Despite a decade-long career in media, Kaia opted to become a broker when she approached Mortgage Choice in Buderim seeking a better deal on her home loan.
“I came in as a client but after sitting with the broker, I felt inspired to help other women enjoy success with property,” recalls Kaia. “I mentioned this to the broker, who said ‘’Why not become a mortgage broker?’”
That’s exactly what Kaia did, joining the team at Mortgage Choice in Buderim as a loan writer though always with a long term view to become an equity stakeholder. This gave the incumbent franchisees a succession plan, and when they retired five years later, Kaia seized the opportunity to buy the business.
As a single mother of two children Kaia acknowledges that she could have started a new franchise and worked from home. “That’s the beauty of mortgage broking,” she explains. “You do have the flexibility to work around family. But I had gone into a shop front business as an employee with a view to taking over when the franchisees were ready, so a shopfront was the strategy that worked for me.”
Building business skills
From the start, Kaia was keen to grow and scale her business. She explains, “Even though I’d worked as a loan writer for five years, I was new to being a business owner. The first step to achieving my goals was to invest in my own professional development.”
Kaia joined a business accelerator program, gaining insights into how to grow her franchise sustainably: “On a practical level, I implemented strategic plans to ensure growth without any loss of high quality service.”
Like many new franchisees, Kaia was keen to learn from her peers. “I invested considerable time networking with other brokers to share ideas and understand best practice that I could apply to my own business.”
Harnessing technology to stay connected
Kaia is a firm believer that women are especially well-suited to mortgage broking. “Women tend to be very empathetic and nurturing,” says Kaia. “I get a lot of feedback from clients along the lines of ‘you make me feel very comfortable’.”
This nurturing approach has played a key role in Kaia’s success. “At the heart of any good business is exceptional service,” she says. “I always aim to make each customer feel as though they are my only customer. Appointments are never rushed, and along with taking the time to answer every question, I make a point of clearly explaining what each customer can expect throughout the home loan process.”
As her business grew, many of Kaia’s customers moved away from her regional area but they remained loyal to Mortgage Choice in Buderim, reflecting her approach to customer care. She explains, “In 2019 I began recording videos for each client, showing the figures and scenarios for their individual objectives and home loan options.
“Clients access these videos via an email link. I still meet with clients in person where possible, however I now have customers across Australia whose ID I have already cited for regulatory purposes but who can’t always attend a face-to-face meeting.
“My videos offer a personal touch, yet they are very prescriptive, guiding the client through each step in a clear format. They are also very helpful for first home buyers, for whom ‘a picture tells a thousand words’.”
Well-placed to handle COVID
By pioneering video links to stay connected with clients, Kaia was well-positioned to navigate the disruption of 2020 lockdowns.
“During COVID-19, the use of videos has been instrumental in allowing me to reassure my customers that it was business as usual, and to continue supporting them to achieve their property goals,” says Kaia.
Kaia was also quick to recognise that members of her community were increasingly staying connected through digital channels.
“About 12 months ago I began taking a more dedicated approach to my office’s social media presence,” says Kaia. “This has led to an organic rise in inbound enquiries, especially as many residents of Buderim engage with online community boards.”
Supporting other women in business
As a successful business owner, Kaia is passionate about helping other women achieve success, and she does this through her business coaching and mentoring service. “I have always loved the idea of being the best version of yourself, and I coach women online from all over the world to help them grow their own business.”
The same passion extends across Kaia’s 5-strong all-woman team at Mortgage Choice in Buderim. “It’s incredibly rewarding to help all of our customers achieve their dreams but I get an enormous sense of satisfaction when we can help women start again following divorce or a relationship breakdown.”
Despite the upheaval of 2020, Kaia and her team have been nominated for multiple national awards. As a flagbearer for success in unprecedented market conditions, Kaia encourages women to consider a future in mortgage broking. “Go for it,” she says. “Running your own business calls for hard work and effort, but women definitely have what it takes to achieve success, and there is so much about mortgage broking that is truly rewarding.”