Building a brokerage from the ground up is no easy task, especially in the middle of a pandemic. But three speakers at the California Association of Realtor’s WomanUP! virtual event — Rama Mehra (Asante Realty/Side Realty), Kama Burton (soon to be CMB Realty) and Natalia Budilo (eXp Realty) — did just that, and they think other women should, too.

The woman shared their inspiring stories and words of wisdom during a panel discussion called, “Launching a Business During a Pandemic” that was moderated by real estate coach and Inman contributor Bernice Ross.

All three speakers said that building a business had been a longtime goal. For Burton, it was tied to wanting to help lift up others to success. For Mehra and Budilo, their aspirations as business owners were connected to the idea of the American dream, and building a legacy for future generations, as both are first-generation Americans.

The path to business ownership wasn’t easy for any of these women, but grit and tenacity helped them see their dreams through to the finish. Budilo, for instance, had just gone through several difficult years in which she separated from her husband, lost her home during the 2008 financial crisis and witnessed her son nearly get killed in a horrific motorcycle accident when she realized it was the time to take steps toward creating her business.

Natalia Budilo

“I knew after 2007 to 2012 with everything that had happened, that it was really inevitable, and the time was now,” Budilo said. “Do it or don’t do it.”

“I was still kind of reeling from that particular time period,” she said. “I felt like a candle that had been lit for a very long time and a breeze could just come along and blow me out. I had to find in myself a way to continue forward.”

Budilo and Burton both noted that being able to connect with other like-minded, supportive women at previous WomanUP! conferences helped invigorate them and get them closer to their goals.

At last year’s WomanUP! event, Burton was in the process of taking her broker test, and revealed onstage that she had failed the exam. It would ultimately take her two more attempts to pass, but she finally did, and now, through a pandemic, she is just about to launch her new brokerage, CMB Realty.

Kama Burton

“I felt such love in the room,” Burton recalled of sharing her failure last year. “And I am so glad and so relieved that I did say something. From that day, I began to bridge together relationships.”

“I’ve come along way and I’m still pushing,” Burton added.

As for the naysayers who tried to tell them they’d never succeed, the three speakers said they just kept on pushing toward their dreams.

“I’m saying this laughingly, but lovingly, but my husband was the first naysayer in the project,” Mehra said. “Thankfully, now he’s my biggest supporter. I knew that I had the need to create something for myself and I wanted to run my business my way.”

“I refused to give up,” Budilo said.

Burton said she just had to release some of the negative things people had said to her about what she was aspiring toward in order to make room for positivity.

“And remember that somebody else’s opinion of me is none of my business,” she added.

Although starting a business in the throes of the pandemic may sound precarious, these speakers said it was a surprisingly good time to do so, largely because of the overall slowed pace of operations across the nation during this time.

And, Burton noted, after surviving a 15-year abusive marriage in the past, overcoming obstacles like a pandemic seemed easy.

“Because I was able to get beyond that mountain, I know how to get through things a little bit easier, and the heartbreak made me a little wiser,” Burton said.

Rama Mehra

“Like Kama, I have also gone through a ridiculous amount of obstacles,” Mehra said. “And my takeaway was that there is no obstacle that you cannot work through and achieve what you want to achieve. I utilized this time to effectively transfer from my previous brokerage to my new brokerage, Side.”

Budilo too, used the time to attain a new certification, recruit more agents and start writing a book.

At the panel’s close, the speakers advised other women who are aspiring to start their own business to be tenacious about pursuing their passion, and not to wait any longer to get started.

“You have it inside of you,” Budilo said. “If you’re thinking about it, don’t wait to do it — do it now.”

“Reset, restore, renew and be relentless. Woman up.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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