Today we’re buzzing with Graham Snowden, a project director at Rennie, and one heck of an athlete.
In addition to his awesome work at one of Vancouver’s top real estate companies, Graham has raised thousands of dollars for charities while embarking on some pretty crazy adventures including The Big Five marathon in South Africa and a self-sustained foot race through Nepal.
We chat with him all about Vancouver real estate, what keeps him inspired and motivated, and how you can get involved.
BuzzBuzzHome: Vancouver real estate is pretty unique, pretty crazy — what’s your approach to project directing at Rennie?
Graham Snowden: I think that when you look at our market, we’re very lucky at how well it performs and how it sustains itself. During the financial crisis in 2008, the economic downturn, we went down the least and came back one of the fastest.
I think that with Rennie we have a system that is tried, tested and true. It has shown its success, and has been able to maintain sales success for our clients. We really focus on what the local market needs, we’re really data heavy, and always keep our fingers on the pulse of the market to understand what is happening and how to best position projects for success. We do a lot of risk management, because developers are taking million dollar bets, and we’re privileged to be a part of them.
At Rennie we try to not just work harder, we work smarter, always making sure we have that knowledge base.
BBH: Are there any special projects going on you’re excited about?
GS: We just did a great one with PCI called Marine Gateway. It sold out 415 homes in four hours—just a phenomenal success. Looking at the reasons why that project sold so well, it’s in an emerging neighbourhood, has great access to transit, a big shopping and commercial element with an office building, and great views of the river.
Because of this, we’re seeing that there’s a natural translation to what’s available at Trapp and Holbrook in New Westminster. The difference is that New West’s market is already revitalized– the shopping is there, there’s the Millennium and Expo Skytrain line within a block of the building, and phenomenal view of the river. New West is re-emerging; a lot of people have been waiting for it to get to the tipping point, but I think it’s past the tipping point.
Trapp and Holbrook is also a very affordable home to buy. When you look at how homes are selling for over 600/sq ft at Metrotown, and you go 7 or 8 minutes down the skytrain, you’re waterfront and $140 less.
We have another project coming up called Wall Centre Central Park, at Boundary and Vanness. It’s a great Vancouver location, with great views, close to transit, with shopping amenities all around you. We’re seeing those are the things that are really selling projects right now.
BBH: So how did you get into charity work?
GS: It started in 2007, when a friend of mine worked for Team in Training, and suggested that I try it. Team in Training is the world’s largest endurance sport training and fundraising program that benefits the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Over the past 25 years, they’ve trained 500,000 people to run or walk a half or whole marathon or a triathlon.
I’ve always wanted to do a triathlon, but I never had a compelling reason. I talked to my friend, and I said if I was going to do it I wanted to do it right. There’s a fundraising minimum you need to hit, and my goal was to double that. I wanted to raise between $14,000 and $15,000.
I had some setbacks during my training, where I dislocated my shoulder three times, and it was at a point where I wasn’t sure if I was able to complete the event or even the training. But at that point I had already raised $12,000.
I got an email from a woman named Kirsten Anderson, who was our honoured teammate, so she was undergoing cancer treatment at the time. She thanked me for the work that I was doing, and it took me aback, because I didn’t think that I was doing anything special. I’m training for a triathlon, Kirsten is trying to beat cancer, there’s a remarkable difference between the two.
Her email motivated me to take that competitive edge away and focus on why I was doing it, and finishing the race. So on race day, I got in the water, and I did the 500-meter swim with one arm. I came out at 149th, I was off the bike in 22nd place, and I finished 6th in my age group. So I was pretty happy.
BBH: What did you go on to do after completing the first event?
GS: I went on to run three marathons with Team in Training, and then my racing took a bit of a turn. I started looking for experienced-based races.
In 2010 I ran a race on behalf of the South African Red Cross — The Big Five marathon — the big five being the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. It’s run on an active game reserve in South Africa. We didn’t see all the animals. We didn’t see any lions or leopards, but we did see elephants, rhinos and buffalo, and had a herd of impala run three or four feet in front of me. You can go and run a road race, and it can be a beautiful course, but I’m looking for a different kind of experience.
Coming out of The Big Five, I found two races I was lucky to get into last year. The first was the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. You get in a boat, and they take you to Alcatraz, and you swim 2 km back across the bay.
BBH: … but sharks?
GS: There were sharks, and the water was cold!
BBH: What came after Alcatraz?
GS: In November 2011, I ran my first multi-day event. It was a self-supported 6-day 250 km foot race in Nepal. They give you about 6 litres of water a day, which seems like enough, but at that altitude and when you’re exerting yourself that much, it’s only adequate, and you’re rationing it. I became sick, and didn’t think I would be able to continue on day two. But I couldn’t get cell phone reception for someone to tell me it would be okay to stop.
BBH: What keeps you going in moments like that?
GS: One of the things that keeps me going is recognizing and remembering who I’m doing it for. So I felt very fortunate I didn’t get a hold of anyone.
Over the next three days, I took in about 1,500 calories total, so I lost 12lbs. But somehow my placing each day improved.
One of the things I took away from this race was that we start to do a lot of the things that we’re doing to make ourselves bigger, and the reality is that we are really quite small. And when you go and push yourself to these limits, you realize how small you are. And it’s not that you’re learning about yourself, it’s that you’re learning what you didn’t know about yourself. That’s an experience I’m really grateful for.
BBH: Where do you find your inspiration?
GS: I have a remarkable luxury where it’s a choice. For those situations [being sick in Nepal], everyone understands why you wouldn’t continue. When I was in the triathlon swimming and being kicked in the head, so close to the buoy I could just grab it and stop — a person with cancer doesn’t get that choice. They didn’t get the option for going for a swim, for stopping.
In Nepal, I was racing for an organization called Mencap, which helps those with learning disabilities. I felt the same way. I have this choice that I’m fortunate enough to be able to make. That’s the single biggest motivator to keep me going.
BBH: So what’s next?
GS: I put together a team of about 15 to 20 people, and our name is Going Coastal, and we are participating in the 2013 Coastal Challenge, which is a 213 km 6-day supported foot race in Costa Rica. We are partnering with Imagine1day, which does phenomenal work, 100% of donor dollars go towards organizations. They build schools, do teacher training, and combine it with a sustainability component, like farming, to create a revenue stream so the school can function long-term.
We set an ambitious but achievable goal to raise $230,000, $1,000 for every kilometre we race. This will help send 23,000 kids to school. And I look at that $230,000, and it’s a big number, and I know how good its going to feel when we hit it.
BBH: What do the folks at Rennie think about your experiences and adventures?
GS: I’m really fortunate at Rennie — as much as Tracie McTavish is a professional mentor, he’s also a personal one. He’s done marathons, Iron Man, adventure races, so it’s great to have someone who really understands what I’m doing.
The whole company is incredibly supportive. In Nepal I could send one email a day, and I sent it to my brother, and he sent it out to every single person at Rennie. I knew I was somewhere special when I received an email from every single person at Rennie. It really speaks to the culture —it’s a big family that supports everyone in everything they’re doing.
BBH: Any advice for up and comers looking to follow in your footsteps?
GS: I think that it’s like anything — you need to work hard and find something you’re passionate about and give yourself to it. And that’s what real estate is for me.
You then need to find something that relieves your stress. Exercise and endurance racing does that for me.
Tracie is a great mentor of mine, and I’ve had great mentors in the past, and I encourage people to find someone they can go to for personal and professional development.
BBH: Are there any opportunities for others to get involved ?
GS: If someone wants to challenge themselves and join our team, that would be amazing! Our Going Coastal team ranges in age from 20-46, with people who have completed a 10k, or completed multi-days, so we have a broad spectrum.
We’re going to be having a bunch of different fundraisers, but we also have opportunities to run other races, like 5k 10k, and halfs, so they can choose. But we ask them to raise $5,000 towards the cause. We give them a training guide and charity site. It’ll be really great!
Graham can also be found on twitter at:
Thanks for buzzing with us, Graham!