Atieno ‘Ati’ Okelo Williams, founder of DC Home Buzz, first shared her startup experiences for our 1000 Stories Campaign
An immigrant from Kenya, Ati graduated from York University in Toronto and moved to Washington, DC with only $320 in her pocket to follow her dreams “to save the world.” A little over a year later she was laid off from her public health job and Ati decided she’d never depend on someone else to get paid. She started her own real estate company DC Home Buzz not only to sell homes, but also to help buyers understand the market and educate them about the financial basics.
Reason for starting
Right after college, I began working at a public health company doing work that I was neither passionate about nor good at. Eventually, the company experienced a number of budget cuts and I was laid off. At the time, I didn’t even know to negotiate a severance package. I was 22 years old, devastated, jobless. It was then that I decided that I would never rely on someone else for my paycheck. Life handed me lemons. Instead of lemonade, I decided to make a gin and tonic.
How do you define success?
Success is financial freedom, being able to spend time with family and friends, sustaining a quality lifestyle with incredible experiences and being able to take lots of naps. Additionally, I believe that success is empowering others in my company and in my community to achieve what they desire.
My biggest success has been building my business without any major financial backers or loans. I love the fact that I’ve been able to bank roll the business- we led the company with our revenue.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My top challenge has been getting out of my own way. For a long time, I had the “entrepreneur dizzies”- I wanted to do everything. Over time, I addressed the problem by learning to hire very capable people who understood the vision I had and the culture of this company.
Who is your most important role model?
I’m constantly motivated and inspired by my peers and the entrepreneur masterminds that I meet with.