CMS MORTGAGE SOLUTIONS INC.
Offering what big banks can't - personalized service and low costs
by Cristi Sanchez
Trying to juggle work and family has long been a struggle for many people trying to achieve success while seeing to family obligations. The struggle, however, is more prevalent among women and single moms. They're often pressured to choose between work and family with many employers providing no happy medium.
In 1997, that's exactly what happened when life threw a curve ball to Corrina Carter, now president and owner of CMS Mortgage Solutions Inc.. The Fredericksburg native and young single mom of two had recently moved from Oregon to Virginia Beach to be closer to her mother who had taken ill. A phone call from her sister in May of 1997 changed the direction of her life forever.
"I had been working for 10 months doing timeshare sales at a company in Virginia Beach," Corrina reveals. "One day my sister called me with devastating news. My four-year-old nephew, Michael, had cancer and was undergoing surgery that night. "
Reeling from the shock of the news and knowing she needed to get to her family in Northern Virginia, Corrina approached her employer with the news of her devastating family emergency, and asked for the week off, beginning immediately.
"I was shocked at my boss's answer," Corrina states, still amazed. "He said, "No. Saturday's our busiest day.'"
Still trying to come to grips with her nephew's diagnosis as well as her boss's reaction, Corrina worked hard to explain that her family needed her and she needed her family. Her boss responded by saying that he'd given her a great opportunity and then giving her a greater ultimatum. "He told me "If you walk out that door, you can't come back. Be here tomorrow or you won't have a job.' I was stunned."
Although a difficult choice for a single mom with two children, Corrina chose family over work. Unemployed for a month, her life was changed again by a phone call from a friend. "My friend knew someone in the mortgage business who needed a Girl Friday. I thought, "That'll work for now,'" she says with a grin.
After only one month in the position and seeing loan officers at work, the wheels began to turn and Corrina's future was set in motion. "I told myself, "There's a lot of potential here. I think I can do this'," she recalls. She trained to be a loan officer and became a successful producer.
Corrina always wanted to own her own business but never knew what it would be. In 2005, after eight years in the industry and seeing room for improvement, the idea for her business became crystal clear. Deciding to step out on her own, CMS Mortgage Solutions was born.
"I wanted to create my own company to set the standards for affordable mortgages in the area," she says with passion. "Coming to a small locally-owned shop has the potential to save thousands of dollars in fees, points, and interest rates. We're able to offer borrowers much better pricing because we don't have the high overhead and expenses that the big box lenders and banks have."
"I wanted to create my own company
to set the standards
for affordable mortgages in the area."
to set the standards
for affordable mortgages in the area."
- Corrina Carter
In addition to making mortgages affordable, Corrina strives to connect with her borrowers. "Buying a home can be stressful and emotional. People don't want an impersonal, cut-and-dried process. They want someone with them to explain the process," she states with compassion. "We work with our borrowers and they appreciate it. We offer the community what big box/big bank lenders can't- personalized service and low costs."
Over the last 14 years, Corrina has grown CMS Mortgage Solutions to the number one mortgage broker in Virginia with 24 employees and four offices from Fredericksburg to Chesapeake.
The staff of CMS Mortgage Solutions Inc.
Photo by Michele Thompson
Success hasn't been without its challenges, however. Becoming a woman business owner at age 36 with only eight years of experience, Corrina had to fight perceptions of inexperience to try to earn the respect of her peers. "How was I going to earn the same respect as the guy with 20 or 25 years of experience?" she asks.
Her answer came quite by accident in a conversation at a networking event. "I got a call to pick up Jayden, my grandson. I told the group, "You'll have to excuse me. I have to go pick up my grandson.' They were shocked and started asking me about how long I'd been in the business, about being a grandma and owning my own business. All of a sudden, people started listening to me."
"So, from that moment on I would pull out "The Grandma Card' to get people to listen," she laughs heartily. "It's got built-in maturity, respect, and experience, so I've used it to my advantage these past 14 years!"
Now with 22 years of experience under her belt, Corrina's children are grown and have joined her in the business. "My daughter, Nicole, is my accounting manager, and my son, Deshawn, is my operations manager. It's truly a family business!"
Corrina even designed her office to feel like a home for her team. "I wanted to create an environment and culture where people could be comfortable and feel like they're working from home," she explains. Complete with a full kitchen, three bathrooms (including one shower), warm wall colors, and inspirational quotes adorning the walls, the office delivers Corrina's vision in spades. There's even an office mascot: Franco, a sweet rescue mastiff, comes to work daily to reduce stress levels. "We're a tight-knit group and we love what we're doing," Corrina says fondly.
Sometimes life takes unexpected turns to get us where we're going. As a young single mom, Corrina, understanding that failure was not an option, set goals, never gave up, and used an unpleasant life circumstance to achieve a life-long vision. In taking the bold step 22 years ago to leave a job for family, Corrina Carter not only displayed strength of character, but charted a path that allowed her to create a successful business with her family.
CMS Mortgage Solutions, Inc.
1612 Centerville Turnpike
Virginia Beach, VA 23464