Dionne Clifton, 40 under 40 Gies Business award winner, is an owner of the LIVE Realty group and when she is not managing she is teaching in the advertising department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a Champaign resident and native who studied Philosophy at UIUC as an undergraduate and eventually got her Masters in Business there later. Between that she lived in Los Angeles and explored a variety of professions from being a TV producer to selling cell phones, before moving back home.
“I have done a lot of different things and when I was going through that stuff it really felt like I was not doing what I was supposed to do, jumping from one thing to the next but where I am now, and I am still on a journey now, I look back at those times and I say to myself, those things are not arbitrary, everything that has happened in my past, every experience that I’ve had, every professional experience, every failure actually really prepared me in a lot of ways to be who I am today; and the person I am today is preparing me to the person that I'm going to be tomorrow.”
UAMag: What are some struggles that you faced and did you ever experience imposter syndrome (means to doubt yourself)?
Dionne Clifton: “That's something I struggle with everyday, that's the thing that I have to really work through in my affirmation, that's the thing that I really have to work through in just recognizing my work ethic and recognizing my intelligence. It's hard for me to accept compliments from people, it's hard for me to believe people when they try and offer me certain levels of acknowledgment because that is something that I think a lot of successful black women struggle with.”
“And also it's not cute for women in general, but specifically black women, it's not cute for us to not be humble. And while I think humility is an important part of becoming a successful person, humility is also something in the extreme, can really prevent you from owning your success too.”
UAMag: Can you talk about your experience in your career as a Realty Group business owner and educator?
Dionne Clifton: “A lot of us are first generations homeowners, maybe our parents owned a home but they didn’t own a home when we were growing up, so we never went through that process. I think that that's the thing that's amazing for me. It's amazing for me to help build our community which is obviously a place that I’m passionate about. I grew up here, I know lots of people here and I think homeownership and property values and the stabilization of real estate help communities grow and thrive and be the best version that they can be.”
“As far as being an educator, I always say that it's like left brain right brain, two different gears but it's great because being able to be inspired by students, people at that age with that raw sense of self, is something that you tend to lose. Being able to have that interaction with them is truly a blessing because it keeps me inspired.”
UAMag: What is an issue in the community that is important to you?
“I think that homeownership is important and not just for certain people, it's important for everybody. Homeownership has to reflect the population so it can't be that a lot of one demographic are homeowners and a lot of one demographic are not homeowners. It needs to be that everyone has accessibility to housing. To the opportunity to be a homeowner, to being able to sell their home. That will help grow wealth within communities so people need to be able to have access to home ownership, build communities, build their neighborhoods, have access to the equity in their homes so then it can increase for them and their families into the future. That is something for me that is absolutely a platform, it is the accessibility of homeownership for everyone.”
UAMag: What obstacles have you faced owning a business as not only a woman, but a woman of color? What advice would you give on how to become successful?
Dionne Clifton: “It's really just about perspective it's a mental shift, because really your circumstance is not changing, it's not like it's easier to be a black woman because I am not focusing on how hard it is. It's just my perspective getting more space in my life for the opportunities that are available to me and trying to maximize those. That doesn’t make it easier, it just grows the opportunities and not the challenges.”
“At the same time, don't get me wrong, you can't think your way out of racism, it's not possible, you can't think your way out of oppression. But what you can do is choose your reality to a certain extent, you can choose what your going to focus on today, you can choose what your going to give you energy to, what your going to give space to in your life and that's how you can create the reality that you want to have in a moment.”
“But sometimes the challenges just present themselves and you have to deal with them and that's okay too. Sometimes you have to sit in that and recognize it and be heard and be understood because sometimes as a Black woman, experiencing things that I feel are unique to my experience, I need to be nurtured through that too sometimes. I need to recognize that this is happening and I am validated in my feelings, sometimes I just go to my girlfriends or sometimes I talk to a mentor. My advice to people is to really try to give more of your energy, attention, space and capacity to the things that are not challenging in your life.”
Clifton is currently the awardee of the 2020 class of 40 under 40, given by the Gies school of business at UIUC honoring outstanding professionals. To check out her services in real estate visit her website:https://www.liverealestategroup.com/listings.html