REC Philly co-founders Will Toms and Dave Silver on Tuesday announced plans to open a flagship site in Philly’s Fashion District. The new 10,000-square-foot facility, aimed at creatives ranging from musicians and audio engineers to video artists, is set to open this fall at Ninth and Market Streets.
REC, which is an acronym for “resources for every creator," will likely be the only business of its kind in the revamped Gallery, which will be composed of retailers such as H&M, Nike, and Ulta Beauty, and restaurants such as Pei Wei Asian Kitchen and Chick-fil-A. Imagine a coworking space in the middle of a mall.
Daniel “Big Dan” Matthews, a current member who has used the space to work on podcasts, describes REC as a creator’s oasis. “It’s a support system in real time,” he said.
REC’s business model is one of a kind in the region, Toms and Silver maintained. A membership costs $40 to $80 a month, and includes access to such creative tools as a recording studio, a visuals lab, and common areas that are as useful for brainstorming as they are for networking. Different levels of membership offer varying amounts of credits that members can redeem to use the facilities. With the addition of the new location, monthly membership prices are expected to see an increase of $10.
“In laymen’s terms, we built a gym membership model for creative people,” said Toms. “We also provide education. We’re growing our programming all the time, specifically to help creative folks look at themselves as entrepreneurs.”
Silver and Toms, both 27 and residents of Philadelphia, said their mission of “providing infrastructure to build momentum” for creative careers won’t change. REC plans to keep its original location at 2301 N. Ninth St. fully operational. The company will fund its expansion with $3.2 million it has raised to date, including $1.2 million in its seed round.
“There was a lot of failure in the beginning,” Silver said of the first four months of fund-raising. “Our approach was just wrong in terms of how we were trying to raise the money.” Toms said they were “thinking too small.”
“We were trying to raise money for just one space. ‘Can you help us build this one space, and then we’ll talk about other things after?’” Toms said. “People liked it, but it didn’t really sit well for an investment opportunity.”
According to Silver, the duo also received advice that investors “wanted to be involved for the future of our company." REC’s list of investors includes City Councilman Allan Domb, technology investor Steve Finn, and Southbox Entertainment founder and CEO Jon Gosier, the duo said.
There are roughly 800 members by Toms’ count. With the new space, he said, REC will be looking to serve as many as 3,000 members at both sites. The company pulled in about $500,000 in revenue last year and expects to reach $2 million this fiscal year, said Toms. In less than a year, the staff has grown from eight part-timers to 12 full-time employees.
Talia Genevieve of Fishtown has been a REC member for three years and said that the incubation space has been invaluable to her career as a voice actor.
“Before REC Philly, if there were people in your field that you wanted to talk to, you had to seek them out," Genevieve said. “[REC] streamlines the process of finding resources.”
Genevieve said that Scarlet Hernandez, REC’s director of member success, has served as a mentor through some key points in her career by talking through ideas and giving advice.
“It’s great to have someone who’s a cheerleader for you that’s not your friends or family,” Genevieve said.
But REC Philly’s model may not be working for all of its members.
Lindo Jones, a poet from Mount Airy, was a REC member for about 18 months. He said he enjoyed creating in the space, but believed that opportunities to grow his craft were limited. Jones ultimately realized that he was using REC only as a space to work and couldn’t justify paying for a membership for something he could essentially have for free.
“There would be a lot of opportunities for singers or hip-hop artist, but not for poets,” Jones said.
If there were more resources available to poets, such as open mic nights, workshops, and opportunities to “work with individuals that understand the spoken word scene in Philly," Jones said, he would return.
According to a handful of members, there’s agreement that REC Philly is more suited to those with backgrounds in music or audio engineering.
“I could understand that sentiment," said Toms. “One of the things we’re most excited about in our new space is that we now have the ability and the resources to serve a much larger demographic.”
Toms pointed to the plans for a movement studio as an example. He said he’d like to help poets understand the importance of creating visual content.
Silver believes that REC’s programming is “good for all types of creatives,” but explains that the company’s vision has outgrown its physical location. The solution for both co-founders is the larger space, but it isn’t the end goal.
Silver and Toms said they would like to perfect their model in Philly, and in the next five years expand to such cities as Washington and Austin, Texas. In the next 10 years, they’d like have an international presence. But Toms knows that REC would have a lot of competition on the global stage, such as Hxouse, an incubator for emerging Toronto artists, and the Rattle in London, as having a similar model.
Toms said he would be open to an acquisition by a larger company as long as there were true alignment with the principles and mission of REC.