SEAN DEEL GRINDS IT OUT FOR A WINNING HAND
Sean Deel approaches the game of poker like it’s a business venture. When he sits down to play, he has a strategy in mind, and a firm resolve to resist the temptation of pushing his luck too far. He weighs his investment of both time and money, and calculates whether the gamble is worth pursuing past the point of no return. Does the risk outweigh the potential earnings? Grinding it out at the poker table means staying at it until you’ve won more than you’ve lost. Playing can be as much of an addiction as winning. Sean’s view of the game, and the setting in which it’s played, inspired him to think beyond winning and losing to investing in a lifestyle. He saw the potential in the players who love the game and grind it out at all costs. This led to an idea, that led to his seeing life as a grind. The concept was not unique to the wiles of the casino, but relevant to the pursuits of an active life. Up to this point, Sean’s life had largely been a product of musical passion. When he saw the connection between the grind of the music business and the grinding at a poker table, GRIND IT OUT CLOTHING CO. was born. It would be a manifest destiny that has allowed Sean to expand his lifestyle into a prosperous business venture, much like his poker game. How did he get here? Perhaps “The Gambler” said it best, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done.”
To ask how one launches a successful business, you must first look at the owner and understand his personal grind. If we view his life like a hand of poker, the first two cards Sean was dealt were his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and a music infused life. Sean’s older brother, a devoted Metallica fan, was into music that rocked Sean’s world as well as his own. Living in the the same house, it was unavoidable. One does not play quietly with the Master of Puppets. Feeling his musical strings being pulled, Sean took piano lessons in elementary school and took an early interest in playing drums. By middle school, he’d joined the band. At North Side High School, he immersed himself in the band experience. He learned theory, played in the marching band and jazz band, and said he spent every minute he could in the band room, even going so far as to clean it. His lifestyle was 100% band related in every capacity that entailed. He was on the grind before he even knew what that meant. This is where you can ask the question, “Is it still considered a grind, if you love what you’re doing?” Moving on to the next phase of his life, Sean would begin to feel the twinges of his passion becoming a GRIND IT OUT lifestyle.
The next three cards that were dealt in Sean’s life would have a lasting impact on his future, whether they would lead to a flop or financial success was dependent on his next few moves. Immediately after high school, Sean was asked to return to his alma mater and teach what he’d loved. Once the passionate student, now he was the instructor for the marching band and the drum line. In addition, he also taught private drum lessons in Roanoke and played in blues and jazz bands around the area. Between playing and teaching music, he was in a grinding pattern inherent to the nature of the beast. Both music and teaching can be greatly rewarding experiences, often more soulful than monetary. They stay at it because it satisfies a desire to be creative and encourages others to do the same. Sean’s day job was teaching, yet his nighttime gigs were no less a job. Over the years, he said he played every gig, everywhere, and did everything within the touring band spectrum. When regional band, The Worx, lost their drummer tragically, Sean was asked to step in and replace him. He’d been around the band and was a known entity. The move made sense. As grinds go, the music business is an exceptionally grueling one, as Sean would come to find out sooner rather than later.
Over the next few years, Sean was in full grind mode, albeit doing what he loved. Between teaching and playing, every minute ticked by in passionate pursuit of a dream. Sharing his love of music was an entrepreneurial bent he likely didn’t recognize as such. Music is often thought of as an affair of the heart more so than a profession. Sean said he was very fortunate growing up to have the support of his family in pursuing his musical dreams. He’d had lessons and equipment to further his education that put him on the path to earning a living from it. Being around young students in the area, he saw that many were not as fortunate as he’d been to have family support, monetary or otherwise. In 2010, he started the Sean Deel Foundation with the mission of building a stronger community through music. It promotes the camaraderie of the drumline, the benefits of music lessons, and works to get equipment into the hands of kids who otherwise may not have it. In the long term, this project helps Sean stay connected to education and the students, while at the same time giving back to the community that dealt him a solid education and a love of music.
The next turn of the cards that would have an impact on Sean’s future was his love of poker. Texas hold ’em is his game of choice and the muse that led to a big idea. He’s spent a lot of time around poker tables, well, just enough to win of course, and thought that developing a clothing line dedicated to the players could be a lucrative venture. The outlet would be to sell the merchandise in casinos. Thinking about a name for the company that would tie into the poker theme, he came up with GRIND IT OUT. Considering the idea further, he realized that he’d come up with a brand concept that could apply to all walks of life. The life of a professional musician is more often a grind than not. Dedication to the craft and a musically passionate soul is what generally keeps them on their grind for as long as they can do it. Sean had been around the grind of the music business and understood it well. When he was young, he’d also spent a fair amount of time in retail. He said any time he didn’t have a gig, he worked in retail sales. In high school, he’d worked part-time at Macy’s. Developing a fashion brand line would just be the other end of it.
A friend Sean had been in bands with in Roanoke, Sean Shields, was also a graphic artist. He was asked to come up with the logo that would represent the brand. The GRIND IT OUT crest he created is essentially a Celtic knot. Sean loved it, and in 2011, Sean’s sketches became the first product line for the company. The philosophy behind GRIND IT OUT CLOTHING is to create something that is a lifestyle brand suitable for “the hustle and grind of life.” This would include graphic tees and tanks to start with. The target audience was musicians and skaters. In 2012, Sean began splitting his time between Nashville and Roanoke. He was interested in testing the waters in Nashville to see if there was enough of a livelihood there to warrant his making a big move. For a year, he spent Sunday through Thursday networking in Nashville and drove home to Roanoke to play with The Worx on Friday and Saturday nights. At the end of that year, he felt he was stable enough to move full time to Nashville.
The final card available for Sean’s hand would be the strength of his business plan and his ability to live his own brand. While trying to get this idea off the ground, he still had to earn a living. He picked up gigs that fit his schedule where he could get them, played sessions, taught private lessons in Nashville, and did skype lessons with his students in Roanoke. On the side, he said he sold the shirts out of the trunk of his car on the famous street near the river in downtown Nashville, Broadway. His customers were mostly other drummers and skaters in the beginning. As the sales picked up and he pushed more production, he added an online presence with E-commerce to boost his viability on a national scale. The next step was to get his merchandise into retail stores. Without connections to big name buyers, he started cold calling stores to find out who the men’s buyer was. Oftentimes, this put him in a black hole with no response. His luck finally changed when a buyer for nationwide chain, Rue 21, called him back from her vacation. She was very interested in the product and placed an order. It was an important first step towards turning a profit on his investment of time and money.
Today, Sean Deel is still on his grind, but it’s a profitable one. He’s added some accessories to his product line in the form of wooden bracelets and leather cuffs. Snapbacks are currently being tested in Lids stores, and the merchandise is now available at Rue 21 in select cities. If you’re in Nashville, don’t look for Sean to be selling shirts out of his trunk anymore, although there are probably still some in there; you can find them at Rue 21 in the Opry Mills Mall or at The Label for the premium line. In the immediate future, he’s working on getting his brand into Urban Outfitters and PacSun. Eying the boutique market, they may soon be available in skate shops as well. This summer, Sean will be hitting the round of trade shows and further putting his brand in the public eye. Long range, he’s testing the market in Los Angeles for opportunities that may exist there to expand the brand and move his home base to the west coast. While he’s just recently started writing and rehearsing with a new heavy rock band out of Nashville, LA may provide the climate to broaden his music dreams as well.
At the poker table, a successful player doesn’t expect to win every hand. Sean said he’s failed a lot getting to where he is now. To walk away from the game a winner, you have to make good decisions along the way. Sean has carefully considered the cards he’s been dealt from the time he was old enough to understand the game. When he realized that life is a grind of one sort or another, he found a way to turn that into a positive thing that encourages people to keep going until they get what they’re working towards. The Celtic knot that is part of the GRIND IT OUT logo is an endless knot. Being on the grind can feel like the path to nowhere if you don’t have a plan and a strategy to get there. Sean has taken the individual grinds in his life, each with separate goals, and woven them together into a grind that’s leading somewhere. Whatever the grind has been, he’s been passionate about its course. MUSIC + TEACHING + POKER + RETAIL + LIFE adds up to the man, Sean Deel, who’s living his brand. By making the right decisions, he is maximizing his gains in each round of the game, hoping for a long-term payout. The success of GRIND IT OUT CLOTHING CO. is a product of relatability from owner to buyer and the sense of a shared experience. It doesn’t have to be the same grind, just the same attitude towards winning. Sean Deel may fool you with his poker face into thinking he’s going to fold. Don’t count on it. The odds are, he’s holding a winning hand.
DRUMMER. EDUCATOR. ENTREPRENEUR.
To connect with Sean Deel, visit his website: http://seandeel.net/
For retail information and to purchase GRIND IT OUT CLOTHING online, visit their website: http://www.grinditoutclothing.com/
For more information on the Sean Deel Foundation and how you can help, please visit their website: http://seandeelfoundation.org/
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