“Your struggles are your gifts. Your background and life events do not define you nor do they limit your ability to succeed,” says Denae Judd.

For the longest time, Denae Judd believed the opposite. She believed success had to look a certain way and it wasn’t for someone like her — a single-mom by the age of 17, two kids by 20, unable to finish college.

Denae grew up in the suburbs just south of Philadelphia, in Delaware County. She moved to Ocean City, Maryland, at age 11, after her parents divorced. Raised by a single mother, and being the only girl with three brothers, there was never any money to spare. So Denae began working at 12 years old, doing everything from passing out flyers in parking lots to scooping ice cream to ringing up groceries and waiting tables.

Finding herself a single mom at age 22 herself, living in Northern Virginia with no money, no college degree, no connections, and no self-esteem, Denae succumbed to her circumstances. She could no longer afford to live and resigned to move back to Ocean City to get on her feet. Upon moving back, her mom’s friend convinced her to look into purchasing a home with no money down.

“This was the start of accidentally ‘flipping’ property as I worked to build a life for my boys, with the hope of getting back to Northern Virginia,” Denae explains. “Three homes and three years later, I was able to purchase an ugly home in Springfield, Virginia, and learned how to fix it up. That chain of events inspired me to get my real estate license to teach/help others with their goals, starting early on with bank-owned property and short sales to diving into renovation and design.”

Prior to jumping into real estate full-time, Denae spent a few years as a loan officer, which was where she met her now husband, Glenn. Although initially only doing it part-time, once Denae started seeing the effects she had on her clients, she became hooked. “When I first heard the testimonies of my clients and how I was helping them change their lives, I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing,” she says.

Having experienced firsthand the life-changing effects of buying and selling real estate, Denae does not view herself as merely helping people buy or sell homes, rather, she says, she helps people create a change in their life that impacts their future, opening possibilities they never knew existed. “I love making that kind of impact for people,” she says. “Much of what I advise on are things I’ve actually walked through or experienced, so I’m always sharing wisdom. I love helping clients find their vision and then helping them bring it to life. I love helping my clients see the potential in a home, showing little things you can change to make a big impact, and helping them see the potential in a home to maximize their net worth. I love helping people realize what’s possible while thinking out of the box to solve big, complex problems.”

“I often say real estate is a lot like people,” she continues. “It just takes that right person to see past the mess and see the potential in what it could be and bring it to life a bit. It all starts with a vision, a vision for life, for business, for home, for family. Then, it just takes someone to help empower you to see your vision through.”

While Denae has been in real estate now for 16 years, she has spent the past few years really focused on making an impact on people in a much deeper and wider way. The desire to dive deeper began building about six years ago, after she lost her younger brother. He had just passed his real estate exam and was waiting on his license to arrive when it happened. “He was supposed to come join me in real estate, and we had a goal to sell $20 million, more than I ever had previously. So I met that goal in honor of him. Two years later, I lost another brother. From the pain, I started sharing more personally online and realized how many people struggle with their sense of self-worth,” Denae explains.

“My brothers had struggled with the same feelings. Since that time, I have spent the past few years being more focused and purposeful about sharing vulnerably, speaking, coaching. I started asking myself different questions and started to change my narrative on what success meant.”

For the longest time, Denae viewed success as an outward image of what other people were going to perceive — something that looked good to other people. “I’ve come to realize that success is inner peace and happiness,” Denae shares. “It really doesn’t look like a number on a board, and it doesn’t look like any of the monetary things you have. It’s really how you are feeling. Not just, ‘Do I Like Myself?’ but, ‘Am I at peace? Do I feel joy?’”

Part of Denae’s mission to reach people on a deeper level includes the recent launch of her new website, www.denaejudd.com, where she shares business and life advice for anyone who is interested. She is also in the process of writing a book and has started a blog and podcast as free resources that people will be able to find on her new site as well. “I have learned it’s the stories we spend so much time hiding that are the ones that help us grow the most because others relate to them, and not enough people are willing to share them. You build trust and connection in vulnerable authenticity,” Denae says.

“Real estate took me from near poverty, as a young, non-college-educated, single teenage mom working overtime for $9 per hour to make ends meet, to near millionaire,” she continues. “Real estate has changed the trajectory of my entire family, and now my son and stepdaughter are both REALTORS®. It is the thing in my life that connects everything else. It’s my struggle and my success story. It intertwines every area of my life, and I am passionate about sharing more of my stories to help people overcome their own obstacles to find hope and establish deeper connections with each other.”