As part of The Startup Magazine Female Founder series, The Startup Magazine caught up with Gina Diaz, entrepreneur and top immigration and real estate attorney, Ms. Diaz is a champion of both entrepreneurship and investing, and educates and supports immigrant, women, and latino communities in navigating the challenges of financial independence and wealth creation. She is also a founding member of We Win, LLC, an organization dedicated to introducing women to the world of real estate, and We Win, NFP. For more information, visit the TheGinaDiaz website or find her as #TheRightAttorney on social media.
Let’s see what Gina shared with us about her journey…
TSM: Can you tell us, in 10 words or less, what is the primary reason you want to help people become real estate investors?
Diaz: I want people to have a fallback plan and a security blanket, so to speak, that they can access anytime.
TSM: With a bit more detail, tell us more about the benefits of real estate investing and the best way for people to learn about real estate investing?
Diaz: Real estate investing, if done correctly, can help you retire from your 9 to 5 job; it can create passive income and a legacy for your family. Aside from having this financial security, you are also helping people who are not homeowners have a wonderful place to rent and call home while saving enough money to be homeowners themselves. By investing in real estate, you also help the neighborhoods you invest in by rehabbing properties that otherwise would not be rehabbed or can bring other property values down if in poor condition.
TSM: You also work with other entrepreneurs. How is real estate investing related to the broader entrepreneurship experience?
Diaz: Real estate investing can lead you to many different avenues which will make you an entrepreneur. In this process, there are many moving parts. For example, when investing in real estate, you will need the services of an attorney, an accountant, an appraiser, a general contractor, a surveyor, an electrician, an HVAC company, a cleaning service, a home stager, a project manager, etc. Through your passion for investing in real estate, you can become an entrepreneur in any of these fields, and that will connect you to your real estate investing projects and do what you love for others while building your own portfolio.
TSM: You also have a focus on immigration law in your law practice. What relationship do you see between immigrants and the startup community?
Diaz: I passionately believe that immigrants are a major part of a startup community.
Immigrants provide services that others are not willing to do or do for a reasonable price. At the end of the day, this country was comprised of an immigrant community that came for a better future. Immigrants who come here today want to do the same. I always find it funny that people think that immigrants are not needed. I do not believe that this country can or would survive without them.
Immigrants provide an important function for the benefit of this country, yet they only get recognized for the few that create issues.
TSM: That’s very true. What are the most important things you tell immigrants to help them find their home in this country as entrepreneurs?
Diaz: I like to remind immigrants that there is no such thing as “coming here the easy way” because we come here being aware that we will be treated as outsiders and will have to adapt to the new environment. We are aware that we will get low paying jobs and that we basically must start from zero, yet our desire to prosper in the land of opportunities and freedom is so high that we are willing to accept it.
We came for a better future and our desire to grow and to find a better future for ourselves and our family. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense we take advantage of the freedom and opportunities that this country has to offer and thrive? You don’t need any special invitation to build your talent or craft and be that good at it. All you need is the desire and the ethic to do it and do what, in some instances, you risked your life to do and seek those opportunities. Entrepreneurship is one of the best and most profitable ways to do it.
TSM: You are also the co-founder of We Win, LLC, focused on introducing women to real estate investing, and also and a transitional housing non-profit. Why is it important for you to give back to the community?
Diaz: For me, it is very important to assist women in real estate investing because when you think of the word “INVESTOR,” you usually picture a man. You don’t automatically see a woman’s image that pops into your head, correct? Yet, women are the decision-makers when it comes to purchasing a home. Women are traditionally, not always, the ones who decide if particular homes are suited for their families. That means, we, as women, are already making many decisions on what we consider a “home”. Therefore, it makes sense that we also become investors to assist other families in finding their perfect home.
WE WIN was created to provide a safe space for women where they can learn from each other without being intimidated by men where they would feel that they are not asking the right questions or fearing that they will be made fun of or looked at as weak. As women, we traditionally feel more comfortable in a room where we see other women doing what we want to do and hearing from a woman who has been there, done that, and understands the challenges we face every day.
TSM: As an entrepreneur yourself, going back to your early life decisions, tell us what factors influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur yourself?
Diaz: I actually never pictured myself being an entrepreneur. I always thought I would work for a big company and definitely be at the top, but not actually running my own. However, I quickly learned that not everyone shares your vision and is willing to entertain your ideas. When I became licensed to practice law, I saw so many opportunities to grow and help, and, unfortunately, the places I worked at didn’t believe in them or want to try the path I wanted. Therefore, with the help of my now husband, I decided to follow my vision and my ideas on my own, which led me to be an entrepreneur.
Sometimes, you have to be the one to believe in yourself when no one else will. You have to have the courage to listen to that inner voice telling you to do something which others are afraid to do, and don’t be scared to fail. Failure isn’t a bad thing, but a stepping stone that gets you closer to success.
TSM: What do you have planned for the future of your businesses and where you expand into new areas of entrepreneurship?
Diaz: I plan to continue to practice law and expand my knowledge of real estate and immigration. I plan to continue to assist my community in any, and every way I possibly can. Hopefully, I will create a nonprofit organization for legal assistance to those that cannot afford proper representation.
Additionally, I plan to continue expanding my real estate portfolio in Illinois, other states and even other countries. I came to this country as an immigrant from Mexico, and my parents wanted me to have a better future and be successful. I don’t plan on letting them down. The sky is the limit.
TSM: What is the most important thing you tell other entrepreneurs and startup founders? What are your lessons learned?
Diaz: I believe the most important thing to tell other entrepreneurs and start up founders is losing the fear. Fear is the number one reason people stay where they think is “safe” and only “dream” of one day being able to do what they want. Time doesn’t discriminate or care about your plans because it will just keep passing you by. Time doesn’t stop for anyone. So, instead of dreaming about it, do it. Lose fear and embrace the lessons because the only way to learn is by doing. YOU have to do it.
No one else can do it for you. YOU have to learn the lessons, and YOU have to take those chances. It is very seldom that you become an overnight success on your first try. It takes time, patience and dedication, but most importantly, YOU BELIEVING IN YOU. Don’t let fear stop you.
The most important lessons I have learned have been the ones I had to repeat. Remember that.
TSM: What is one interesting fact about you that people may not know?
Diaz: I am an only child, and I provide not only for myself and my kid but for my parents.
I am very proud to say that thanks to their sacrifice of putting me through school, I can now repay, and they were able to retire at a very early age. My greatest accomplishment is giving my parents a better life than the one they had and endured to put me where I am today.
TSM: That’s fantastic. Thank you for your time today and good luck on your future successes.