Over the past month I’ve had the opportunity to participate/watch/chat with the guys at Keep It Real Breaks. They could very well be the largest (by volume) breaker you’ve never heard of…and they are okay with that. I’ve been so impressed with how down-to-earth and humble these guys are…and frankly, how enjoyable their community is. We have an upcoming article coming out about Facebook breaks and KIR is the leader of the FB pack. Take a minute and learn more about Ryan (Holland) & Tom from Keep It Real Breaks!
How did you get started into breaking?
I hosted online group breaks for a couple years from 2010 to 2012 before the industry had really taken off but never really operated it as a business. We had a tight group of friends who were simply interested in participating in ripping cases together and sharing the cost. For the past five years I’ve used various groups on Facebook to buy/sell/trade and enjoyed ripping cases for myself. My partner, Tom Kulczewski, and I were given an opportunity by one of these large trading pages to build a breaks group for their members. What started as a little side hobby for fun has rocketed to whole new levels thanks to the Facebook platform.
What do you enjoy most about the breaking?
I love the social aspect of group breaks. I am still friends with many of the people who I did group breaks for seven years ago. There is nothing better than being surrounded by friends who share in the same passion for collecting and sports. There is a camaraderie that can develop amongst collectors when they are able to share their collections with each other and help each other build their PCs. We have met so many of our customers in person. They came and hung out with us at The National and we took 30 guys to a White Sox game. They stop by my home to help sort cards and even help rip packs. It’s easy to be family-friendly when we feel like a family.
It is amazing when members are cheering for each other as they hit something big in a live group break. It’s also amazing when our members rally around each other when they have rough breaks. Hot cases and breaks come and go, that’s a part of our hobby, but we can make sure every break experience is fun, enjoyable, and entertaining.
How have your operations grown over the past year?
We hosted our first group break in September of 2016, we just celebrated our first birthday. From Day One we have been committed to providing scheduled break times and that often meant that we ended up keeping teams in the early days to make sure breaks were on time. Many times we gave things away just to fill breaks even if we lost money. We struggled to fill one or two breaks of each new product.
In the past year we have added over 3000 active new members to our page and are now filling over 20 cases per week. Today we are struggling to find enough time in our busy lives to satisfy the demand on our page. Our biggest challenge is maintaining a healthy balance between our families and breaking. Family always needs to come first.
Which kind of customer is most attracted to your style?
We have a very inclusive group of members. Our #1 priority is making sure all posts, comments, videos, and chat on our page are family-friendly. Our members love our page because everyone treats each other with dignity and respect. Our page is a safe place for parents to watch with their children and share their love of the hobby with the next generation and they feel comfortable letting their kids watch our videos without supervision. Our page is safe for people who are still learning about the hobby and have questions about breaks and/or new products. Oh yeah, did I mention that Tom and I are both hilarious? Well, at least we think so!
Here are some fun photos from KIR:
What is your favorite product?
Well I think the fact that I’ve ripped over 1500 boxes of 2016 High Tek baseball probably seals the deal on this question, more specifically High Tek Asia Edition. These cases have produced monster after monster. It is affordable, has a beautiful card design, is awesome for set builders, and has on-card autographs of some of the best current and past stars. I’m also a sucker for value and lately I’ve been really impressed with 2017 Topps Gold Label, after a relatively weak 2016 reintroduction.
What internet/mobile tools do you use to run your business?
Like many break groups we use tools like random.org, PayPal, and streaming software. I’m not a natural techie so we could still make improvements on our videos by introducing multiple camera angles, graphics, etc to our live steams. As a business owner, the most valuable tool I have is Quickbooks Self-Employed to help manage all my financials. It is able to connect to all my business accounts and is extremely helpful when tax time rolls around.
Here are a few more images:
Where do you see group breaking headed in the next 6-18 months?
The season of 2017 baseball products has been unbelievable. New breakers are coming out of the woodwork on Facebook because it has been so easy to make money. We expect the market to return to normal levels which will make it a little more difficult on the small breakers. We’re trying to make sound business decisions today to position ourselves to continue to provide the best value to our members moving forward.
Topps has really been managing production levels well and haven’t overproduced many products. Allocations can be tough on a breaker but it’s better than tripling the print run of a product!! Panini is really turning out some amazing products for the current football season. Origins, Absolute, and XR have all been fantastic. And the 2017-18 basketball season sure seems like it’s going to extend this hot season! We’re excited for what’s ahead!
What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My wife and I love road trips and we drove through 16 states and visited 15 national parks last year! We love cars and cruising with the top or windows down in beautiful weather. We’ve enjoyed exploring the country before we have kids but we’re happy to announce that we are due with our first in March! I suppose between my “real job”, our group breaks, and my new job as a father, I’m going to have to work extra hard to find that spare time!!
Ready to take the plunge with Keep it Real Breaks? Check them out HERE