As a military family on the move, Jean and Mark Garrell learned early on to appreciate the value of real estate. Jean, the principal of the Garrell Group of Keller Williams Realty, had over 15 years of sales experience and became licensed and began selling in 2006, just before the market crash began. This would not deter her. “It was a challenge to grow a new business during that time, but for the first three years, we were able to double our business each year.”

Mark joined the team in 2012. As a retired colonel from the Army, after serving 22 years, he received both a Silver and a Bronze Star Medal from his tour in Iraq. In addition, Mark worked as an executive for two publicly-traded companies and is a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon.

Jean’s love for real estate is palpable. “It’s really all we do! It is a fun and rewarding business, especially when you are working with great people and awesome agents.” The Garrell Group consists of five other agents, including Debbie Buckley, Marie Curtis, Ronda Hardison, Ruth-Ann Hrebenach and Lisa Krnich. “We have stayed together from the start and we really do have a great time working together.” Jean says the team prides itself on providing the kind of concierge services and experience that clients want to come back to again and again. They consistently help over 120 families annually. Since the group formed, they’ve sold over $567 million in total volume.

“As a team, we work hard and play hard with an occasional ‘Group Therapy’ meeting to keep us all grounded!” Jean said chuckling, but group therapy isn’t a joke, although there is a lot of laughing. Her light-hearted approach helps ease some of the struggles. “There is so much to talk about, especially going through difficult transactions. If we all get together and laugh about them and have a glass of wine, it makes it that much better.”

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago as the youngest of eight children, Jean can relate to controlled chaos. “It was crazy and not perfect and often dysfunctional, but I learned what to do and what not to do,” she reflected. With much of her family remaining in Chicago, she said she makes it back a couple times a year and the family remains close. She admires her parents but often wonders how they were able to raise so many children with little resources.

Growing up, Jean found her niche in gymnastics. The sport would earn her a scholarship to Southeast Missouri State University, a Division II school that would also help her achieve All-American status. As the captain of the team and in her senior year of college, they won a national gymnastics title championship. “That was a fun way to end. It was the first time we won nationals as a team and a lot of us became All-Americans!”

While in college, Jean worked at Cutco Cutlery Corporation. “I was a fast-start agent because I sold five sets of knives to concerned, generous family members,” she chortled. From there, she went on to work with Proctor & Gamble. Then, she moved into pharmaceutical sales and management. Those 15 years of sales experience built a stable foundation. “They gave me a good head start on the selling and negotiating process of real estate.”

A faithful woman, Jean is grateful for the team’s success but is fixated on future service. “The business was built for reasons that are beyond what we think it is now. I think experiences and circumstances happen in our lives to draw us closer to what God’s plan is for His purpose in serving others.” That’s why she is drawn to helping victims of human trafficking through NOVA Human Trafficking Initiative. “It’s unthinkable what is happening right here in Northern Virginia. There is a huge need for adequate shelters for the victims, and one of my dreams is to help change that.”

Mark and Jean live in Lansdowne and have a daughter, Sydney, who just started her first job out of college with Deloitte and is studying for her CPA exam. In addition, the family has a pet Labrador named Molly. “We are a dog-loving family and Molly is definitely a big part of our family.” They love to go on vacations together and some of their favorite memories have been zip lining in the rainforest in Australia, skiing in the Alps in Germany, and visiting Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California. In her spare time, Jean loves to play doubles tennis as much as possible. “It’s a great game, fun, competitive and very social.”

At the Garrell household, taking down holiday lights is cause for celebration. “Any excuse is a good one for throwing a party!” she says. Both she and Mark have aptly named the soirée “Before the Lights Come Down Party.” The couple loves to entertain and, for them, this time is all about connecting with friends and socializing. Jean reminisced, “We have an outdoor deck and firepit and about 30 neighbors over. No resolutions needed — it’s more like a happy hour!”

For Jean, it’s not just fun and games and throwing parties. Or real estate. It’s also about defining what success looks like regularly: “It’s about finding the big why — what you are truly passionate about and being genuine about who you are. I think success is raising happy kids who find the same. It’s not about the financial gain, but more about what you decide to do with it,” she said humbly.