Nicole Shillingford: still charting a course to success

Egbert Gaye

Back in the mid 2000s a young Nicole Shillingford ventured hesitantly into the real estate business.
She admits to being drawn to it as a teenager participating in a community project and sitting in on a presentation by industry veteran George Grant.
“He did a very gonicoleod job convincing me that real estate was a good career choice and also sold himself as someone who has found success in it,” the 30-something year- old Montrealer says. “He seemed to be enjoying the lifestyle and I was impressed. I was ready to give it a try.”
Today, after eight years of navigating the choppy waters of being an independent real estate broker, Shillingford says she is still trying to chart a course that will bring the fulfillment she envisioned.
“Just like any other broker I’ve had some good years and some not-so-good ones, but I must admit that I’m still trying to find the right formula to be consistent and maintain success.
I think the biggest lesson I learnt early is that in this business there is no stage or internship, so if you do not have a mentor or someone guiding you, it’s easy to get lost.”
She was licensed in 2007 and immediately joined the office of Century 21 (Vision) in Montreal, where she found herself working with a lot of nice people, but had no one to take an interest in her career because they were all independent brokers and for the most part self-employed.
Shillingford says she also felt a bit stunted because she went into the business early in life and didn’t bring with her a professional background like many other agents, who worked in banking or the investment industry. However, what she brought was a determination to provide clients with a level of service that they can hardly find with other brokers.
“I go all out on behalf of my clients. It’s not unusual for me to pick them up at their front door and drive them around town for them to see as many properties as possible or for as long as it takes to make proper decisions,” she says. “I also make it my duty to provide them with as much information as possible in order for them to make the best decisions to suit their budget and their lifestyle.”
In fact, she says, she has been told that she sometimes gives so much information that it prevents her from making sales.
“You see, in the end it’s really not about making a sale, I truly believe it’s about what’s best for the client, and that’s very important because I work with a lot of first-time buyers who value the information I provide.”
Shillingford considers herself a child of the community. She was born in Montreal, grew up in the Cote des Neiges area and participated in many community activities.
Although she maintains a second job, Shillingford still believes that being a real estate broker can be a viable option for young people seeking a meaningful career.
“People will always be buying houses, so there will always be a lot of money to be made, but my advice to them is: do your research and understand exactly what you’re getting into.
“They must know that they need a lot of money to maintain the business, especially during the slow periods, and like everything else they have to be prepared to work long and some difficult hours to set yourself apart from the crowd. As for me I’m still learning, but I make it my business to provide every client with exclusive service.”
Reach Nicole Shillingfdord at

Driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit

Egbert Gaye

Hard work doesn’t faze Joanne James
She went into the real estate field knowing that  she will have to work long, arduous houJoanne's Picturers  while paying extra attention to prevailing laws and regulations in order to find a modicum of success but  found herself taken aback by a some little  things that  were thrown at her mostly by clients and mostly by people in her community.
“It’s wasn’t long before I realized that I had to work really hard to win the trust of people from my community,” she told the CONTACT in a telephone interview. “Many of them  are quick to discount your professional opinion on their property just because  because you’re a Black person but buy hook, line and sinker the opinion of others. That can be very discouraging sometimes.”
“But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learn in this business, since I started in 2007 is that you have to let a lot of things  roll off your back  because in  real estate there is something to learn everyday.”
James brought a  highly diverse professional background into her foray in the industry says also that one of the secrets of survival for any broker is a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
“In this business, times will be tough and one need to know how to ride those waves and continue to push forward, that’s where your entrepreneurial spirit comes in .”
That entrepreneurial spirit dwells in James who  walked away from lucrative jobs first as a para legal then  as an administrative assistant in the bank  to opened a successful hairdressing business.
At its height,  her salon, Jazzy, employed about five hairstylists and beauticians.
James made the move into real estate around 2006 when her hairdressing business started to falter in a sputtering economy. She loved the idea of meeting people and helping them make life-changing decisions, as it was with her  when she bought her first home. She also harbored a long held curiosity about investing in properties, so this is the place she wanted to be.
She  set up shop with Sutton in the  west island and says in  the first couple of  years it was ideal as a part time job   as she hauled in up to about $40,000  a year. But when she was forced to shut the doors of her haJoanne Kaerateirdressing business and became a full-time broker, reality hit hard .

Undeterred,  she set about trying to establish a foothold in the business by immediately taking to  the streets and  canvassing homeowners who were interested in selling their properties also potential homebuyers.

It paid off. Over the years, her ability to work long hours and her determination to learn as much as she can about the her business, brought success.

But as she is quick to attest,  it didn’t come easy.
“Real estate is a tough environment to achieve financial success.  You have to have discipline.”
And one thing Joanne James is blessed with is discipline.
A single mother of three  young children while she was in her late 30s, she knew she need to be “on point” as she repositioned herself  to carry the responsibility of  her young family.
Discipline became the core principle when she took up  of taekwondo alongside her children 11 years ago,
Not surprisingly, after hours and hours of training several days a week, today she holds a 2nd Dan black belt  in the full contact fighting sport. Her 25-year-old daughter is a 1st Dan black belt, meaning  that inspite of their diminutive stature, they can kick the ass of the average guy.
“For me Taekwondo has nothing to do with fighting. In addition to being an ideal way to manage my weight, it’s foundational principle of discipline, determination, humility, respect, self assertiveness, perseverance and self esteem are all important in helping me build a successful real estate business.”
Entering her sixth full year in the business, James says she is excited about being a real estate broker in Montreal.
“Absolutely excited because I work for myself so its up to me if I fail or succeed and when it comes in, the money is good.
Reach Joanne James at or