Building communities and nurturing dreams, with Real Estate Developer Nicole Furnace

Less than 1% of the professionals in real estate development are non-white women, and Nicole Furnace is trying to change that by example.  Today she talks to Jackie about her experience in a predominantly white world, why underrepresented and marginalized voices in real estate are imperative, and what we can do to fix systemic inequities.

Nicole Furnace is the Founder of Roots Consulting Group.


Jackie: Welcome everyone, and thank you for tuning in. Today I am talking to Nicole Furnace. Nicole has worked with organizations such as Lockheed Martin and Ernst and Young, and is currently based in Washington, DC as a real estate broker, developer and consultant, focused on inclusion and equity in real estate. 

Nicole: Thank you. I’m excited. 

Jackie: Awesome. Tell us a little about yourself. If you would, just your background, your family, your identity, anything you’d like to share.

Nicole: Sure. So I’d say I would describe myself as identify as a CIS female. I’m a black woman, I’m a wife, real estate obsessed, renovation obsessed some would say. I currently live in Washington DC, managing various projects that I have based here in Virginia and North Carolina. So I spend a lot of time in the car, listening to podcasts.

And I was born and raised in St. Louis. I had stints after I left St. Louis, I went to Los Angeles for undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California, and then I went to Texas for business school at the University of Texas at Austin, and I also had a couple of stints abroad primarily in South America. So I’ve gotten to see a good amount of the US and enjoy traveling internationally. A lot of my work previous to real estate took me internationally, so that’s really been a great influence in a lot of the inclusion work that I do today, which is nice. 

From a family standpoint, I’m raising three real estate apprentices, under the age of seven currently, so they keep me very busy. And I would say, kind of historically, academically and professionally, what’s really influenced me is, I have spent a lot of time between two worlds. So I’m a Black woman, and at home, my culture was primarily African-American and Black, but a lot of the time that I spent outside of the home was in predominantly white culture.

So the schools that I went to, my college experience, business school, and then of course in the corporate world, I was in industry for a while. I worked in mergers and acquisitions, consulting and now real estate. And so it’s always been me kind of feeling like an outsider in these worlds and trying to navigate, and I think it’s really important now that we have this opportunity to have people feel more included in these traditionally exclusionary kind of worlds, which is why I like to do my consulting because I really do think that helps, you know, make the industry better, we all understand that we can change and be empowered and make people feel more included in this industry. 

Jackie: Absolutely. And Nicole let’s, let’s stay on your, your early career and talk a little bit about navigating that world, right, where you are one of a few, or sometimes the only. Tell me what that was like in corporate America navigating that. What are some of the tips that you would give us? How, how did that feel? How did you process that? Can you talk a little about that?

Nicole: Sure, that can be hard to summarize, but I’m sure a lot of people of color in certain industries and it kind of, as I go in these different, move along in their career in different ways, have experienced this in one way or another, but there’s always this feeling of being outside or excluded in some way, whether that’s culturally, the education that you had, your family experience, potentially the language that you speak at home or the story of your people and how they came to the United States.

There’s always something that I feel like can be missing for people of color or people of a different ethnicity or background in a predominantly white world, and that’s something that I experienced and I do feel like since I experienced it at such a young age, I was able to navigate that and kind of find ways to feel comfortable. Whether that’s finding common experiences with people of a different culture than me. that goes both ways, right? People of color can find things they have in common with, you know, traditionally dominant cultures.

Full Episode Transcript

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The Inclusive Language Handbook: A Guide to Better Communication and Transformational Leadership, by Jackie Ferguson and Roxanne Bellamy

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