Starting what was to become Grooby in 1996, I didn’t consider it a serious business. It was an easy tool to receive free porn and make a little pocket money on the side. If I’d projected that I could be running a company of this stature (with a worldwide presence and which had provided my family and myself with such a wonderful life), I think I would have taken it far more seriously and done things a little differently.
Perhaps it was because we didn’t take ourselves too seriously, that even after we took on employees, experienced growth and good income, we became successful and continued to expand the company over the following two decades to what it is today. Enjoying what we were doing, has remained an important part of our culture.
I never underestimate or take for granted, how privileged I am to look forward to going to work each and every day, or what freedoms working for myself have given. Like most entrepreneurs, or company owners, I still do 60+ hours a week; I engage with the producers, the customers and the staff daily. I spend my mornings putting out fires, my afternoons marketing and my evenings dreaming of where we can go next. On a normal year, I’ll be on the road every 2-4 weeks, either at base in Los Angeles, tradeshows across the world or visiting producers and colleagues. Most years I clock up over 100,000 air miles flown and spend over 100 nights in a strange bed. None of this has ever been a hardship, and it’s something that in the lockdown years of 2020/2021, one realizes how much it’s missed.
Grooby has grown from a one-man band, to a quartet and is now an ensemble. We’ve rarely had more than a dozen full-time employees – we’re a small company that I believe punches above it’s weight. It’s those employees, taking on multiple roles and having the drive to push the company forward, as well as the love for what we do, that allows us to shoot as much content as we do and keep delivering. I thank each and (almost) everyone who has worked for us over the past 25 years but especially our current team. My brother Russ, who has been with me since the day he was born, Alexander, who came on-board in 1998, managers Alex and Shannon, who joined us in Hawaii in 2002/3 (and have kept me honest for over 20 years) shortly followed by video editor Gus, also in Hawaii graphic designer Dev and Kristel joined us soon after. Photo editor, Dave, joined us in the UK in 2010, shortly followed by Mike who started as a minion but has grown to Marketing and Talent Director, and despite being my cousin, never takes anything for granted. Goran joined us from Serbia and Domar in the Philippines. After we moved to Los Angeles in 2010, Buddy Wood took a full time producer position, and was joined by Nicky as both merchandise designer and production line manager, and of course Dan ‘Sparky’ Watters who we lost at the end of 2019. My love and thanks goes to them, for their work, friendship and support over the years.
One person above anyone else deserves all our gratitude and thanks is the unsung hero of Grooby. When we were but just a AVS site with AdultCheck, I was contacted by another Brit who had also started his own site, asking why I wasn’t fully billing with CCBill? I had no idea how to do this, and he kindly and for no other reason than to help, showed me how to do it and thus launched us properly. Since 1997, Neil has stayed in the background, quietly managing our servers, designing anti-piracy techniques, keeping us safe from attacks and on-call day and night to fix problems both minor and large. He’s been the foundation that we rely on, and his friendship and candor have been fundamental in our company. Thanks mate, I hope you know how much you are appreciated.
At the heart of any company which has it’s basis in adult production, there is only one thing that keeps it beating: the models. The performers. The girls and guys who love to be on-camera, and present themselves to the world. Through a lot of luck and a little planning, we’ve been able to create a culture of websites that can showcase and promote the widest amount of trans models we can, from many different countries, different ages, backgrounds, body shapes and looks, and create something that I hope the many models we work with can be proud of. There are too many models to mention by name (over 11,000 have appeared on our sites over the last 25 years), but I sincerely thank you all, including the ones who applied to us but were unsuccessful in getting shoots. Although we’ve not always been able to get all of you as much work as we would have liked, we’ve tried to be fair and inclusive to as many as we could and will continue to represent trans persons working in erotica the best we can in the years to come. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Our producers are exceptional. They often have to find and source new talent, work on short notice and make content with many trans models who have their first time in front of a camera. They’ve had to deal with the multitude of situations that can occur shooting outside a traditional studio environment and with non-professional models. Shoots have occasionally turned dangerous , they’ve had to to deal with emotional or mental traumas on-set and they’ve had to think on their feet while trying to get the best content and present those models the best they can. As an ex-producer, I never take what they do for granted. We’ve had many producers over the years who have helped us grow, but The Commander, Tony Vee, Bob Maverick, Blackula, PK Vegas, Frank Drachman, Jud, Hiro, Remy, Kevin Dong and the late Bob’s (one in Vegas and one in Miami) were among those who were instrumental in helping us grow. Buddy Wood, Frank, Radius Dark, Omar Wax, Kalin, Kilakali, Vee Soho, Jack Flash, Teodor Grekov are the main collaborators who have taken up the mantle and cemented our position. Thank you to all the producers who have worked with us both in the past, and our current crop, who go above and beyond to work with all our amazing models and get fantastic content for us to show.
What I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago was the amount of friends and allies I would make over the years in the adult industry. I’ve always suffered a little from imposter’s syndrome. From having lunch with Joey Silvera in 2001 to sitting with some of the smartest people I’ve met at pay site meetups, being invited out to dinners with CEOs, walking the red carpet, socialising with stars or presenting on stage at our own TEA’s – it’s often felt surreal. Through this company, I’ve met some of my closest friends in the world (thank you Frank, Luiz and Doug for your never-wavering support, putting up with my shit, the crazy travels and the continuous comedy) and have the widest and most diverse group of friends that would be the envy of even the most gregarious of persons. It’s been my privilege to be part of this industry, and my aim is to get to spend more time with many of you on an individual or smaller group level in the coming years.
Many people have helped Grooby and myself grow and mature as an individual over the years. You may have not realized it, but lending your ear, giving me that invite, making that introduction, or sharing your experiences has helped shape the company and allowed me the confidence and the mindset to move forward, as well as make me a more empathetic and better person. I’ve listed many of you as a thank you here, although I know I’ve probably forgotten or missed many more (and I apologise in advance). Thank you all for the past 25 years – for sharing.
All of us who work legally in the adult industry – the billers, the hosts, the platforms, the producers, the affiliates, the pay sites, the media, the lawyers and the models need to appreciate who we are. We are smut peddlers, we are purveyors of porn. We work in a business that is both consumed by many, and marginalised or derided by many of the same people. We should be proud of what we do. We give people outlets, we enable freedom of expression, we create fantasies, provide entertainment and give releases and outlets to many. We are business people. We support each other. We grow together.
Thank you all for the past 25 years and I look forward to sharing much more time, with many more of you in the coming years.
Alec Helmy & Xbiz
Ben in LA (Otala)
Brad Mitchell & Mojohost
Dan Miller & AVN
Dan & Team Exotica
Eric Paul Leue
Erwin & Tim (Manica)
Exquisite (Jerry, Mayra and Ed)
Jules – JFK
Marty (Island Dollars)
Michael (& Xvid)
Mimi & Gigi (Avalon)
Otala Photo (Ben)
RJ/Ash (Dynamic Networks)
Ryan (Adult Empire)
Steve, Ed & Diego (Third World)
Ynot Jay (& Ynot)