Rags to Real Estate

One Woman's Journey to Empowerment


“It’s been a long time coming; I’m excited to be able to share my journey. My hope is to inspire, motivate and empower someone to dream big dreams. Build on what you love to do and plan to work at it!” -- Denise E. Smith


They were two San Francisco teenagers hopelessly lost in love.  There was just one problem. He was an African American from the black ghetto of Fillmore’s Western Addition. She was a Latina from the city’s Mission district. They lived in the most liberal city in America at the dawn of the hippie movement. Yet, their romance was still considered taboo.

Hateful glares and police harassment were no detriment to the flame of love that kindled between the couple. Scorned by her parents when her pregnancy was discovered, she moved in with the young man and his family. They married. There were four children in all. They named the youngest child, Denise.

Love could not pay the bills. Poverty and struggle became a way of life for the family. The Smiths moved from the traditionally African American Fillmore district of San Francisco to Bayview-Hunters Point where heroin addicts nodded and gunfire crackled in the dead of night. 

The young mother was forced to work 12-hour shifts to keep food on the table, while her husband faced long lapses in unemployment. Someone would have to care for the youngest child. 

Denise’s mother reached out to “Grandma Bertha,” a southern matriarch from her husband’s side of the family. This deeply devout woman of God and faithful servant would take young Denise into her home and raise her as though she were her very own. Grandma Bertha was a stern disciplinarian, who spouted the folk wisdom, scripture verses and southern witticisms that would become the blueprint for Denise Smith’s life. 

Grandma Bertha could not protect Denise from everything. There were whispers that would suddenly conclude when she would walk into a room. The young girl found herself filled with unanswered questions about her family blood line; her parentage; about what it meant to be biracial; questions that would haunt her and one day turn her life upside down. 

While still in high school, Denise landed an internship at a finance company and a deep interest in the real estate business was born. Through grit and sheer will, Denise Smith carved out a path that led to the top of the mountain and by the time she was 30 years old, she owned a million dollars’ worth of real estate.

In this, her first book, Denise Smith shares how her vision became reality. She shares lived insights on romance, relationships, and spirituality. At the book’s conclusion, the reader will understand that everything is possible if one only believes in themselves and has motivation. 

“My life is about encouraging young people to believe in themselves. What traits you want in someone else, develop in yourself. Don’t strive to marry a millionaire, strive to become your own millionaire.” -- Denise E. Smith