‘Follow Your Dreams’: How One Woman’s Road To Financial Success Is Inspiring The World | The...

Throughout our lives, we’re raised on the idea that we’re meant to go to school, graduate, get a job, and work until retirement. Theodora Uniken Venema knew from a young age she was going to break that mold, and now wears many career hats to prove it.  While she’s most well known for her successful career in finance, real estate, and international investing, it’s her passion to never give up on her own happiness that inspires the people around her.

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In our world, there are certain standards for what every person’s path should be in order for them to live a successful life. We’re taught at a young age that education should always be our priority until we graduate from a university and get a job where we can build up our retirement funds, and stop working by the age of 65. 

The modern world has begun to dismantle these traditional ways of thinking, and more people are learning to put their own passions and happiness ahead of anything else. On the other end, there’s also a certain comfort many of us feel by working and knowing that we’re building up our savings for whatever the future may hold. 

The leap from working a 9-5 job to following your dreams is a big one, and many of us are rightfully afraid to do so. However, having the correct mindset and support system around you is the key to finding success in whatever it is that drives you. 

Theodora Uniken Venema is the Principal & Broker for Downtown Brokers LLC. She initially moved to America from The Netherlands with a backpack, no plan, and no knowledge of the English language. What she did have was a dream, and she knew that America was the way to make it happen, so she took the leap and now spends her days helping others do the same for themselves. 

“Most people get so caught up in their jobs, it becomes hard for them to look at the bigger picture. I want to teach people how to have a positive attitude, because anyone can do anything they set their mind to, it’s just about giving yourself that fresh start to go the direction you want to in life. After all, it’s your life, your work, and your future, so follow your dreams and take the leap.”

I recently had the opportunity to hear Uniken Venema’s entire philosophy on how having a positive and motivated attitude can take you far in life. Obviously, when it comes to major transitional moments in our life, it can be difficult to commit to the change. Uniken Venema’s extensive list of career accolades, awards, and titles, however, is proof that it’s possible. Part of her success is credited to her family, as one of her keys to leading a happy and fulfilling life is having a strong support system around you. 

“My parents always supported me, which took a lot when it came to moving across the globe. My mother’s drive, however, always stuck with me growing up. She would participate in skating marathons in the freezing Amsterdam winter weather when women weren’t even allowed to. That never stopped her though. She created new options to give herself the opportunities she desired, and deserved. No matter how challenging it was, she always came out on top, despite the fact that no one believed she would ever go through with it. I’ve always been adventurous like my mom as well. When I was 13 I ventured to the Alps to become the first licensed female mountain climbing guide at the time. When I crashed off the mountain in the middle of training, it didn’t stop me, and I became a successful mountain climbing instructor, which is something I still do today. 

I like to think that I stepped into my mother’s shoes. I keep her in my prayers constantly, because she was the one who gave me that inherited attitude which drove me to follow my dreams, think outside the box, and realize that there’s always a solution. As I’ve grown older, I realized that carrying that attitude made me a role model for others, the same way my mom was for me, and those individuals then go on to inspire others in their lives, creating a beautiful ripple effect of motivation, and success. 

I just want to give people inspiration and hope to make that fresh start. When you open that door and begin to follow the things that drive you, nothing can stop you. My drive is to constantly excel, I always go the extra mile, and honestly, I never know when to quit. Every milestone I’ve reached in my life, I knew there was a higher goal behind it, especially when it’s assumed it cannot be done.

Think about Neil Armstrong, when he set foot on the moon, no one ever thought that was possible. However, with some help from American enginuity, it actually happened. Success is being able to overcome failure, it takes a fearless mindset, and a supportive environment. That really is the key, you need the support of the ones around you in order to feel like you can do whatever it is you want to do.”

Uniken Venema has over three decades of experience in the legal and real estate industry. She currently runs Downtown Brokers LLC based in Orlando, Florida, which is a “full-service boutique real estate brokerage, serving as a comprehensive source for foreign investors who seek a long-term commercial investment in the Florida Dream.” According to Uniken Venema’s website, she is “a top notch licensed real estate broker and Founder of Downtown Brokers who has investors from all over the world. Theodora has demonstrated success not only as a Broker but also as a Legal Expert when it comes to investing in Florida Real Estate. Her areas of expertise include Negotiation, Coaching, Sales, Real Property, Asset Management, Business, and International Trade and Tax Law. 

Uniken Venema initially entered into the legal field while she was still living in the Netherlands, where she realized that the traditional path of life was not meant for her. “When I entered the legal field, I was looking for that same sort of excitement that I got as a kid trying rock-climbing for the first time. I was genuinely looking for the ultimate career path for myself, even beyond just law, and America seemed like the only answer to finding that success. 

In the beginning when I was in the legal field, I had a nice solemn job in The Hague, The Netherlands, which I had to commit to leaving. Leaving the fuzzy feeling that comes from having a job, is hard. I mean I was set on the path of getting a job as a young rich lawyer at a reputable firm, climbing up that career ladder for 40+ years until I would collect my pension at 65, and spending the rest of my days mowing the lawn, playing golf and having fun. But that wasn’t going to work for me. 

I reached a point where I said to myself ‘I am not going to sit behind a desk for my entire life, especially when there’s a world of possibilities out there.’

I knew I wanted to enter into the financial world of international investing, much like my father did due to the amount of connections you make, and investors you help. America seemed like the perfect place to begin this next chapter of my life. After I made the move here I saw the University of Florida needed a lawyer to build their international tax program; it’s also now where Downtown Brokers LLC is based. A lot of international buyers look to America for property/investments because the taxes tend to be cheaper here than in Amsterdam, which is where I worked with a lot of clients from the beginning.” 

“In my business, I get to live the dream and sell the dream. Clients come from all over to find their ultimate home where they can live out their dreams. Selling real estate is about so much more than just buying a house, it’s about finding a space where you feel the most comfortable building a life for yourself. I want to leave behind a legacy where I helped guide others down the path of success, starting with their homes, and businesses to follow.”

“Downtown Brokers LLC provides all the answers and information that clients need when it comes to investing in real estate properties with us. I work with a dream team , that has the same ‘outside of the box’ thinking as I do, and that’s really the key to our success. The Downtown Brokers dream team is all about coaching the client to make proper investments for their specific financial situation, and teaching them what not to do with their money. I coach clients, young kids who move to America the same way I did looking for an opportunity, and anyone else who needs help taking that leap into their future. 

For example, I recently spoke with a young professional named Tim who is trying to come to America , to build himself a career. Getting a visa right now is very difficult, but he’ll be able to get one within the next couple of months, and when he arrives I will make it my personal responsibility to coach him, host him, set him up with proper banking services, and most importantly teach him that the sky’s the limit when it comes to his potential and what he wants to accomplish in life.”

Uniken Venema also expressed how she’s seen a lot more growth in humanity within the past decade when it comes to following your passion and creating success from it. One of the greatest examples of this is the exponential rise in women in executive leadership positions all throughout the country within the past couple of decades. 

“When I first started building my career and firm, there were a lot fewer women in leadership positions in the commercial real estate industry, and beyond, than men. We all know that way back in the day, men worked and women ran the household. That line of thinking is still prominent today, but the representation of women in business and leadership positions in our modern world have overshadowed those archaic ways of thinking; especially in the real estate world. 

Women in general are the best multitaskers, in my opinion. We’re taught growing up that we can have a career, but if we decide to have a family it’s our personal responsibility to take on the career of homemaker and career boss. Today, however, women are taking control of their own paths, and climbing the ladder of success to reach their ultimate potential. Beyond that, women are becoming the majority in high executive positions within their industries. These women also, more times than not, have families and a household to run as well, but in these modern times, it’s become more of a personal choice as opposed to a societal standard that we, as women, have to confine ourselves to. 

In America especially we’ve seen major strides towards gender equality, and I’m seeing it in Europe much more now as well. We’re able to juggle a lot, as women, which is beneficial for the world because when we master the art of multitasking our passions/career, the world runs a lot smoother. We need to make as much room as possible for people to let their perspectives be heard.” 

“I’ve fallen down many times in life, so to speak , but I always have found my way out of any difficult situation, and if I couldn’t find a way, I would create one. Success breeds success, so I like to think that I rub off a lot of my motivated and successful attitude to the people around me, and I’ve seen the difference it makes.”

“Like many individuals in this country, I have a ‘rag to riches’ story that has allowed me to become an inspiration, and life coach, for many. I came to America with nothing but my backpack years ago. I had no place to live, didn’t speak English, and it was my first time in the US. It was one of those moments where I knew it was either sink or swim, and my passion is what I believe pulled me through and got me to where I am today. I’ve seen it done so many times, beyond just my own personal journey, the American dream is real and can happen to anyone who has the drive to not let bumps in the road deter them from their journey, but motivate them to do better.”

Aside from her successful career, Theodora also serves on numerous boards, committees and is a sought-after lecturer and public speaker. She has contributed to numerous publications and articles and is active in her community. She serves on the Advisory Board at the Salvation Army, the Foundation Board of the University Club, served as Director of the Women Council of Realtors Orlando Regional,  as a Distinguished Toastmaster, Past Vice President of Administration for the Central Florida Commercial Association of Realtors, Chairman of the Market Diversity Committee, Director of the Orlando Regional Realtor Board, Director of the Dutch American Business Club of Central Florida, just to name a few,” according to her website, which lists the dozens of roles and accolades Uniken Venema has received throughout her career. 

Uniken Venema is also so much more than a real estate/ international law/financial expert using her knowledge to help others in the same field and beyond. She passionately explained to me how she’s the type of person who always has her plate full, and doesn’t like to slow down. It’s for that reason and more that she learned how to fly a plane, began tutoring local students, donated her time/expertise to multiple charity organizations that help motivate people to stick up for themselves and find success, as well as saving the seals in the ocean. 

“I’ll never forget when one of my law school friends asked me to be his co-pilot for the day, but at the time my English was still a little shaky so when he initially asked I didn’t even understand what I was agreeing to. However, there are really only two words that I use when it comes to taking on new experiences: yes or no, and more often than not, the ‘yes’ wins, which is why I think I’ve been able to spread myself around to so many organizations. 

I also love helping kids succeed in school. I offer my time/passion to the local school kids here and work with them one on one to bring their ‘F Grade’ to an ‘A.’ That is something I do completely separate from my job, but it’s another means for me to use all my passion and experience to help others gain that same confidence in themselves. 

I feed the homeless, work with multiple charitable organizations that help with the same mission of building up confidence in the next generation of workers, like Dress For Success, and guiding them down a path of not only success, but motivation to follow their drive. 

One of my other passion projects has to do with protecting seals in our Earth’s oceans. I had a friend from Elementary school in the Netherlands who started a rescue center for seals which made it easy for me to get involved. Recently we saved a seal, who we named Bobby, who we found nursing on a sheep after being separated from his mom. Bobby is just one of the many pups who we try to help rehabilitate and reunite with their families. I’ve worked extensively with oceanographers and marine life specialists to help these animals live as full of a life as possible, just like I do with anyone who reaches out to me for guidance. 

As you can tell, I really don’t care what it is, if I have the skills to improve the lives of others in any little way, I will do it. I inspire my community around me, I save wildlife, I work to keep the ocean healthy, I just want to save the world around me, and that’s what will keep me going for a long time.” 

“You have to be a people’s person, and like to make others happy the same way you make yourself happy. There will always be difficulties in life, but it’s up to you to be the firefighter that responds first when the flames begin to engulf your life. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll have a team of people around you who are also willing and ready to fight the flames.”

“Our dreams are what take us further and make us happy. Entering into a career like real estate, there are so many options and paths. You need to find what makes you happy and figure out the first step to making it happen, no matter how small. Commercial, rural, and industrial real estate has been on the rise, so it’s my pleasure to guide the next generation through this industry using the knowledge I’ve gained not only through Downtown Brokers, but in life. 

The Downtown Brokers dream team is all about giving everyone opportunity, much like this country does.

When I moved to America, a place that I had never been to before, I was scared, but more than anything really excited. It was a huge step, and I spent an entire year preparing for it, not even knowing what I was preparing for. I just kept thinking about my mom, and her drive, and I knew that I had the same capabilities and confidence as her to get me through this major transition. 

My advice is to get educated beyond the normal. Get out of your comfort zone, and take the extra steps you need to teach yourself the skills to follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid to reach out to experts within the field you’re interested in to guide and mentor you to follow your passion. That’s always been a major part of my career, I guide individuals through all their uncertainties, and it truly brings me joy. 

My opinion is if you stop working, you stop living. Every time I’m flying and I see the world as the beautiful geographical map that it is, I understand how many possibilities are out there for everyone. When we finally overcome our obstacles, we find success. 

You really have to become your own inspiration as well. Genuinely, I really do inspire myself. I’m my number one motivator and I think that’s been one of the keys to all my success. In general, coming to America and making it work is one of my greatest accomplishments, because even when you have support, there can always be a voice telling you it’s not going to work out. But still, I came here, built my career, helped so many others find their voice, and flew airplanes. As I navigated throughout the past thirty years, I thought a lot about Neil Armstrong, and how going to the moon seemed like an impossible task and now, we’re exploring Mars. So when you truly follow your dreams, and let the excitement of the endless possibilities guide you, nothing’s impossible. 

I’ll say it again, success breeds success. I learned from a young age that positivity will last me a lifetime, so I really want to put as much of myself into the world as I can. I don’t slow down, I’m always creating new goals for myself, and I’m always working on improving the world and myself. I make life exciting because, simply put, life is fun. I start every day with a mile-long swim, and can hear my mom’s voice telling me ‘Carpe Diem,’ seize the day, and live for every moment. You have to make the best out of all the positives you do have in life, and use them to push out the negatives which would prevent you from reaching your goals. 

The key to success is overcoming failure, it really is that simple. There’s so much to life, so why would you ever stop dreaming? Just do it. Leave a legacy my friends, and have fun doing it.”

Want to learn more about the amazing work Theodora does every day? Are you ready to leave the snow behind and move to warm sultry Florida like everyone else? Start enjoying the Florida lifestyle where life is still affordable by clicking here! Visit the Mouse, Buy a House!