Corgi Events Is the Fandom’s First Convention Management Company – By Grubbs Grizzly

by Patch O'Furr

Grubbs Grizzly is known for his “Ask Papabear” advice column, and Greymuzzles group popular among the original generation of fandom. He’s at work on The Furry Book and made The Good Furry Award for furs who demonstrate outstanding community spirit. Nominate one for a $1000 prize! Thanks to Grubbs for this guest article.

Corgi Events appeared here for their con Aquatifur. They made the fandom applaud in August 2018 when Denfur filled the vacancy left by RMFC. All eyes were on them when Denfur’s first year beat attendance estimates by double, higher than RMFC would have grown if it still existed. More than a mere numbers success, it represented fans rejecting bad behavior that ruined its predecessor, and embracing the ideal of a community. For that I would give Corgi Events all the support I can. (Update: a twist in the story shortly after publishing makes me modify this to say I support fandom and its members, volunteers and community that makes cons happen for the love of it.) – Patch 

Corgi Events Is the Fandom’s First Convention Management Company
By Grubbs Grizzly

The history of furry conventions is an interesting one indeed, one that was recently written about by the late, great furry historian and book critic Fred Patten in his Furry Fandom Conventions, 1989-2015. As anyone who has read that book or is familiar with convention history knows, it all started with Confurence 0 in Costa Mesa, California, in 1989. After a couple years, new conventions started opening their doors. The phenomenon has snowballed until now there are nearly 100 conventions worldwide.

Up until recently, one thing fur cons had in common was that they were operated independently of one another. Often these would be organized by local fans, perhaps sharing crew with other events, but based in one community. Each would be organized by—typically—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the United States.

But the other day my attention was drawn to a company called Corgi Events LLC, when I heard its announcement of a new fur con in Irvine, California, to be called Golden State Fur Con. GSFC is debuting next year, along with another Corgi-created con, the Painted Desert Fur Con in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Reading this, bells started ringing in my fuzzy bear ears. Was Corgi trying to replace Califur, which failed to hold a convention this year, and may or may not in 2019? And Phoenix (Scottsdale is a suburb) already has the young Arizona Fur Con. Next, I saw that Corgi also runs DenFur, which has effectively replaced the failed Rocky Mountain Fur Con. The chosen locations look strategic, and multi-con management over distance is a departure from the furry norm.

This merited looking into.

It didn’t take much online research to discover who was behind it all: a twenty-nine-year-old furry named Corey Wood (fursona name Treble Vandoren). Treble is based in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He got his start in the Brony fandom (his company runs Ponyville Ciderfest and Whinny City Ponycon, as well as anime cons). He has a bachelor’s degree in Business-Finance from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. He started with Ponyville Bronies LLC, which morphed into Corgi Events LLC. It opened its first fur con, AquatiFur, at the Wisconsin Dells in 2017.

And so, I contacted Treble through his Twitter account and he kindly agreed to an interview.

Grubbs: Hi, Treble. Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got into event organizing?

Treble: I am 29 currently, and I began event organizing back in 2007 at an anime convention called Anime Central (acen.org) in Rosemont, Illinois. That stemmed from my desire to want to see the behind the scenes when I was just a fan of anime and was an attendee from 2003-2007. I joined their staff as a volunteer, of course, and staffed for them for almost nine years.

In that process, I had moved to Milwaukee and still had the staff bug as us staffers call it. From there, I joined Anime Milwaukee in 2011, to which I am still their convention chair to this day (2013-2019) and helped them organize and found the current 501(c)(3) nonprofit ECPS, Inc.

Through that I started my job at Lemonbrat Studios, a fursuit-making company, back in early 2013. For them, I traveled to conventions, selling their product (www.lemonbrat.com). Throughout that I traveled to MLP cons, furry cons, etc.

Well, that led me to becoming a Brony, getting into that fandom, and my head space was “Well, I run an anime con, I can surely run a My Little Pony con!” (That thought came through during Brony Con, August of 2013.)

From that point, I created Ponyville Bronies LLC on November 19, 2013. And so, like most small business owners, I took the little I had in my savings, and the credit cards I had, and started up Ponyville Ciderfest, the first convention run by Ponyville Bronies LLC.

I wanted to run off the LLC for-profit model vs. the nonprofit model as over the years I saw how nonprofit conventions had been run and noticed that I wanted to create more of an onus to make the con successful and give people more time to dedicate to these cons to make them as awesome as they could be.

Now, later in 2015, becoming a furry, I took that same train of thought into running furry cons when I started AquatiFur in Wisconsin Dells (I literally ran that con because I thought it would be neat to run a con at a waterpark, and I looove the Kalahari XD).

Grubbs: Okay, leading perfectly to my next question: as you know, furcons have been solo events run by 501(c)(3) groups mostly. Thanks for the above explanation. I first heard of you when I saw the announcement of Golden State Furcon. So, your philosophy is, perhaps, that a for-profit might do a better job at running conventions than a nonprofit?

Treble: Do I think a for-profit will run better than a Non-Profit? I believe that it will in the regard that someone’s livelihood is on the line, and like any business or skill/trade a furry has to offer (whether you’re a musician, artist, or an event planner like myself), it is better when the risk versus reward financially is there. When you get free art versus paying $110 for art, you’ll get, in my mind, better, more quality art. This isn’t to say a nonprofit convention won’t put 100% into it, but if you can dedicate your time like a part-time job to this, I find it to be more beneficial to the attendees to have that sole dedication to the conventions.

I feel that as we as a company grow, we have a small set of staff who are experienced, and by having that pre-set experience (look at DenFur, for example) you can have a really well-organized and successful con year one, instead of year three or four.

Grubbs: The finances of running a nonprofit con are challenging, to say the least. I’ve always kind of suspected that–in addition to a genuine ambition to be charitable–the nonprofits were kind of artificially set up to donate to animal charities so that they could declare themselves charities and not pay taxes. Could you detail a little bit more the advantages of a for-profit venture over a nonprofit?

Treble: You can 100% donate to a charity and be for-profit. The idea of being nonprofit is the tax benefit for the organization because you aren’t then paying into the con. That’s really the major benefit of being nonprofit: less taxes, more companies willing to give discounts on larger purchases (computers, registers, etc.).

The for-profit advantage is that there is more freedom to get money from sponsors to put on the convention, and the freedom of privatizing your finances (not that I do or care to; I like being transparent because of the furry worry of a for-profit running away with all that furry money XD), and there isn’t as much red tape with having a board etc. etc.

Grubbs: I believe that you are the first company/organization to set out to run multiple furcons. This is a significant development in the evolution of furry conventions. There is already a little chatter in social media- -a fear that this will eventually result in the corporatization (Merriotification) of the fandom regarding cons. How would you allay such fears?

Treble: To answer the fear of corporatizing furry cons, I don’t think it will ever get to that point for 2 reasons: 1) The furry mentality that running for-profit is bad (when it’s all really the same and I could go on for days about why for-profit is both nice and neat for furries); 2) The largest players in the convention scene (MFF, AC, BLFC, FWA, TFF) are all non-profit and don’t intend to change that way.

My goals in running multiple cons are:

  • Provide cons for furries who want it (usually in an area where enough furries expressed interest to have a con and see that the con would survive)
  • Reduce costs on overhead on large purchases to make these cons easier to run, more affordable, so that I can pump more money into awesome guests/programming/themes, etc.
  • To be able to give event-planning furs the joy of doing what they love as a passion

Grubbs: Let me say now that I am very impressed that an under-30 fellow like yourself is creating such an ambitious project. You are, basically, creating a Convention-Planning Organization. I have already heard good things about DenFur. Congratulations to you.

I’ve noted that DenFur is basically replacing Rocky Mountain Furcon, which closed its doors a while back. Golden State Furcon is similarly occupying a region where Califur is currently either floundering or dead. You’ve also got Painted Desert Furcon in the same city as the rather young Arizona Furcon. Are you targeting markets deliberately where you see struggling furcons?

Treble: Thank you! I always told myself that if you want to make it in life, you need to be in charge of your own destiny and that sitting around at a Wal-Mart (where I worked in the past) wasn’t going to cut it XD.

On the market question: I am choosing places to put cons on in two different markets: struggling markets where a con unfortunately had to close its doors, and the furs in that area are saying there is a demand for a con to still be there (such as RMFC and CaliFur); and markets of general demand where local furs expressed wanting either a con for the first time (such as AquatiFur and a couple of other locations not announced yet that are coming) and areas that desire another option for a convention (such as Painted Desert).

Grubbs: By the way, I’ve heard furries saying they’d like a furcon in Tampa, Florida.

Treble: I’ve had furs that asked for cons in Nebraska; South Carolina; Buffalo, New York; Nashville, Tennessee; etc. I’m not sure if it’s because they know I am skilled in this or there is a desire to actually have a con there; that is where my team goes in and researches.

I would look into Tampa, as you suggest, to see how much they want a con, and if it doesn’t step on Megaplex’s toes, I’d run a con there for those who want it.

I do work with all the con chairs to make sure I am not stepping on people’s toes, too, when it comes to location and dates.

Grubbs: I’m assuming things are going well with Aquatifur, Denfur, and your other conventions or else you wouldn’t be seeking to expand. How do you go about finding the staff for a new con and getting it off the ground? That is, is this a centralized process or a process where you recruit in the area and coordinate it all back in Kenosha?

Treble: Finding staff in the area: once we have already gone into the state chats on Telegram in that area, we reach out to the few who super-expressed interest in having the con in that location, and we ask them to be some of the core staff for that convention. We have 6-7 Corgi Event LLC staff (which I’m the only one from Kenosha) that we coordinate on Discord, and we have standardized some of our processes (dealers sign up forms, registration, site layout, panel application forms, staff sign up forms, etc.).

From there we hire about 80% local staff, with the intention to always have a vice chair who is local because they are on the ground, so to speak, in that area of that community. I 100% rely on that community to make the con feel like their own (from programming ideas, to theme, etc.) so that while the core structure of the con is there, I want them to all have their own feel as if it was individual companies running these cons.

Getting it off the ground is just another cog in the wheel from getting local artists to finding local guest of honors, getting the website/Telegram/Twitter stuff up, and off it goes! Done.

Grubbs: So income for Corgi comes purely from ticket sales, booth rentals, and…? Will your business model affect registration fee prices?

Treble: Our business model doesn’t affect registration fee prices! Since our business model is to run enough cons to lower the overhead (don’t have to rent A/V tech or reg equip, etc.), which means that savings are passed on to the attendees. We price our cons to be comparable based on the size of the con and the area it’s in (for example, we don’t price ourselves above FC in Cali for Golden State or price ourselves higher that BLFC for DenFur). We as Corgi just do fun and creative things that cons haven’t before (like have a $1000 badge but have it include a two-bedroom suite for three to four nights, and it saves the attendee $300 by booking it that way).

Income: Badge sales, dealers den booths, artist alley booths, art show panels, merchandise/con store sales, and hotel kick back (we get $10 per night booked back to the con). That’s a normal clause in every contract for nonprofit or for-profit, by the way.

We are looking to expand our operations into production rental, too (why have all this A/V gear sitting around collecting dust when it can be rented to other furry cons at little cost?)

Grubbs: Do you have anything you would like to add that we haven’t covered?

Treble: I think the biggest thing to add is that as a for-profit, we are still here for the furries, by the furries, and that will never change. All of us at Corgi Events LLC are approachable, fun, easygoing people who are here to just put on cons like a fursuit maker makes suits. We offer our skills to a community that wants cons, and we are super-grateful for everyone in this community who has accepted us and this idea, and we ask for their continued support as we make more kick-ass cons!

You can learn more about Corgi events by visiting the websites http://www.aquatifur.com, https://www.denfur.org, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/golden-state-fur-con-2019-tickets-50772286275, and https://painteddesertfc.com.

Grubbs Grizzly (Kevin Hile) is an author, freelance writer, and advice columnist at www.askpapabear.com.