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Women With Vision Magazine
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"The biggest compliment anyone can give me is not to send me their friends but their children. I get teary because that is so cool. "
Raisa Fudim immigrated to the United States at the age of 14. Adopting a new country and culture is impactful at any age; it was a foundational experience for Raisa as a young teen. She found her passion early, realizing she is an educator at heart, when she embarked on her first business, North West Dream Jobs, where she trained adults with special needs through educational or vocational training to become fully independent.
“My greatest success,” Raisa shares, “is what I've helped other people achieve. At the end of the day, I want to help somebody else achieve their goals. This desire is part of what drew me to the mortgage world. But it’s also about coming from another country and seeing my parents go through what they went through. You know, my dad was in his 50s when we moved to United States, and it was hard for him to learn a new language and culture in a place where everything was new. He started over from the beginning and did it with children. There were seven of us in the family, and he felt such a responsibility. There were times he questioned what he had done. We were fortunate to land in a community that came together to help one family get through it all. I think this is why I started working at the Department of Human Services. It was payback because that's where the initial push came from, the welfare my family received which helped us to get started in this country. It does take a village, you know, especially when you feel like you're blind, you're deaf, and incapable, but you still have a family to feed. That's why I started with the Department of Human Services and then the Department of Justice.”
It is not often society breeds leaders who have a relentless will to put others before themselves. Raisa Fudim of Empire Home Loans has dedicated two decades to service. From her time advocating social work to her contributions to her community outreach recognized by the Russian American Media, Raisa established her place long before entering the mortgage industry.
Advocacy taught her the true impact selflessness can have. This helping core drives Raisa’s choices still. In 2002, Raisa purchased her first home with a down payment assistance plan, leaving her with a horrible borrowing experience. In 2003 she entered the mortgage field determined to learn as much as possible to ensure every client she meets avoids disasters like her first mortgage experience. In 2012, she was licensed and embarked on her broker career, still
“I learned mortgage. Then I transitioned into opening a business to help people in need who are mentally and physically disabled. I worked in mortgage and my business simultaneously, and it was challenging. It also brought me joy to help people in two different places: people who have achieved and are ready to take the next step to make the biggest purchase of their lives and the innocents who have grown to adulthood yet still need a community to help them. I am still in touch with some parents whose mentally disabled children I helped to get employed. I don't like the phrase, mentally disabled. It’s not their disability that’s important to recognize. They enjoy innocence and a totally different viewpoint of the world. There are times I envied their ability to live focused just on what they have right in front of them, right now. I wonder, who helped whom? Did I help them grow, or did they really help me grow? There’s a reason for the path my life has taken. It was because of my parents; it was because I wanted to give back. I was in child and divorce support at the Department of Justice. That was because of what my sister went through, which made me aware of many women who are struggling, and I wanted to understand why and to help where I could.”
Raisa's path leading her to success in the mortgage industry demonstrates the importance of encouraging and guiding through education.
“I want to do what I love doing. And I love helping people. I love educating people. I love educating loan officers. When people talk about competitors, I don't see competition because everybody has their own fans. Everybody has their clientele. There’s room enough for all. I do things differently because I serve an interesting community. I work with Russians, Ukrainians, and Armenians. I hold classes where I create open conversations. I don't present, like with a PowerPoint, because there are so many different perspectives as to what you can buy, when you should purchase, and what's going to happen to the market. With the community I serve, they come to ask me the questions they want to have answered. I don't want to sit behind a desk and accept applications. I want my clients walking through my door to be those I've talked to, those I've educated and guided through how to become a homeowner, and who are ready to purchase. I have a personal relationship with them. And they don't shop around when you have a strong, personal relationship. The biggest compliment anyone can give me is not to send me their friends but their children. I get teary because that is so cool. For me, it’s not just about loans, it's educating them to get those loans by being smart and knowing the steps, the risks, and the responsibilities before they purchase. Nobody talks about the responsibilities of home ownership and having a mortgage. That's part of what happened in 2008 when many people didn’t know their responsibilities. Helping people understand ahead of time and prepare is amazing."
Raisa epitomizes the strength found in a woman leader. She has a natural appeal and ability to lead, which has served both herself and her clients well right out of the starting gate after graduating from Portland State University when she chose service as her profession. Raisa is a doer, and college offered a unique learning experience for Raisa in that she had little in the way of resources.
“When I decided to go to college, my parents couldn't help me. I had to figure out the college system by myself because I was the first in my family to go to college. I figured out how to do it too, for less cost. I learned what classes to take at community college that would be transferable and nontransferable credits. I had to figure it out all by myself. For me, as a woman in leadership, I started early. I was a young woman when I started managing, and ever since I've been in managing roles where I was figuring it out. I learned to not let anybody tell me otherwise. I learned when I have a conviction and believe in something, to just do it. Whether it's a man or another female trying to stop you, don't let anybody tell you what you're doing is wrong. I'm open to listening, and I'm open to hearing, but the decision is mine.”
Not all valuable lessons arise from an overheard conversation. Jen sees opportunities to learn every day and reminds it’s up to us to take action both to learn the lesson and implement it.
Raisa tells a story about an experience she had after moving to the Sacramento area and working to rebuild her business in a new state. Naturally, she focuses on finding work, creating referral relationships, and becoming a part of the mortgage community in her new home.

“I had a devastating phone call with one agent. He asked if I was married and did I have kids. I answered yes, and during the conversation, I mentioned my 16-year-old son was playing soccer. This answer stopped him, and he asked if I was a soccer mom and if I was available on weekends. I said I would not be available on some weekends, but I would be available on others. And then he said he’s looking for someone married, will not be dating, and has life figured out. He's looking for somebody with adult children and is available on weekends.
I said, because I'm a mom you assume I'm not capable of doing my work. You assume I'm less of a person, less of a professional because I have children. If I were a guy would you be asking me the same questions?
After I hung up, the conversation bothered me for a while. But you know what? I realized he was only one out of the 30, 50, or 60 agents I was talking to. His mindset was not going to control how it was going to be. Other agents love to work with me, who know if they call while I'm at the soccer game, I will call them back right after, who believe a personal life is a strength in a partner, not a flaw. In business, as a leader, you grow a thicker skin because everybody has something to say. Leaders learn to nod and move on. There are many great professionals who are supportive of women in business. They're uplifting, and they're encouraging, and they're understanding. Those are the people whom you choose to work with.
I have two boys who are the love of my life. My oldest son Isaac is 22, and he just moved to Texas. Jacob is 19 and still home. They're both interesting adults because of the diverse role models they had growing up; they have a mom with an unusual background, and they have always been close with both sets of grandparents. They've learned a lot from all, including being exposed to three languages. I spoke with them in Armenian and Russian around the house. I am proud of them as I watch them figure things out for themselves. It’s great, they come to me with the questions, but they are making decisions. And I love that because it's their independence. It's their mindset. And it's their mistakes. It’s their lives and their paths to choose.
I want to be there to catch them when they fall. But at the same time, I want them to experience the fall.”
Raisa is her own person, as is evident upon meeting her, whether virtual or in person. She is a strong woman who continues to evolve and experience life as it comes to her. Raisa, like all of us, is a blend of personal and professional. What is it that draws people to her? It is her sincere and transparent interest in others and her clear desire to help others achieve.
"I believe people are attracted to your person. My person is always thirsty. Always smiling. And I'm always learning. Well, that's sort of the thirst. And I'm a believer. And I'm quiet but filled with fire. I like to learn about people before I talk to them. Because you never know what your words can do to a person without you learning about them first. I have always been cautious about my words. I never in my life want anybody to cry because of something I've done or said. That’s my person.
I can truly say I have never denied service to anyone. With my background in a wide range of social work, I help people in all walks of life achieve their personal and professional goals; I understand the rejection people feel when they are turned down by mortgage professionals. I do not want my clients to ever feel that way. I understand their dream to own a home is of utmost importance to them. In my experience, if there is a will, there's a way, and I support my clients along that way."