When COVID-19 first hit in 2020, Loren Johnson of Aussie in Toronto NSW had just made changes to her operation, she was looking after her two young children, and was naturally anxious about what the news would mean for her business.

But in that moment, like so many other brokers, Loren thought of her clients, how they would be feeling, and how she could help. So, she wrote a message. Not a sales pitch, but an offer of assistance reaching out to her clients letting them know that like them she too was anxious. But, if she could help in any way, she would.

Since then, Loren has been flat chat. She recently received the MFAA State Excellence Regional Broker Award, and with her mother’s drive, passion, determination, and her own stubbornness, the sky is the limit.

MFAA: How did you get started working as a mortgage broker in Toronto, New South Wales?

Loren Johnson (LJ): When I was growing up and going through school and university, I never thought I would become a mortgage broker. In 2012 I had an appointment with a mortgage broker to find out how I can enter the market myself. I was interested in the process and while I was in the appointment I was asking for the spreadsheet, this information, and that information, I was captivated by all the numbers and how it could work. So, I left the appointment, and I sent my broker an email and asked if he could send the spreadsheet, he sent me a PDF version, but it wasn’t what I wanted, I wanted to play around with the numbers and find out how everything was calculated. After that, because I was so interested and wanted to understand the process better, he offered me a job. Now, after all these years, he is still my franchisee.

MFAA: And how did you take to the role when you got started?

LJ: I went to university straight after school and majored in business, marketing, and management. After that I went to Sydney and worked in marketing for some big firms, and that really helped me to be able to create my own brand within Aussie. When I became self employed as a sole trader broker, I was taking on company-sourced leads but also getting friends and family and a few self-sourced leads as well. But I found the self-sourced leads were really valuable. So, from 2019 I decided to focus solely on self-sourced leads. It was daunting, at that time I was making personal changes in my life as well, I had multiple moments of self-doubt, but I thought let’s just do it, I’m going to back myself, and I haven’t looked back. Since then, my business has grown exponentially, and it’s been all about asking for referrals, asking for recommendations, being the local expert. I think being young has helped also. All my friends, family, friends of friends, my children’s friends’ parents, they’re all in that life stage of either buying their first house or upgrading, so I’ve just capitalised on that and I’m running full force with it at the moment.

MFAA: With everything that’s been going on this past year, how have things changed for your clients and your work?

LJ: When we first found out about COVID-19 and what it would mean for us in the region, we had just put on a support staff member. So, she had to work from home which made training more challenging. Also, I was anxious thinking about how COVID-19 would impact my business. But it was at that time that I took the opportunity to draft up a long email to my clients, it wasn’t a sales pitch, it was more just to let people know that I’m here, I’m anxious as well, if you need anything, if you have any questions, if you’re struggling with repayments, by all means reach out. And then things just snowballed from there. I had more and more people hearing about how I’d helped someone, so they would ask if I could help them refinance, or whatever it was, I guess they were hearing about all the initiatives from the Government as well, so it was just being able to navigate all the different policies and schemes that the Government was providing and helping people with those. So, it hasn’t been quiet, it’s just been going up and up and up, and I’m still up.

MFAA: You’re also a mother to young children. How have things been juggling the personal and professional for you?

LJ: I’ve got a son and a daughter, they are 8 and 6. Last year was my daughter’s first year of kindergarten, and that was a struggle because she was so ready for school, so having her back at home after a few months at school and needing to home school her was tough, being in kindergarten she didn’t know how to read so I needed to sit with her to keep her on track. My son on the other hand is a bit more self-directed, but I found myself working ridiculous hours to try and keep that demand up and keep that service level up as well, so I was working from 4am until 9.30am and then I’d home school the kids until about 3.30pm, then I would do the lunches for the next day, get the dinner organised, get the baths done, and then I’d work at night as well. So, it was very challenging trying to just keep that going. That time in my life, I was also navigating living on my own with the kids, and navigating a separation, it was tough. But I work well under pressure, so that and the adrenaline just kept me going.

MFAA: Amazing. And to receive an MFAA State Excellence Regional Broker Award for that period, that is just incredible.

LJ: It is such a big honour. When I decided to just go for it, I thought it’s been my biggest year yet, if I’m going to do it, I might as well just do it now. So, I entered three different awards and I was lucky enough to be a finalist in all three, and then obviously won the regional award for NSW/ACT and we’ll see what happens on Thursday [in the National Awards], but regardless just being able to have those trials and tribulations last year, I thought wow and I was really proud of myself.

MFAA: So, what have you got planned for your next conquest? Do you have any plans or anything you’re particularly excited about?

LJ: I’m excited to see what the next 12 months will bring. When last year we brough on a support staff, she’s now my sole support staff, and she’s been an absolute asset, and now we’ve been able to connect and work with our clients, it will be really interesting to see how that comes into play over the next 12 months to see how much further ahead we can get. As she’s learning more and more, I’m looking forward to taking a step back and being able to look after my book instead of just looking after enquiries that are coming in as well. I try not to think too far into the future because change happens all the time, but yes looking forward to the next 12 months.

MFAA: What is it about the job that you love the most?

LJ: Changing the mindset of people, I deal with lots of people who think the dream of home ownership is out of reach. I love meeting with them, guiding them on the steps they need to take and being a part of them reaching their goals, and most often, the biggest financial transaction of their life. It’s really rewarding.

In 2013 I lost my mum suddenly. She passed away from a heart attack. She was a single mum, I was an only child, I was 21 at the time, she was always working, working, working, just to support me. So, I’ve always had that work ethic, that passion, that determination, I guess a little bit of stubbornness as well, and I’ve always wanted to work to be successful, I never wanted to have to rely on anyone, so I’ve always been passionate about making it happen, and being the best that I could be for my kids and my family, and that’s been behind me throughout this whole mortgage broking career. I have had the mindset of ‘I will make it, I will believe in myself, I will be successful, despite what was said when I first started doing this business, being young and female. I had some people in my course when I was doing the mortgage and finance certificate who said, ‘I’d never get a mortgage off you because your young, and your female’. So, I thought, you know what, I’m going to take that and I’m going to run with it, and here I am.