Jamila Souffrant is passionate about helping others jumpstart their journey to financial freedom. She is the creator of the financial education platform and podcast Journey to Launch. Jamila was on her way to retiring early by age 40 when she realized she was fed up with her commute and wanted to work for herself. In episode nine of Millennial Wealth Builders Series, Jamila shares her money story, how she became a homeowner at 22, and how to achieve financial freedom even after quitting your 9 to 5 job. Today, her podcast has been downloaded over 2.6 million times, and her platform helps thousands of people create their own path to financial independence. 

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Danielle Desir 0:11
Co hosted by Acquania Escarne, the host of the Purpose of Money, and Danielle Desir, the host of the Thought Card. Millennial Wealth Builder Series is where we share the stories of women of color, building wealth.

Acquania Escarne 0:27
But this isn't your ordinary interview based show. Throughout the series, you'll be hearing from women who are creatively

Danielle Desir 0:34
Securing the bag,

Acquania Escarne 0:35
Stacking coins, you know what we mean.

Jamila Souffrant 0:48
Let's see, I mean, there didn't seem like an abundance of money. And there wasn't. But it was helpful because it allowed me to really value the dollar, because my mom was a young mom and a single mom, and she immigrated here from Jamaica, she had me in Jamaica, the island not to borough nothing wrong with the borough but I'm just saying and, and she had me as a young age, and she came here with absolutely nothing like, and luckily, we did have family here. So she was able to stay with people and work minimum wage jobs, and then send for me with my grandmother, I didn't grow up with like, you know, having all the things but my mom, she, she was such a great mom, like I can only hope to be half as good as what she was in terms of encouraging and the investment, like not necessarily the money, but like the time and love and encouragement that she gave me. So that all helped me honestly, even though it wasn't directly always money, like helped me figure out like, the all the things, the intangible things that allow someone to make money and to go after things and pursue things. Like that's what my mom gave me, which I think has put me in a position to be where I am today and earning like money. Like I chose my major based on I had no clue, right? You know, I hate that they make us choose so early because I'm like, I don't know, I just want to make money. So I chose business management, with a specialization in finance, because like, well, people are in business seem like they make money. So I'll just do that.

I always kind of went after what's gonna like make me money. I had a job since 14 have been working ever since. And then I was always a saver. So that was also a big part of my story. Because I think as someone who didn't grow up with much saving is like, we had to save and work with what we had. And that's one thing my grandmother and mom taught me was, I don't care if you bring only $1 home, like you're gonna save at least five cents of it. And my mom took me to open up my first savings account and about six years old. And that had a real impact on me. And so even when I started working at 14, I was always just conditioned to save my check. Like I wasn't just going out and spending my money and that really served me well when it came to my first internship and earning what I thought was real money like as a college intern through inroads because they paid you like well, but I saved most of it. And again, it helped me on my journey when I was then entering into the fire movement, financial independence, retire early movement. So all that to say, I feel like everything that I have done so far, even though sometimes it doesn't seem like it's related to money has helped shape my money story and allows me to make money today.

Danielle Desir 3:21
You just heard from Jamila Souffrant. Jamila Souffrant is passionate about helping others jumpstart their journey to financial freedom. She is not only the founder of Journey to Launch, but also hosts of the award winning podcast with over 2.6 million downloads. She teaches everyday people like teachers, working professionals and busy parents how to eliminate debt, save more money and increase their net worth regardless of their income. Jamila is a wife, mom of three, and a first generation immigrant from Jamaica, raised in Brooklyn, New York.

In this episode, you're going to hear what money was like for Jamila growing up, how she became a real estate investor at the age of 22, the major steps she took in her career to become a commercial real estate executive by the age of 35. As well as her journey to creating Journey to Launch. If you're new here, Millennial Wealth Builders is a 12 part audio docu series co hosted by me, Danielle Desir the hosts of the Thought Card Podcast, and Acquania Escarne the hosts of the Purpose of Money Podcast. Each episode features women of color who are moving past obstacles and building real wealth in the 21st century. Now this episode is episode number 9 of 12. So we encourage you to go back into the archives and listen to other stories. Including Minda Hearts, how women of color advanced in the workplace, or how to advance in your career become a founder with Shivani Berry. All the links will be in the show notes.

Jamila Souffrant 5:12
I went into contract on my first property, a condo in a place called Dumbo Brooklyn at 22 years old. It stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, so Dumbo. And it was almost like by accident. It wasn't like it was just fine. It was like the it was like the backup plant I didn't necessarily I wasn't looking for but it turned out great. So when I was growing up, I was I grew up kind of like in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in my high school years, and I realized that they were like these neighborhood millionaires like they didn't they were very unassuming. But like, I would hear that they owned property and brownstones in downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene. And I was like, Wow, so I had an interest in real estate. Then my grandmother actually ended up buying a new family home in Fort Greene. Also before it was like Fort Greene and like the best place to be, which is now very expensive to own something.

So I grew up seeing those examples, like I want to own property. And so I was graduating from college. And I said, I wanted to buy something. And I was looking in Fort Greene, Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, for a multi family house, I wanted to replicate what my grandmother did, and what I saw these like neighborhood millionaires do. And it was so expensive. Like, even you know, they were like, at the time, maybe like 700, 800,000, which in retrospect, it's not that bad. Because now those same places are probably 2 million. But as a 21, a 22 year old, it was just like, that's a stretch. I went to Jersey like to look for property. I was like, maybe I'll move to Jersey, like it's cheaper. And you know, it's not a three family house. It's a one family, but you know, I'll do and then I saw an advertisement for new construction condominiums in this place called Dumbo, which I was not familiar with, even though where I live was literally like 10 minutes away from it. I did not don't remember going often. And I saw that the price points for like, new construction condos starting from 300,000 and up and I was like, oh, something for 300,000. I mean, relatively, that seemed like a good price, based on the things I was seeing.

So I went my mom to the sales office, and Dumbo if anyone's familiar with New York now it's like one of the most expensive places to buy. But back then, like there was literally like nothing, there was like tumbleweeds, like, flowing by when we rent, okay. And like there was no Brooklyn Bridge Park, it was like there was just a big empty, like lots and lots. And then this the sales office and we went in and they had this vision for the building would be will have a doorman on a gym. And then they had the vision of what was coming to Dumbo. Like there was going to be this really nice park with a pier, and fairies and all these things in a few years that would happen. And, you know, I was like, Alright, what's the cheapest apartment. And so it was a studio apartment, the smallest one, and I needed to put 10% down to secure it. So the way it worked as like you need 10% down so that that apartment can't go to anyone else. I had some money saved for my internship that I was working. But I didn't have all of it. And my mom, God bless her, she gave me it wasn't even a loan, she gave me the sum of the 10% that allowed me to secure the property. I always like want to say that because like I think it's very important to the story. But and while obviously I'm very privileged to have a mom that will do something like that, or was in the position to do that I acknowledge that I always like look back to, she literally came here at 19 with nothing and was able to like give her daughter that's that start. But then what would happen is I needed to come up with the additional 10% in two years when the building was gonna be completed in construction, and the closing costs, like I needed to come up with that additional 33,000 and then the closing costs. And that was like all on me.

So my mother did allow me to stay home. While it was being constructed, I started to work full time. So that was also a very important part of the story. So I was able to save my money, like literally live like I was still in college. And I was like earning decent money but not a lot at the moment. But enough to where I was in this career trajectory that I knew I'd earn more. And honestly, it was a very big risk to do that because by the time I like it was completed the building, like I was, I knew that it was gonna be hard to cover the mortgage and my living expenses, but I kind of because I saved so much. And I knew that I was able to kind of hedge for that. And so I thought to myself, you know, worst case, I'll be able to sell it or rent it out, at least for the mortgage is. And luckily I was able to have enough money to put to finish the purchase and close on it and I moved in two years later, and it was like it's been the most riskiest, but amazing investment I've ever done that I love.

Acquania Escarne 9:52
What major steps did you take in your career to become a commercial real estate executive by age 35

Jamila Souffrant 10:00
It's all stem from the same company I worked full time for I was I interned with. And this is just shows the importance of literally asking for what you want and going after what you want. Because when I started my internship, it was in the IT department. And typically like when they when your intern like, you know, certain departments sponsor interns, and so they literally want you to stay in that department because they spent a lot of money to invest in you. And the goal is that that department offers you a full time offer, I think, before you even go off to your senior senior year, which happened for me. And so my first two internships, but in freshman and sophomore year, we're in the IT field, and they were great. But I was like, I don't want to be in IT. Like I want to be where the money is. And because I was always interested in real estate, I was like, I want to be in real estate investments, because a company that I work for had a real estate investment arm, like a whole big, they were big in real estate, where that was located was in New Jersey.

And I remember like talking to my inroads advisor and saying, you know, I don't want to be in IT, I would love to get an internship in real estate in Jersey. And they were like, Well, you know, like, you know, New York sponsored you because it was in the city. And you IT sponsored you for this position. Like it's people typically don't switch plus its in New Jersey, like, you know, like they were trying to, like dissuade me from making that. And I remember reaching out to the coordinator in the New Jersey office, for the interns and saying, I really want an internship. And in fact, I don't even care if it's in real estate anymore. I just wanted to be an investment. And I drove there. So she like took a meeting with me, I drove there and this I must have been, I don't know, I think it was like 20 doing this making I kind of like these sort of like likes, and I'm not going to let you put me in a box, I'm going to go and went there. And luckily, I got my last internship and real estate investments. And so when they made me a full time offer, they made it in the investments department. And so I went to work full time like and it was really nice, because I went off to senior year with a full time offer and hands, I didn't even look for other jobs. I was like, it's already there. I'm good.

And so I started to work in portfolio management first, so not not real estate. And again, I knew I didn't want to be there. And so I went to the real estate department, which was like on the first floor. And I was like, do you have any positions like, available for analysts? And they're like, No, I was like, okay, and I would just always check back and they had one position and get this kind of the IT real estate field. I was like, well, I just need to get my foot in the door. I know, I don't want to be in IT. I said this to the Universe and God already so but I'll do this. And so I went on did that kind of role for like a year or two? And is it really like a simple admin role, like I was like, like, I knew I wanted more. And so again, it's me taking initiative and knowing that I wanted a specific position at my company, which was the asset management position in the New York Region, because we had offices all over in real estate for the company. But I wanted to stay in New York, and I want to help manage assets in New York. And in the meantime, while I was waiting for something to open up, because no one left those positions once they were in it. I went back to get my master's in real estate at NYU, I started the process.

And I remember they sent an email at a analyst or no associate position was opening up an asset management in the New York Region. And I remember like the guy's office, the head of that outlet, that division was there. And he like sent the email out or HR sent it out. And I remember I printed out my resume and kind of went into his office and said, Oh, I just saw that you have a position. And he was like, we literally just sent this out. And I was like, Okay, well, here it is. And you know, and I think that made an impression on him. And a few months later, I was hired into that role. Then I finished up my degree and I stayed there. So until I left my job to become into what I'm doing full time Journey to Launch, I stayed and worked my way up as a asset manager in real estate. And it was like if I was going to work for any company or in any position, it would have been that role. And so that's kind of like how I finagle literally like my way to that position.

I always said, you know, I'm not going to work for anyone past 30. I don't like having a boss. I don't like asking for permission to do things. And I had this idea that I would do that by 30 years old. So I'd find different things I would like either have to build a business or start a company. So I tried different things. I had an online magazine, like I thought that was going to be the thing the next Honey Mag if anyone remembers Honey Magazine back in the day, I thought like we were going to create the next Honey Magazine with this magazine called Emperess magazine after a few years didn't love that. So we stopped. I got my personal real estate license because I said well maybe I can sell real estate on the side and did that I went on one showing and I was like I don't like this either. Like I rather like just invested on like my money for real estate myself.

Essentially, I was trying different things to figure out how I would not have to work after 30 none of them worked. And so I was like alright, I guess I should just be happy because you know, I do have a good job. I make good income and so I kind of just forgot about that or squashed it down. And it wasn't until I was pregnant with my first son at 31. And I was commuting, I've always had a long commute, because that place was in Jersey that I was going to. And so I always felt like, you know what, this is what you want it. So now you're commuting, you know, and it was fine when I was single or without kids, but I was pregnant. And my commute was like an hour and a half one way. And then this, this time that it took me to get home this one day, it was like, three, four hours. It's like it was crazy. And I remember breaking down on the car and saying, I'm not doing this for the rest of my life. And it wasn't even about the commute, because I could have found something in closer. But I just didn't want to do this.

And all the feelings that I had about like, not working for anyone else. And being my own boss came back to me. And I said, I have to figure out how I don't, I cannot be stuck in this because I don't want to do this with kids, I want more kids. And I don't want to be stuck in the car two to four hours a day. So I started to Google when I got home while I had a breakdown in the car, told my husband and then over time started to look into like and Google how to quit my job, how to retire early. All these things, you know, you kind of put it in when you're unhappy at your job. And then I started to discover podcasts and blogs about these people saving and spend saving and investing their money over periods of time. And then they were like traveling the world or quitting their jobs. And it was all a part of this fire movement. And I was so intrigued. And I started to listen now on my commute to podcast, like on one and a half speed. So I can like get through them. And I felt like it was like an underworld of like, I was like, Where has this been all my life. Like it was so exciting. And I said to myself if these people could figure it out, like why can't I and I and you know, a lot of the voices in the space, they were great. But I also felt like they weren't that diverse. And while I can learn from anyone, and that's kind of like how I modeled Journey to Launch, I knew that like, wow, I should start sharing my story. Um, and that's kind of what I did.

So it wasn't until 33 officially I say started Journey to Launch as a blog. So it did take a while. So I like saying that because 31 was when I was pregnant with my son. And then we ended up buying our home together, my husband and I moved in and like so it's got my eyes, I had the breakdown, and then immediately, like took off. It was like I had this breakdown. Then I started to listen to podcasts and read blogs. And you know, I was a first time mom. And so essentially, it wasn't until 33 that I said to myself, you know what, let me start this blog called Journey to Launch. I'll share my journey because at that time, I said I was going to retire by 40, which really meant quit my job. And I'll chronicle that. And as I started to share more of my journey with the three people list like reading the blog, and following me on social media, people were starting to get more interested, especially as I started to share more and open up and the numbers people were really interested in. Because of our income, we were able to save and invest $169,000 in two years. So again, that's a function of our income, we were high earners. Even though my husband's a teacher, like he does well, too. And so with that journey to launch, it was kind of born and then eventually became a podcast. And now I'd actually propelled me to quit my job earlier than I expected. And I'm doing this now full time.

I was the breadwinner for the most part. So even though my husband does well, he's a teacher still. So his income was not going to be able to cover our household expenses. And by this time that I decided that I want to quit like I was just got pregnant with a child number three. So it was really important to make sure we could financially be okay with me taking this leap. Because here I am, like doing all this and like, you know, like we were accustomed to a certain lifestyle. We weren't like super spendy. But we live in New York City, we live in Brooklyn, we have a house now going to have three kids. So we had to make sure we saved and invested enough money, like in an account that could cover the expenses that my husband's income couldn't that was really important. And I also wanted to make sure Journey to Launch, like it was not earning at all anywhere close to like, corporate income, but I wanted to know that there was potential and so when I saw that people were reacting to it the way that they were, when I realized that people were making real money in this business like and doing good work. Like it was really inspiring. And so that also gave me some energy and some confidence to be able to, you know, take the leap.

I've always had dreams of side hustling and I've side hustles before I knew about financial independence, um, but I would say that starting my financial independence journey intentionally opened me up to a world where I realized that people were making money doing different things like real estate investing, having platforms courses, doing things on the side where they were earning money. So once I learned that and saw that people in my industry as personal finance educators or influencers quote unquote, were earning like money, it did help me see if there was a lane to make Journey to Launch my full time thing. And then that could help me and accelerate me on the journey, possibly the financial independence.

There was some of that were quitting my job felt at first was delaying Like, I don't know that I'll, at the time, I didn't know that I could still reach my 40 year old goal of financial independence by quitting my job, because here I am now stepping back from investing and saving, you know, like, and I was okay with that. But I like to also say that I believe my jump into entrepreneurship has also possibly accelerated it, the jury's still out, like the numbers are not clear as so far yet, but I'm earning more now than I did. The business is earning more, which doesn't mean I'm earning more, but the business is earning more, and I have the potential to earn a lot more than I did when I was in corporate America. So it's accelerating now, so far in my journey to financial independence.

Non technical, so some of the non technical skills, I mean, it's really mindset, it's the inner work of really being able to withstand all the ups and downs of what this is like being entrepreneur full time, because working for someone else, like you know, you get a standard check. And usually it's the same amount every other week, right? And so as an entrepreneur, you have to create that stability for yourself. And sometimes in the beginning, it's not there. And so you can I question myself a lot, like, what did I, you know, do like I just gave up this potential for all this income if I just stayed, you know, and made it work. So it was a lot of the internal work. Honestly, think your net, like your network, who you know, is very important, and who knows you and just being a good person, because a lot of the opportunities that I've had or you know, media mentions and profiles, it was, like I said, it was a referral, or, you know, like someone put me on. And so I think it's not just like, you know, knowing how to manage your numbers as an entrepreneur or the right offer, it's like who you know, the mindset you have and the people around you, because then the times that you do feel like it's pointless, or you're not, it's not working, you need examples, you need people who can say to you who are on the other side that can say, I've been there, and I'm doing this now, or you need people who are going through the trenches with you, and you don't feel so alone. So there's a lot of that too, is who you surround yourself with.

I think for me, I have this, I have this belief that I can't fail, like, even when I'm failing like I'm not failing. So because it's a lesson, which means that it doesn't matter what happens, like, I feel like I'll come up, come out on top. And what I like to do so the practical side of me, will say, what is the worst that can happen in this situation? So even if it's me making an investment in something, right, like I've invested sometimes like the most I've ever happened, like certain programs or things to help me and I'm like, can you afford to lose this money? Like, if nothing comes out of this that you thought like, you don't get the return that the person said it would be? Are you going to be financially distraught? It's like, are you gonna be able to pay your mortgage? Usually, the answer is like, you'll be fine, you'll just be out of some money that you would have wanted, but you'll be okay. And so that allows me if I know that, like, we're not going to be destitute, and like my kids can eat like, which is usually that's never like, the end game or anything I do that I know, I can take the lead because it doesn't matter. If that thing doesn't turn out the way I want. I know, I'll get something from it. Maybe it's not what they promised or the thing that I thought it was, but it's a lesson. And I really do think everything happens for a reason. So that lesson will help me in the next level, like a video game, like you know, you pick up your picking up like these, these coins that you don't know why you picking them up. It doesn't matter in this level. You're like that was a waste. But then in level 10, you're like, thank God, I have that coin, and then you use that coin.

Okay, so I'm building wealth, one by example. I do think wealth is an inner, as corny and people are like, yeah, I can't pay my rent. But I do think wealth is very much inner. It's the inner game, like I have a high self perception of my worth. And I want to say this, I'm not coming from it's very confident. I am confident, but at the same time, I do have lots of doubts. And at the same time can be extremely insecure, which people don't believe like, they're like, you're right Jamila. I'm like, No, I actually am the differences. I just, I literally just keep going. And you know, until I believe it myself. So for me, like that kind of mindset. That's the wealth I'm trying to the inner wealth. Like, is what I'm trying to teach my kids. Maybe I can't, you know, give them a million each. That's like in trust fund. But I want them to have like a million dollar mindset.

So I do that first by showing them what that looks like in my own life. So when you know they asked me one day about what I do and how I did it, like I can tell this is true. I'll share with them this podcast, you know, they can get the whole backstory, but like, I want them to see Oh, my mom did it and then I want to think the same way my mom poured into me which is a big reason why do I important to them, like have them be super confident even when they feel insecure? Like these are the things like I want to teach them because I know it's not like you said they taught practical it's not the budgeting. It's not like the things we're taught about money that make you money, but it's It is what allows you to have money when you think like this, when you think like they say, like the white man with like, you know, all the confidence in the world that thinks they can't fail kind of thing. So that's that kind of wealth, and then of course, like practical kind of wealth, like, you know, I want to be able to give them a start in life, you know, if they can't understand what it means to budget and invest as early as possible, so that they start and have a head start even a better Head Start than me, like, that's my goal the same way my mom was able to give me a portion of my first 10% of downpayment, I'd love to be able to do that for my kids, and then to know what to do with that not to squander that. But then to build upon it as they grow.

Acquania Escarne 25:43
Okay, what are some steps listeners can take today to map out their path to financial independence.

Jamila Souffrant 25:49
So some steps you can take, if you're listening now, and you want more freedom in your life, I would say first to find what that means. That any game and honestly, that can change, like my thoughts of what I wanted have changed as I have moved forward. And that's okay. But it's a starting point of where you think you may want to be the life you may want to have, then you need to assess where you currently are like, how far are you away from that life? And so the numbers do matter. The internal work matters, like the mindset to know you can do it matters, but the numbers matter to you. So what does that endpoint look like for you? What's the goal? But where are you now? What's the debt? What's the income, know what's, what are the things that you're going to have to know. So help you figure out what you have to do to get from point A to point Z.

So it's really important to know your numbers to understand your mindset and the things that can help boost you along the way. And then really, it is surrounding yourself and changing your reality. Part of I think my success has been when I was in that car, listening to so many podcasts and success stories. And people who had similar maybe I couldn't relate to all of their story, but something about their story, I was able to learn and you know, so I think changing your reality too, is like finding and seeking out communities, communities online, or people that you are inspired by, to help show you what's possible is very important, because that helps change like, you know, your thermostat only on what's available to you.

I want to be remembered for someone who just went for it, that despite any obstacles, or what other people perceived as things that would stop them like someone that was an example of what was possible when you went for it. And just to be just like that positive like wow, like I think about that person and she inspires me in a way that feels good and inspires me in a way that feels bad, but in a way that feels like I can do that to like, you know, like I feel really connected to her and I feel like, like it's a it's something that I can do to so that's what I want to be remembered for.

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In this episode you will learn:

  • How Jamila Souffrant became a New York City homeowner by 22
  • Major steps Jamila took to become an executive by 35
  • The actions her family took to launch their journey to financial freedom
  • What to do before you quit your job for full-time entrepreneurship

Support the production of the show by buying me a coffee (making a one-time donation).

How To Achieve Financial Freedom and Prepare For Entrepreneurship

How to prepare for entrepreneurship?

Jamila Souffrant: Your mindset is most important. You have to be able to withstand all the ups and downs of what life will be like as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you have to create stability for yourself. And sometimes in the beginning, it’s not there, so it takes a lot of internal work. Also, build your network. Who you know, is very important. A lot of the opportunities I’ve had like media mentions came from referrals.

How to map out your path to financial freedom?

Jamila Souffrant: If you want more freedom in your life, first define what that means to you. Remember that it can also change.

Think about what you want life to be like and then assess where you currently are and how far you are away from that life.

All of these will help you figure out what you have to do to get from point A to point Z.

The numbers matter. The internal work matters. It all makes a difference.

Connect with Jamila Souffrant

Website: https://journeytolaunch.com

Instagram: @journeytolaunch

Twitter: @journeytolaunch

Facebook: @journeytolaunch

Listen to other episodes of Millennial Wealth Builders Series

How Women of Color Advance In the Workplace With Minda Harts

Advance in Your Career and Become a Founder With Shivani Berry