March 9, 2011
This week in Buzz Talk, we chat with Debbie Cosic and Mira Tomljenovic, the brains and leadership behind In2ition. Their company is one of the real estate industry’s most innovative brokerages and specializes in the marketing, merchandising and selling of new home and condominium communities.
We asked Mira and Debbie about selling real estate around the world, surviving a cold winter in style, and what their industry will look like in five years.
BBH: Seeing as how we’re speaking at 9:30am on a Monday, I should start by asking where you most like to go for coffee. . .
Debbie: Believe it or not on Mondays we just come straight to the office because we have our scheduled management meetings with a brunch/breakfast catered by Whole Foods and on cold days like today we break out the champagne and put a few berries in it.
BBH: How did In2ition come to be and why was the name chosen?
Credit for the name itself goes to Blackjet Advertising. After considering a long list of options In2ition was decided on for the dual identity and the spirit of whole-heartedness attached to its first impression.
BBH: How have your professional backgrounds complemented each other in the process of growing your business?
Mira: Our professional backgrounds are very diverse and yes they do complement each other. I have a planning background and am a member of CIP (Canadian Institute of Planners). My CV includes working at the City of Mississauga for nine and a half years, Tim Hortons’ Real Estate Department for three and a half years and, prior to Deb and I opening our business, I was at First Pro Shopping Centres, now known as Smart Centres.
My project management and land assembly experience coupled with Deb’s experience in new homes made for a diverse yet comprehensive foundation.
Debbie: I have a degree in political science from the University of Toronto, and went into real estate right after university. From there, I ended up working for Senator Homes for about a dozen years and moved up the ranks to head up their sales and marketing.
Mira and I have known each other since our childhood – our sisters were friends. The two of us are like yin and yang, you know, black and white. We’re two totally different people and we have very different strengths. We’ve really learned to appreciate that and let each other fly.
BBH: What’s your secret for making it through a cold winter like this?
Mira: Spiked coffee and a great wardrobe of kick-ass boots! [Both laugh]
BBH: In2ition seems to pride itself on being “cutting edge,” as your website puts it, how tough is it for a company to stay at the forefront of industry trends while it grows.
Mira: Living by that mantra is something we are both very aware of, and we do it by encouraging our team members to be enthusiastic and eager to thrive on the constant and increasing change in the industry.
Basically, no matter how many successes we’ve had we don’t ever stop and think ‘we’ve got it now.’ We’re continually trying to re-invent and better our services – without losing the tried and true principles and philosophies that we set ourselves up with. We’re forging through and trying to have as much fun possible along the way.
BBH: You’ve made no secret of your strategy of marketing Parkside Village to the South Asian community. Why did the Parkside Village development look to you to be a good fit with the South Asian community in particular?
Debbie: Well our market research found that that particular part of Mississauga had a growing South Asian community. The kids of the first generation from South Asia are young and trendy and looking for something that has a vibe that they could connect with and Parkside Village definitely has a look that lends itself to that.
Having said that, we have marketed Parkside Village to a wide range of ethnicities. For example, we hosted a Polish event some time ago – there were quite a few people from the Polish community interested in the project. Again, market research showed that there was quite a substantial Polish community in Mississauga and we tapped into that very successfully.
BBH: As a related question, we understand you’ve taken a real estate road show to Pakistan and India and have set up broker networks and satellite sales office in two cities in Pakistan – Karachi and Lahore. Can you tell us about these ventures? Are there plans to take these ideas to other regions?
Debbie: Absolutely, as you mentioned we had two successful satellite offices – one in Karachi and one in Lahore. We also had plans to open a third one in Islamabad but unfortunately political unrest and the recent flooding in Pakistan put a stop to these plans. We are planning to further expand overseas, when the opportunity lends itself and are currently researching several potential marketplaces.
BBH: These ventures must be a ton of work. . .
Debbie: It was years of us connecting – particularly with the Pakistani community and now with the Indian community – and being able to put those contacts into play and to successfully be able to have sales. I mean, you can’t go to India or Pakistan and come home with ten deals; you have to be able to go there and come back with at least 75 or 100 deals.
BBH: Can we get an update on what’s happening at LivLofts?
Debbie: We’ve registered phenomenal sales numbers so far. We do believe it’s a signature building – the conversion aspect itself, the ten foot open ceilings, and loft like features such as the unique windows that are being installed, and then of course the location; it’s a triple ‘A’ location. The Shops at Don Mills is unlike any other shopping centre that’s been built in Canada and we believe it’s a piece of California that’s been brought to Don Mills.
BBH: How will selling real estate be different in five years from now, and we wondered whether your views diverged at all in terms of real estate in the future?
Mira: Well we’re both looking forward to the future! Over the past several years, if you looked at how real estate sales has changed, particularly in the high-rise world, and the intensification which is momentously moving into the 905, we’ve seen changes in the product offering, price per square foot and more compact suite sizes.
But besides that, it’s all about marketing and selling a better experience for the customer and we think that technology is going to play a role in the future. Online social networking allows for a pooling of knowledge; I mean, look at BuzzBuzzHome and all the people who are going to your site to get their information.
Future technology will enable the consumer to view properties from home, and virtual tours and even live holograms are being talked about, so that’s probably the route that we’re headed towards. Now, how we’re going to tap into that is an open question, as it is for everybody.
Debbie: We definitely have the same mindset and we both believe that technology is the big overriding factor of the future and we’ve seen a dramatic change in how we’re marketing our projects and how we have been moving from print to web-based marketing and social media.
We’re attacking a new strategy related to blogging as we realize the validity and usefulness of these different mediums and we’re embracing it and bringing it forward on a regular basis to our clients.
Our sincere thanks to Mira and Debbie for taking the time to chat with us!