Mel Wilson is a well-known leader in the Valley area. He was an All-America football player for California State University – Northridge who went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a founder of the Valley Economic Alliance and he won one of that organization’s “Star of the Valley” awards in 2019. And he’s a longtime residential real estate broker, having founded Mel Wilson & Associates. But he does more than sell houses. “Our firm also provides legislative housing advocacy, land use/zoning, asset management services and transit community-oriented development services,” Wilson said. What’s more, Wilson is a public speaker, and his passion is creating housing availability and affordability. He obtained a master’s in real estate degree with a focus on creating affordable housing for millennials and middle-income workers.Wilson said he started as a real estate sales agent in Northridge in 1978 and opened a boutique office in Northridge in 1988. After that, he co-owned and managed offices in Chatsworth, Calabasas and Woodland Hills. He bought a RE/MAX franchise in Northridge in 2008 which he re-branded to Mel Wilson & Associates Realtors. Later, he opened boutique-virtual offices in Culver City, Hancock Park, Northridge and San Fernando. Today, he’s down to one office in San Fernando and two employees, joking that he’s on a “debt- and stress-reduction program.”The best aspect of running your own business is “Creating a vision for the future that is reflective of what our clients need and want,” he said, and “teaching my agents and administrative staff how to deliver delightful service. Working hard and being rewarded handsomely for that hard work.”The worst is “dealing with personnel issues and being responsible for covering all the overhead during severe business downturns in the business cycles.”His advice to those thinking about starting their own business is this: “Do your homework, research the data, analyze opportunities and risks. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Find a niche and strive to be the best in that sector of the market.”Being African-American did pose some challenges, Wilson said.“I experienced subtle and overt racial bias in the communities in and around Northridge,” he said. “I had been a scholar athlete at CSUN, graduating with a business degree. I achieved All-America Football status, got drafted in the 5th round by the New York Football Giants and played for the Kansas City Chiefs. People cheered for me on the athletic fields, but after my football career, those same people would not allow me to represent them in their real estate transaction. In those early days I worked nine months straight, seven days a week without closing a sale. “Undeterred, I moved to another office and went back to the minority community where I grew up, Pacoima,” he continued. “My business took off while serving Latino and Black families. I eventually started working with some of my White and Black CSUN alum friends in areas all over the San Fernando Valley. These clients judged me by my hard work, honesty, and professional service. Not by the color of my skin.” The pandemic of the last 11 months, he said, “has been another time of adapting, following the data and finding my niche.” Since his brokerage was already paperless and wireless, working from home was not a problem. But as the demand for housing increased, the supply decreased and prices escalated.
“Over the years I acquired the skills to provide construction management services that my clients use to restore their homes prior to selling,” he said. He shows them how to boost returns by creating accessory dwelling units and other income-producing assets.He does think about starting another business, particularly as it relates to his passion to help middle-income people and millennials. “My new business ventures will revolve around creating development of housing that is affordable for the workforce.”He said that when he played college football, he played a different position every year but still achieved All-Conference status annually and All-America status by his senior year.
“I learned how to adapt, by learning critical skills with each position that allowed me to perform at high levels under pressure,” Wilson said. “Post pandemic will present new opportunities to transfer those principles of adaption, and to focus and flourish by providing specialized services for my clients.”