When Jide Atilola was a first-year marketing and business student at the University of Guelph, he was confident, outgoing, and easily made friends. An international student from Barbados who lived in the same residence told him she felt lonely and isolated and wondered if it was because she was black. Atilola said, “She came to me and said, ‘how do you do this? You seem to make friends easily, you’re black and I can’t make a friend here. I’ve never been around this many white people. I feel it’s me, but then I see you and I know it’s not a race thing.”
For Atilola, growing up in Guelph, he never experienced anything different.
Atilola, who is now a real estate broker in Guelph was blown away by this woman’s comments. He grew up in Guelph at a time when his was one of the few black families in town. His friends, teachers, coaches, and business associates embraced him and Atilola always felt like he belonged. “For me, growing up in Guelph, people were accepting and kind. But I didn’t have any role models that looked like me. I didn’t see any black realtors.”
A couple of years into his real estate career, he met a gentleman at an open house who was moving with his family from Brampton to Guelph, to take a job as a university professor. The gentleman wore a turban and was of East Indian descent. As his wife and two children toured the house, the man who was concerned about his children being accepted in the community asked what it was like growing up as a visible minority in Guelph. At that point Atilola said he stopped selling and started connecting. “He was the first client where the connection went beyond real estate, beyond talking about square footage, the number of rooms and where the schools were. The conversation focused on what it was like to live here while being different.” That meeting was a turning point for Atilola.
Talking about experiences around issues of race has created deeper, more personal connections with clients
Given the soaring costs of real estate, many people, including people of colour are abandoning the GTA and looking to Guelph for a more affordable home. But they also want to live in a community where they feel comfortable raising their family.
Atilola had lived in Toronto for a few years after graduation and while that city is diverse, its segregated neighbourhoods at times made him feel like an outsider. Even walking into certain nightclubs made him wonder if he was welcome. Atilola said, “I felt people in Toronto were judging me before I even spoke. I didn’t feel like that in Guelph.”
Knowing the challenges young people of colour face, Atilola had launched the Atilola Real Estate Scholarship in Business at the University of Guelph in 2019. By sharing his experiences, aspirations, and dreams as a black business professional, Atilola hopes to inspire BIPOC students to also make their mark in business. Atilola said, “I’m proud of who I am. Once I started to harness that strength, I felt the sky was the limit for me. And I’m trying to help those behind me find that strength a little sooner.”
Jide speaks from his heart when he says he feels fortunate having grown up in Guelph where colour and race are not as relevant as they are in other places, in his experience. Atilola said, “My family and I love it here, that’s why I am so grateful to raise my own family in Guelph.”
Contact Jide Atilola at (519) 546-9221 or visit www.atilolarealestate.com