Best Selling Author, Founder of The HomeValue Group Fort Lauderdale, Philanthropist
Dr. Donna Barrett is a powerful businesswoman and philanthropist. She is the Author of three best-selling books, Believe; Devotionals from Women to Women; and her latest Affirmations of Faith Journal. She is the founder of @thehomevaluegroup Keller Williams as well as a mother, wife, and activist for the underserved populations. She is a native Jamaican and the ninth of eleven children. Her humble beginnings permeated with a deep love for God, has set the foundation for all that she has accomplished. Donna is known to many for her giving heart, deep love for family, tenacious spirit, and resilient attitude. For the last thirty years, she has made her mark as an astute business professional and has helped countless individuals achieve homeownership.
Her latest book, “Believe”, is a nationwide bestseller. In her own words she describes how to live a purposeful life and how you can knock down impossible barriers in your path!” Her story will touch the core of your heart and inspire you to believe in yourself. GOSS Magazine (By Women for Women) got to interview Dr. Donna about her professional journey, you can read her amazing story below.
Dr Donna, tell us about the inspiring journey that brought you to America.
I went to Clarendon College (high school in Jamaica) and after graduating, I moved to Nassau, Bahamas as there were more opportunities. While I was there, I had to travel back and forth every six months because I did not have residency papers that were required to get into school or to get a job. In the end, the process failed as I was unable to secure resident status. Subsequently, I decided that I was going to find a way to the United States as it was the land of promised immeasurable opportunities. I started talking to people and met someone who had a solution for me on how to get there. He told me that they would have a cabin ready for me on a ship. But in reality, I ended up on the bottom of the ship much like a stowaway, with no food, no water and basically sitting on pipes. This was truly a unique journey to the United States of America.
Photo Credits : Jay’san Lafrance
Even though I had no connections in business, and I had no idea how I was going to move forward to get my citizenship, yet I had this determination that I was going to succeed because God was always on my side. That is what my book describes, believe in God, and believe in yourself. And it is with that same belief that I went to the very top of my academic endeavors, by receiving a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services at Walden University.
Do you think that it has been a recurring theme in your life? To believe in yourself?
Absolutely! My entire life is about believing in the awesome power of God and believing in my own abilities. Whenever I set my heart and mind to achieve something, it doesn’t matter how difficult it is, I will find a way because I believe.
How did you come up with the name Believe for your book?
One morning, I got up and it just came to me as if the Lord spoke to me and said, the title of your book should be “Believe”. The entire book is talking about believing in God and believing in yourself, and when you put both of those two together, you can change the entire trajectory of your life.
Tell us what is next on your path now?
Right now, it’s about giving back and helping underserved populations. During my studies, I developed a passion for helping foster care young people who aged out of foster care. As I was finishing my studies, my Committee Chair asked “what are you going to do now with all your research? At that very moment, I decided that I was going to form a non-profit that would focus on assisting young people before they aged out of foster care. I shared the idea with my friend, Dr. Maryse Desire, and we formed a 501 C3 non-profit organization called National Fund for Foster Care Children. This is now getting off the ground with funding and resources. Our goal is to give back by providing scholarships, financial literacy, and homeownership programs. Watching our non-profit come to life has been inspiring and I am grateful for our team, Dr. Maryse, Carmen, Dorrett, and Ann.
What made you chose foster care out of all causes?
It’s a great question that has come up multiple times. I was doing some research and came across an article about foster care youth. The article gripped me. I started looking into it more and read several articles about foster care children. I found out that every year, more than 23,000 children aged out of the US foster care system. After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care become instantly homeless. All children who enter foster care experience grief and loss due to the separation from their biological family. Children often experience multiple placements which happen for reasons such as foster parents leaving the program or children needing a home more suited to their specific needs. These placements make attachment and trust much more difficult for foster children.
In one of my interviews, the young lady told me that she had 36 placements to various homes. She stated that she was a troubled child and didn’t feel genuine love. She thought that the foster care parents were just there for the money. Imagine turning 18 years old and having no home and no support system whatsoever. That really touched my heart. Our mission is to change this narrative and create a system that will give foster youth all the support they need to transition into independent living.
When did you have time to start doing real estate, have children, while attending university?
My three daughters were already teen-agers when I started our real estate company. I had a degree from a local College. My husband, who held a real estate license but was not practicing at the time, made a comment about opening a real estate office, which I thought was an amazing idea to do together. The following morning, I started doing the research.
After I opened my business, I went back to school and completed master’s degree in global management.
When it came to getting my PhD, it happened during the market crash of 2008 when real estate was at an all-time low, and not much movement was happening with buyers and sellers. I thought it was a great time to pursue another major goal, Doctor of Philosophy degree.
At what point did you decide to write the book, “Believe”?
The writing of my book “Believe” was convened the winter of 2018. Although the thought can be traced back over five decades ago when I realize that anything is possible if I believe. I always wanted to share my personal story for a long time, in the hopes that it would encourage, inspire, and motivate others. During the pandemic, I felt I had the time, and I began to write.
Tell me about your second book, Devotionals from Women to Women?
I compiled this devotional during the pandemic. While watching the news one day, they talked about the crisis women were going through during this time, specifically with spousal abuse. It made me think of inviting other women to write a testimonial, something that they went through that could help women in need. From this call to action, 60 women responded and contributed 135 devotionals; “Devotionals from Women to Women“, is about women sharing their stories and explaining how the Lord helped them to get out of difficult situations.
What do you want your team to be remembered for when it comes to real estate?
I want us to be remembered for our exceptional service, which is what truly sets us apart. We go above and beyond for our clients, and our business has since sustained over the past 20 years; because of great referrals from satisfied customers. People always remember when they receive exceptional service, and they love to share it. Our mission at The HomeValue Group is to provide an extraordinary luxury experience every time.
The HomeValue Group is built on a foundation of hard work and integrity. Founded by Philip and me with a passion for real estate. We understand the abundance of obstacles our clients have, and we are committed to our core principles, integrity, simplicity, and dedication.
Where do you see your team in the next ten years?
I would love to take over the whole South Florida area, and in addition to that, I would love to see them go into other areas to make their mark in places such as North Florida, Atlanta, and Jamaica which we also service. I see us growing in leaps and bounds with our team lead, Chante, our office manager, Saisha, and our amazing team, Tashie, Sherry, Carmen, and Nina.
You are continuing with your non-profit work and being of service to others, as I feel like that is such a big theme in your life. What is something that you want to see when it comes to the growth of the National Fund for Foster Care Children?
I would love to develop a program that prepare these youth that are about to enter the real world, on how they can successfully navigate the challenges ahead. It would be a yearlong process that would start before their 18th birthday because as I have mentioned, they have no support system whatsoever, and without it most of them end up incarcerated, homeless, abused, or dead. We are working on getting the funding and resources necessary to make this become a reality.
I feel like you have so much strength and so much faith that also has guided you through your path. What is something that you would want your daughters and other women to retain from your professional journey?
When it comes to my real estate profession, I always tell my team the most important characteristic to have, is honesty and integrity. We identify, attract, and train real estate professionals until they actively reflect the HomeValue Group’s core principles. Buying a home is the largest investment someone makes in their life, so when a client decides to work with us, they must trust us. With the right connections and professional relationships, we can guarantee valuable service to the entirety of the vast real estate industry.
Finally, what advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
I would tell my younger self that there is no shortcut to success, it requires dedication, commitment, perseverance, and hard work. I would also tell my younger self to:
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