by Janet Davies
Darryl Griffioen and Ryan Snyder are co-founders of OneLook Productions, a video marketing production company with a special interest in real estate. Based in Picton, the company appears to be in the right place at the right time. Darryl and Ryan have been friends for over 10 years. In school, they unknowingly both wrote business plans for launching a real estate video marketing business. This enterprise was clearly meant to be.
Ryan studied broadcast television at Confederation College in Thunder Bay. Darryl studied business at Fanshawe before moving to Royal Roads University in Victoria for his final year. Now they both live in The County, building a cutting edge business.
RYAN: I moved here in 2011 to work with Crowe Productions Inc. making videos. I got to know the area and just fell in love with it. I have done different jobs including working with Bell installing satellite dishes. That wasn’t going to work for me long term because I wanted to work for myself, but it was a great gig and fascinating meeting so many different people. I’d be working at a million dollar home one day and a humble little place the next day. It gave me a unique perspective on the culture of The County, the businesses, the people, the changing society and, of course, real estate. When Darryl said he was moving here too, we decided to start this business together.
DARRYL: I completed my Bachelor of Commerce in Victoria and got a job in Calgary in the oil and gas industry with a manufacturing company in 2013. By 2015 the industry was starting to tank and, when I got laid off, I went travelling. I returned to Alberta and worked with a mechanical contractor before deciding it just wasn’t fulfilling me. It was frustrating working for someone else. I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur since before I could even spell the word. My parents and grandparents had their own businesses, and I knew it was a struggle, but the rewards outweigh that. You’re not exactly free, you’re always working, but there’s flexibility and ultimately you answer to yourself. With the industry continuing to slow down and most of my family all back in Ontario, I was ready to come home. I’m from the Kawartha Lakes, which is a rural area, so The County was not a surprise to me. Where my parents live between Lindsay and Bobcaygeon there are things starting to happen now as well – great shopping, tourism and breweries opening. In fact, we expect to grow and expand and we hope to open a satellite office in the Kawarthas.
WHY ONE LOOK
DARRYL: I have always loved real estate. As a kid I used to look at houses in the paper and say we should buy this one and do this and that to it. So I wanted to get into the industry somehow, and digital marketing looked like a great way. We could see a gap in real estate marketing in The County and other rural areas. Urban buyers, especially younger buyers, have expectations for what they want to see in an online listing. We knew we could provide that. More people are actually buying properties without physically visiting them. They know what they’re looking for and they look online, but they need to trust what they’re being told. We can provide that extra level of confidence and we’ve had great feedback. A house in Napanee sold sight unseen to a buyer in Western Canada who said it was the 3D tour that made them comfortable with their decision. They felt they were walking through the house and could see all that was there. (Disclaimer: although buying a house unseen is certainly not recommended, it is a growing reality in a competitive marketplace)
RYAN: From my schooling and other work I’ve developed a great interest and skill in story-telling. First you have to establish trust, and we’re developing that into a positive marketing tool. We also create corporate videos that tell the story of a business. We have worked for many local companies who use the stories on their websites and in their marketing. The Municipality has been a great client, and we have more projects coming up with them. (Check out recent videos of Canadian Immigration Stories from newcomers to The County)
DARRYL: Something I realized about The County and that I hear a lot from others, is that there is such a strong community. It’s easy to meet other young entrepreneurs who are passionate about their work. Entrepreneurs take risks and make sacrifices and might go months without profit and use up their savings. But you risk it all for your happiness. We really relate to these local business owners when we work with them to tell their stories. We are all supporting each other. That’s what is different about this place, or maybe these times. Our generation is competitive, but we are more collaborative than ever.
MOVING TO THE COUNTY
RYAN: I moved here seven years ago and bought a place in Picton four years ago. I feel very fortunate. This area is a great one for investment, especially real estate, right now. There is a housing crisis all over Ontario really, but there are still affordable houses in The County compared to many other places. I have an affordable life here, I can run my business and my house is only a two minute walk to my office.
DARRYL: I live out of town a bit at West Lake. In the summer it is great because I am right in the center of the action being so close to Sandbanks. I am surrounded by the all of the beauty that The County has to offer. Before Ryan moved here I had never heard of The County. When I moved here, many of my friends and family still had not heard much about it. With its central location between Toronto and Ottawa and it being so beautiful here I am surprised that it stayed unknown for such a long time. I often travel back and forth to Kawartha Lakes and it is a really easy 2hr drive and I’ve never ran into traffic. I am so lucky to get to travel from one cottage country to the next.
RYAN: We are first movers here with some of our technology, especially the digital real estate marketing. But plenty of clients are really excited about it and ready to move into the digital age. We keep turning up new markets, everywhere we look we find another market that we can enter.
DARRYL: It can sometimes be hard to explain what the 3D tour is like using words. We find once we get the technology in front of people, when they can hold it in their hands and see it on our iPad and play around with the model, they see the benefit and power of it.
RYAN: We can create a 3D model of a home that allows viewers to walk through the house as if they were actually there. We can add tags to highlight things like the gas range or the granite countertops, point things out to the viewer. It also creates a floor plan which people really appreciate. It’s interactive and very engaging. Feedback we get from users tells us they love it. From the comfort of their own home they can explore a whole house many miles away. In Canada people are moving farther than ever before. In Ontario, droves of people are leaving the cities and for some of them it’s 3 or 4 hours or more to drive to The County, just to start looking at houses. We can give them a head start.
DARRYL: Our services let buyers “pre-qualify” their choices before they come here. Instead of coming to look at 15 properties that might have potential, they can come with a shortlist of maybe 5. It saves their time. It saves the realtor’s time and it’s also much easier on the people selling the house. You know what it’s like when you sell a place, you have to keep it tidy all the time or rush around tidying up when someone calls. For an open house you have take kids and the dog somewhere else. Potential buyers might call and want to come around the same day, and then find it’s not at all what they want. We believe that agents will get more qualified buyers by the time they want to come and view a property. The dollhouse view is a major selling point because in one view you can see the whole layout of the house.
DARRYL: Our technology is great for restaurants, retail, hospitality, event venues, and really any space that someone would want to experience online before going in person. Businesses can upload the 3D tour to their website and people can engage and interact with the space which helps them decide if it is the right fit for what they are looking for. We also upload the tour to Google Street View which helps improves a business’ search ranking. When a business has a content-rich Google listing it comes up in searches more and is easier to find.
THEIR OFFICES IN THE ARMOURY
DARRYL: Our temporary office space is in the lower level of The Armoury on Main Street, Picton, which is being completely renovated, and we’ll be upstairs when the renos are done. It’s going to be a great space. The landlords are amazing and are actively cultivating a culture of business in the old building. They are supportive of the whole community and want businesses to thrive. For us, the inter-business connections inside the building will be very valuable. It’s going to be an amazing place to come to work every day. They are preserving its history, it is central in downtown Picton. Our bank is literally across the street. We are excited to be a part of the Armoury’s new chapter.
RYAN: When I first came to The County, I was killing time before an interview and walking around downtown. I wandered into The Armoury building thinking what an interesting place, but inside it was dark and dull and totally under-utilized. I remember thinking what an amazing place it could be. Fast forward seven years and it is happening.
DARRYL: Having fibre optics is a huge benefit for a company like ours. All this infrastructure is going to be a big draw for tech companies, for start-ups and potential employers.
RYAN: Personally, the housing issue was a challenge. But the location is not a problem. We’re just about half an hour to the 401, so getting out and reaching other markets is not a challenge. Our own market is primarily Bay of Quinte, and we plan to move into Kawartha Lakes and hopefully expand even more. We are learning as we go and creating a system for our business so it can be replicated in other markets. We will hire people to lead those other markets, have people out in the field creating content, but we will centralize editing at our headquarters here in Picton. We want consistency in our product, particularly in the video work to ensure the storytelling is consistent. Having fibre optics is critical for our workload. There are not many small rural downtowns where we can do that.
DARRYL: One of the benefits here with the business community is having organizations like Quintevation in Belleville. We have gone to just about every event they hold and have benefited from the networking. They are promoting rural innovation, and that’s the embodiment of what we’re doing. We are targeting rural areas as our markets, where we can be first movers and industry leaders in advancing this technology.
Rural areas are recognizing the growth in young businesses, and realtors get it, too.
For startups or businesses looking to expand or re-locate to The County, you can fill out this Business Inquiry Questionnaire, and the Community Development Department will respond in 48 hours.