The immortal renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci observed, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Guelph’s own renaissance man, “Big” John Leacock, has been happening to things in the city since he first arrived here from Tobago in 1987.
“What motivates me most is just a love for the community,” said Leacock. “I get energy from positive people in the community that want to do good things.”
Leacock may be best known in business circles for his work as a realtor for Coldwell Banker Neuman, but his cultural grasp has certainly exceeded his entrepreneurial reach.
“Music, arts and culture have always been my thing and real estate came after,” said Leacock. “I like to build community and to see foundational strategic ideas come into fruition.”
Leacock was born in 1965 on the island of Tobago in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have three siblings and two of them came to Canada as international students,” he said.
“I came as an international student as well. My parents felt that it was important that I have an international education.”
He first enrolled at Dawson College in Montreal where he joined the college basketball team but he soon transferred to the University of Guelph.
“I thought Guelph would be a better fit for me since I wanted to study agricultural sciences with an intention of going back to the Caribbean,” he said. “In Guelph the agriculture college was closer to the gym so I could go to school and play basketball.”
He attended U of G for the next 10 years earning a diploma in agricultural science and a degree in marketing and psychology.
“My first job was at the Arkell Research Station,” said Leacock. “I worked with bulls checking genetic superiority with intentions of getting into agri-food sales.”
He also worked at the Arkell Research Farm feed mill and for animal care services at the Ontario Veterinary College.
“After that I switched into working as a porter in residence,” he said. “So, that is where my real estate career maybe unknowingly started.”
He also worked for four years in college radio as a music coordinator and in advertising for CFRU 93.3FM at the U of G.
In 1992 he launched Big John Entertainment, a concert promotion company that focuses on bringing reggae, calypso and hip-hop artists to venues such as the Hillside Festival and River Run Centre in Guelph and the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts.
In 2006 he took his career in yet another direction and became a realtor.
“I am certified as an international realtor and I am working on projects in the Caribbean and in Canada,” he said. “I work with an international referral network of realtors from all over the globe promoting Guelph locally and internationally.”
For the past seven years he has been involved with the Downtown Renewal Committee promoting development in the downtown core and is a founding member of the Guelph Black Heritage Society.
“We purchased 83 Essex Street and I am looking forward to getting that place fully wheelchair accessible so we can have more educational programs from Guelph Black Heritage,” he said. “The community itself motivates me. Just like some people get excitement from refurbishing furniture, I like to refurbish community.”
With all the connections and experience he has amassed many have encouraged him to go into politics but his main focus is on his children Mya, 19, who is in her second year at the U of G and his son Emmitt, 14, who he describes as a future lawyer and musician.
“I enjoy connecting people and making good things happen so who knows I might get into politics down the road,” said Leacock. “I’d like to see but I know it would restrict a lot of the other stuff I do.”