Stay Tuff: An Interview with Derek Magrum
Derek & Janae Magrum
Name: Derek Magrum
Hometown: Northern Ohio
Occupation: Small business owner
Would you give me a brief overview of Stay Tuff?
Stay Tuff is the ‘Brand of the Underground’. We are an apparel company that supports and encourages the best talents of the independent scene. Better known as a pop-up shop, we also carry custom art, collectibles, novelty items, fashion, and more. Our online store is set to launch this month and will be releasing new fashion lines seasonally.
Our target demographic varies. We’ve had people of all ages buy our products just because of our name. It’s so universal. We’ve had wrestling fans, music lovers, skateboarders, BMX enthusiasts, and tattoo artists buy our stuff. At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of dudes/girls that need to support one another.
Why did you decide to start the company?
So, Stay Tuff originated in 2009 but was more focused on the live entertainment industry…that also provided graphic design work. I came from a background of music management and live entertainment with my previous company. We did some amazing things I never would have imagined doing with some amazing people but my time had come to an end and I knew I wanted to do something different. The live entertainment slowed down drastically once a local venue I worked at went out of business, so we primarily focused on just our graphic design for the following years.
After an initial run, the company went on a hiatus. What was the impetus for the relaunch?
When we just dropped down to graphic design, I found myself to be in a negative state of mind. I am now much more positive and surround myself with a more positive atmosphere.
The rebranding/relaunch came about in summertime 2016. My wife and I always brainstormed and pieced it together little by little while attending regional independent events. Later in the summer, I asked our children what they wanted to be when they grew up. After each one answered, I was asked the same thing. I responded that I’d like to sell my custom art, clothes, and toys. (Our entire family collects all kinds of collectibles!) My daughter, Rain, had suggested we started our company by selling some of our personal collection of toys to start it off. The rebranding came only a few weeks later with our initial stock being our own collectibles and custom art.
What challenges did you face in the early days?
Well as I mentioned earlier, the local venue here went out of business. It was a sad day. One of my best friends owned it. It was the reason I moved to the area while booking a tour stop for two of our bands. It was home for myself and many others who are considered an extended family. (The owner, Nick Woodruff, ended up moving and is now doing an amazing job chasing after another one of his dreams, acting and comedy.)
We booked the bands at other venues but I was just ready for a change. At this point, I was in my twelfth year of music management and live entertainment. I had learned from both my mistakes–and accomplishments–but my biggest challenge revealed to be starting over and jumping out of my comfort zone.
What is an average work week like?
I honestly cannot say there is an “average” for us at this point. Each week is very different with (Stay Tuff) being so new and fresh. My wife and I are both workhorses through our every day “nine-to-five” employments. I, myself, work two different jobs; retail management and retail for a close friend. Janae is in the service industry and is, honestly, the glue for her workplace.
If we are not at work, we are home making as many moves as possible for Stay Tuff. Our first couple of months involved looking into printing companies, distributors, making valuable networking connections, designing, buying more inventory, and market research. This week, I am concentrating on getting the web store set up, graphic design projects, mailing out product to our ambassadors, keeping an eye out for talents we’d love to work with in the future, and the constant flow of ordering new product.
“Family” is clearly a key theme in the Stay Tuff culture. Talk a little about that.
We are a family-owned business. I don’t know if I’d be here doing this interview if it wasn’t for my family. They push me for greatness and have made me such a better human being. I couldn’t be more proud of my children or my wife. We try to involve our kids in any aspect of the company that we feel will benefit their future and creativity.
We are also very fortunate to meet such amazing people during our table set-ups that become more and more like family every time we see them. I love the idea of surrounding myself with such inspiring and positive people.
“You are only as good as the company you keep.”
If this is the case, we’re in great hands!
There is a strong connection between Stay Tuff and professional wrestling. How did you become a fan?
Oh man, do we love wrestling! What’s not to love, honestly? I remember watching wrestling when I was only knee-high but I really got hooked. My friend’s dad would come home after working late factory shifts, hit his chair, and turn on wrestling. I still remember visions of Doink the Clown, Jake the Snake, the Hulkster, and Papa Shango at such a young age that it created the addiction. That started when I was maybe 7- or 8-years-old. In high school, I became obsessed and watched everything I could.
Janae watched spurts of the Attitude Era growing up but didn’t really become a fan until she eventually had to sit through ME watching it on a constant basis. Like most people, once she gave it a chance she just got hooked. I knew when we rebranded, I wanted to dive more into the indie wrestling scene since I was so focused on live music entertainment in my previous company. We try to involve all our passions into our company, so why not start there? At that point, we were already attending these independent shows on a monthly basis so it was a fun and exciting transition for us.
More specifically, what is the appeal to you of independent wrestling?
Indy wrestling is just so punk rock/hardcore to me. I grew up going to concerts in Toledo, Ohio at venues called The Main Event and Frankie’s Inner-City starting at 15 years old. Each only held only a few hundred people. If you ask most people, their first concert is usually a bigger name (artist) at an arena. My first concerts were always at these small venues with a bunch of local/regional artists. I’m not a big fan of sitting 500 rows away to see a performer who I really wanna see up close and personal–whether it be music or wrestling. I was always more attracted to just small punk rock/hardcore environments and really support the independent talent. I’ve been blessed with meeting and working with a lot of people you either see on TV or music videos. It’s amazing to watch talent progress right before your eyes no matter who the talent may be. Independent wrestling has given us a lot of inspiration for the re-brand. Our first table set up after the rebrand was at Absolute Intense Wrestling‘s “The Whole Shebang.” Johnny Gargano‘s last match (before moving on to the WWE) was our first wrestling show table set-up…such a bittersweet and humbling moment for us. We also set-up on the regular at Mega Championship Wrestling in Elyria, Ohio and they treat us so amazing. Independent wrestling has treated us so well and we cannot thank (the local wrestling community) enough.
Derek Direction knows how to Stay Tuff...
Other than yourself, pro wrestler Derek Direction is the walking, talking embodiment of the Stay Tuff attitude. Would you talk a little about your relationship?
I started following Derek on social media a couple months before our relaunch. I never had the chance to see him live at that point but loved his personality. Once we rebranded, he reached out and was a huge support system for us right away. I can honestly say that he believed in us since day one of all of this. That’s so rare to come by in the world today, so we hit it off immediately. We are fans of each other. We are forever grateful for everything he has done for us to get us recognized and to proudly rock our brand to the fullest. It’s a win-win for both of us being we’re so similar with our passions. We are constantly joking around and coming up with ideas that only the two of us probably understand. (Laughs)
Derek and I can go days without talking but once we spark up a convo it’s like we never stopped talking. Only negative I can say is; Magnum believes he can take me in NBA Jam with the Pacers… LOLOLOLOL, he’s HILARIOUS. –Derek Direction
Lifestyle brands are one of the hottest commercial genres in the last decade. What do you feel the appeal is to the average consumer?
People can just relate certain brands with their interests in life. There are so many great companies out there and we support so many of them ourselves. I don’t feel like it has to be one over the other. We love to work with other labels to do something out of the box or just to help each other out.
Support your local and regional brands!
What is next for the company?
A lot more hustle, table set-ups and high fives to everyone we meet!
We just received new art prints from independent wrestler and artist, Dave Cole, today! His work is amazing. We are very proud to be carrying such incredible stuff.
The web store will be up sometime this month and will include our debut spring line of apparel. There will be quite a bit of product released with new items that no one has even seen yet. I’m sure there will be some other great surprises in store as we continue to grow and establish more working relationships with other great brands.
We are beyond excited for the future of this company and all the possibilities that may come with time. We thank all the people and companies for the support they’ve given us thus far.
Contact them via email here.
You can find Stay Tuff brand ambassador Derek Direction on Twitter.
Click here for an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Derek Direction.