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Colorado entreprenuer chooses craft over college

Westminster, Colo. native Tony Spinuzzi co-founded Savior Custom Drums. (saviorcustomdrums.com)

Westminster, Colo. native Tony Spinuzzi co-founded Savior Custom Drums. (saviorcustomdrums.com)

Turning his passion into a career and a flourishing business wasn’t always the plan for Tony Spinuzzi.

Neither was going to college.

After struggling to pass classes in high school, Spinuzzi decided that going to college was not for him, a decision that his parents fully supported. An enthusiasm for music and creativity led Spinuzzi and his best friend Kenny Sienkiewicz to start their own business building custom drum sets for bands and musicians.

“I do not believe that going to college is the most important thing in life to do. There are many professions that are needed in today’s society that do not require a college degree,” said Bill Spinuzzi, Tony’s father.

Spinuzzi’s mother agreed by saying that you can gain knowledge in college but you cannot gain a personality.

“I’m not sure if there is a college course that can teach you to be a nice, friendly, respectful, caring person.  That comes from his heart and is the very core of who he is… that will go a long way in every aspect of life,” said Teri Spinuzzi.

Savior Custom Drums has created instruments for dozens of professional musicians.

Savior Custom Drums has created instruments for dozens of professional musicians.

Fast forward four years. Savior Custom Drums is a growing company built on the idea that passion, excitement and dedication can get you just as far as a college degree. The business is busier than ever and now extends internationally. No college degree can compare to the pride that Spinuzzi feels when he sees the drums he has built being played on stage by popular bands such as Bowling For Soup, Attack Attack! And Beartooth.

“We went to a show the other night and it’s still sweet seeing your drums on stage with all these people there watching. It’s still rewarding,” Spinuzzi said.

Growing up as an only child, Spinuzzi had many hobbies including snowboarding and wakeboarding. Once he was exposed to music and begin playing the drums, he and Sienkiewicz starting building drum kits on the side, in the garage and then the basement of Sienkiewicz’s parents’ home. That part-time hobby turned into a full-time passion, causing Spinuzzi and Sienkiewicz to quit their day jobs and start a business of their own. They rented a shop in Wheat Ridge, where they now have more room to work and store supplies. Adorned with Savior accents, the shop includes a small office and plenty of open room to build and create the drum sets. Hanging on the walls of one hallway are signed CDs from loyal bands that serve as a reminder of how far the company has come.

Being so close both on a personal and professional level doesn’t hinder their ability to stay focused at work, especially because Spinuzzi and Sienkiewicz both bring their own personality to the table.

“Sometimes it can be a little bit difficult to stay focused working with my best friend, but this company is our life and we know at the end of the day we have to stay focused and make everything work,” said Sienkiewicz. “Tony and I each bring our own level of creativity and ideas to new things and solving problems that come up.  Tony tends to do a lot of the communications and I tend to do most of the drum finishes.  Everything seems to balance nicely and we never really have to worry about one another holding up their end.”

Spinuzzi has sacrificed time and money to get to where he is today. But don’t let that fool you. With his laid-back personality, visible tattoos and shaggy brown hair, Spinuzzi is confident and humbled to be where he is. He may not be making a lot of money- as a majority of the company’s profit helps to pay for getting the business started, but he is happy to be doing what he loves every day. He sat down and talked honestly about choosing a different path, the struggles he’s had along the way and how it’s made him an even stronger person.

Savior Custom Drums seems to be growing exponentially and Spinuzzi is following that lead. In addition to learning what it takes to own a business, he has been lucky enough to learn skills that will benefit him in other areas of life.

“He has become quite adventurous and willing to put himself out there to try new things, whether it is business or pleasure,” said Bill Spinuzzi.

Pursuing his true passion, rather than just a degree, has proved to come with its own set of struggles. For Spinuzzi, that uncertainty is just what fuels his desire to beat to the sound of his own drum.

“I still love doing it. Every day we get to do something different. It’s literally never the same two days in a row,” said Tony Spinuzzi.

Q: When did your passion for drums begin?

A: It was definitely in high school. It’s kind of funny because Kenny actually got me into playing drums. I would go over to his house during our lunch breaks and just play drums the whole time, and then go back to school. I never took lessons or anything, I just taught myself- just from listening to music.

Q: What was it about your passion for drums that made you want to turn it into a business?

A: The music — and I’m super hands on. Being able to be creative and make a product out of it was a cool concept to me.

Q: What didn’t appeal to you about going to college and choosing the route that you did?

A: I was really bad at school. I hated school so much and I barely made it through high school. Actually, Kenny and I both ended up going to a secondary school. I pretty much did two years of school in my senior year to get a degree. All of our friends went to college and now they work their day jobs and we do what we love. They make a lot of money. We don’t make a lot of money, but we still do what we love. I guess not a lot of people get to do that.

Q:  Do you feel like you missed out on not going to college?

A: I don’t wish I would have gone because I wouldn’t have known what to do. I would have done something way different probably.

Q:  Do you have any desire to go to college in the future?

A: I would kind of like to go do some sort of business classes on accounting- just things that I’ve had questions about that I’ve learned over the last five years that would help us now. If I would have done it then, it wouldn’t have been useful at all. I wouldn’t do it to get a degree. I would probably just take some night classes or something. I feel like I kind of went to my own college. We had to learn every single thing. No one helped us at all from the beginning. There were no books. We didn’t have any money to put into testing things and practicing things. It just kind of worked out.

 Q: What do you feel that you’ve had to sacrifice by having your own business?

A: Honestly, I think the biggest sacrifice is time. We get there in the morning around nine, most of the time we try to leave between four and six. If there’s stuff that has to get done -and right now we’re really, really, busy- it’s hard to leave when you’re in the middle of something. Or, you don’t realize it. You stop working and its seven o clock and you’re like “Oh shit, I need to go home.” It’s not 9 to 5; it’s kind of like 24/7. That’s kind of frustrating. I love it, but that part I kind of hate just because sometimes you don’t get all the time that you want.

Q: So is it hard to separate work from your passion?

A: It used to be. I think I’ve gotten a lot better at it now, I hope. Sometimes in the middle of the day we have to let things dry so we’ll take a break and go climbing or go play Frisbee golf, and then go back and finish stuff—to break it up. But some days we don’t get a break, at all. It’s just straight through; 10 to 14- hour-days just working to get stuff done, because it has to get done. Sometimes it’s kind of hard being your own boss. You have to keep yourself on track. It’s like “Hey, I better work or else I’m not going to be able to pay our shop payment.”

Q: What advantages do you feel that you have now by starting your own business?

A: I’ve learned so much. I’ve gotten way better at communicating. I’ve learned how to bring products into retail. I’ve learned obviously every aspect of the music industry. I’ve learned different things about shipping things overseas, how to communicate with people overseas- because half of the time you can’t understand what they’re saying. Me and Google Translate are best friends, and it’s really nice.

Q: How do you feel that you’ve grown personally since starting the business?

A: I feel it’s made me grow up and mature a little bit. I still have friends who don’t know what they’re doing or they still just party all the time. Even now, I still feel like I’m growing as a person and still learning about myself.

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Alisha Keppel

About Alisha Keppel

I am a Magazine Journalism major at MSU Denver. I am a Colorado native and enjoy all the outdoor amenities that the state has to offer-including running and hiking. I love cooking, baking and being creative! My passion for words and eye for design fuel my enthusiasm for a journalism career.

4 Responses to “Colorado entreprenuer chooses craft over college”

  1. On April 8, 2014 at 1:16 PM Rachel Donaldson responded with... #

    This story is inspiring and refreshing. It sounds like starting his own business has been very rewarding for Tony. It would be interesting to learn more about the drums, like what they are made of or what they look like!

  2. On April 8, 2014 at 1:16 PM Stephanie responded with... #

    Very nicely written. I’m a little confused about whether this is a Q&A article with a long introduction, or a profile with a really long Q&A at the end. It might be helpful to choose one of the two, especially since you repeat some of the information from the first half in the Q&A.
    But overall, this is solid. I LOVE your pictures, too!

  3. Ashley Hattle
    On May 12, 2014 at 4:49 PM Ashley Hattle responded with... #

    I really like how this article illustrates that college isn’t for everyone, it’s a great read. I love the Q and A at the end too, that’s a cool touch!

  4. On May 13, 2014 at 7:04 AM Stephanie Alderton responded with... #

    I love the photos! And your quotes really help to capture what this guy is all about. I would suggest re-wording the lead–the way it is now (“Turning his passion into a career…wasn’t always the plan for Tony Spinuzzi. Neither was going to college”) makes it sound like Spinuzzi did end up going to college. But overall, it’s a well-organized article that gets your point across clearly.

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