How I Started A $300K/Month Money Lending Company

Published: February 22nd, 2020
Michael Mikhail
Stratton Equities
from Pine Brook, NJ, USA
started March 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Michael Mikhail and I’m the Founder and CEO of Stratton Equities, the nation’s leading hard money and NON-QM (non-qualified mortgage) lender to national real estate investors, with the largest variety of mortgage loans and programs nationwide. We specialize in unique private money loan programs with the lowest rates in the industry and work directly with Real Estate Investors, Mortgage Brokers, and Realtors.

In 2017, I noticed how the mortgage industry had transformed after the regulations presented from 2008-2012, and knew it was time to set out something on my own - I literally started Stratton Equities with the last $1000 that I had and within the first six months, we grew to $1M. To date, we have grossed over $3M.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I've been a fluctuating entrepreneur my whole life, but I’ve always come back to the mortgage industry, purchasing my first investment property at 19 utilizing a hard money loan program.

You're only as strong as your team and as an entrepreneur you need to understand the pain points in every area - and understand how to alleviate them.

Even before I started Stratton Equities, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and had previously worked in the mortgage industry as well as developed several small businesses throughout my career. Prior to launching my mortgage business; I had been a successful personal trainer while living in Dubai, I had created a hand car wash and detail shop while living in Florida, and even designed a high-end vitamin supplement company in New Jersey while launching Stratton Equities.

I was fortunate enough to travel the world when I was younger, living in 19 countries in 5 years, and although it was exciting, I knew that the only way to obtain the life and success I wanted was to become an entrepreneur in the United States.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Throughout my life, I was always a numbers guy, constantly watching trends and the ebb and flow of the real estate market. I saw a need in the market for a one-stop-shop for a wide range of mortgage options. That’s when I strived to launch a mortgage company that had as many innovative loan programs under one roof.

At Stratton Equities we’re known for having the largest amount of loan programs within one company. The most common private money loans are; hard money, bridge loans, new construction, Stated Income/No Doc loans, fix & flip loans, and commercial.

The most common difference between private money loans vs bank loans is that they have less underwriting & guidelines, and as they are asset-based loans – you aren’t restricted by your income verification.

Another reason borrowers benefit by choosing a private money loan, especially with Stratton Equities, is because we can close loans within 7-10 days as opposed to a QM Loan.

Describe the process of launching the business.

The launch of Stratton Equities came very gradually. After launching a vitamin company back in 2017, I began working for a commercial mortgage company, which began my insight into developing something new.

Immediately, I saw how the company I was working for had very limited programs and the entire operating system of how the company processed loans and interacted with the borrowers, didn’t work for me.

It was frustrating at the time because the options that they had for borrowers and the loan officers, limited the growth you could have working within such a company.

During this time, I started researching the other loan programs that were out there. I was intrigued to find loan programs that people could benefit from as a whole and this was the journey that I took towards building a company.

Once I understood that I was creating something big, I immediately purchased the website, incorporated the company, and put the building blocks together for the foundation of Stratton Equities. At its core were innovative programs that I designed and found, never before seen in the marketplace under one roof. Liability is a part of it - this is a very hard thing to answer, their limitation I believe is just the desire to stick in a niche market.

You have to be bonded, insured, you have to be licensed with the department of banking and insurance - you have to be incorporated - and then you need to have access to capital to lend.

When a customer can't pay, like any other mortgage company, after multiple late payments - you take the necessary legal steps to take the property back.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

One of the biggest tools we utilize has been immersing the company in every industry directory listing that we can. Over the last year, we’ve aligned ourselves with companies like Scotsman Guide, Bigger Pockets, Hard Money Home, and more. Being clearly represented amongst our peers and competitors has been extremely important to us.

Additionally, since the launch of the company I’ve been very passionate about the impact of email marketing. I’ve been curating my database over the years as well as operating other marketing strategies for lead generation towards that list. We are constantly updating our programs and rates, therefore it’s crucial to have the ability to connect directly to our audience and let them know what’s coming least 30% are returning customers.

Sometimes, people forget that we are problem solvers and probably have something you never thought could be possible - one simple email blast drives an exorbitant amount of traffic to our website and phone lines.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Stratton Equities is on a growth streak and constantly hiring! Our plan in 2020 is to expand our team with more qualified Senior Loan Officers until we reach 30 full-time LOs.

The big thing I learned is that everyone is trying to take money from you and if you want to truly protect your business, you need to protect your assets, and your money.

Growth is tied to having a successful and well-motivated team that shares the same vision & passion as the company.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The big thing I learned is that everyone is trying to take money from you and if you want to truly protect your business, you need to protect your assets, and your money.

Everyone sounds fun, dandy, and nice when they want money from you - once that money is out of your pocket it’s hard to get that money back. You have to protect your money and be frugal. The big-ticket items or “trendy” business solutions, might seem good on paper but they aren’t realistic as a long term investment.

Young entrepreneurs want to spend, spend, spend when they start a business. What I learned in my time as an entrepreneur, is that you should start a company from the ground up - build it day by day. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also own your business, and learn the intricacies as well as the infrastructure of your company - division by division.

Start small and watch it grow!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

When I launched Stratton Equities, all I had was a website that my current Marketing Manager had designed for me. At the time I needed something quick and easy to use, since then we have grown to utilize Social Media Managers like Hootsuite, Email Marketing via Constant Contact, and will be implementing an extensive CRM program this year.

My favorite tool for my business so far has been Constant Contact, with one email you can make a massive impact on your audience if you have a great database. Our database has grown due to our extensive SEO strategies and content creation - because of it, we have had a massive influx of organic direct traffic to our inbox.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

There are two books that have truly influenced me and I highly recommend for any entrepreneur are; 16 Lessons of Success by Napoleon Hill and The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

This is my bottom line when it comes to being a successful entrepreneur; focus, setting your priorities, sacrifice, and not letting others take from your time. In order to be successful, you have to be selfish for yourself.

Success comes from the top, I can’t aim for success if I don’t know what’s going on in each department of my company. If the Loan Officers are struggling, the best way to fix it is to work directly with them and understand how they can pivot back on the right path.

Sales are all about the pitch, my door is always open to working with my team on how to perfect their pitch or modify it with their unique voice. You're only as strong as your team and as an entrepreneur you need to understand the pain points in every area - and understand how to alleviate them.

The most rewarding aspect of my career thus far is having the ability to wake up and go to work on my own terms. So many times in my life, I’ve had to struggle to get from point A to point B, I’m grateful to have work and to work hard. I hate weekends, holidays, and don’t believe in a day off, but that’s because I love working so much. It means a lot to me to have something I created for myself. As an entrepreneur, it's important to find those things that mean the most to you and what you're trying to create for yourself.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are currently looking to expand our team and hire more full-time senior loan officers. At Stratton Equities, we have too many leads and not enough loan officers! When you join the Stratton Equities team, you're in an environment to flourish, grow, and develop your future.

At Stratton Equities, we directly provide our loan officers with organic leads, no more running around hunting for funding for your own loan scenarios or dealing with loan scenarios with multiple lenders.

I am passionate about building the careers of our loan officers and making sure each member of our team has the support, knowledge, and leadership they need to be successful.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!