Name: Odeen Eccleston
Business: WE Realty Inc. | The Wiltshire Group
Tanya: I mean, we’ve talked about your path to entrepreneurship several times, so what was the foundation of your entrepreneurship journey? How’s it going for you?
Odeen: So, I always knew that I wanted to have multiple streams of income. I did see my dad have multiple businesses, so it was instilled in me as a teen. As I was doing university, I got into acting, and I got cast in a couple of national commercials that were bringing in pretty good bucks. I was like, okay, well, what else is there for me? And I got into real estate. Within my first year, I got an award for rookie of the year because I had done quite a few transactions.
For somebody’s first year in real estate, it was apparently not normal. I got so busy that I couldn’t keep both avenues open, so I resigned from my talent agency to just focus on real estate full-time. In doing so, and also picking up properties along the way and investing any chance I could, I met my now business partner Lamont because our entrepreneurial spirits were aligned. When we were ready, one of these properties that we had mutually invested on, we tore that down and we built our first house. And so that was the foundation of my entrepreneurial journey as a real estate investor, a broker of record for our real estate brokerage, and of course as a real estate developer. So started sort of flipping houses, then building one house at a time. And then now we’re building small enclaves and small communities.
Tanya: Small enclaves. Enclaves is such a sexy word. So other than finding the right partner and saying, hey, we’re going to do this, what thus far, has been your boldest business move?
Odeen: It was really learning how to duplicate myself. I was on the verge of burning out and reaching my capacity. I couldn’t continue to wear all of these hats. When it was time to open the brokerage, and duplicate my sales abilities, my realtoring – I was able to empower other people, and then at the same time empower myself, because then when clients would come knocking, instead of having to turn them away, I now had this team of people to service them. So I would say that that’s probably been the boldest move so far, learning and learning to get comfortable with getting professional help by way, in this case, of hiring realtors, to work within my own brokerage.
Tanya: Yeah. That is a huge one for entrepreneurs, it doesn’t necessarily get as much credit as it should, just the need to hire and to delegate. What was the biggest financial turning point for your company? Your “I made it moment”.
Odeen: I’d say one of the most significant turning points and joyous moments is when that first house that Lamonte and I built actually got sold. Not only sold but closed. We did this. We conceptualized, designed, and built a home from our own imagination, and built it from the ground up, and a family fell in love with it, purchased it, and now they’re moving in.
So that was a turning point, not only fiscal or monetarily, but for our confidence, because we were able to prove to ourselves that we can do this.
Tanya: AMAZING. So how has the lens of being a woman in your industry helped you? We already know that the numbers and the stats are dismal, and I’m sure women in construction, and women in real estate are usually relegated to certain positions and roles but are there any advantages of being a woman in your industry that have helped you succeed?
Odeen: Absolutely. So first of all, by virtue of just the numbers alone, when you are a woman in construction, in a helmet, steel toe boots, and you’re actually getting into the dirt, and learning about your craft, and being able to not only delegate, but do things yourself; you’re going to stand out that much more. I also firmly believe in ways in which feminine energy is of an advantage. Sometimes it can be a more intuitive approach. I also believe in the power of relationships in business, and as a woman, I think that women are able to cultivate and maintain relationships in a different way than men do.
Tanya: What do you see as the future for women in your industry? Are you seeing more women builders and women-owned led brokerages?
Odeen: Yes, I am. I’m out there working more and more with other women realtors, women, brokers. Right now, as it stands, all of the people, all of the realtors within my brokerage are women. I have some younger women wondering what to do in college, and I’m telling them, to consider the trades. Consider a trade as a woman. And it’s a dynamic field. No two days are the same. And I think that more and more women and girls are opening their eyes to construction.
Tanya: I love that. So what is your business’s biggest challenge right now?
Odeen: So the challenge right now in terms of our real estate development company, is definitely the acquisition of land, especially here in Ontario. People are getting out of here in droves, just because the cost of living, the cost of real estate, the cost of land, is really, really, really high. So it’s been one of our goals to work on affordable housing initiatives. And the goalpost just keeps on getting kind of pushed, because land keeps going up. It honestly pains me, because one of our goals is to work on affordable housing initiatives. And I think hopefully with again, cultivating the right relationships, there’s some sort of social and political movements happening where I think eventually it will happen.
Tanya: How have the global health and racial pandemics affected your business?
Odeen: As we know, it’s directly contributed to a surge in demand for relocation services. So our home building company and real estate brokerage, it’s had a particularly busy year since the pandemic.
In terms of the racial pandemic, I definitely think it’s perhaps helped to make consumers that much more aware of any biases that they may have had when it came to Black professionals and Black people in general. Because we’ve definitely serviced clients this year, or even last year, who specifically asked or wanted a quote by a Black firm. We’re obviously always honored to serve and deliver anyone. And it’s important to us that everybody has an optimal experience, but we’re happy that through this awakening, they made them consider more Black businesses. Then that’s a positive.
Tanya: Absolutely. Listen, if it leads to actual coins because so much of these black squares and performative statements on social media did absolutely nothing. So I like hearing that, it actually financially contributed to your business. They choose you, not because she was Black, but because she just is good at her job. So the last question, and I already know what the answer is, but I like asking the question because I love the immediate response to it. How do you find a balance between your personal and professional life?
Odeen: Well, I’ll answer this by saying that I am most productive when I am most fulfilled personally. I’m most productive within our businesses when I’m most fulfilled in my personal life. If I’m not at peace, if I’m not well-rested, it’s a priority, because they go hand in hand. If I’m not, if my spirit is not full, then I’m not going to be as motivated professionally. So literally my work-life balance for me, is a key component to my overall success. You see what I’m saying? So I don’t know how to say that more concisely.
Tanya: No, that was concise. I think what’s funny about that, is that you’re the first who has said that in that way, right. Most of the answers have been like, it’s impossible. It doesn’t exist. And so this has been the first way I heard it framed in a completely different way. So that’s why I keep that question in there because it is a constant thing that women are always asked of course, but I’ve never thought about it that way because you’re absolutely right.
Bold & Black is a monthly interview series conducted by entrepreneur, Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence Honouree and BMO Celebrating Women Honouree, Tanya Hayles. Tanya is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of almost 20,000 and a non-profit providing programs and financial tools through grant programs generously supported by BMO.