What were you doing when you were 17? I’m willing to bet that whatever it was, it wasn’t learning the ropes of the real estate industry. Yet that’s exactly what Kristina Sawyer was up to as a high school Junior when her mother, perhaps sensing what is now her trademark entrepreneurial spirit, talked her into working for the family’s property management company. The rest, as they say, is history. Real estate provided Kristina the unique professional opportunity to express her inner creativity in crafting innovative solutions to nuanced challenges whilst leveraging the power of teamwork within the brokerage’s different departments to efficiently accomplish mutual goals—skills she uses to this very day as the vice president of lending for Arixa Capital Advisors.
“Freedom lies in being bold.” – Robert Frost
The real estate industry isn’t for the faint-of-heart, and Kristina’s remarkable career trajectory thus far is a testament to how confidence and hard work can pay dividends when it comes to succeeding in such a competitive space. At a time in life when most people are merely trying to settle on a college major, Kristina was busy buying her first investment properties at just 21 years old. She then utilized an owner-occupied FHA loan to acquire an additional four-plex she used to generate enough passive income to cover operating expenses while still netting a healthy profit. After only three years, Kristina had the funds to move to Los Angeles and take her promising career to the next level—and she hasn’t looked back since. She yet again took a leap of faith to gain exposure to a different aspect of the industry that she was curious about— taking a substantial pay cut to join the ambitious startup now known as Arixa Capital. As the company’s Operation Manager, she gained an intimate understanding of the business mapping process and use this knowledge to enhance both workflow and the scope of offerings. She advises new entrepreneurs to be conscious of negative self-talk and to have confidence in themselves to constantly be seeking out the next challenge or opportunity. Getting out of her comfort zone was and remains an essential component of Kristina’s business approach, and it is a mindset that young professionals should develop early on in their careers.
“Make improvements, not excuses. Seek respect, not attention.” – Roy Bennet
Respect is worth its weight in gold in such a relationship-driven profession, and it can be a hard commodity to attain for some. In what has historically been a largely male-dominated industry, Kristina had to navigate this stark reality just like so many other talented young professionals. While women are steadily gaining more of an established presence in the higher echelons of corporate leadership in all economic sectors, there is still a long way to go before true equality is achieved. Unconscious biases and preconceived notions can be intimidated or downright insulting, especially for young entrepreneurs just starting out who lack the requisite experience and reputation to process such unfair impediments to professional development. Kristina is no stranger to these situations, but her advice to women starting out in the real estate and lending sectors is to pursue respect instead of acceptance. From the earliest stages of her career, Kristina has simply let her tremendous work ethic and meticulous preparation do the talking for her—an approach that has proven extremely successful.
“Explore, experience, then push beyond.” – Aaron Lauritsen
Kristina hasn’t let her accomplishments get to her head. She remains as ambitious as ever to continuously evolve and improve both her own professional skillset and her company’s long-term strategy. She continuously leverages her years of industry experience to push the envelope when it comes to integrating technology into the corporate workflow to deliver a better end-product to customers. She urges young professionals to ask their supervisors for new projects and to not be afraid to voice their opinion. Taking on these challenges is how you grow and build the requisite knowledge base to take on leadership positions. Kristina certainly practices what she preaches. She voluntarily took on the daunting challenge of taking the lead on Arixa Capital’s technological shift to offer more web-based services. It remains an ongoing challenge that Kristina is extremely excited about. She is confident that the tremendous Arixa team has the capacity to exponentially expand upon its geographic and logistical scope to become a leader in the lending space. This initiative and foresight resulted in three consecutive promotions that resulted in her becoming the first woman on the management staff at Arixa Capital, where she has since been joined by two other outstanding female colleagues–one of the many “firsts” in what has been and will continue to be a truly exciting and inspirational career.