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Willie James Mandrell: “Don’t be afraid to create a niche and stick to it”

Don’t be afraid to create a niche and stick to it. A business can’t be all things to all people. Figure out who your ideal client or customer is and build a business around their wants, needs and desires. Set bigger goals for yourself. Stop thinking in “realistic” terms. When you set big goals for yourself […]

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Don’t be afraid to create a niche and stick to it. A business can’t be all things to all people. Figure out who your ideal client or customer is and build a business around their wants, needs and desires.

Set bigger goals for yourself. Stop thinking in “realistic” terms. When you set big goals for yourself you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You start to see things in a different light entirely and you challenge yourself more.


I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Willie James Mandrell, III, a Boston-born real estate investor, broker, coach, lecturer, and author, who went from growing up in the projects in Boston to becoming a self-made multi-millionaire by the age of thirty-three. Inspired by his grandmother, who had been investing in real estate since the 1950s, he opened his real estate investment firm, The Mandrell Company, in 2012. Subsequently, The Mandrell Company was recognized in 2019 as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur360TM List. Willie believes in giving back to the community he grew up in. Bucking the gentrification trend where lower income families are forced to move out of the neighborhoods they have been in for decades for lack of affordable housing, he focuses in building multi-family units that are upgraded and suited for the community. In 2019, he was also awarded by the City of Boston the Mayoral Certificate of Recognition for his leadership as the organizer of Boston Wealth Builders and his commitment to educating communities on financial freedoms through real estate.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

From early on, I had a desire to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps; a black woman with a sixth-grade education who invested in real estate in the 50s and 60s, a time where the investment opportunities for blacks and all women were rare. Before launching my career in real estate, I obtained a finance degree from Northeastern University and worked at various financial institutions where I earned Investment Industry Licenses, including theSeries 7, 24, 63 & 65. Working in the finance industry, I quickly came to realize that there is a cultural wealth gap, and that real estate was an excellent means to bridge this gap. My goal is to educate people, especially those from communities of color, about opportunities within real estate.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am not sure I would call if funny but over the years I’ve learned to stay focused on my niche. Early on I went wherever I could find business and people to work with me. I struggled because I didn’t know the markets or my clients very well. I think many new business owners do the same and my advice to them would be to choose and niche and stick it out. Carving out a specialty for yourself is the best way to grow a business. Be a specialist …not a generalist. You want clients to immediately identify you and your business with a specific product or service within a particular area…within a price point. When I chose to focus my sales business on buyers of Boston multifamily (2–4 units) real estate, within 3 neighborhoods, my business took off. I knew my niche and I knew it well and my business grew because of it.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?

  1. We live in a diverse country and it is important to have an executive team that accurately represents the population that you serve.
  2. In order to comprehensively understand the wants, needs and desires of you customer base, you should have executives that can speak directly to those wants, needs and desires.
  3. Businesses should not be standalone entities; they should be woven into the fabric of the community. Being a successful business may mean holding a position of leadership and responsibility within the community, and having a diverse executive team helps to ensure success within that role.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the ability to run to the left when is seems like everyone is running to the right. In most cases the majority in wrong. A true leader understands this and can head in a direction he/ she believes is correct even when the crowd is in doubt. Leadership in business can be very lonely. Most of society doesn’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish until you’ve finished it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Investing in real estate and building a business is very similar to flying an airplane. There is a lot of thrust, power and energy needed to take off from the runway. However, if done correctly, once you reach your “cruising altitude,” the energy and efforts taken to fly diminishes and it becomes a smooth flight.
  2. Networking is everything. It’s cliché but business really is about who you know rather than what.
  3. Build systems for everything and then leverage the skills of other people to scale faster. Stop trying to do everything yourself.
  4. Don’t be afraid to create a niche and stick to it. A business can’t be all things to all people. Figure out who your ideal client or customer is a and build a business around their wants, needs and desires.
  5. Set bigger goals for yourself. Stop thinking in “realistic” terms. When you set big goals for yourself you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You start to see things in a different light entirely and you challenge yourself more.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire people to take better care of our planet. There is only one Earth and we are destroying it. I would encourage others to spend more time and energy creating ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. — Wayne Gretzy

I’ve missed a lot of big shots and I’ve made a lot of big shots, but I’m never afraid to take them. If you want to win in life, you must be able to shoot.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Denzel Washington because he’s the coolest dude on the planet, a fabulous actor and deeply involved in human rights and helping his community.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Your readers can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WMandrell, Meetup https://www.meetup.com/Networth-Investors/, BiggerPockets https://www.biggerpockets.com/users/wmandrell, YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbIQnhc6EhiAO5JxtjUDDIg?view_as=subscriber

and finally on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/wjmandrell/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


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