If you want to succeed in real estate—or in life, for that matter—then there is one skill above all others that separates the winners from the losers: resilience. If you can’t bounce back quickly from adversity, you’re not getting very far in this industry.

Barbara Corcoran talks about resilience as key to success in pretty much every interview she gives. Psychologists have singled out conscientiousness, the clinical term for resilience, as one of the key elements of professional and personal success.

That’s why we were excited to have a chance to sit down with Louisiana Realtor and developer Terrica Smith. When she was younger, Terrica faced the ultimate test of resilience. Homelessness and abuse.

Here’s her amazing story:

Sean Moudry:
Good morning, Closers. It’s Sean Moudry and we have an amazing guest today. She’s inspirational. She’s powerful. And you’re going to love this interview. Terrica Smith, welcome.

Terrica Smith:
Yes, thank you for having me. Yay, I’m so excited.

Sean Moudry:
I’m really excited to interview you today, and what a cool story you have. Can we talk a little bit about that? Because it sounds like that’s where your passion for real estate kind of came in, is that correct?

Terrica Smith:
For me, I think everybody had their own life struggles. If I’m being honest, it just so happened mine was abuse. And I went through a lot of childhood abuse. Five years old, my mother gave me over to her drug dealer and by the time I was 9, 10 years old, I was into the foster care system. By the time I made 16 years old, I was already pregnant with my first child. And at this age, when you went through so much as a child, you’d naturally think “can’t nobody tell you anything,” like you’re an adult now. So now I’m going to try to make the best decisions for myself.

And I started traveling the road. I was selling magazines. I actually got pregnant on the road, selling magazines. And I came off the road, went back to New Orleans after I found out I was pregnant and I just, I didn’t have no family.

Terrica Smith:
And so I ended up homeless, living up under a bridge for a night with my child. And that was like a real defining moment for me, because I just had my baby, I’m 17 years old. And the person who I resent the most, which was my mother at the time, I’m now looking exactly like her. And I knew that I wanted to make a change. I did not want my son to go through what I’ve been through.

I didn’t want him to experience being hungry. I didn’t want him to experience not having power on in the house. I didn’t want him to experience abuse. So I was very overprotective over him. Didn’t want nobody to touch him or tell him anything. And so for me, that night up under the bridge, I had to make a decision: Is this going to be my reality? If this is going to remain real, then I’m going to be exactly like the person who I’ve been running from my whole life and who I resented the most.

Terrica Smith:
And so for me, I needed to change that. And that night was so chaotic. I was like, “All right, I’m going to do this. I’m going to figure it out.” The next morning, I reached out to this landlord in New Orleans. I had no money; I just had my food stamps. I offered him my full food stamp card just to get me a place to stay. I would have figured out the rest later. And he was just amazed at how bold I was to call him and offer him something illegal, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be off the streets. And he didn’t want to take my card, he didn’t want to take anything.

Terrica Smith:
He just was, “I’ll work with what you have.” And so I was able to get welfare and then I was able to pull some money together. And then eventually I was able to pay him. But he gave me a few months free—he really helped me out. And that was a changing moment in my life. Because when I was traveling the road, I’ve seen all of these megamansions, people living in these beautiful houses. And I’ve never seen anything like that in Louisiana. It always stayed with me, even whenever I was homeless. And these people had these big mansions, and I’m like, “I’m no different than them, and why they have a better life than me and why they have … Why these kids have loving parents, I didn’t have that.”

Terrica Smith:
So I was always like that victim. And then what happened was once he gave me that first stepping stone, I realized that I had more power within me than what I really thought I had.

Because somebody who don’t have any money and homeless the day before turned their situation around the very next day by simply asking. And so for me, once I realized that, and you know, I got into my apartment, was like, “All right, I’m going to go to school.” Well, I ended up at Delgado Community College. I’m fast-forwarding through the story quite a bit. But I ended up at Delgado Community College, then lasted all of about 30 days. Because I was going up for nursing school and I realized I did not want to help, I’m not compassionate like that. I don’t want to clean people for a living or do that service. That’s just not me.

Terrica Smith:
And so the teacher set out to be able to tell you right away, if you guys are going to be able to stay in nursing. And she was like, “During surgery you have to prep.” And then she told us everything you have to do to prep a female, everything you have to do to prep a male. And some of the things you may have to clean up during surgery. And I was like, “All right, I’m out. This is not for me.” So I got out of the class real fast.

Hurricane Katrina came; by this time, I’ve had two kids and I’m 19 years old. I’m like, “All right guys, something got to change.” So we end up relocating to a city in Louisiana, called Lafayette, Louisiana. And that’s where I started in real estate back in 2006. That was a defining moment, because everybody who I met that lived in these megamansions always said they were in real estate.

Terrica Smith:
So I was like, “All right, I’m going to get into real estate. And I’m going to make all this money and I’m going to be this fabulous person.” And then the first year I sell $5,000 in real estate. Literally. That was like, “Oh my gosh, people at McDonald’s make more than me.” I failed this exam seven times. So you would think, why do people do this? This exam was extremely hard for me.

So I was like, “I’m going to hang in there.” And then the next year I knocked it out of the ballpark. I became Century 21. I was like a rookie of the year for them. I went on to receive their Ruby award, then their Diamond award. Then later I became their office manager. In 2012 I opened up my real estate brokerage. And then from there into 2012 we started Cachet Real Estate, which I built on three principles: I wanted us to be vibrant, I wanted us to be strong, and I wanted us to be courageous.

Because when I started this business, I failed the exam seven times; no broker wanted to have me on their team. Because it was a little different, those years. It was, you wouldn’t think, but it was very different. You needed to look a certain way to go to these big luxury companies. And I didn’t look that way. I just told you, I just come from being poor. So you know, no money, I didn’t look the part that they wanted me to be at their office, right? And so I needed them to remember that you needed to be courageous, even when things like that come up against you. I need you to be vibrant, because your energy is what’s going to attract your business.

Terrica Smith:
And if you’re vibrant, then nobody’s going to want to do business with you. And in this business, you have to be strong. You have to be willing to go with the lows and with the highs. Because if you’re only going with the highs, when the market crashes, you’re going to fold. So you have to be strong in this business and you have to know people are going to talk to you like you’re nothing, and they’re going to treat you like you’re a dirty car salesman. But I just need for you to be strong.

And so from there we birthed Cachet Real Estate. Then I joined forces with Real Broker, LLC, which is who I’m with right now. We actually just went public. So I’m so super-excited.

Sean Moudry:
Awesome, congratulations.

Terrica Smith:
Yes. I’m so super-excited about that. And from there, that’s really how my real estate career was launched, tied into my personal story as well.

Sean Moudry:
What a great story. So, can you go into a little bit more depth on, like, the new agent? So, if I’m a brand-new agent, and I’m listening to your story. I mean, like you’re inspirational. So what advice would you give a new agent?

Terrica Smith:
The advice I would give a new agent is: Build your own book of business. Don’t sit around for a duty call. Don’t sit around waiting for your broker to feed you, because you will starve, right?

Pick up the newspaper, go on the internet, go door knocking. I literally hit the ground. I would knock on doors and it’d be like, “Why would I want to work with you?” And I’m like, “Because I have time. All these other agents you’re reading about in the magazine, they have all of these properties. You would be my only client. So I promise you, I’ll give you 110% of me. I’m going to know you on a first-name basis, I’m not going to have you as a number.”

And that’s how I was able to get my foot in the door. So don’t wait for somebody to hand you something because then you’ll be waiting your whole entire career. And whenever things change or whenever that broker gets a favorite, guess what? You’re hungry.

Sean Moudry:
Yeah. Oh man, you’re great. Do you have a favorite deal? Like a favorite transaction or a favorite story? A real estate story?

Terrica Smith:
Yes, so obviously mine says Madeline Cove, right? That is my heart. And Madeline Cove, so I’ll give you a little back story. Back when I was a new agent, and this is why I say don’t wait on somebody to feed you. They used me as the open house agent. And for people that may not understand what an open house agent is, you’re like the agent, they go to all the open houses and do all of the work and meet all of these people and get none of the deals.

And so I was that person, and I didn’t know, I just was so tenacious, I wanted to win. I wanted to not be poor, I wanted to not be under that bridge again. And so all of that played into how my work ethic was in real estate.

Terrica Smith:
And they were developing this community here in Lafayette. It’s on the north side of town. It’s in the inner cities, right? And this was supposed to be this huge revitalization project. And I’m an African American woman, so I was going to be able to relate to the people. I was going to understand their pain points because I’ve been through so much.

And then the partnership went south and that project never came alive. And so I literally watched this project for a decade. It sat there, it went through bankruptcy. It had to go through court proceedings. It had all types of judgments and liens with the city. Nobody could ever touch this property because it was just too defiled. And so back when President Trump created what is called the Opportunity Zone, this particular project fell within the Opportunity Zone Act.

Terrica Smith:
And I was like, “Oh yeah.” So then the wheels start turning. I went into prayer. I said, “All right, God, if this is going to work, I need your blessing. Because this land, it has been cursed for decades. It has not been successful. Everybody who’s tried to come and buy this property has failed miserably. The city is tired of talking to people about bringing this property back into commerce, so I am asking for grace and I’m asking if this is going to work, then I need for you to be the steering wheel of this. I need for you to steer this for me. And I’m just going to be in the driver’s seat.” Boom, that’s all I said, OK. I called a few business partners and I said, “Hey, there is this property that falls within an Opportunity Zone. I would like us to go and get it.”

Terrica Smith:
They’re like, “Hey, OK, cool. We’re in, how much is that?” I’m saying, “Right now they want $1.5 million.” They’re like, “What? $1.5 million in what part of town?” I’m like, “Yes, but I’m believing we’re going to get this property for almost nothing.” They’re like, “All right, we believe in you, Terrica. So we’ll follow your lead, but we ain’t paying $1.5 million, we’re telling you that now.” Like, “All right, cool. I get it.” So, from there I started reaching out to our mayor. I started reaching out to our leaders in the community, city councilman, blah, blah, blah.”

Terrica Smith:
And then I found out enough information that made me comfortable to say, “OK, I’m going to put a contract on this property.” So they were asking $1.5 million. I offered them $800,000. No, I lie. My first offer was $250,000. They said, “No, get out of here with that.” Everybody was like, “How could you insult them so bad?” I’m like, “The property’s sitting here, they owe a ton of taxes. It don’t make sense for them to keep this.” So I went back, I shot them another offer, went up 350,000, then I … They countered me back. They said, “OK, we’ll counter you back at $900,000.” I’m like, “OK, we’re making progress, $1.5M to $900K, OK.” So then ultimately we ended up agreeing to $700,000. So I got it for 50% less than what it was, right?

Sean Moudry:
Good job.

Terrica Smith:
Yeah. But this is my favorite part about this. This is the community, it has all the roads. It has all of the infrastructure, all of the hard costs, all of the soft costs. The sewage is already installed. Everything is there, except the vision. And while I was able to relate to this property because this property was abandoned, this property was thrown away, this property was looked down at. Nobody wanted to touch this property, and if they did, they just wanted to keep the stigma of where it’s at and don’t bring the people in the community up with it.

Terrica Smith:
It wasn’t going to be anything positive, but it’s going to be more of a subsidized housing type of event. And I was like, “I don’t think that’s something that we need to be doing. This is something that can rebirth an entire community, right? We’re going to be the first to create a work, live, eat, play type environment.” And so when I came in with this huge design, the city couldn’t even believe that. There’s like, “There’s no way you’re going to be able to do as much as you want to do on these 15 acres. That don’t make sense, Terrica.”

Terrica Smith:
And I had an engineer and an architect who saw the vision of being able to put new home owners with millennials, with the seniors, with a grocery store in the front and a few restaurants to be able to cater to the community. And by the time I finished the vision and working with all of the people that’s involved, we came up with almost 200 doors.

Sean Moudry:
Wow.

Terrica Smith:
Two hundred doors in this community. And so that story literally went viral all over the world. It went to Africa, it went to Germany. We were in Italy featured. Washington, of course. I don’t know if you know this, they invited me to the White House because of the work that I was doing in regard to this community. And the White House is very supportive of this project. In fact, Scott Turner has literally come out to the property twice. Well, yes, once and should be coming back twice to be able to shine light on the work that we’re doing here in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Terrica Smith:
And I say all that to say, this is something that was just thrown away. Nobody wanted it. And I connected with that. It pulled on my heartstrings and I was able to tie my heartstrings with this property heartstrings, and be able to birth it with some amazing business partners who believed in this. And so that’s why the article you may be reading would be like, homeless to raising $14 million for a development. And I was told no a million times. Remember, I said, “You got to be strong in his business.”

So every time somebody told me, “No,” literally I just put a check. You ever put a line across a tally when you hit number five, that was me. And I’m like, “F#$&*, I’m running out of people. I’m still going.” And then before you know it, it was none of the people that I knew. None of the people that I knew really I got behind this project. It was all people of other people who believed and kind of supported this. That’s amazing to me.

Sean Moudry:
Amazing. You’re amazing. So, what phase is that project in now?

Terrica Smith:
So right now we are looking to break ground in September.

Sean Moudry:
Amazing. Amazing. And you wrote a book. Can we talk a little bit about your book? The title is “Frightened, Scared, and Alone No More!!!,” right?

Terrica Smith:
Yes, yes, yes. I think the title says everything, right?

Sean Moudry:
Yeah. Your story is amazing. I love how you tie your purpose, that story with that connection under the bridge with your child, to your brokerage, to your project. I mean, I think one of the biggest reasons people fail is that passion and that connection. And when you anchor that, like you said, you said your heartstrings. I love those words, by the way, I’m writing down, taking notes, I love that. When you anchor those things, I mean, there’s no choice but to be successful, right?

Terrica Smith:
Yeah. Yes.

Sean Moudry:
Because it’s part of you.

Terrica Smith:
Yes, there’s no other option. There’s no plan B. There’s no plan C. It’s only, this is the plan—it has to work.

Sean Moudry:
It’s amazing. What an amazing story. So, where do you go from here? You’ve achieved so much already. And I think I did the math. Are you still under 30?

Terrica Smith:
No. I’m 35.

Sean Moudry:
OK, I did my math really wrong. That’s still super-young, though. What does your future look like?

Terrica Smith:
So, my whole purpose in life is to be able to help people who don’t believe that they can help themselves. And I know that I’ve placed myself in a position where now I’m able to give back to people who are less fortunate, and not just by giving them a dollar, right? That don’t help people, but by changing their mindset, by giving them knowledge. And so for me, if I can give what I have within me, if I can share everything that I’ve been through to as many people as I know for them to say, “OK, my life is not this bad. So if she went through that, then I should be able to go through this.” And with that, have people’s lives be changed through that.

Terrica Smith:
It’s so important that people understand that your reality is not real. Even in this moment right now, that may sound unbelievable to you, but it is not real right now. What is real is what you allow yourself to believe is real. So for instance, I’ll translate that to you. When I was homeless up under the bridge, that wasn’t real, right? Because I’d still be there if I believed that that was real.

My mind wouldn’t allow me to leave if I believed it was real. So I look at every situation like that in life. My reality, if it’s not good for me, if it’s not comforting for me, then it’s not real. It’s temporary, and I’m going to get through this, but I just have to be able to see past what’s supposed to be reality right now. And that’s where a lot of people fell at because they just look at reality and they can’t see past it. And so for me, I’m always looking to the left, I’m always looking to the right. I’m always looking, because my reality is not real, especially if I’m uncomfortable.

Sean Moudry:
I completely agree with you. And that is a very hard concept to teach people.

Terrica Smith:
Yes, it is, it is. But I’m hoping …

Sean Moudry:
How inspiring.

Terrica Smith:
I’m hoping, through this project of Madeline Cove, that we’ll be able to transform the thinking of a lot of individuals in the lower-end communities who don’t really understand the importance of home ownership, who don’t understand the importance of being in an area where it’s more important to pay property taxes. I’m hoping that we can educate them through the courses that we’re creating to be able to give them the knowledge that they need to continue moving forward.

Sean Moudry:
I love it. If somebody wanted to learn more and to maybe be in support of you, or your mission or a cause that you care about, where do you suggest they go?

Terrica Smith:
So I recommend that they go to saltcapitalequitygroup.com, that is a company that me and some friends started to allow normal people such as yourselves to be able to come and invest with us on our projects. But not just invest—get the education of becoming a developer and or an investor or a landlord or whatever it is that this person seeks to be.

Go to saltcapitalequitygroup.com and click the “inquire” button for more information. And then someone from my team would reach out to them within 48 hours and be able to explain to them exactly what it is we’re doing. But we are a real estate platform that brings in unaccredited investors to be able to invest with us.

Sean Moudry:
Oh, amazing. Man, I could learn so much from you. Terrica Smith, it was absolutely a pleasure interviewing you today. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Terrica Smith:
Yeah, I would like to share just for the agents out there, do not do this without a purpose. Do not do this without a strategy. Make sure while you’re doing this, you know what you’re doing it for. Because this business is hard, and it would chew you up and it will spit you out. So if you don’t know what your purpose is, if you don’t have a strategy, then you’re going to be zigzagging in this business and you’re going to become a statistic. And that, my friend, is what you don’t want to become.

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