Entrepreneurs Within The Scene: Tanzanite Productions
Zachary Franck interviewing Tanzanite Productions CEO/Founder Sean 'Beef' Gruchik
Give us a summarized background to you and your company?
Okay, well let's start by talking about myself because let's face it; we all like to talk about ourselves.
My name is Beef, I am 29 years old and I am born and raised in New York. My whole life I worked pretty shitty jobs, mostly working in the restaurant industry, cleaning jobs and for a bit in retail. I actually even ran my own juice bar for a little while at a small gym in downtown Brooklyn. For years, I was an employee at so many dead-end jobs that I eventually decided to create my own job. I think it was 2009 when I first came up with the idea for Tanzanite Productions. When I started it, I did not plan to sell merchandise. Initially I came up with the idea to start my own production and promotion company, since then it has evolved into something even bigger and better then I could have ever imagined.
Around this time I had been seeing The Disco Biscuits for about 7 years, I became good friends with the band as well as many other bands in the scene. I really wanted to start throwing my own shows with all these talented musicians. I made a business plan and even business cards, which I think I may have a few still floating around somewhere. After months of planning I started speaking with one of my buddies Zack Katz, he was an artist trying to get some of his work out there. Zack had some cool ideas and we decided to work on an official piece of merchandise for The Disco Biscuits together. We came out with one of the first pins in the scene and to my knowledge we were the first to ever put a pin at a bands official merchandise booth. The piece of merchandise we made ended up being the first ‘Spaga’ pin, it's a simple green dragon with a biscuits symbol on it. This little green dragon ended up being the catalyst (no pun intended for biscuit fans) that would make me dive head first into the clothing and merchandise industry.
After the success of the ‘Spaga’ pin I ended up meeting my soon to be business partner Cody Andrews at Camp Bisco 9. Cody designed and made these awesome custom Camp Bisco 9 basketball jerseys for him and his friends. As soon as I saw them I knew that this was the direction Tanzanite Productions needed to go. I told Cody "I love your idea... Let me turn your idea into a business". I literally abandoned all my ideas for production, promotion and even other pin ideas to work on creating the first Tanzanite Productions basketball jersey with Cody. Since that day he has been the best business partner I could have ever asked for.
After a year of success and failure Cody and I came up with some really good ideas and finally at Camp Bisco 11 the jerseys started to take off. From there we started making some new items and evolving the brand. We did really cool hockey jerseys and ski/snowboard facemasks for the Biscuits run out in Colorado. Since then we have grown out of the Biscuits scene and worked with some really great festivals. Besides doing Camp Bisco 11 and 12 we also sold out of our jerseys at Buku music festival two years in a row. The biggest thing that has happen to us in the past few years is definitely having the opportunity to make merchandise for Lollapalooza. We sold out of our jerseys there and are now looking toward the future.
What inspired you to start Tanzanite Productions?
The same thing that inspires anyone to do anything... I saw a need in the community and wanted to take advantage of that. I saw potential for growth and an opportunity to make money doing the thing I love most...seeing live music. Initially I saw a need for new music and concerts. Around this time The Disco Biscuits were playing some of their best shows but all the other concerts I had been seeing were the same thing over and over. For a while the same bands would play with each other and the same supporting acts at every venue, it was starting to become too similar. My first thought was to get some of these individual musicians and take them out of their bands so they can jam with other people in the scene and even create new side projects. Once I realized how difficult it would be to do all of this I stepped back and started working on some of these merchandise ideas.
Once I started the merchandise, I had the same perspective on it. Basically I saw a need in the community... How many times have you gone to a concert and saw the same shitty t-shirts on sale for $20-30 bucks? It's terrible.... The merchandise scene needed someone to step in and make it about the artwork. I wanted to give life to the design instead of just slapping the bands logo on a t-shirt that is only going to be worn when you go to bed. I saw that opportunity the second I looked at Cody's basketball jersey at Camp 9 and I knew that we needed to seize it.
How many members on part of your team?
Our team is made up of 3 crucial members, Cody, my graphic designer Bruce and myself. Bruce is my rock... I honestly don't know what I would do without him. The funny thing is I have never met Bruce; he lives upstate and I have only conversed with him over text or phone calls. Cody knew Bruce from his hometown and he has been the most valuable member of our team since we started doing the basketball jerseys together. Bruce knows how to take my ideas and put them together into a finished product. He is extremely talented and can take the thoughts right out of my brain and turn them into reality.
Right now we are starting to work with a few new artists and graphic designers, in the past we have done some collaboration with other artists such as the ‘Spaga’ pin design with Zack, we did the Story of the World lockets with my buddy Jack and my friend Sarah made the chains for those. I'm working on a bunch of new items with new artists now but I can't say just yet what we are designing so you guys will just have to wait and see.
What are your most popular products?
Our most popular product is easily our basketball jerseys, they are what we have become known for and are extremely popular during festival season. I have gone to a few festivals wearing a jersey and within a few hundred feet have seen three or four people wearing other jerseys we designed.
How has the company evolved over the years?
Tanzanite Productions is rapidly evolving. We started with the basketball jerseys and slowly started to create new products that haven't really been around the concert merchandise scene. The hockey jersey and facemask combo was a huge hit in Colorado and I still have friends sending me pictures of them riding down the mountain wearing one. We did the Story of the World Lockets and right now we just launched our website which has a bunch of new laser cut wooden jewelry. We just started producing tube tops for the ladies and we are working on a whole line of clothing for guys and girls.
As I said before we are working on a ton of new items right now, I can't reveal them all yet but by the summertime we are going to have a bunch of new clothing items as well as jewelry
You can check out the new jewelry at www.NYTZP.com
Where do you see Tanzanite Productions in five years?
Five years... Man, I find it hard to plan dinner most days...
In five years my hope is to have an entire clothing line as well as jewelry line. Right now we are working on some non-band or festival related clothing. By this summer we are going to release a couple original Tanzanite Productions designs and within five years we should be well established as a full clothing company.
In five years I also hope to be making basketball jerseys and other merchandise for all the major festivals in the United States as well as to go over to Europe and South America and bring my clothing to other countries. I know Lollapalooza has events in South America so that's a good place to start.
What are some festivals or artists that you’d like to create merchandise for?
My heart wants to make merchandise for artists that I love which includes many hip-hop artists. I would love to make some merchandise for Wu-Tang, Action Bronson, Eminem, and some other touring artists; I feel I could help make their merchandise game stronger. Other artists I would like to make merchandise for are ones that have passed away, I would like to contact their families or whomever owns the rights to their name or image and make some tribute clothing. I would love to make clothing for Biggie Smalls, Big L, J Dilla and many more just to spread their name and show respect for amazing artistry.
But we don't always follow our heart so... My wallet wants me to make merchandise for some of these bigger events and EDM festivals... I think the basketball jerseys and our creative designs would be huge sellers at Bonnaroo, SXSW, Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, EDC, Electric Zoo, TomorrowWorld etc., the list goes on and on.
What would you be doing if it weren’t this?
I would not be smiling as much...
Hmm that's a tough one... Before I started doing this full time I had two jobs, I worked at a Pier one imports selling furniture for minimum wage and health benefits and I worked at a pizza place/restaurant doing pretty much everything you can imagine there. At the restaurant I ran the counter, answered phones, did deliveries, waited tables, prepped food, boxes orders and cleaned the place...Sometimes I did all of that at the same time because I was the only one in the whole restaurant working besides the chef...
But a few years ago hurricane Sandy destroyed my hometown of Long Beach, New York. My family was very lucky we didn't lose our house but the whole town was shut down for at least a month or two and I was out of work... I decided I would put all my efforts into Tanzanite Productions full time and I took a month off to rethink my life. I ended up flying out to California for a week and drove back across the country with my best friend, he was moving from California to New York so it was a free trip for me to get away from the destruction in my hometown. After about a month my job asked if I wanted to come back to work... I told them I was across the country and was not going to come back to work. Since then I've been working on Tanzanite Productions full time and building my brand.
I've been in kitchens and cooked pretty much my whole working life so if I wasn't doing this I would probably still be working in the restaurant business. I was very unhappy working for other people and I always knew that I wasn't utilizing any of my potential so I said, "Fuck it" and decided to bet on myself for once.
Who are your favorite bands in the live music scene?
Clearly The Disco Biscuits are my favorite, I would not be who I am today or where I am today without them. They have shaped my life, given me the best friends I could ever ask for and without them Tanzanite Productions wouldn’t even be a thought. I have been seeing them for 12 years and I think 257 shows... But who's counting?
In the live music scene (besides the biscuits) I would say my favorite bands are Electron, Lettuce, Kung Fu, Turkuaz, Lotus, and Disclosure live band...
A lot of funk on there... I really like the organic sounds of Kung Fu and Turkuaz they are some of my favorite to watch during festival season and they are some of the nicest and genuine musicians out there, I highly recommend them to anyone.
Have you always been an entrepreneur?
No but I was always a free thinker... I think for myself and I always question the norm... I hate conformity and I don't like following the crowd. I was never made to fit into the confines of a cubicle and crunch numbers, I'm a thinker and I'm a doer and when I put my mind to it I get shit done. I have always said I was a hustler and a salesman... My dad was a used car dealer growing up; maybe I get it from him. It's also possible that I've always had insomnia and I would stay up until all hours of the night watching infomercials growing up, so now it's engrained in me.
I became en entrepreneur when I started Tanzanite Productions but around the same time I also started another brand called -Hustle Logic ™
I trademarked -Hustle Logic ™ immediately because I knew it would be a brand I needed to expand and since its creation I have thousands of followers and dedicated fans on Instagram and other social media. If you want to look up -Hustle Logic ™ just search the #HustleLogic and you will find me. I won't go into that now we can save that for another interview but eventually I will be selling -Hustle Logic ™ clothing through Tanzanite Productions so stay tuned.