The following is a report done in partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods program, the capstone class for the Temple’s Department of Journalism.
Fueled by the minds of two quick-witted friends, GrownManTV has provided the Internet world with comical videos through its website and YouTube channel since 2005.
Ryan Kelly and Juan Vasquez, a well-matched pair of friends, are the brains behind the operation. Kelly, who lives in Exton, Pa., and Vasquez, who lives in Fishtown, met while in high school at West Chester East.
Kelly, now 29, said that Vasquez, 28, could get him out of class with the excuse that the two had projects to film. They would film intros for the school’s news channel, and some short comedy sketches.
“A lot of people knew about [Kelly's] wild personality, and it worked out that I had these film classes, so we filmed some sketches. We had a positive response to it, so we kept doing that little by little,” Vasquez said.
Kelly and Vasquez agreed the main reason GrownManTV was started is because they wanted to make themselves and their friends laugh. But a new venture of theirs will take a slightly more serious note: educating the world, in their own unique way, of energy healing Reiki.
“We did GrownManTV for us at first, and we would show it to our friends,” Kelly said. “We know what’s funny. Sometimes we get a little dirty, with curse words, but we generally have a good feel for how pacing should go in a video.”
Kelly and Vasquez started filming sketches for themselves in 2003, while Kelly was in school at West Chester University. Vasquez attended Temple University and worked there for a bit. The duo really saw their videos take off when they started posting their video sketches to YouTube.
“Around 2005 all the pieces came together and GrownManTV was able to ride that good Youtube wave into a real thing,” Kelly said. GrownManTV also had its second episode featured on YouTube’s front page that year.
Since 2005, GrownManTV has uploaded 82 videos and has had around 4.7 million views. However, GrownManTV did not always have the kind of success that Kelly and Vasquez had hoped for.
“We were trying to film stuff and for whatever reason, it wasn’t what we expected. We weren’t making money, and things just weren’t meshing,” Kelly said of the beginning.
Below watch a video interview with Kells and Vasquez.
Kelly, who had been collecting unemployment when he was fired from his job in June 2009, stepped down from GrownManTV that year to figure out what he wanted to do with his career. They had been trying to expand their business identity and wanted to use their production skills to help other businesses with marketing and their web presence, Kelly said. Trying to balance their own filming, and helping out other businesses proved to be too much for the duo to handle.
“The thing that was the most fun and my outlet for creativity was becoming stress filled, and it encouraged me to take a step back and look at life and figure things out,” Kelly said.
In the meantime, Vasquez had been filming regularly, doing freelance work and building connections. The pair was able to keep the GrownManTV website afloat during this period of downtime, and even now that the two are filming again, because “we were so scrappy with it,” Vasquez said.
“The hosting costs are minimal because everything is on YouTube. We have a partnership with YouTube. We still get residual checks in the mail, so it’s a matter of scaling those checks out so you don’t have to worry about the mundane things you have to pay for,” Vasquez said.
The partnership with YouTube does not allow Kelly to disclose the monthly income, but he said it “pays the bills for GrownManTV, and provides a nice little cushion.”
After a two-year hiatus, GrownManTV was reborn this year when Kelly decided that he wanted to launch a website about Reiki, a Japanese Buddhist holistic energy healing practice first developed in the 1920s. Having learned the process of performing Reiki, Kelly wanted to show people that it is not some unknown to be feared.
“Most people don’t know about Reiki,” Kelly said. “Our culture doesn’t pay attention to any of the energy healing stuff. If you look at other cultures, they’re into yoga and meditation, and there’s a reason for that. This stuff works.”
Kelly explained, as a Reiki master, he lays his hands on different body parts of a person in need of healing, and energy flows through his palms into that person. That energy then clears up any blockages the person may have, whether that be physical or emotional.
“It’s kind of frustrating when you tell people about it and they say no, that can’t work, I don’t believe you,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s aspiration for the new website is to show disbelievers that Reiki can be fun.
“Is it going to be super successful? I think, possibly. It’s a good message, and if it makes people feel better, you can’t go wrong,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez, who works with online video production full time, co-founded BSLive.tv, a video production service, and is the project manager for GoFightLive, which streams live MMA fights and other sports globally.
Looking back on how far GrownManTV has come over the past six years, Kelly’s biggest advice would be to forget about other people judging your work.
“The main thing is to forget about what everyone else thinks or does. Do what you want to do. It doesn’t matter if nobody else has done it, it doesn’t matter if other people have done it millions of times,” Kelly said. “If you think you can do it with your own spin, do what feels right for you.”
Vasquez and Kelly’s new website can be found at http://www.wakeandreik.com/-30-