.
That was the thing for me, I had no fear. That’s the thing, I had my husband. I was fearless and he was the more level-headed, he was like, “Let’s think about this.” I’m like, “Let’s do it. Let’s go for it.” A lot of the times, fears will hold us back. We never succeed or we never achieve any of our dreams and goals because of fear and that’s tragic. Face your fears. Do it. Don’t think about it. Don’t over analyze it. In America, I always tell people, “It’s a poor man’s path to riches if you get in the system and work the system and take it seriously and invest in it.” You can go from rags to riches, absolutely.
That’s great advice. Thank you.
It’s my pleasure. I love sharing my story and I love it when I see other people decide, “Maybe I want to do that too.” I love it, especially women. That’s why I admire you for starting this group for women to support one another. Had I had this years ago, I don’t know where I would be. You go into these functions and you look around and it’s a room full of males and there’s a sprinkling of women there. Having this support group is awesome.
That’s the path, to have the room full of women.
I would love to see that. That would be awesome. You’ll get there.
We have time to share your Trinity. Before that, if people want to connect with you and find out more about you, is there a way that they can do that?
Thank you for sharing that. I will conclude with a Quick Trinity. A Trinity is a brag, gratitude and desire. What are you bragging about? What are you celebrating?
What I’m celebrating and I have been for the past months, I am finally done with tuition. I’m a tuition-free mom. My baby graduated in December from college with his Master’s, no debt. I am excited to be tuition-free. We had a party when he finished and I called it this is it. It’s static because my kids have been in private school from kindergarten through college. I’m ready to be done with that.
What’s one thing you’re grateful for?
I’m grateful for my children. I always thank God that He gave them to me to shepherd over and to care for and to love. I am grateful that they are alive, healthy and doing well. I’m grateful that I am alive, well and happy. I’m grateful for that, it has nothing to do with money or anything, and for my family. I’m grateful that I still have both of my parents and my siblings. I’m grateful. I’m a happy woman.
What’s one thing you desire?
My desire, and it has always been, is to be a blessing to others, especially those who are less fortunate. That is something that I have always wanted to do, always be a blessing. To whom much is given, much is required. We are ultimately blessed to be a blessing. I always want to do that. I love doing that. My desire is to continue to do that.
So it shall be or so much better than you can imagine. You have definitely been a blessing to us. I’m grateful to have you on the show with your supremely inspiring story and wonderful advice. Thank you so much.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks to our readers. If you want to connect with Brenda, Brenda Simmons Gooden on Facebook, LinkedIn, and she also shared her email. To connect with me, go to RealEstateInvestorGoddesses.com. Check out my new book, The Real Estate Investor Goddess Handbook. It’s available on Amazon. It’s a number one Amazon best-selling book. Check out the book, go to the website, and get all sorts of free goodies around the book. Thank you all. I’ll hear you all next episode with another inspiring real estate investor goddess story.
- Hospicio Divinas Manos of Manati Puerto Rico
- Brenda Simmons Gooden – Facebook
- LinkedIn – Brenda Gooden
- [email protected]
- Amazon – The Real Estate Investor Goddess Handbook
About Brenda Gooden
Brenda Gooden has over 20 years of successful ownership and management of Medicare Certified Home Health and Hospice agencies and 30 years of profitable real estate investing.
She is currently the President and CEO of Island Management Services dba Hospicio Divinas Manos of Manati Puerto Rico. This hospice agency serves the terminally ill in the Northwest Region of Puerto Rico.
Her current real estate investments consist of over 722 doors as either sole owner, key principle or passive investor in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia and New Mexico. Brenda is the proud mom of Brittney and Jeremy and proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.