Billy worked in media production, business development and international education prior to Real Estate. Other area of interests include the following: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), International Development, and Social Entrepreneurship. Billy is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and currently lives in Ashburn, VA with his wife Karen, and their two sons - Liam and Jonathan, He serves as Vice President of Business Solutions at Leading Real Estate Companies of The World.View the profile
About the talk
From the Congo to US Real Estate, Billy tells an amazing story of family, struggle and achievement.
Please welcome Billy Ekofo. Good morning. Good morning. Let's do it again. Good morning. Good. Thank you so much for having me. I'm going to dive right into it. One of the things that I find interesting, right? It's the way we greet each other depending on where we're from and depending on which language we speak right surprised. If you speak Hebrew, you say shalom which means peace and depending on where you from in India, you'll be said to you or you'll be saying Namaste which is an acknowledgment
of the greatness and someone else and you me the greeter on full reverence of it. So now I must say to you supposed to say namaste to Before the Luba people in the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo we simply just say Moya. Which means life. The common denominator between saying Shalom peace Namaste. I acknowledge the greatest in you or Moya life is that whoever is doing the greeting has to acknowledge. That is something more to the one he or she speaking to. I believe it's the same thing with helping people. So put it differently whoever is doing the
helping has to acknowledge that there's something more to do one he or she is lending a hand to and so this morning I wanted to share with you how this has been true to my life and essentially saved the person I am today, but personally and professionally In case you can't tell I'm from I have a bit of an exit and there's a logical explanation to a c I was born from Connolly's parents in the United States which made me a citizen by birth by Congolese but anything everything else and the car looks to me as an interesting country because it is a duality in the
place that I think will become obvious in a minute. Someone hand you think of the Congo as beautiful and exotic which it is without the biodiversity that Congo is second to none. It's also a country that's filled with mineral, which it is with gold diamond Cobalt. And generally speaking when you think of the Congo and its people that generally happy if you know me, I'm generally happy person which is true. What is knossos side of the Congo that I think many of you know already and it's one that's being played by about 32 years of a brutal dictatorship
and in recent history in the 90s, but one of the bloodiest war in recent history, and this is essentially the Congo that I know. It's one that is Harsh and devastated. It's one that's Refugee played. And it's one that's torn. So it's not so much against the happy beautiful and joyful Congo, but against the horse devastated and torn Congo that my story takes place. It's the year is 1998 and we are essentially at the height of what becomes the Congo conflict. I'm 17 years old. I'm living with my parents in the
capital, Kinshasa. two members of the American Embassy came to my home this boat repair my parents and then left. My parents called us in their bedroom. We said around their beds. and it said do you being evacuated and I remember I was born a us which made me a citizen so that me and other citizens had to be evacuated. So they said you had to be evacuated. But my dad said he is what I want you to do. Once you reach the US, I want you to contact Papa check. Mr. Check to you. It's a family friend to emigrate to us several years before and lived in Newport
News, Virginia. So you should know State. I want you getting in contact with them and tell him exactly what's going on and tell him that I'm sending you to live with him until the next day. I got up. Say goodbye to my family dad and I drove to the American Embassy or Consulate in Kinshasa and do a lot of people, you know, when you being evacuated the big traumatic. And I was so mesmerized but all the commotion that I didn't realize that my father was no longer by my side. You didn't have an American passport so you can canoe go through certain Gates.
And I don't know I don't recall the emotion. I just recalled waving to him nervously anyways back the gate closed and I was the last time I saw my dad. Until we got in cars at some point. We drove to the airport. Weehawken white Suburban so live in the Convoy in the capital and there were people on the street shouting go home, which is interesting to me because home was where I was. That night we flew to Cameroon, but we stayed there for several days. Until we got word that the next
tranche of our journey was about to take place. So we we we supposed to catch a flight from Europe to the us, so we got to Brussels several days later. And we're told that the flight was in Paris. So we flew to Paris and a new Paris all of our groups of people that were being evacuated from Kinshasa. We sort of scattered because they were going in different places in the US and I was the only one that was going to Richmond Virginia because that's why I was supposed to meet my family friend. I was routed to New York, right? And so I landed in New York late August 17
years old. And that's when I realize I was truly by myself. And everything I hit it about the Congo the harsh life in the war or the impending War I should say. And everything I loved About It by family friends at that very moment. I was missing all of it, but I couldn't get it back. It's an between the tears and the exhaustion. How to figure this thing out. I got up the next day. I can speak English. So I had to find my way through the airport essentially pointing to the
ticket and Airport officials were guiding me recklessly. I didn't up at the right gate ruins in Richmond. And then I remember when my dad said so I can want you to call Papa check. It's whatever changed I had left in my pocket. Stop a phone I could just shove all of them in their dial. The number exactly the way it was written. It was a business card. I didn't know what to do. I just dialed a number if this is not clear to you. This was my lifeline in the US if I miss that call well. I'm going to pause there for a second
and ask you a question. Let's say that instead of calling Papa check, mr. Check. I was calling your business. I was calling you. a same afternoon Would I have been to lead or person to you? Let's make the assumption that was in fact that lead. Would have been worth your time. And so that there's just no mistaking. Let me just tell you that I plead I was I would have been calling you from a pay phone. So that number was no good. Right? I can speak English. So unless you spoke French or lingala, which is another dialect of the Congo or maybe a little bit of chewable you and
I going to have a conversation. I know money I was broke. No email you can find me on Twitter Facebook Snapchat. Whatever. Basically, I had nothing and I was nothing. But I'm so thankful that finally someone picked up the call. And whoever picked up the car didn't see me as a lead, but strong as a person. It's a me who had absolutely nothing became a person and not just any person. I became a person worth caring because it was as I was bothering in French on the phone. Whoever took the call was able to discern couple words that me to Papa
check and was aware enough to go grab them and put them on the phone as I was still rambling and I heard his voice and you say hi. This is Papa check and I should pop a check. This is Billy Coco. Just landed in Richmond, Virginia. What's going on back home? If that's actually reach out to you. Could you please come and pick me up from the airport? And without hesitation Papa check said yes. And so instead of sleeping on a steel bench at JFK for my first time in the US actually slept on the bed my second light. And then I became a person worth adopting. The
truth be told Papa check was not ready right to have another kid live with him. Like he had no idea and I was even coming but you made arrangements for me to live with an American family. It's a seven-day scuse me several days after getting to the u.s. I am moved in with an American Caucasian family. single mom of 3 and 7 cats true story and Billy a Copo 17 year old tall skinny guy from the Congo and that was my family. But even in the midst of that Becky Kiser deleted I ended up
living with didn't see me as just a random person. She saw me as a son. And I called her mom and she called me Billy. And then I became a person worth loving. Between my arrival and staying with the Kaisers and graduating college. I am at a bit of an identity crisis. You see the people that God will welcome me books actually look like me. I thought they would be walking into the fact I was from the Congo. Well then end up making fun of my accent. Making fun of the way. I dress I was in chipping off. I guess was
not wearing the baggy jeans or whatever and the people that looks completely different than me the others. Ended up welcoming me. You wanted to know more about where I came from. What was the situation until? I was very confused and I felt like I was a Stranger in Paradise quite literally. Until this one girl came along. It's about yay high olive skin dark hair she could care less about the way I sounded like the way I look like the way I talk. She just wanted to be my friend. And she became more than
that. Jimmy Kimmel wife at her support Is second to none? Because she's been through his me. even after his career at South Korean media an education Going to business school graduating. Not finding work short selling a home because of the massive death. right She still push me to be the best that I could be. What's trains leaves me to real estate? This is a real estate conference. Enter in the winter of 2013 while still living with my in-laws at that point in job searching my father-in-law made the most outrageous proposition to me. He said Billy should consider real estate and I
said no because I didn't go to business school right to earn a master's degree to work on commission. At least that's what I thought right? I mean, who does that friend of yours truly was supposed to I did not do it. I do not want to all of that just to earn a living on commission. At least. That's what I thought of Real Estate. He offered to pay for my pre-licensing course. And so in the winter of 2013, I got my real estate license in January 2014. I joined Century 21 Redwood Realty as a full-time
agent now. Go Redwood. They did not have the training program that they have for new agents like we do we do not have light. Training went with you today. So they had to be very conscious of the type of people that brought on board and for some odd reason. They thought I would be worth teaching the craft of real estate 2. And so out of my reluctance to join the industry came out first transaction. And then everything I wanted to do in a career. Cayman real estate. I want a career that matter what
real estate gives you then. Answer the question is again. Do you as you open your computer UCR an Excel sheet some people all the contacts you have been there are those people who leads or they actually people Is the person sitting next to you Justin lead and actual person? See, I believe when you see a person. You see that which is possible. And when you see the possible you see life itself. Let me see it differently. You see life. You seem oil. And your ability to see the possible in someone else gives you the power to speak the possible.
Finish that again you can speak the possible. When you have the ability to see what possible someone else can you can bring it out of the existence you can make it happen. If you came in this morning and you're wondering what this industry is about all the ladies and gentleman, this is what we do real estate people speak to possible into existence. real estate people speak the possible into existence If you were to ask me. what to see in this room from this vantage point I will say to you that I don't see any
leads. I see people. and because I see people I see the potential in each and every one of you to be a force for good what it's in your community on your business. Cutting straight to the chase. I see endless possibilities. It's on the same manner that you have spoken my dreams it and aspiration. Is it existence? Saying thank you to you will be just simply and I'll do. I'd rather say this word. Because it means so much more. It's a damn good question become what would the world be like scratch that industry be like if we peacefully acknowledged
the greatness in each other. Thank you. Billy yeah, you are GIF to the industry. I hate when I first saw you and I saw your face and your smile and I want to thank you for what you do for the industry. It's amazing Billy had a service project. I don't know if you heard of for 2 days at Glide. You are an amazing human being how much do you miss your family Billy? Why haven't seen him in a while. Actually we haven't been in the same place. A quite a bit. Well, guess what?
Delia Should I say something? Just as a feather. I'm very proud of you. Thank you. a little background Billy you have many people that love you and I think the man that thought this up is another gift to the industry Peter Brewer and the person that stepped up to make all this happen. These is all the other things involved was Eddie, not at Redwood Realty another to the industry. So I want you now. I mean we could probably dance up here if you want. I want you to go back and enjoy your family and thank you and thank you all so much for
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