A Shaker Heights native, Hameed didn’t grow up dreaming of a real estate career.
Yet he’s found himself sitting on trade association boards and leading regional efforts to change the face of an industry that’s largely white, male and dominated by baby boomers.
“He doesn’t hold back. He’s very open about things,” said Sandy Naragon, CEO of the Akron Cleveland Association of Realtors, an industry organization for which Hameed serves as treasurer. “His willingness to bridge that conversation about diversity and race has gone way back.”
After graduating from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Hameed studied marketing at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. He landed a job as a retail buyer for Neiman Marcus in Dallas.
In 2003, he moved back to Northeast Ohio, where he became the operations manager for the Word Church in Warrensville Heights. Through the church, he reconnected with Felicia, a childhood classmate and mental health counselor. The pair married 18 months later, while Hameed was in the midst of obtaining an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
A financial adviser suggested that the newlyweds invest in real estate. The idea wasn’t foreign to Felicia Hameed, whose father and grandfather owned and managed rental homes. So the couple began buying apartments.
In late 2006, the pair formed FASS, which started out as a referral business linking landlords and tenants. They named the company after Felicia; Akil; daughter Savannah, then an infant; and forthcoming baby Serene, who was born a few months later.
“Akil’s always the vowel that keeps everybody together,” said Felicia Hameed, who loves acronyms.
When Akil Hameed lost his job, just as the nation slid into the Great Recession, he decided to be his own boss.
Felicia Hameed kept working as a counselor, while her husband built up the business and obtained his sales license. After the births of the couple’s third and fourth children, Seth and Sasha, she stayed home for about five years, making it easier for Hameed to take on board appointments and committee roles as the company grew.
Early on, FASS focused on single-family rentals, owned by far-flung landlords who gobbled up properties on the heels of the housing bust. The work was intense, requiring hands-on labor, long hours and plenty of patience.
“I remember Christmas Eves when we were sitting there, opening gifts, and his phone would ring,” Felicia Hameed recalled. “It was the night service because somebody had a flood. Or somebody’s roof caved in.”
At one point, FASS managed more than 600 rentals, many of them in or near Cleveland. Gradually, though, Akil Hameed looked to commercial real estate as a more sustainable growth avenue.
In 2012, he joined the first local class of Project REAP, a multi-city program that aims to diversify the industry’s ranks.
That year, he also obtained his broker’s license, which gave FASS the ability to employ agents. And he began…