Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory: Behind the Scenes
Rob Dyrdek became a professional skateboarder at 16, and over the past two decades, has steadily built a business empire, including the Rogue Status and DTA clothing lines, and a toy line called Wild Grinders, inspired by his own childhood skate gang. His company, Dyrdek Enterprises, is housed in a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, better known as the Fantasy Factory.
Dyrdek spent $1 million designing the Fantasy Factory, which features an indoor skate plaza, zip line, foam pit, and myriad other big-kid toys. It's also the backdrop for his popular MTV reality show, Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory, which centers around his day-to-day life as a self-described "psycho entrepreneur."
Dyrdek's office is set in the middle of the Fantasy Factory. "Even if the show came out and failed," he says, "I still have like the sickest place in the world." The show is now entering its third season.
About 20 people work in the Fantasy Factory on a variety of projects, including plans for the professional skateboarding league Dyrdek hopes to launch. Among his entrepreneurial endeavors, he describes the league as his "holy grail."
Dyrdek leads a production meeting for a proposed Wild Grinders animated series. "The property is so thought-out, there's so much passion, there's so much realness behind it," he says.
The colorful office of Tracy Tubera, Dyrdek's in-house graphic artist, who helped bring the Wild Grinders to life.
In the foreground is one of Dyrdek's first skateboards, given to him when he was 11 years old by Neil Blender, who helped start the Alien Workshop. Dyrdek has ridden for the Alien team for the last 20 years.
"For me, as much as I feel like I've been quite successful and created a lot of cool things, I don't believe I've created yet what will define me," Dyrdek says. His considers Richard Branson one of his entrepreneurial role models.
"All these people that were close to me were always starting companies and being entrepreneurs," Dyrdek says, "and that sort of seeded it in me, where even at a young age, at 16 when I turned pro, I'd always say, 'This is a business, I've got to market myself.' I always treated it like a business, started my first company at 19, and I think from that point on, for the last 15 years, it's been more of a refining and understanding."
Dyrdek's younger cousin, Chris "Drama" Pfaff, is a budding entrepreneur who runs the Young & Reckless clothing line and the Hands of God recording studio.
Dyrdek shows off the "cave" that leads to the Hands of God studio's recording booth.
Two hackers in Britain recently gained access to Dyrdek's Twitter and MySpace accounts -- in hopes of getting his attention and pitching him a business idea. Since he firmly believes in taking a meeting with almost anyone, he decided to set up a conference call with them. "Ninety percent of it's junk," he says. "But you also never know."
Dyrdek's marathon workdays are hardly routine. Here, he records audio for the character of "Lil' Rob" in the Wild Grinders animated series.
Dyrdek's staff includes several friends and family members, including another cousin, Scott "Big Cat" Pfaff, who appears regularly on Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory.
Jeremy Larner, Dyrdek's longtime friend and manager, also has a recurring role on the show. "He really influenced me on... 'Think big, think big, think big,'" Dyrdek says. "Now, he's crazier than a three-headed rattlesnake, and where I'm about brand building, he's about squeezing water out of a rock."
A view from a platform in the Fantasy Factory where the zip line originates and where Dyrdek keeps a tennis ball gun, similar to the one used in American Gladiators. A running theme of the show is the mock "conflict" between Dyrdek and Larner, who often urges him not to pull risky stunts and take business more seriously. During one episode, Dyrdek installed automatic shades over the windows to Larner's office, to shut him out.
Dyrdek's T-Rex, a three-wheeled "superbike" that he likes to whip around in.
During the first season of his show, Dyrdek set out to build the world's biggest skateboard, after discovering that a team of non-skateboarding college students held the current Guinness World Record. At nearly 37 feet, the record-breaking board is now his and sits prominently in the Fantasy Factory. Not long after breaking the record -- thanks to his skate park builder, Joe Ciaglia -- he rode the board with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to help open one of his Safe Spot Skate Spots, his charitable public skate park initiative.
"Where you run brands from tells so much about how you do business," Dyrdek says.
The author, at rest, in the Fantasy Factory's signature foam pit.