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The Vision
"The foundation of my world shifted from that moment forward. Responsibility is the definition of what happened to me with that realization. "
Visionary leaders like Julie Yarbrough manifest early in their careers and continue to grow and share their powerful sight.
She credits her outgoing and friendly nature, along with an ability for total survival, to being born on Camp Pendleton Marine base and attending eight totally different schools throughout her formative school years. Among her goals in life is to be kind, optimistic, and curious, and to always be in and around water.
A veteran leader in the mortgage industry for over 30 years, she has grown into and moved through many roles, each presenting her with new perspectives while experiencing every nook and cranny of this industry.

Julie is passionate about using her career journey and personal ownership experiences to forge a bigger path for women in the mortgage industry by educating and empowering them to build their own empires.
"I was leading a mortgage division for a bank when I woke up one day and said Enough. My creativity had been sucked dry, I had grown a team around me who were not value-based, and I was originating about 40 loans a month. I decided I wanted to go JUMBO and reduce the amount of loans I did per month and go towards volume. I quit my big-titled job and wrote up a proposal to a huge international bank which had luxury agents, the product I felt I needed to grow my business to the next level. Within six months I moved my loan amount from $302k to $697k. This took me dialing every Luxury agent in a four-county region and changing my entire way of doing business. Flash forward two years and I was averaging 9 Mil a month in production. The company took a turn for the worse and our four-week turn time lagged to seven weeks to get a loan from application to funding. The Division president had an urgent call to let us know they would NOT be extending locks for our clients. His advice? Deal with it. I think I cried in my soup and at my dining room table for three days. My assistant kept asking me to come back to work, but I was frozen with fear. I represented this company, although I did not agree with the way they took care of our customers and business partners. I worked there and their name showed on my paycheck. I dug deep and while crying, I took a deep breath, looked into the mirror and said to myself, YOU chose to move your business to this bank. And guess what J U L I E, once you take care of these clients and business partners you can simply MAKE A NEW CHOICE! The foundation of my world shifted from that moment forward. Responsibility is the definition of what happened to me. When I took responsibility, I gained the power to pivot and make a new choice for my career and business!"
"I have reflected on this moment more times than I can count. Being the victim of everything that was happening caused me to feel and be powerless. I became a new person through that breakdown and failure. I know being responsible empowers me. I can rely on me. My family can rely on me. My partners can rely on me. My team and business partners can rely on ME!”

All of this and more has come out of failure for Julie. She, like all successful people, has had her share, perhaps more than her share, of failure. The key to success, cliché or not, lies in how you embrace the lessons learned. Julie is keenly aware of this and in fact has based her current business firmly on the foundational failures she has experienced.

“Easily my greatest failure and my greatest learning of my career was the demise of my Brokerage in 2009. I had a mid-sized brokerage during the mortgage meltdown. I did not have the wisdom or experience to know what was happening to me. I dumped my entire life savings into that business to pay my employees, keep them employed, and keep making the lease payment all while production fell off the cliff. My greatest mistake was simple: I was my company. My company was me. If I failed, so did the company. I took this lesson to heart. With Empire Home Loans, the company has its own identity. If I retire tomorrow, Empire will live on. I learned my company needs to have its own identity, successes, and failures. I am not it; it is not me. I now have the experience of cutting costs and know it is in the best interest of the company whether I upset people or not. I understand what is in the best interest of Empire might not be what’s in the best interest of Julie Yarbrough. This gives me back the power I did not have in the design of my brokerage. I can pivot accordingly.”
Educate - Educate - Educate
The painful lessons in Julie’s career became fruitful and embody today a key part of her professional philosophy.
“The lesson I learned is that I cannot control rates, liquidity, or loan officers’ actions. I can become knowledgeable and make decisions based on knowledge. My Vision for Success is that we educate in EVERY Channel. Be it Retail, Broker, or Federal Institution. Through education everything is possible. All of us have the right and ability to be successful and fear-mongering is not the way. Each one of us has the responsibility to educate ourselves and our clients on who we are and why we are different. Educate ourselves for the betterment of clients and ourselves and let’s not trash talk the other. To educate Loan officers about the current cost to originate (at $12,475 Per MBA Q4 2022) and to understand margin compression! When we educate loan officers on Bps, margin, and cost to originate, they won’t complain about their rates or pay structure. This is where I could have been better as an executive leader within the retail lending environment, had I been better educated then. We must educate about cost models and explain why brokers have lower rates and, in some cases, higher comp plans. The cost model matters. We can save consumers, on average right now, $9,600 a month and $10,400 for minority borrowers. I truly encounter fear-mongering every day in both the retail and independent models. Education is the answer for all. You must educate yourself to know why the numbers are what they are before you can make an educated decision about the platform you want to work under.”
Julie’s success has a direct correlation with the strength of her core values and her commitment to growing a business filled with people who share those values.
"My greatest professional success is easy to find; it’s hiring the amazing human beings at Empire Home Loans. In past roles as an executive leader, my job was to grow and hire based on numbers only. It wasn’t based on values. When I started this company with my partners Leo Whitton and Anthony, we agreed to base our decisions on our values. It was clear our path to grow the company had to be done by invitation only. The invitation would be given to the person who mirrored our values, not just the person with the most closings. This makes my greatest success growing Empire Home Loans with people who lead their lives by their values. Everyone at our company looks to the left, then to the right to make sure EVERYONE is winning! When we help others get what they want we in turn get what we want. We focus our cameras on culture no matter where our physical workspace is. Being present to win means showing up with purpose and taking action even though we are afraid. This can only happen in a safe environment. I believe I have created a beautiful place where loan officers in the broker world feel supported through our structure and thrive with their peers! Working in this environment feels invigorating and the gratitude I feel brings me to tears often.”
Julie considers her greatest personal success and arguably her greatest success period, to be having and raising her daughter, saying,
“Isabella is the greatest gift I gave to this planet. She is how I will leave this world better than how I found it. She is so driven, smart, kind, and strong. Her fierce risk as an equestrian takes my breath away every time she charges forward on her 1,300-pound horse, full speed ahead to leap over solid structures at an alarming pace with no handles! She simply takes my breath away.”
Kevin Hayes, a mortgage brokerage owner, is her partner of 17 years. Kevin brought a son, Brian, into their family as a late teen when Julie and Kevin started dating. Family is important to Julie, right down to the fur-covered members.
“We gave birth to Isabella Bliss in November 2008. Brian, who is now a Sheriff, is married to Jade. I adore our three grandchildren, Roman, Braxton, and Willow. My Bella will be entering the 9th grade as a 4.0 honor roll student and is an incredible Equestrian. She has a horse named Kingsley. We have three dogs. Sierra is a German Shepherd, Luna is our Black Lab, and our baby boy Bentley (Bella’s barn dog) is half Australian Shepherd and Border Collie. And not least but last in size maybe, we have two cats, Luey and Nala and one gecko named Snow."
Keep your mind right and your grind tight
This is one of Julie’s favorite quotes and it certainly does fit her personality.
“I cannot even say it without smiling! If you have worked with me or for me in my career you will know that I consistently work on my mindset, and I show up in action. Watch my results, no need to listen to my words.” “My absolute favorite part of this industry is learning something every single day because it is always changing. I lean into change. Our company fosters change as a value. There is a deep well knowledge within the mortgage and real estate space I am consistently satiated with learning!”
The future, both for family and business, is bright and maybe a bit scary for Julie. “In the next 5 years, I will be an empty nester which scares the holey hell out of me! But looking further ahead, I see Empire Home Loans tens year out filled with 250 incredible humans who are full-time active loan officers passionately serving and educating their clients and business partners. Looking 15 years ahead, traveling the world and pursuing philanthropic endeavors to help our industry become real.” Julie’s goals for the immediate future are equally as ambitious and unstoppable. “I want to show how we can grow a large mortgage brokerage with values, systems, and success! I want to create the best mortgage platform for retail to cross over to the independent broker channel. Taking the very best from retail and the very best from the broker world and creating a platform to support loan officers with a perfect blend of training and education, personal growth, community, optionality, systems compliance, and a winning culture!” “Digital disruption is a thing! If you are not on social media, you better get there. If you are not up to speed on how to better facilitate your loan transaction with your borrower and business partners, you better educate yourself. Twenty-five years ago, they tried to do automated grocery attendants. We humans would not have it. Now? Every grocery store has a self-checkout. If you do not think it’s happening to our industry you had better wake up. Mat Ishbia disrupted our industry with a system that puts the LO in charge of their business with technology and solutions, creating solid businesses that do not need two LOs and a processor. You press a button. It’s happening. It’s real, and our job is to stay educated to stay in front of it, not get swallowed by it!”
Chief People Officer Julie is highly respected as a top woman executive in the mortgage field. She is a leader who draws respect, admiration, and passion from those who choose to follow. She describes herself as a heartfelt leader saying, “Chief People Officer should be my title. I care about people. I truly do. My values insist people come before money. God, family, team, and money are my value set. In order. Team comes before the all-mighty dollar. I recently returned from a business trip where 68 Empire team members attended a UWM Success Track. I had a moment as everyone was lined up to grab lunch when I decided to walk the line as they waited for the buffet. One by one I looked them in their eyes and waited to feel their heart. It truly is a kinesthetic experience for me. I FEEL THEM. This may sound airy fairy but when I hire, I have a process where I make sure they imprint on me. I want to KNOW the people who work at Empire Home Loans. And I want them to know one another. I do my best to understand what’s important for them, how they get business, and be sure they know when they struggle, I can help. I truly care about each and every person and I scan to find their golden nugget of greatness. I call on them to fulfill their own best version of themselves.
This is one of my strengths, my rapport with people. I am strong, confident, powerful, playful, and frankly I am unstoppable. I will compete with grace, I can take constructive criticism, I am not intimidated, I have the best intentions, and I am smart. I motivate those around me and will not bully to get what I want."
Julie considers gender to be one of her strengths as well. She believes women carry different demands than men. Not better or lessor or more, only different.
“Think of how many roles a woman must take on to prepare Christmas in her household, for instance. In a typical household we take on about 80 percent of the thinking, managing, planning, creating, and execution of these great holiday celebrations. We plan, shop, decorate, wrap, prepare, and host until we collapse on December 26. Because I understand how women think and feel I can use this intuitive knowledge to help coach, lead, or develop them into the best version of themselves. I buy women golf shirts. My entire career I have had men surrounding me. Everything was thought through a man’s lens. I take that lens and combine it with my own and I lift women. I acknowledge all the hats they wear. I foster a supportive environment for women. I will NOT tolerate any woman who steps on another to rise to the top. Those who have worked with me or for me know this. I do not care how many loans you close a month, if you step on a woman to get what you want you are not my tribe. THERE IS ENOUGH FOR ALL OF US WOMEN and sticking together and supporting one another is how we can achieve unstoppable success for each of us.”