Getting Paid to Party
By Scott Fields
Published Aug 3, 2011 12:00 AM
Justin Saka '99 and Scott Chen '00 liked to throw a good bash when they were fraternity brothers at Lambda Phi Epsilon. Ten years later, they're still throwing parties, but now they make a lot of money doing it.
Go Productions, which they launched in 2003 as a platform to produce Asian-American social gatherings at nightclubs around Los Angeles, is now hosting what is billed as the largest weekly party in L.A., with more than 1,300 guests.
"We were working a lot of hours in our jobs in the financial world," Saka says of the corporate positions he and Chen had when they founded the event company. "We'd go out at night to let off steam, and we amassed a pretty big social network. So we thought, 'let's do this ourselves.' We'd still have money going out of our pockets, but we'd also have money coming in."
The duo approached Level One, a nightclub in the Miracle Mile District, and offered to bring in 250 paying guests on a Saturday night. They reached their goal and got paid.
"After that initial party, we secured a spot at the Ivar, one of the top three clubs in Hollywood at that time," Saka explains. For six months, Go Productions, along with other promoters, co-produced a party at Ivar every Friday night; it attracted between 600 and 700 people a week. Other venues began to contact the duo, including the Factory, a gay nightclub in West Hollywood.
"Nobody in the straight Asian community knew about the Factory," says Chen of the 1,500-capacity venue. "For us, it was a big step. We'd never produced anything that large, even with partners, and we were doing it all by ourselves."
The two expanded their promotion team at fraternities and sororities around Southern California to get the word out, and the first party at the Factory was a huge success. They committed to hosting a party there every second Saturday, attracting high numbers for well over two years.
In August 2010, Go Productions was approached by Exchange LA, the expansive downtown nightclub in the Old Stock Exchange Building. Asked to bring in 1,500 partiers every Saturday night, Saka and Chan agreed. The events—the largest parties for Asian-Americans on the West Coast—have been such a success that other venues in the immediate area are benefitting from the overflow crowd.
"Managing this party has made it tough to leave town on the weekends," Saka explains. "One of us has to be at the Exchange, and one of us at Southland."
Southland is the already successful bar/nightclub that Saka and Chen launched last year, using their party business as a springboard. It's the first venue they own but they're now looking to expand to a second location.