Kemra Norsworthy’s determined and direct approach to building her business—and living her life—has paid dividends.
A common thread running through Kemra Norsworthy’s career is that she doesn’t like to lose. From her time selling cars to many years in the mortgage and private lending industries, her outlook is “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”
She taps that determination as founder and CEO of Bull Funding. The company offers loan options, including ground-up construction, fix-and-flip, commercial and long-term. The company has a new fund launching this year.
From Car Sales to Private Lending
Norsworthy discovered mortgage lending through a colleague at the car lot. She excelled at car sales—so much that she said her large paychecks caused tension in her marriage. When one of her co-workers left to work in mortgage lending, Norsworthy did the same. She started a mortgage affiliate company focused on residential, owner-occupied loans. In 2009, as the market shifted, she realized she couldn’t beat Bank of America’s rates.
“So, I had this mentality: If you can’t beat them, join them,” she said. She took her team to work for the bank’s mortgage division.
When the Great Recession changed the game for selling mortgages, she tried other jobs: commercial real estate broker, underwriter, annuity sales. Each highlighted different aspects of her personality.
In commercial real estate, Norsworthy didn’t like the arrangement of working for another broker who would oversee the deal and pay her a referral fee, even when she was doing all the legwork. She preferred to be her own boss—and not split her commission.
Her time as an underwriter brought out her knack for problem-solving. When people were declined for other loans, she used a fine-tooth comb to pick apart their documents and find ways to approve them. In fact, Norsworthy approved so many people that she got audited, she said. The auditors found that all her approvals did, in fact, qualify.
When the lending team she worked for was shuttered, Norsworthy obtained her insurance license and tried her hand at selling annuities. While working with people on their finances, she saw so many people paying such a high interest rate on their home loans that she couldn’t help but refer them for refinancing.
“I decided loans are in my blood,” she said. Norsworthy returned to Bank of America to work with the Builder Division team and helped it become a top performer.
Although Norsworthy had been working private lending deals on the side as she gained experience in these different roles, she decided in 2019 that it was time to go all in. At Bull Funding, she can help others build their business in real estate, drawing on her experience from all aspects of the industry.
Norsworthy said she chose the name of her company because a bull is aggressive and tenacious, like her. She doesn’t like to say no to a loan and will find a way, using her background as both a lender and an underwriter, to make a deal. In her estimation, there’s almost always a way to structure the loan, and then the borrower can decide whether the terms are acceptable.
That’s an example of how Norsworthy approaches business: She’s direct and pragmatic. She says she likes lending because it’s clear when the numbers work or don’t.
“You can’t be fluffy. You have to be direct and to the point,” she said. “I excel in this area because of how I was raised.”
Norsworthy grew up with her grandparents, and her grandfather was retired from the U.S. Air Force. She has three sons and saw in her parenting that they would miss the point if she talked too much, she said. In her experience, if she communicates directly—with her kids, clients, or colleagues—there’s less likelihood of miscommunication.
What Makes Her Tick
An active member of the American Association of Private Lenders, Norsworthy serves on the ethics committee. She sees ethics as important for credibility, both for her business and for the industry. It also touches on her desire for justice. She has a criminal justice degree and at one time wanted to work for the FBI.
Norsworthy’s goal is to live life to the fullest. She’s survived bouts with cervical and ovarian cancers, both times without receiving chemotherapy. She said getting rid of the stressors in her life helped her attain remission.
Now, she looks for any excuse to try something new. Norsworthy has learned fly fishing, been certified in scuba diving, and hopes to try sand surfing this summer. She said she’ll even “hop onto to other people’s bucket list,”meaning if she hears an idea for something worth trying, she’s game. That led her to go skydiving, despite her fear of heights.
“I don’t know how much time I have, and I don’t live my life in fear,” she said. “I’m going to do everything. I can go all the way to the bitter end. And when it’s time to go, I’m going to go.”
Katie Bean is a former newspaper and magazine editor who loves telling the stories of businesses and great leaders. She is based in Kansas City.