For Young Entrepreneur and His Drones, the Sky’s the Limit
By Richard Kaufman
The saying goes, “If you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
So far, so good for 17-year-old Spencer Grabel.
Ever since he was about 10 years old, Grabel, a senior at Greenwich High School, has been interested in flying drones. After school as a child, Grabel would come home and spend hours on flight simulators, trying to perfect the intricacies of flying an autonomous aircraft. He also honed his skills on remote control helicopters.
Photography has also been a major passion of Grabel’s, which he said was inspired by his father’s meticulous collection of pictures from various family vacations and travel excursions.
Put the two passions together, and Grabel has found a nice niche for himself.
Two years ago, along with fellow classmate Kai Sherwin, Grabel started Aerial Greenwich LLC, which specializes in aerial photography for Realtors in Fairfield and Westchester counties.
Using what he calls “quick snapshots,” Grabel creates short, 30-second to one-minute videos—some with music—for Realtors who want to show off prospective houses and properties. In the fast-paced, instant, Snapchat, Instagram culture of 2017, Grabel has found a way to connect to the realty business.
“They love it,” he said. “Everyone is kind of sick of when you’re looking at houses and seeing the same 32 photos that everyone’s just going to click through super quickly.
“You have this instead; fast paced, keeps your attention, and really gives you a nice view of the house.” Grabel has even garnered a couple awards from local film contests.
The business and entrepreneurial part came naturally to Grabel, who had some previous experience wheeling and dealing in the years leading up to the drone venture.
“I was able to order iPhone cases from China when I was in the seventh grade, and I would sell them for 500 percent markup,” Grabel said with a smile.
Remember those electronic hoverboards that burst onto the scene a couple years ago? Grabel ordered them from overseas and sold them around town before they became really popular.
With Aerial Greenwich LLC, Grabel has graduated to a whole new level of business dealings. “It was really a shock when I actually started doing this stuff,” he said. “In the past, everything I had done was with kids my own age—small-time things. Now I’m kind of in the big leagues, working with people who are doing what they do as their full-time job.”
You could say Grabel was officially called up to the big leagues last September, when he walked into the First Bank of Greenwich in Cos Cob with his father to open up a business account. “I was very impressed with [Spencer],” said bank president and CEO Frank Gaudio, who pointed out that it was very unusual for a high-schooler to be opening up a business account.
Gaudio said he saw a part of himself in Grabel from his own youthful entrepreneurial leanings, and the two immediately struck up a friendship.
“It’s very unusual to see a person his age thinking this way. It’s refreshing to me,” said Gaudio. “He loves what he does. When I see somebody loving what they do, it attracts me right away.”
Gaudio was so enamored with a video Grabel made which captured the essence and character of Greenwich that he recruited him to help film various bank networking events.
Gaudio also wants to reach other teenagers at GHS and educate them through a course about the importance of handling finances and the basics of banking. “If you start off saving at Spencer’s age, it’s the best thing in the world,” he said.
“Spencer was very lucky that his father was very active with him,” Gaudio added. “There’s a lot of kids that don’t have that. I want to get those kids in here and mentor them, because they don’t have that support system in place.”
Gaudio, who recognizes that he needs someone to appeal to a younger generation, wants to hire Grabel to make a video for the course that will make learning about banking fun and current.
“I want something to be able to get the kids in there, to make it fun for them to try to get on their level to show them what we’re actually doing,” he said. “Who better to do it than somebody who’s actually opened an account and prepared himself for business?”
In the fall, Grabel will attend Elon University, in Elon, N.C., to study entrepreneurship or finance. He already has a royalty contract in place and a younger classmate ready to take over Aerial Greenwich LLC. Grabel said he plans on taking maybe one drone to school so that he can keep flying it. “I love it. It never gets old, seeing it [take off] and leave.”
Spencer’s father, Peter, is proud of everything Spencer has accomplished at such a young age. “It’s terrific and he’s having a lot of fun with it, and making some money, too, which is a nice combination.”
For Spencer, the mentorship of his parents and Frank Gaudio has been invaluable as he finishes high school and heads to college. From selling iPhone cases as a seventh grader to starting his own drone-video business, the sky is truly the limit.
“There’s no how-to on how to do all of this stuff, because it’s all unique,” he said. “Overall, it’s been a really great experience, and really enriching as well.”