As a top one-percent loan originator for two consecutive years, Jennifer Hernandez is a real estate mortgage lending superstar. She is currently the branch manager of Loan Depot, which is on track to deliver $200 million for 2021.
Her remarkable personal story involves her epic triumphs over poverty, abuse and depression to rise to the peak of her industry. After suffering emotional and verbal abuse while growing up, she was expelled from high school, leading to drug use and homelessness. At 19, she gave birth to her first daughter Destiny. “I knew she was my reason to live and to change my life,” she said. She decided to pursue a career in finance management after hearing it was lucrative, which led her to her career today.
Giving back to the community is of huge importance to Hernandez. She founded nonprofit Madd Talent Outreach, which creates programs to keep younger generations off the streets. Additionally, Hernandez and her business partner Daphne Pinkney created “Do-Over,” a movement to empower people to overcome their struggles. Her autobiographical book, No One Can Stop Me, But Me, and documentary is set to release in 2022. Which she hopes will serve as a glimmer of hope for those seeking a “Do-Over” in life.
Hernandez is an example of someone who overcame adversity through a determined spirit and belief in herself. She says about her responsibility as a leader, “It’s empowering people and reminding them they are in control of their destiny.” Through her life achievements, Hernandez acts as an inspiration for us all.
PAIN & TRIUMPH
Jennifer Hernandez: Growing up, I experienced abandonment issues, emotional and verbal abuse, which led me to looking for love in all the wrong places. By sophomore year, I was kicked out of high school and sent to an alternative program that I graduated high school from. During that time, I was experimenting with drugs and anything I could do to self destruct. Those were my coping techniques––I felt insufficient.
I was homeless for a short period of time at 17. I had to figure out how to survive. I put myself in situations that could have left me in jail or dead. I ended up pregnant at 19 with my daughter. I knew she was my reason to live and to change my life. Fast forward a couple years, I went back to work and I was on public help for a brief time. They were paying me $13 an hour, but I had to pay $500 a week for daycare. I was basically working just to pay daycare. After watching finance managers [in the auto industry] make a couple of $100,000 a year, I decided to put myself through a finance manager class and became a finance manager at 25 after working my way up from a switchboard operator.
BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE
Jennifer Hernandez: The blessing came to me when I was fired from the car business, and this led me to the mortgage business, where I made over six figures within six months. I took my family on five vacations that year, built a half a million dollar house with an in-ground pool. I had three rental properties at the time and bought a vacation home in Wisconsin.
THE “DO-OVER” SEASON
Jennifer Hernandez: I opened up my loan broker shop with Fox Financial. Shortly after, the crash came and I lost everything. I reflected and was depressed for a while. I felt very alone. I gave birth to twins right before the crash, which added pressure and stress.
During the crash, I took a year off to readjust and just spend time with my kids because I hadn’t taken maternity leave at all. I had just given birth to twins and gone right back to work the next day. I was married, but I was very alone in my relationship as well. When I was losing everything, I decided it was my time to walk away from that relationship.
This was a complete “Do-Over” for me. Sometimes we have to step away from people and they will come back when the time is right. I needed to step away from everyone so that I could heal. I was raising two 4-year-old twins and my eldest were 14 and 15, going into high school. I got back in the mortgage business and worked as a server on the weekends so I could feed my family. When my ex-husband attempted suicide, I had to be there for my kids. I was on my own during the hardship. We have to remember in life that we are a mirror of who we are. There are things that are going to show up so that we can better ourselves, learn from it, or grow from it.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR DESTINY
Jennifer Hernandez: It’s empowering people by reminding them they are in control of their destiny; no one can stop you but you. It’s really about not abusing power and influence because people will listen to most of what you tell them. It’s about being genuine and authentic. I think influential leaders are meant to create positive change in people’s lives.
CONNECTING WITH CLIENTS
Jennifer Hernandez: I think it’s my story that makes me the best in the industry. When I walk into the room, I’m not here to sell you mortgages. I’m here to serve and connect with people. People go through many things in life and every single person’s case is different, so I think about what solutions I can craft to help people become homeowners.
There’s no judgement or difference in the line of service—you’re getting the same me. Every single person has a path. People get turned down from banks and really think they can’t buy. That’s not the case, you just need to work with the right lender. I want to help everybody and it’s my specialty because of the life I’ve lived. The more we help, the more change we will create, eventually changing the streets of Chicago forever—this is my goal!