If you haven’t yet heard, Brandon and Jon are starting a weekly Facebook Live Event called ‘Concrete + Coffee + Questions’ - join the ICT Reactive Facebook Group to watch the last one, and join us each Saturday morning around 8am PST / 11am EST. This week, Jon interviews Brandon and finds out about how he got started, the genesis of the Erosion Sink, the Hindenburg that was ‘The Concrete Cartel’, and where things go from here.
You can reach Brandon at:
Brandon: Yo Jon!
Jon: Hey Brandon, how's it going?
Brandon: Good, Buddy. How are you doing?
Jon: Doing well, doing really well. Yes, exciting times.
Brandon: Good to hear. Something I wanted to hit on right out of the gates is we did a Facebook Live event called ‘Coffee + Concrete + Questions’ last week, first time doing it. There were some technical difficulties getting it going, but whatever, we got it sorted out and it was a lot of fun. It was great to do something where people are asking questions in real-time. We can answer in real-time, there are follow-up questions. So it's a really good interactive way to talk to people interested in Kodiak Pro products or just concrete in general that have questions about decorative concrete, we're happy to help. And we're going to try to make that a normal weekly event, probably Saturday mornings, US time. We'll try to do it somewhere around 10:00 AM Central, 8:00 AM, what's your time?
Brandon: So 8:00 AM Pacific and 10:00 AM Central, 11:00 AM Eastern. So anyways, did you like doing that?
Jon: I thought it was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to it. It's a situation where we had technical difficulties and I'm sure we're still going to have them for a second anyway, but what we got out of it was great. I mean it was great to be fully interactive with people and answer questions. So, no, I thought it was a lot of fun. It actually, I mean, I don't know about you, but I guess my first thought was, hey, this is probably only going to go 15 or 20 minutes and the next thing you know, all kinds of people were chiming in with all kinds of questions. So it was great. I really enjoyed it.
Brandon: Yes, I agree. A lot of fun. The other thing on the docket is we have a training event coming up November 1st through 6th, ‘The Pinnacle Concrete Camp’ with Dusty Baker, Jon Schuler, and Brandon Gore, six days in Eureka Springs. It's a phenomenal class, tons of hands-on experience. There's no other class in the world that has that much expertise and know-how from the people that developed the techniques they're teaching than The Pinnacle Concrete Camp at Concrete Design School. So if you haven't registered yet go to concretedesignschool.com, check it out, we'd love to have you. Any other news you want to hit Jon?
Jon: Well, I'm going to say, in addition to that is from this point on, you're going to have some extremely experienced guys, trainers if you will, and from this point on, we're going to be also showcasing the very materials that those individuals have been a part of their developmental process based on the artisan use techniques. So that's an entirely new way of looking at things where the training and the experience have then been put into the products that are also being used and recommended it for these type of things. So that's exciting.
Brandon: Anything else? Anything else? Anything else? I can't think of anything.
Jon: No, I can't. I just can't.
Brandon: It's a rainy day here today, it's actually beautiful. It's been dry for so long but today this big storm came in and I'm sitting in my studio right now, looking out the windows and it's gray outside and it's raining and I'm burning some pinion incense and it's just, I love my shop on these kinds of days. So it's a really nice day.
Jon: Now I was going to take this opportunity. So it's you and I hanging out today and take an opportunity to, let's interview Brandon Gore. So I'd like to introduce Brandon Gore, spending some time with him today.
Brandon: Well, hello there.
Jon: Hi Brandon, nice to meet you. How's it going? We do bring guests on quite often, but I thought this would be a great opportunity to just you and I have a discussion, at least for this one. Brandon, you've obviously been doing this for a good minute, we talk about the experience, brought into everything from Concrete Design School, now the materials. So how about a little background on you? I mean, what got you into becoming Brandon Gore, Gore Designs, Hard Goods? Go ahead, take it away.
Brandon: Well, that's a really long answer that I don't think most people are interested in hearing that whole story because it's a long story. But the short story is I was a Director of Sales when I was 21, over seven hotels and I hated life. I hated the stress. I knew that's not what I wanted to do and I started mountain biking every day and there was this house on the trail that I fell in love with, and every day I'd take a break and I'd see that house. Then I ended up seeing that house on the cover of a magazine and I read about it and it was a Rammed Earth house, concrete countertops, bamboo floors, tankless hot water heater, all these really amazing sustainable green technologies, that at that time, this was probably 2000, the year 2000, those things weren't in kind of the general, I don't know, realm of consumer knowledge. If you went to Home Depot or Lowe's or really any place like that, those weren't things that you would see and so I was really fascinated by all these sustainable technologies and something clicked in me and I knew that's what I wanted to do.
I had saved up some money. I wanted to start a business, but I knew I couldn't start a business building houses. That's what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't have A, the expertise or B, the funds to do that and so I thought concrete countertops, that's probably a fairly inexpensive thing to get into. I can get a mixer, I can get a small industrial space, how hard could it be, right? So I Googled concrete countertop class and Buddy Rhodes in San Francisco popped up and I contacted him and he said, yes, we have a class coming up, it starts next week here in San Francisco. I went, and it turned out I went to the very first class ever taught by Buddy Rhodes and it was a great experience.
Jon: And this is all back in 2000?
Brandon: This was 2002 or 2003 that I took the class.
Jon: Oh, okay.
Brandon: When I say 2000, that's when I was mountain biking and I fell in love with Rammed Earth. But by the time I actually...
Jon: And you were in Phoenix, right? You were in Arizona?
Brandon: Yes, I was in Arizona. So by the time I kind of decided I wanted to start a business that was probably 2002-ish, 2003, somewhere in there. And so I took the very first class from Buddy, and it was me and one other attendee and it was a great experience. I love Buddy Rhodes, the man, he's such a personable guy. He had a shop in San Francisco, beautiful space on the ocean, massive, I don't know how many square feet it was, 20,000 square feet, maybe. Doors open, the coastal breeze is blowing in. You know, they say the coldest winter is a summer in San Francisco and that class was in the middle of summer, that was true. I flew from Phoenix in flip flops, a t-shirt and shorts and it was probably 48 degrees and 20-mile per hour winds whipping through that shop in the middle of summer. But it was a really good class for me. Now, truth being told, I didn't learn a lot, the training back then was very basic. It was here's how to mix, and Buddy had just come out with his bagged mix and so he'd cut open a bag, dump it in a mixer. Mixer was mixing, he'd spray water from a hose into the mixer and say, “ah, that looks pretty good.”
I'd say, “hey Buddy, how much water was that? Was that a gallon?” He'd squirt a little bit more in there, “that's about right, right there, that looks good.” “Buddy, is that like two gallons? Is that 10 gallons? How much water is that?” Right about there, right? So it was very kind of flying by the seat of your pants and that's the way Buddy is. He's a guy, he was a potter by trade. He went to school for that, ceramics. He kind of did everything by feel and so he was mixing by feel and he had the experience to do that. Me being new, I didn't know what I was looking for. But anyways, it was a very basic class. It was here's how you make a form, you screw melamine together, you mix up this mix, you push it into the form. You put some expanded mesh in the back. You screed it off, bada bing, bada boom, there you go, countertop.
Jon: And at that time, this was all based on his signature pressed finishes and these kinds of things that he was doing.
Brandon: Correct. And so that's what I learned, but I was so excited seeing that happen because my experience up to that point, I dropped out of high school when I was 17. I didn't go to college. I just worked my way up in the hotel industry to where I was at that time. But I never worked with concrete besides when I was a kid, I grew up on a farm and we would cast a pad for a turkey house or a pad for a silo or whatever it is and so I did that kind of concrete, but it was very, very basic concrete. So I'd never worked with concrete like this, but to see this material go into a form and come out as a sink or a countertop, it blew my mind. I fell in love, in that moment I fell in love with the material. I went into it thinking this is going to be a kind of a cost-effective business, but it turned out I really loved the material itself. And so at the end of that class, I want to say it's a two-day class, Buddy said, “hey, what do you do?” And I told him, I worked in the hotel industry. I started training a lot of staff at that point. Buddy said, “would you consider teaching classes for me because I need to sell my mix around the United States, I just came out with this mix. I need somebody to go to distributors, teach classes, would you be open to doing that?” Absolutely!
So I went to some distributors. I taught some classes for Buddy, great experience. It made me even love concrete more and I rented a small space in Tempe, Arizona. It was 1,200 square feet. It was the first space I looked at. It was the cheapest space I looked at. It was next to a milk factory. It smelled like a hot turd all day long, but I rented that space. That was in 2004 and that's how I got started. Really for the first year all I did was make things and break things. I didn't have any clients for the first year. I was just living off savings. So I'd make a sink, I'd have an idea for a sink, I'd make a sink, I'd take photographs of it, then I'd have to destroy it, I had no place to keep it. Then I'd make a countertop. I wanted to try terrazzo, so I'd put glass in it, break up beer bottles and put it in the concrete and then polish it down and take photos of it and then destroy it. And I kept kind of just advertising on different forums, modern forums for Phoenix or whatever it was back then, and I was kind of getting to the end of my rope with my finances. I was about a year into it. I put everything into it, my whole life. I was at my shop pretty much 24 hours a day. I was single. I had a dog, her name was Indy. I got her as a puppy, right when I started my company, a Belgian Malinois.
So me and Indy would be at my shop all day and I'd work till 2, 3, 4 in the morning. A lot of times I'd just throw a blanket on one of my casting tables and take a nap and then wake up and just keep going. I had an apartment, but there's really no point to go back to the apartment besides taking a shower and doing some laundry, but then I'd go back to my shop and just keep working. So at the end of the year, I was kind of getting close to going out of business. I had a client call. It was the wintertime and this client called and said, hey, we saw an ad on some online form and we need a countertop 5’ x 1’. It's for an entry desk for an office space and we need a chiseled edge, can you do it? Absolutely! How much will it cost? $250! Is that delivered? You bet it is! Awesome. Can we get it in three days? Yes, you can! Whatever somebody wanted, I was going to do it. So I went to work, making this five foot by one foot countertop with a chiseled edge, broken edge. I didn't know how to do it, so I literally took a chisel and a hammer and for like 10 hours, I just chipped away just lightly chipping. I didn't want to break a big piece off. So it was just chip, chip, chip, chip, chip and I did that all day long. Got this beautiful chiseled edge, paid a buddy like a $100 to go to Flagstaff with me to do the delivery, we got there, nobody was there.
It was a commercial space, the door was open. We had to slip slide across the parking lot on ice. Get the countertop in. I probably took a thousand photographs of it, put those photographs in Photoshop, adjusted the color so it looked like a red countertop, a gray countertop, a green countertop. Obviously, it was the same countertop, but I was so proud because it was my first client project. That was kind of the beginning and I just got lucky. I really did get lucky with timing because in 2004, concrete sinks and countertops were largely unheard of. There were really two people in the United States, Buddy Rhodes and Fu Tung Cheng and they're both in California, and they were kind of the only guys that had been doing it for a long time. But concrete countertops outside of LA and San Francisco were not really widely known of in 2004.
Jon: Let's say humble beginnings, there's no question. But listening to you, I mean, sounds like you put in a year, walked through quite a bit of money, put a lot of hands-on, which gave you considerable amounts of, let's say a foundation of experience before you really started to launch. Luckily, maybe that's partial luck, timing was right to really start launching forward. So did you clearly escalate it, had some of your own designs, your own looks. Did you do, I mean, was countertops and these kinds of things part of it, or did you leapfrog right into; because what was the year when the Erosion Sink came out? I mean, when did you really start working on your own designs? Did you follow a path like a lot of people or did you leapfrog right into it?
Brandon: I would say if somebody asked me how I got started and how I found success, a lot of it was luck, and me and you have had this discussion privately and you say, eh, it wasn't luck, it was hard work. And yes, I'm not going to discount it, I put a lot of hard work into it and I have a lot of failure behind that hard work. Anybody that's ever done anything successful has done a lot of things that didn't work out to get to that point. No matter what it is. There was a lot of that. There were a lot of things that I would try, it didn't work. I tried this, it didn't work and you kind of go through that process until you finally hit on something that does work, and then you dissect it and figure out what's right, what's wrong? How did I get here? You kind of improve on it.
So when I started off, concrete countertops and concrete sinks weren't widely known. About 2005 they started getting a little bit more traction and so designers and architects started getting really interested in concrete at that point, the whole green revolution really kind of started around then where Lowe's and Home Depot and all these retailers started promoting sustainable things. They're putting like little green leaves on anything that they considered sustainable. These paint brushes are wood-handled, they're green. These ones are plastic, they don't use any wood, they're green, everything had a green leaf on it, right, there was a lot more interest. So my timing was lucky because had I started two or three years prior to that in Arizona, there was really no awareness of concrete sinks and countertops. So it was going to be a really tough sell but I started right at the right time. Kind at the end of 2004, I got that first project, then I got another project, then I got another project. But out of the gates, I was making concrete countertops, for the most part. I'd made a few sinks.
I didn't know how to make sinks. I didn't know how to make a sink form. Buddy's class, they didn't teach that, it was a very basic class. So when I had my first customer come to me and they said, hey, I want to do a ramp sink, I had zero idea of how to do that, none. I didn't know how to form the drain. I didn't know how to form draft. I didn't know how to, I didn't know anything. I didn't know anything and so everything was a struggle and you had to figure it out from the ground up. But people were coming to me, countertop, countertop, countertop, sink, countertop, countertop, countertop, sink, make this, make this, a picture of a soapstone farmhouse sink, we like this. A picture of whatever, a copper sink that they like, can we do this in concrete? Yes, for sure. So I was making a lot of things that people liked, but nobody was coming to me and saying, hey, we have this project do what you want, that hadn't happened yet.
But I had a client come to me in 2005, he said, hey, I need a sink, I want the drain to be offset. I want it to be a really shallow sink. What are your thoughts? And then that moment I kind of had this vision of Moab, Utah, kind of these rolling rocks and I said that to him. What do you think about like kind of Utah rolling rocks? And he was like, yes, cool, let's do it. So I did a lot of tests and all the tests were testing different molding materials, and things like that and none of them were coming out in a way that I liked. I just didn't like the way they looked. Finally, I tested a method and the end result came out, and it wasn't what was in my head, but I liked the result even better than my original idea. And so I called the client and I said, “hey, I think I have it, it's different than what we discussed, but I think you'll like it, I'm just going to do it.” He said, yes, cool. So I do it. I cast a sink, I flipped it over in my shop and I took a really bad photo of it, like a horrible photo of it. I had a Motorola flip phone, 400 pixel resolution and there was a, I remember there was a Coke can and there was trash and there was a trash can all in the photo. I didn't understand the importance of photography back then, how it's so critical to convey to a client your value and really, if you're going to a client and you're saying, hey, the sink is $5,000 and they look at your website and the photos of sinks have a trash can next to it.
Jon: Yes, a half-smashed Coke can behind it and your boots and yes.
Brandon: Yes, you're not justifying your value by doing that but I didn't know that back then. So I posted this photo on my website and a blog that used to publish stuff saw it and they published it on their site, my Erosion Sink and then Dwell saw it and Dwell was a magazine that had started when I started my company, a little bit before I started my company actually and they were focused on modern homes and I'd said to myself, when I started my company if I ever get published in Dwell, I'll have made it, that's my intention. So some people, if you believe in the law of attraction, kind of what you think about you bring about, that kind of thing was kind of my intention. That was like, when I get published in Dwell, I'll have made it. So anyways, apparently Dwell trolled this blog for content, they would just go through it and look for content. They saw the Erosion Sink, I got a call on a Thursday from Dwell and they said, hey, we saw your Erosion Sink, would you be open to having us publish it in our magazine? Absolutely! Can you send us professional photos? Yes I can! They need to be high-res. No problem, I can do it! Can you get them to us by Monday? Absolutely!
So I hang up the phone, I called the client, his name was Jeff. I said, hey Jeff, Dwell called, is it cool if we publish that sink? He's like, yes, for sure. I said, okay, cool. Do you know any photographers? He's like, yes, actually I do. Awesome. Do you know what a high-res photo is? He's like I do. I was like, what is it? High-resolution photography, he's like it's just a really big picture size and it prints really clear. I'm like, okay, cool. I said any chance, and this was Thursday afternoon, any chance your photographer could shoot it and have me the photos before Monday? He's like, I don't know, let me call him. So he calls him, calls me back. He's like, yes, he'll come photograph it tomorrow, which is Friday. So I met this photographer, his name was John Romero and as it turns out, me and John became good friends. John photographed everything I ever did in Phoenix for, I don't know, 12, 13, 14 years, all the things I ever had photographed from that point forward, John did.
But John photographed it. He had this really cool setup. He had a Nikon camera on all this rigging and it was hooked up to his Apple MacBook, and this was in 2005 so there wasn't Bluetooth yet, but he was actuating the camera and controlling the aperture and the shutter speed and it was just blowing my mind, lighting, it was just so cool to see. And he said, I'll send you the photos by Sunday night. So Sunday night I get an email with two photos and the two photos looked exactly like the sink and there was a bill for $300 and I remember feeling disappointed because at that time photography, I don't know if you remember, but advertisements were, the photography was super, super high sharpness. I'm trying to think of the word for it, but essentially they would just make them so hyper-realistic, like HDR to the point they didn't even look real, everything looked kind of fake. So like a Lexus ad or a Range Rover ad or Rolex, everything had this level of sharpness to the imagery definition that it didn't look real, but these didn't have that. And lens flare was kind of a thing back then, like this light leaking into the photo and it was all really kind of lipstick on a pig kind of thing. But when you don't know what you don't know, you think that's good.
So you're like, oh, I want all that stuff. I want the razzle-dazzle on here, and what he sent me was just really clean photography and a bill for $300, which at the time I thought was insane. But it turns out that was a gift, because $300 for professional photographer is charity, he did me a favor.
Jon: I'm going to say he did another favor because that rawness or let's call it the naturalness of what he turned that sink, of what it already was, instead of all the razzle-dazzle is what a lot of us looked for and made it, in my opinion, a signature piece. Would you agree?
Brandon: Absolutely. I was going to say it's much harder to photograph something to look like it does than not. So it takes a lot of skill. It takes lot of skill with lighting. It takes a lot of skill with angles and how you frame the shot and just control of the camera. I mean, to watch him work was amazing. He understood every function of that camera and it was like an extension of his body. He was so fast and fluid. He was adjusting everything and it takes a lot of skill to do that. That's something I talk about in my classes, guys think if they have a fancy camera, they're a photographer. They think, oh, my wife bought me this Canon, whatever it is, or this Nikon or Sony or whatever, I can photograph my own stuff - no you can't. If I gave John Romero, my photographer, a Collomix handheld mixer, or an IMER mixer and said, hey, make me a concrete chair, make me a concrete sink, that's the same thing. Just because he has the right tool doesn't mean he can make the final product and so just because you give somebody a nice camera doesn't mean they can use that camera to its full potential, and so that's why it's so important to hire a professional when it comes to that.
Jon: That was a joke. If people saw me come on, on some my early projects, I'm not going to deny, Amy will even tell you if you talk to her, I think I spent, I don't know, $3,000, $4,000 at the time, some high-end Nikon something and something and I bought all the extra lenses and these filters and all this kind of jazz. So my joke to anybody after I bought all this, took the photos and they were horrible, was dude, I cheaped out on the photographer because it was me and I could never, I mean, that's a true story. I could never get the level that I ever wanted out any of the photos. So yes, totally understand what you're saying.
Brandon: Dude, if you gave a great photographer the worst camera in the world, he will still take a better photo than you with the best camera in the world, because it's not the camera, it's not the lens; when you pay for photographer, you're paying for their skillset, that's what you're paying for. You're paying for their knowledge. Same thing when somebody hires me, when they hire me to make a concrete sink, they're not paying for the concrete, the concrete itself, I mean, we talk about it, it's 16 bucks a square foot for the material, 20 bucks a square foot, whatever it is for the material, but that's not what they're paying for. They're paying for what I make with the material. So when I hire a photographer, I'm not paying for the camera, I'm paying for what he does with the camera and so that's kind of the thing with that.
But anyways, long story short is he shot it, I sent it to Dwell. They called me up and they said, hey, we got the photos, they look great. It's not going to make it into this issue, we'll get them the next issue. Next issue comes, I get a call, hey, still not going to make it in this issue, we'll get them in the next issue. Next issue comes, I don't hear anything. I send them an email and say, hey guys, just following up, checking in, don't hear anything and so two or three months goes by and I'm kind of a person where I don't chase people, if somebody wants to do something, they're going to do it, if they don't, they won’t, and so I just kind of said, hey, whatever that ship sailed. It was an opportunity, it didn't happen, life goes on. And so I was on a date with a girl and we went to the movie theater on a Friday night and there was a Barnes and Noble next door and we had 30 minutes to kill before the movie started. So we walked over, we're just walking around and there was a new issue Dwell. Now I had a subscription to Dwell, but for whatever reason, Barnes and Noble had a new issue on their stand that I hadn't received in my mailbox yet. I picked it up and I flipped it open and there's like a little order card in the middle of the magazine and so I flipped it open and right where that card was, was my Erosion Sink and I lost my mind!
It was like the best thing ever like, “oh my God, look at this sink, this is my sink!” and this girl who I think I only went on one date with her, but she thought like I had set that whole thing up. Like I had done that to impress her. She's like, you knew that was in there. You totally set this up. And I told her, like, I swear to you, I did not know this was in there. This is a huge shock to me. This is amazing. And she didn't even understand. I was on a date, she doesn't know Dwell or any of that, what do you do? I make concrete stuff. Oh cool. So she doesn't understand how profound that was for me. But that was on a Friday and then on Monday, my website crashed because there's so much traffic hitting my website, and back in the day in 2005, you had to buy bandwidth for your website. It wasn't like today. So today you have hosting, but back then you had to pay for bandwidth. So I was a small company, I bought the minimum bandwidth package, whatever that was, so there was so much traffic hitting my site that it wouldn't load. If you went to my site, it was unavailable and it would come back, live, and then go down again, and come back live.
So I kept buying more and more bandwidth and finally got to where it wouldn't crash but I probably got in that first week, I kid you not, a thousand emails from people saying, I saw your Erosion Sink in Dwell, I need to get a quote. Can you tell us more about it? Color options, whatever. And I was such a total novice, I mean, I was completely naive. I had no idea what I was doing and so I didn't even know how to control C, control V, I didn't know how to cut and paste. I couldn't even write a form letter and copy it and paste it. So I was literally hand typing, like one-finger typing because that's how I type, Dear Bob, thank you for your email. Oh, backspace backspace, because I had a typo, thank you for your email. The Erosion Sink is, and I did that maybe a hundred times in a week.
Jon: Be careful what you wish for because you got dropped into the deep end quickly.
Brandon: Yes, it was something that, it was a missed opportunity, but I learned a lot from it. So going forward as time went on, I was more prepared and I've talked to other people that have had kind of unexpected successes like that. My buddy Nolen Niu, he's a furniture designer and fabricator in LA. He had something similar happen. He was published in the New York Times, one of his pieces and just got an avalanche of interest, but he wasn't prepared. He wasn't prepared and that was a big learning experience for him. And I want to say Thom Jones, Semi Goods furniture, he had some similar experiences early on in his career. But the lesson always is, not be careful what you wish for, because that's what I wanted, but when it comes be ready. Be ready to scale up, be ready to respond quickly, be as prepared as you can be to capitalize on that moment because that moment comes and goes and when the moment's gone, it's gone. So you want to be ready for it.
But so that happened in 2005, Dwell published me and the really interesting thing was up until then, and maybe it's 2005, 2006, I can't remember the exact year, but right around there 2005, 2006. But up until then, it had always been make me this, make me this and when Dwell published that sink, clients started contacting me and saying, hey, we have this space, we're doing a restaurant. We have these wall-mounted sinks we need to have made they're eight feet long. What are your thoughts? What ideas do you have? Instead of telling me what to make, they were asking me what my thoughts were for design and that was a complete paradigm shift because I went from being a fabricator to being a designer and it happened overnight. It happened in the blink of an eye, but that's what I wanted. I mean, everybody gets into concrete because they want to make beautiful things. And so that happened and I learned a lot from that and so that was kind of how all got started in concrete.
Jon: No, that's awesome and I'm willing to say, because it was during that timeline, I certainly didn't really know you, but I think that also started the foundations of what people at least think was the persona of Brandon Gore. I mean your face now was out there, I mean the sink was out there. I mean good, bad, or otherwise, it also played a big part in what the perceived persona, the perceived character of what Brandon Gore became.
Brandon: Sure. So a couple things, number one is GFRC. So GFRC, 2005-ish I met a gentleman named Jim Ralston and Jim Ralston, he's passed away now, but he was a fabricator and Jim had come to my studio. We had talked about some stuff. On his way out the door he mentioned to me, he said, have you ever heard of GFRC? And I said, no, what's that? Because at that point, I was still using Buddy Rhodes and using steel reinforcement and stuff and he said, well, it's glass-fiber reinforced concrete, I work at a place and we make columns and bollards, whatever out of GFRC, you should look into it because it's really lightweight. It's a lot thinner. You don't have to have steel. And I said, yes, cool. So from just that chance little conversation at the end of him meeting me at my shop, I Googled GFRC and I found a company called Ball Consulting and Ball Consulting was founded by a guy named Hiram Ball, and unfortunately Hiram has since passed away. But Hiram was kind of the originator of GFRC, in the late seventies he worked on the team in the Netherlands and they developed GFRC and he had somehow secured the rights to the polymer and so he was kind of the global distributor for this polymer at the time.
Jon: He helped write all the ASTM. He helped write everything related to ASTM for GFRC at that time, him and a couple of guys.
Brandon: Exactly, so I contacted Ball Consulting and they were in Pennsylvania and I called and a receptionist picked up and I told her, hey, my name is Brandon Gore, I'm in Arizona. I want to try GFRC, what can you tell me? And she said, well, I can send you some fibers. I can send you a pail of polymer and a really basic mix design and the mix design was 50/50. It was portland cement, sand, that was really what it was. I said, great. So she was getting my information and we got to the address and I said, Tempe, Arizona and she said, well, it just so turns out our only other location is in Tempe, Arizona. Really? Because I didn't know that, I found them on Google and it showed a Pennsylvania address. It turned out they were right down the road for me, like literally three minutes down the road and so I went down there and bought some products and Hiram would come to Arizona quite often and so Hiram came to my shop and I talked to him and we kind of became friends and he would come to my shop often if he was in town and I'd go see him at Ball Consulting. But he kind of helped me, in the beginning, to sort through, quote-unquote, GFRC. Now, the problem with GFRC back then was it was super plasticky. It was a super high loading of this polymer, the ratios cement to sand, everything about it made it look like Corian. It didn't look like concrete.
I made some samples back then with the original mix design and polymer loadings and showed them to some architects I was doing work for and unanimously they did not like it. They said, hmm, doesn't look like concrete, we don't like it. So we had to work to kind of dial the ratios of the cement and sand and dialed down the polymer and also figure out how to apply it for our scale of production because Hiram was selling to guys in Dubai or in Las Vegas that were doing massive amounts of GFRC. They're making cladding for skyscrapers or casinos or whatever. Huge equipment, massive blenders and spray-up machines and they had chopped strand glass fiber sprayers and were spraying essentially the backcoat with fibers going into it. It was crazy and those operations have 30, 40, 50 employees, they're automated, everything's on trolley systems. So that's what his experience was and then I'm trying to take that to a six-square-foot sink and those two things don't line up.
So there's a lot of trial and error, but we got it sorted out and we figured out a way to do it and kind of worked through the details and so I ended up doing the first class on that in 2006 I want to say, on GFRC. So we taught the first class on that and that's how I got into that. So that was GFRC and then after that we did fabric forming. So same client that did the Erosion Sink came to me and said, hey, I have a sink for my master bathroom, I want it to be square at the top round at the bottom, can you do it? Absolutely! And anybody in the concrete industry knows that you just wink and do a little snap and say, yes, I can and then I walked out and was like, I don't know how I'm doing that! I have no idea how I'm going to do that. So that was kind of the Genesis of fabric forming. I went through a ton of different ideas for forming to make that happen and finally, through trial and error landed on fabric forming, which I had to invent by myself, invent that process, but landed on that to create that shape.
So then we ended up teaching the first class on that in 2000… I have to look at the website because we have a photo from the first class, but 2006 or 2007 was the first class on fabric forming. So anyway, yes, that's all that, that's kind of my whole history with getting into to it, GFRC, fabric forming.
But what you're saying is the persona. So when I did the first class on GFRC, I did this photoshoot in downtown Phoenix with John Romero and I had this idea, I want to shoot a traditional concrete mixer and say traditional concrete is dead to kind of launch GFRC into the world of decorative concrete, because most guys then had never heard of GFRC. It was still this very fringe thing, they didn't know what it was. So I did this photoshoot where it was kind of like The Sopranos, The Sopranos was big back then. So it was kind of this mafia hit in downtown Phoenix and it was two photos. It was me shooting a mixer and then there was a follow up photo with the mixer on its side, sand that spilled out, it's supposed to be like blood splatter like I shot it in the head. So there's all the sand, there are bullet holes, there's a chalk line around it and we have forensic people with cameras wearing Tyvek suits taking photos of this mixer that's dead. And there's this whole thing on my website saying traditional concrete was killed, we don't know who the assassin was, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It was really tongue in cheek. But I think a lot of people kind of got this idea about me because it was kind of this big personality. So I think that was kind of introduction to a lot of people of me.
Jon: Yes, I think so. I mean, that's what I knew about. But on the flip side you got a lot of trial by fire. I mean a lot of time, a lot of energy, so that's great, man. That's great.
Brandon: I think a lot of people assume because they only see the shiny outer skin of things that I've done successfully assume that everything is successful, and the truth of the matter is like an iceberg, you see the 10%, but the 90% below the level is completely different. So that little bit of success you see on the outer surface is just that, is that little bit of success and there's all this failure behind it. But that failure is what leads to success. So there was hundreds of thousands of hours of trial and error, of failures, of recasts, of just you do something, it comes out and you're like, why didn't this work? Why did this break? Why didn't this mold work the way I wanted it to? Why did the color do this? Why did the concrete do this? Why are there pinholes? All those things and you just go through it and go through it and go through it and some days you think like, what am I even doing, nothing's ever working but you keep fighting through it and so that's what ultimately led to successes, but there’s an encyclopedia of failure behind every success you see, there are a thousand failures behind it.
Jon: Absolutely, and you've taken a lot of risk over the years. Like I mean, I don't know if it was a failure or not, but I could tell you a few issues of my magazine still haven't shown up in my post office.
Brandon: I don't even know what you're speaking of, a magazine?
Jon: Yes, I don't know if you remember that. I mean, I thought it was a brilliant idea. In fact, I remember photos that you're describing with the mixer and so forth. It was called I don't know, something like Cartel-ish something, yes Concrete Cartel. So that was something you ran for a while. So you know, what happened there, if you don't mind asking?
Brandon: I have a sudden hankering for a bottle of Pepto Bismol, I just want to guzzle it right now from the heartburn. So Concrete Cartel, let me tell you about Concrete Cartel. Concrete Cartel at the time, and still to this day, there was only one trade magazine for the concrete industry and that trade magazine isn't a bad magazine, but it's like every other trade magazine out there, whether it's for paint, or drywall, or masonry, or whatever it is, they're all just these corporate magazines that are advertisement after advertisement, and article after article written by the advertisers on the products they're selling in that magazine. And again, I get it, that's a business model and it works, but it didn't resonate with me. I felt that we could tell our story better than that. There are more interesting things we could write about, we could learn more about the people in this industry. So I felt we could do this better.
So I did some math. I looked into printing costs, I kind of got some ideas from web designers and graphic designers and copywriters and stuff and I reached out to every company I'd ever worked with in the past, and companies that I saw advertising in other publications and said, “hey, I'm thinking about doing this, would you support it? My advertising rates will be a fraction of what you're used to paying. Is this something you get behind? It's going to be this totally grassroots kind of subculture publication, would you be interested in that?” And almost unanimously, almost all the people, since I can't speak English today said, yes, we'll do it. So I decided to do it. I decided to pull the trigger. So we launched Concrete Cartel, we had this big launch party in Las Vegas at world of concrete, my good friend, Paulo, he lives in Las Vegas. He welded up this massive smoker. He smoked like 500 pounds of ribs. It was an insane launch party. Anybody that went to that launch party in Las Vegas will tell you it was a great time. It was an awesome time.
So we launched it there, but apparently we riled the feathers of the other magazine. From what I hear, and I don't know of any of this to be certain, but from what I hear, that magazine reached out to all the potential advertisers and said, do not advertise in that magazine, do not support them. So really within a short amount of time, I started getting contacted from all these people saying, you know what, we're just going to hold off. We're going to wait and see, give us till next year, we'll re-evaluate it. I've already committed to this. I already started down this road and so we were going to do four issues and a lot of people put in for a year. But what they didn't know was their subscription fee was only the cost of postage because postage, I didn't get media mail rates from USPS, so we were shipping in envelopes, manila envelopes, USPS first class, and so the cost of the subscription was only the cost of postage. And the printer required, I want to say a 10,000 - it was either 5,000 or 10,000, but I feel like it was 10,000, a 10,000 minimum quantity to print.
Jon: So you had everything banking on these advertisers or any advertisers being a part of this whole grand idea.
Brandon: To even break even, because our advertising rates were so low that if the people who said they'd advertise had advertised, we would've broken even. I wouldn't have lost money. I wouldn't have made money, but we would've been neutral. But at this point, all of these advertisers said, eh, we're going to hold off, we're going to wait and see. So what happened is I decided hey, I've already decided to go on this road, I'm hoping we can get some advertisers on board, let's just go ahead and do it. So we pull the trigger, I order 10,000 copies. I have to hire a copywriter. I have to hire a graphic designer, have to hire a web designer, have to do the printer. Then we have to do the postage and all this kind of stuff. But I do all that and we do the first round of the magazines. Then we do the second round. Then we're getting the third round. I'm probably upside down about $50,000 at this point. Upside down where if you account for the subscription fees and the couple advertisers that we had, take that money, throw that towards it and then another $50,000 of my money toward that and that's where I'm at by issue two.
So we're going into issue three and it's taking a little bit longer because all this is coming out of my pocket, and essentially I'm doing concrete work to pay for the magazine almost because it's coming out of my pocket, but it's taking a little bit of time and there's some grumblings. There’s some grumblings, guys are like, hey man, where's my magazines. I paid my $6, I want my magazine and I'm just like, dude, I'm working on it, give me a minute. So finally we come out with issue three and at that point I'm upside down a little over $75,000. We did the taxes for the year. My accountant came back and he notices one of the things on there, it's a loss, and he is like this is what you lost. It's like $76,000 and change is what I was upside down on Concrete Cartel, and I never paid myself a penny. I didn't make a single dime off that magazine, and I spent $76,000.
Jon: But it was a cool magazine. I mean, you have to admit, the whole idea, from my point of view anyway, the whole idea was really cool, I mean the covers were cool, everything about it had a far more organic style if I'm using the right term, but I know I thoroughly enjoyed it. And yes, it's too bad for lots of reasons. It's too bad that ended up one of the non-successful risks that you tried to put on the table.
Brandon: So after the third issue, I'm upside down $76,000 and at that point I just decided it's just, I can't throw any more good money after bad money. I'm upside down, this is a losing venture. I still have my shop to pay for, I have employees to pay for, I'm doing concrete work. I'm taking that money and putting it towards a magazine which I felt like at the time, wasn't really, I don't know, I just, I think I told you, I didn't feel the love back then. I felt there was like some grumbling, some whatever and I just, I didn't feel the love, and I didn't feel like I wanted to throw another 20 some thousand dollars for the next issue to order 10,000 copies and pay for a graphic designer and a copywriter and the whole thing and postage and everything else. That was that, but since then, as you've seen, I mean, that's been over a decade now that that whole thing fizzled out but guys today will still every now and then bring it up, and it is what it is, man. I kind of feel that some people, it's one of those kinds of very public failures. I've had a lot of private failures with business, but that was a very public failure, and I feel that some people for one reason or another, like to hold that up and say, “look at you, you didn't make it.” And all I can say is, dude, I did the best I could. I did it for the right reasons.
Jon: No, you tried.
Brandon: I did it to try to do something. Yes, I did something to try to make a magazine for the trade by the trade and it didn't work out, and hopefully you'll never do something in your life that didn't work out, but I have, and that was one of those examples of something I tried that didn't make it. But I did my best, and that's all you can do and I've moved on since then and it just is what it is.
Jon: Yes, I mean, I think we all, I mean, except for me, I like making jokes out of it, funny jokes.
Brandon: Well, you don't fail at anything Jon, you're perfect.
Jon: Yes, I hope nobody's still grumbling about it out there. I mean, you really did try, you put as much effort as you could and I mean, come on, man. Anyway, it is what it is, I loved it at the time.
Brandon: You live and you learn, that's all you can do.
Jon: Yes, that's all you can do. That's the reality of it. So here we are, how long have you been in this game? So we were all the way back in 2000, 2005 still taking risks along the road.
Brandon: 2004 is when I started my company in Tempe, Arizona and I was in that tiny shop. My shop was 1,200 square feet, but the actual shop space was 900 square feet and I was there until I ended up moving to Arkansas. I built a shop here in Arkansas out of Rammed Earth, which was always kind of the goal to kind of bring the story full circle. That house that I fell in love with on the trail was Rammed Earth. I'd always want to get to the point that I could build something out of Rammed Earth, and so I built my shop here about five years ago out of Rammed Earth. And I built my house last year, we just moved in really six months ago, out of Rammed Earth. But up until five years ago, my shop in Tempe was my shop and that was a pretty small shop at 900 square feet. I mean, it's not that small, but it was a really awkward 900 square feet. It was long and narrow. So it was just a tough space to work out of. So you had to be efficient.
Jon: True, but an outsider looking in, I think I told you this before, I'll say it again. I mean, when I first came out to your place, now again, let's take it from my outsider position, Brandon Gore, Erosion Sinks and big personality and whatever a person can put behind this, I'll never forget renting the car, showing up, and it's not that I saw the space as small, that's not what it is because at that point, what I was doing; well yes, but that's not what I saw, man. I was in disbelief, if that makes sense that a person could be this successful being this efficient with space. Because up until that time, for me, I still had these revelations of, hey, I have to have 10,000 square feet and all these kinds of things going on. So to show up, I'm going to say was an amazing experience to realize what a person could do if they're just efficient doing it, if that makes sense. I mean even your front, your showroom at that time, I mean I thought looked great. You had a lot of wood at that time, even the fabric for me, you had that levitating table, I can't remember what you called it, but all of that put together. That's one thing to tell anybody is to realize, you can make a great living by utilizing space. That's what it told me when I came out to your shop.
Brandon: And it's all relative, people would come into my shop, depending on where they're from. So somebody from the Midwest that could rent 10,000 square feet for $500 a month because there were just massive amounts of empty warehouses where they lived, they'd come to my shop and they'd be like, holy cow, dude, how do you work out of a small space like this? But then somebody would come to my shop from Japan where they'd have a 10 by 10 space that they paid $10,000 a month for, because space is such a premium and they'd be like, oh my God, you have so much space. So there was a matter of perspective, it depends on how you viewed it. But it was a good experience for me because it forced me to be efficient. It forced me to be clean. It forced me to be organized. It didn't start off that way. When I started my business, I was a slob, I was a total mess because I didn't know any better. So I built shelves, but everything was just thrown haphazardly on them. There were no doors, there were no drawers. It was just stuff everywhere, falling off the shelf, and that same client that hired me for the Erosion Sink and hired me for the fabric formed sink, he was a metal sculptor, and I went to his shop to go meet with him for a project and his shop was like an operating room.
It was so clean, and everything was so organized and it was probably a 3,000, 4,000 square foot shop, maybe even bigger, but it was so organized. I was in my early twenties, he's probably in his mid to late forties, maybe fifties, and I kind of looked up to him as a mentor of sorts. He'd been in a game a long time and he was just very dedicated to organization and cleanliness. So when I walked in, I was like, oh my God, how do you guys keep your shop this clean? And he said, we have to, there's no way around it, we have to have a clean space because we can't spend 20 minutes looking for whatever it is. If they need a tool, they need to get that tool and when they're done with it, they put it back, and at the end of the day they sweep and they put everything away. And that for me, I went back to my shop and I was like, yes, I'm done with this mess and so I just started, over time, getting more and more and more meticulous with organizing things and to this day, I mean, my shop now is pretty organized. A lot of people come to my shop and they think I'm OCD and they look around like, oh my God, because everything's together and all the labels are facing in the same direction and like things are with like things. But like Jeff, that client, it makes things a lot more efficient and a lot quicker. So if I need whatever it is, I know exactly where that tool is or exactly where that product is and I can go and get it in two seconds instead of spending 20 minutes opening every drawer, wondering where I put it last.
Jon: That's awesome, man. So from there in the last five years, when did you start making a transition to either incorporating or solely doing furniture? How did that come about?
Brandon: So the furniture thing, it was an exercise for me to do something I wanted to do for myself only, for nobody else and so essentially I was in the shower and I had this idea for a chair, the Modern Muskoka chair, but I saw it in my mind. I saw it in 3D. I could see the design. I came into my shop. I drew it full scale, one to one on a piece of MDF. I drew it in section and in plan and I had this guy working for me, named Christian, and Christian was a framer. He was actually a builder. I met him on a job site. I was doing a cast in place fabric-formed concrete countertop and wall for a restaurant. He was the builder on that project and after the project he came to me and said, hey, I'm sick of the stress. I'm sick of chasing trades. I saw what you guys did. It looked amazing. If you need a hand, I'd love to come work with you. So I hired Christian. Well, Christian was a phenomenal craftsman. He could do complex calculus and trig, all just freehand. He would do a cut sheet for all these complex compound angles, just old school. He could take a protractor, draw lines, take measurements, and then he would know his cut list, this is 22 degrees, this is 17 degrees, this is 11 degrees. Had it all sorted out before he did the first cut.
So I drew this up and I said, hey dude, I know we got this client work we have to do. Let's just put it off for a week. Let's just build this. I want to build something for me. I want to build something for no other reason than to build it. So he set about building the master of the Muskoka chair out of MDF, and he nailed it. And then we made a fiberglass mold off of it and then we cast it, and I welded up the base, just like I had drawn it, put it together, loved it, loved it. I sat in it. I was like, oh my God, this is great. Well about the same time, and again, it was for nobody but me. About the same time, Dwell magazine has a trade show every year called Dwell on Design and I'd reached out to them to do a booth, but it was, like I think $5,000 for the booth, but then it's a union show in Los Angeles and there's what they call drayage, which is the fee to bring it in. So $5,000 becomes $10,000 or $15,000, especially with concrete furniture pretty quick, and I didn't have the funds to do that and so I wasn't going to do it. But Dwell called like two days before the show and they said, actually, it came through a friend of mine, but they said, hey, we have a booth that just opened up, somebody canceled. You can have the booth for $500, but you have to be here in two days, that's when the show is. I was like, oh, like, you have to do it, when the moment comes, you have to seize the opportunity, and so this was an opportunity and I had to seize it. So I had made two chairs at that point. I'd come up with a logo, Hard Goods. I had a logo. This was just a side project. It was really nothing besides a side project, it was something I was doing for fun, no other reason.
But I built a crate. I had a Toyota Tacoma. This crate was designed to fit between the wheel wells of my Tacoma, I branded the logo on the crate. I put the two chairs in it. I drove to Los Angeles, set up the booth. The booth was two chairs sitting in front of a crate with a logo branded on it, that was my booth. I didn't have business cards. I didn't have collateral. I didn't have a website. I just had a logo and two chairs and I really wasn't too happy with the booth. But I wasn't thrilled with it because everybody else had these really amazing booths, backdrops and lighting and props. Everybody came much more polished than I did, my booth was just very raw. So I was walking around, my girlfriend at the time she was in the booth and these judges came by and they saw the chair and she told them everything about it because everything has a purpose. Every part of that design is by design, nothing is arbitrary. So she's explaining this angle and that angle and why this is here and why the drain hole is here and why, all these little details and they loved it. So I came back, I'd walked around for a while, I came back and she's like, yes, some people came by and I was like, cool.
So the next day, it's the last day of the show and the editor of Dwell, her name was Amanda Dameron, are you Brandon? I was like, yes, she said, congratulations, you won the award for Best Furniture 2012! I'll be damned. So again, it was just this kind of right place, right time, lucky opportunity. So that won Best Furniture for 2012 by Dwell and from that, all these blogs and other magazines picked it up and ran with it and really the Modern Muskoka chair has been my most successful design financially of anything I've made because I've made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of those over the last nine years. So yes, that again, it was something I did, but it was a good lesson for me because sometimes it's good to make something for nobody but yourself. Sometimes it's good to not do something for a client because a lot of times clients will change who you are, they'll change what you make. They'll say, eh, I like that but what if we did this? What if we got rid of that, what if we change the color of this? And before you know it, what was your design isn't your design anymore and it's not something you're proud of.
Jon: But I'm going to say listening to these stories, I think the subliminal message that I'm also getting is don't get caught up in the razzle-dazzle. I mean look at you, I mean, we just talked about those first ones and wanting to take pictures a certain way, here you are once again, whether you see it lucky or not, I'm just listening to the story. You put up something where everybody else had a bunch of razzle-dazzle and lights and all this kind of cool stuff and once again, the rawness is what comes out and then steals your soul. So that's pretty cool.
Brandon: Well, it's funny you say that because one of the things I did not like about the Muskoka chair was the inside of the chair was dead smooth, not a bug hole on it, but the outside of the chair, because of the way the form is designed, had a lot of trapped air. In my mind, before I cast the first one, I saw it as being uniform, no air holes, front or back. But when I de-molded the first one and then the second one and pretty much everyone since then the outside had some air pockets. Initially, I didn't like it but at Dwell, at that trade show, everybody coming up to the booth would come up to the chair and by the way Brian Cranston, and I didn't even know who he was back then. I didn't watch, this was during Breaking Bad, 2012, Breaking Bad was on TV, new episodes and Brian Cranston was the man, but I didn't watch TV back then. I didn't have cable. So Brian Cranston, he was the keynote speaker at Dwell on Design that year and he came into the booth, we'd won the award. There was like this little award sitting on the crate, he came into the booth and he's like, is this the chair I've been hearing about? I'm like, yes. He's like, can I sit in it? I'm like, yes, for sure and he sits down. He's like, man, this is a really nice chair, it's really comfortable. I'm like, hey thanks man and he sits there for a little bit, he's like, man, this is a nice chair and I was like, well thanks. He's like feeling the outside of it and he's like, man, I love this concrete. I'm like, well, thank you.
He gets up and walks away and then people come in the booth, they're like, do you know who that was? No, who was that? Brian Cranston. I'm like, I don't know who Brian Cranston is. They're like Breaking Bad. I'm like, I've never even heard of it, what's that? And I legitimately did not know anything. Now since then I've watched Breaking Bad, the entire series, probably 10 times over. I love Breaking Bad and I love Brian Cranston. But anyway, so I digress, but the point is people were responding to the imperfections on the outside of the chair, those air pockets, and we forget as concrete people all too often that people want concrete and concrete is not Corian. Concrete is not absolutely perfect. We do our best to make it perfect, but you have to do your best and then let it be what it is and not try to make it something that's not. So this is one of those kinds of things that I was reminded of then, and I'm continually reminded of through the last 18 years of my career, that when I sweat some imperfection, mottling of color, maybe some fibers ghosted, whatever it is, I flip it over like oh, this is a flaw, it's what people actually love about the concrete.
Jon: I agree with you a hundred percent, yes, that's a great experience. At least based on the way I know you, I think that's also continued or seen a lot of what I'm going to call your style is that rawness, I thoroughly enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoy it. So 2012, wasn't it about that time? What was the show you were on? Is that about 2012 too when you got roped into that?
Brandon: No, that was 2014, 2015 around there, 2015. I'm really bad with years, with dates. So I'd been cast for another show on NBC before Framework. I'd been cast for a show on NBC that ended up not working out. I'd made it to the very end, but then it didn't work out and I just, I don't know, man, I just wasn't psyched on the experience of being cast for a show and going through the whole process and then not doing the show. So I got contacted in 2013, 2014, probably 2013 from another show, they're recruiters, there are these talent recruiters, they contacted me and said, hey, we'd love to talk to you. NBC referred you. We'd love to talk to you about another show and I've just kept saying, ah, thanks, but no thanks. And they'd call back and my wife, Erin, she sat across from me at the desk at my studio in Tempe. So she would hear these phone calls and finally, she just said, hey, go meet with them. It doesn't hurt to keep the lines of communication open, if you don't want to do this show, that's fine. But maybe someday down the road there'll be a show that you do want to do so don't burn a bridge, just go meet with these people. I was like, all right, fine. So I go and meet with them and I fly out to Burbank. I did the first meeting with the producers and the network execs and whatnot and it went really well and it went really well, I think because I went into it with zero anxiety, zero jitters. I wasn't nervous because I didn't want to do the show.
Jon: Yes, you already knew in your head.
Brandon: Exactly and I really feel that that mentality serves people so much better than when you try hard, you die-hard, when you want something so badly, a lot of times it doesn't happen but if you were just a little bit less committed to it, sometimes things happen the way they should. So these other people I saw in the hallway that were contestants, they were super nervous, they're sweating, you can just see the adrenaline pumping and just the nervousness and I'm like, ah, I mean, I'm as cool as a cucumber. I could care less because I really could care less. I didn't want to do the show, but I agreed to go out here and just say, hello, shake their hands and just tell them thanks but no thanks. So I'm as cool as a cucumber, I meet with them and I tell them, thanks guys, great meeting you and I go back to my room. Then I get a call, hey, the execs want to meet with you again, which is a good sign because I kind of thought that was it. So I told my wife as a joke, I'm going to go into the room, I'm going to stand up on a chair and hold my arms out and say, behold, The Concrete Jesus and she's like, do not tell them you're the Concrete Jesus. I'm like, why? She's like, they don't know your sense of humor, they don't know you're joking and I said, okay, fine. I'll tell them I should be a judge. She's like, yeah, say that, that's fine but don't tell them you're the Concrete Jesus. I'm like, all right, fine, I won't tell them I'm the Concrete Jesus.
So I go into the room, shake their hands again and have a good conversation. We're getting to the end of it, I could sense that it's coming to an end and I said to them, “hey guys, I know you want me, I know I got it” and they're laughing, they think it's hilarious because I have all this bravado and confidence. I'm like, “I know I got it, I don't want it, I don't want to do your show, but I appreciate it, thank you, but no thank you, I'm not going to do it.” And again, they're still kind of laughing. I said, “if you guys need a judge, I'm your guy.” And again, they think this is funny. I say, “I'll be your guy. I'd be the Simon Cowell of concrete, you guys have a good day, peace!" Get up, walked out, end of meeting. I go back to my room. I packed my bag. I'm waiting for the van to come to get me and take me to the airport and there's a knock on the door and open the door and it was the owner of the recruiting company, the talent company and she said, hey, they want to consider you to be a judge. I was like, uh, what? This is crazy. She said, yes. I said, I was joking and she's like, it doesn't matter, when you said it, we looked at each other and we thought, this is our guy, we've been looking, we've been searching for a judge and you said it, and we're like, this is him right here.
So they sent me down. I did a screen test. I flew back to Arizona. I don't know, six months goes by and then I get the call. I didn't hear anything for like six months but I get the call, hey, pack your bags, you're the craftsman judge. So yes, I did the show Framework, which was on Spike and it was a furniture design competition and it was a ton of fun. Common who’s a hip hop artist and an actor. He's in the John Wick movies. He was on Hell on Wheels. I mean, he's a legend in the hip hop world. I remember listening to Common when I was a kid essentially, so Common is the man. But Common was the host and it was a really fun show. It was a great experience. Spike was the network. The people involved, the network, the crew, Common, Nolen, the contestants on the show, everybody, it was just such a good experience and I'm very thankful and very grateful to have been given the opportunity to do it. And yes, I consider it one of the highlights of my life, for sure.
Jon: Yes, awesome. No, I mean, I think most of us all enjoyed the show. Anybody I've ever spoken to. The tough part sometimes at least for me, was separating at least who appeared to be on the show that I knew as Brandon Gore versus the guy I know as Brandon Gore.
Brandon: Well, so for anybody that doesn't know, there was at any given time probably 5 to 10 camera crews filming continuously all day, every day. So for a one-hour episode, they probably have several thousand hours of footage to edit down and they can edit that footage however they want to edit it. So they can chop that up to make you be the bad guy, the good guy, the naive person, however they want to frame and sculpt the personality, they can do that.
Jon: It's creating the drama.
Brandon: Exactly, they have to, if it was all, hey buddy, and there was a lot of positive feedback given to the participants in the show, but there's also critical feedback. But for TV, you don't see as much of the positive feedback because that doesn't generate ratings. So you see the negative feedback, you see the you did this wrong, but they don't show the 20 minutes of us saying, I love this, like you killed it with this, keep doing that, I love that, that doesn't make the episode because that's not good TV. Good TV is you suck or whatever it is. So anyway, so the show gets edited and I thought they did a good job with the edit. I mean, yes, was I the mean judge? Yes, cool, I'm fine with that. I'll be the mean judge, whatever. I thought it was a good edit, but people that don't know me maybe watched that and kind of perceive that maybe I was harsh or critical or whatever, but just know that there are thousands of hours edited down into a 20 second soundbite.
Jon: That was all part of the show.
Brandon: Exactly. I mean, it's just part of the theater of making a TV show.
Jon: No, I said, I think all of us, a lot of people that watched it. In fact, I think a lot of people, I wouldn't say sore, but it's a bummer that a show like that didn't see more seasons when there's a lot of other reality based things that you see, Forged in Fire, a lot of baking shows and all these kinds of things, but nothing has come back up similar to what the idea of Framework was.
Brandon: So to address that, because I get asked that quite a bit in classes, people come to the class that saw the show and they say, why wasn't there more seasons? The truth of the matter is Spike sold to Paramount right when we did the show and there had been several other original programming shows shot at the same time that Framework was shot. So there were a lot of other shows that Spike was developing, that they'd hired crews and talent and contestants and sets and did the whole thing and filmed everything that never saw the light of day. They were never aired at all because Spike sold to Paramount and Paramount essentially just kind of went back to the old format, which I get because they're in a business to make money. So they're going to rerun Cops, they're going to have wrestling, they're going to show Ink Master, that kind of stuff, because those are moneymaking syndicated TV shows. There's not a whole lot of production costs, but there's advertising revenue and it's guaranteed and they know we can run this show, it's going to cost us this much in syndication rights. We're going to make this much in revenue and that's a safe business model and I get it. I mean, they're a business.
Taking risks on original programming is a lot more expensive because it is a risk and so Framework, we were really lucky that we even saw one season because when that happened, they had already sold advertising to ACE hardware, to these different companies for Framework and so it was more or less, they had to show the show otherwise they'd lose those contracts, those advertising contracts. I feel fortunate because I can't imagine spending three months of my life filming a show and being really excited about it and then you're like, eh, they sold, we're not going to show the show, so I feel very fortunate. Forged in Fire, man I love that show. The baking shows, I don't know, I don't watch baking shows. What I miss the most is Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown. To me, that was the best show on TV, not a baking show, but a show about food.
Jon: You know it's funny, I've never seen, I've never watched one episode, I need to, I haven't watched any of those episodes.
Brandon: It's the best. And there was a documentary that came out two months ago called Roadrunner, which is such a good documentary about Anthony Bourdain, the person and kind of his rise in fame and how that affected his life and a lot of times that stuff doesn't affect people in the best way. But it was a really good documentary.
Jon: So that's awesome. So here we are, 2021, 20 years of this, I know we ask other people so I'm going to ask you, you've definitely used other materials in Concrete Design School workshops, which you've been hosting those workshops for years and this is the first year that you're now standing behind your own materials called Kodiak Pro. So what's the short end of the lead-up into that?
Brandon: For all those years, I used a product from Buddy Rhodes and Buddy Rhodes products used to be sold by Buddy Rhodes, the man, and I love Buddy, til this day. If Buddy's listening, I love buddy, I love Susan, his wife. I consider them family members to me, I love Buddy.
Jon: They're good people.
Brandon: They're great people, great people. So I used to buy Buddy Rhodes products from Buddy Rhodes and then Buddy Rhodes sold to a company called Blue Concrete and you were a part of Blue, and there were some tweaks made to the mix which made it work better and there were some new materials brought online and different things like that. And it was a good product. It was still a good product and I still used that product. I still promoted that product. I still believed in that product and then that sold to a big conglomerate company, a big rubber company, I'm not going to say their name, but it's sold to them and things changed and it didn't change for the better. So I don't know if materials were substituted. I don't know if there were quality control issues. I don't know what happened, but me, along with pretty much everybody I knew that had been legacy customers of that product line, when it made the switch, I wasn't thrilled with the product and I wasn't having good success. I was having failures. I was having callbacks, which I never had had. It's not a dig at Buddy Rhodes the man because I love Buddy, but the product, I just was not having success with that product any longer.
It had been something I had thought about doing for a long time of developing a concrete mix specifically for what I do, for what you do, for what Dusty does, which is a more technically advanced product than what was on the market. Thought about it, thought about it, thought about it, but there was never; you get comfortable. If something's 80% there, you can give up that 20% because you're like, eh, I don't want to go through the pain of doing something new, of taking the risk, of having all the R and D failures and costs and everything associated with doing that. But I had to, at that point, there was no way around it. So I had to start developing my own products, something I'd been on kind of the back burner for a lot of years, and decided, just do it. So I launched Kodiak Pro.
So Kodiak Pro officially launched about a year ago. I'd been working kind of behind the scenes on a mix for several years now, got Kodiak Pro launched and Kodiak Pro, as anybody listening to podcasts knows, is a UHPC bagged mix called Maker Mix. It's the UHPC admix called RADMix. We have your sealer line, ICT as part of the system.
In my opinion, and it's just my opinion, but my opinion, it is the best product on the market made today and I feel that way because it's made and now you're a partner. So you're brought in officially as a partner and since you've been on, just in the time you've been here, we've made adjustments to the mix that have made it way better. In that amount of time, this product has become the best mix on the market for doing super high performance concrete furniture, concrete tile, concrete countertops, whether it's Dusty-Crete or GFRC or upright cast, there's really nothing else, well there is nothing else that even comes close to the performance, the density, the ability to be sealed effectively, colorfastness, abrasion fastness, freeze-thaw resistance, all these things, this is by far the best products. So I'm super psyched about it. I'm psyched to have you on board.
Jon: Yeah, I think it's exciting. There's no question to me, it's setting a new bar and when those people get it into their hands, I think you and I, we've used this, no frame of reference. So once they get them in their hands, we can talk about the benefits, which now I've seen along the way and I was explaining to somebody today, something simple, we've also used the perceived value and when you take something made with these materials against something made with the other materials and you see the depth of color, the richness, I mean just the perceived value right then of itself, based on the materials and the materials used, it's definitely setting a new level, there is no question. It's hard to say and probably egotistical to say, but the reality is when people get it in their hands, that's when they call back going, oh, okay, yes, I see it, that's totally cool. So yes, congrats to you and a new venture, I'm excited to be a part of it. So Kodiak Pro, and that's fitting in, we have training coming up here in three weeks. All these materials are now being as part of the training going hand in hand.
Brandon: And the thing about Kodiak Pro that sets it apart from anybody else is we're not vendors, we're not salesmen. We're not a company that's repackaging another product, putting a label on it, and selling it to the concrete industry, so these are products made specifically for the industry, there are raw ingredients in this product that are custom made for us. There are no other products in the world that have these raw ingredients.
Jon: That's true.
Brandon: So there are components of this mix that are strictly for this mix. So any other mix on the market, if they say, oh, we're like Maker Mix, no, they're not, they're not even close. We use this, I've been doing this for, I'm in my 18th year of business, you've been in the game for about the same amount of time and so is Dusty. This is what I do for a living and this is still to this day, concrete fabrication, concrete design is how I feed my little girls, it is how I pay for my mortgage, it's how I support my family. The products that we're selling are products that I use for every project, it's products used for every project, it's products that Dusty uses for every project. So I believe in them a thousand percent, I'm not a salesman, I'm not a vendor, we're not a middleman, we're not going in between, we're not marking something up and putting a label on it. This is direct to consumer from the manufacturer, the developer, the users of that product.
Jon: That's the exciting part to me. It's exciting being brought on board and then having our direct years of experience directly reflected into the materials, with a material that's literally encompassing of the way we use it and that's not something that can be said, at least I don't think so for some of the other materials on the market. So that's great and as a small company, we've already, since I've come on board, we've actually paid the price a little bit because we haven't had all the ducks in a row, I mean, right. The website just launched and still trying to figure out the best way of keeping stock. Did we get enough blended? But it's an exciting time. It is an exciting time.
Brandon: Well, it's the growing pains for sure and there are several companies that have been with Kodiak Pro from the beginning, and they've had to kind of grow with us in a sense of they placed an order and it took a little bit longer than they expected because blending took longer or there were freight issues or whatever, but we're doing our best to sort those things out and make improvements and little by little, incrementally, things are getting smoother and smoother and faster and faster. The feedback we're getting today is everybody's super happy, products are shipping out. They're being delivered extremely quickly. The product itself is just such a high-quality professional product, an amazing time, it's a great time and I, hopefully, me and you will continue to elevate the game with concrete materials and products and sealers for many years to come.
Jon: No question. I was just telling somebody that today, as I keep and have along this road, so next time we'll interview me. You know I'm a tinkerer, you know every time I reach some threshold of design where maybe I've worked with somebody to create an entirely new material from a raw material point of view, then I push to integrate that in for all the right reasons. So as you know, there was a minute ago I was getting ready to step out of this whole thing and then you wrangled me and talked to me down. That's what I tell people, there's no question about it. You talked me off the ledge. Yes, that's exciting. So one thing we throw at people, I'm going to throw it to you. What are some things that you see or that you think you could work on to improve what you're doing? That make sense?
Brandon: Yes, well, I mean, there are all kinds of levels of improvement. There's personal improvement, which I'm always working on. I'm not a perfect person by any stretch of imagination. I go to a therapist once a week. I'm always doing my best to improve as a spouse, as a husband, as a friend, as a father. I'm trying to become a better person, a better person than I was yesterday, a better person than I was a year ago. So I'm always trying to do that. But as far as the company goes, I want to spend more time in 2021, doing what I did with Hard Goods in the beginning and that's making things for myself with no client in mind and I have been working on that. There's a new, I say new, it's been three years in the making, a new furniture line I've been working on, but I have a lot of ideas, a lot of ideas for other parts of that line, that system that I want to do, and you get busy and you get tied up with client work and months go by and then years go by and you don't fulfill, you don't realize those ideas, those visions and I don't want to let the sun set on these ideas.
So for me, what I could do better is to set aside, to dedicate a certain amount of time, whether it's per week or per month to just work on that stuff, because I do want to do it. I want to see it through, I want to bring those things to market. If they're successful, great. If they're not, that's great as well, because the process is what I love, the product is secondary to the process of making the product, and I find a lot of joy, I really do. I've said that before, like I really enjoy being in my shop, headphones in, working away. It's enjoyable to me. I love it. I also love seeing a finished piece, that's enjoyable. But after you see the finished piece, you're ready to do the next thing, you're ready to move on to the next thing and that's the process, the process you're getting back to it. I just finished my house and we listed my property for sale, if it sells great, we'll build again but it's the process that I love. You get done and then you sit there and like, now what? Now what am I going to do? So you're ready to do the next thing and yes, I'd say that's 2021, that's what I want to focus on is seeing these things come to light and seeing them go into the market and like I said, hopefully, they do well, but if they don't, whatever, I'll move on to the next thing.
Jon: Well, you only have three more months, man, then we're in '22.
Brandon: What year is this? Son-of-a-bitch, I thought 2021 was next year. What the fuck? What year is this?
Jon: Yes, let me open my eyes on here. Let me climb into that plateau and you're reaching out. Christmas is around the corner, man.
Brandon: Well, I know Christmas is around the corner, but I thought this was 2020. Hold on, let me check my iPhone…
According to my iPhone, it's 2021. I thought it was 2020. Well in 2022, I intend to bring this furniture line to light and finish it. So that's what I'd like to work on.
Jon: Awesome, great endeavors once again, keep the risk-taking. I think it's fantastic. So good for you, Brandon.
Brandon: Thanks man.
Jon: Good for you.
Brandon: Appreciate it.
Jon: Well, anything else you want to throw on the table?
Brandon: Just the class we have coming up. We mentioned it in the beginning, but I'll mention it again, this class, and we've had several enrollments in the last week. So don't think that we're just saying it to say it, if you want to register, register sooner than later, because the last month leading up to a class historically for the last 15, 16, 17 years, that's when we see the vast majority of registrations. So if you want to get in, get in today, register today. But this class that we're going to have by far is the best class in the world for anybody aspiring to do this for a living. If you want to make concrete furniture, concrete countertops, concrete tile for a living and be profitable doing it, come to this class. There are other classes out there, they're good, you'll learn something in those classes. No doubt you'll get your money out of them but if you want to do this for a career, come to the Pinnacle Concrete Camp, you won't regret it. You're going to learn a ton of information and walk away with the ability to turn a profit making pieces for clients. So that's my spill.
Jon: Well, and I'll even say not to be Mr. material salesman, this is also a workshop. Well, I'm just saying, you're dealing with three guys with unbelievable experience in the industry and you'll be working hand in hand with a new level of material that helps promote that success. So that's something that you won't see in other places also, so that's pretty cool.
Brandon: I agree and that's something that's been missing for pretty much the entirety of my career. Like I said, the product that I was using back in the day was good. It was good. It wasn't great, it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. But at the time it was the best thing available. Having the right materials to accomplish the designs you want to create makes life so much easier and to have the confidence that when I cast this and deliver it to a client it's going to have longevity, it's not going to break. It's not going to stain easily. That gives you a lot of confidence and that really helps you to be a profitable business and the materials, it's two-pronged. The materials are critical and the skillset is critical and that's really Kodiak Pro and Concrete Design School, that symbiotic relationship of the two is the secret sauce to success for concrete artisans, getting into the market, or even if you're existing, come take the class, learn some new techniques, learn how to use these products and go back and see those benefits for your company.
Jon: Well Brandon, it has been great talking to you today. I appreciate your time.
Brandon: Yeah, man. I'll see you on Facebook Live come Saturday morning.
Jon: Saturday morning. Yeah. All right. Adios amigo.