Last week’s episode featured a titan of #drumtrepreneurship who made his way through embracing technology and the opportunities it presented him. Ryan Gruss founded The Loop Loft to make loops sound more human. He built it working with living, breathing, name-brand players like Matt Chamberlain, recently agreeing to be acquired by Native Instruments.
This week’s guest is a fellow drumtrepreneur, and by coincidence, another friend of Matt Chamberlain, who has taken perhaps the most diametrically opposite approach to building his company. Whereas Ryan ran lean, creating digital content delivered over the internet, Ramy Antoun’s A&F Drum Co., is a growing team of nine that hand makes nearly every element of its luxury snare drums and drum sets. Inspired by the drums from a hundred years ago, and built on old-fashioned values that extend from manufacturing methods to the way the company is financed, Ramy and his team are nearing the finish line of year two, of their hundred-year business plan.
According to the Economic Innovation Group, American business dynamism is in retreat. Americans are less likely to start a business, move to another region of the country, or switch jobs now than at any time in recent memory.
But A&F’s Antoun—a recent Austin transplant following a multi-decade pro playing career—didn’t bother to overanalyze the statistics and A-B test every factor of his startup; he just wanted to make a drum for himself that captured that sound in his head.
And after he did that, other people wanted a drum like his. Then more did. Some wanted full kits, and a company was born. And unlike some of the smaller upstart companies, this one chooses to manufacture virtually everything themselves. They hand cut, roll, weld, and sand their shells and hoops, hand cut bearing edges and snare beds, add their patented lugs, and apply a proprietary finish. All in Austin, Texas.
There were no angel investors, venture capital, bank loans, or tremendous personal wealth used to launch this company. In fact, the only investors A&F Drum Company has are its dealers and players, who finance each drum before manufacturing.
You might remember that cymbalsmith Ray Byrne mentioned Ramy as a friend and mentor-turned business partner. Ray and Ramy work together to create A&F’s Oddities line of cymbals: Antoun’s ideas, created by Byrne.
A&F is as old-school a company as it gets, in terms of breadth of manufacturing, values, and long-term vision.