A growing platform focused to bring joy and support for others
By Amy Nicole Tangel
Prior to the pandemic, Jeff Krauss made a career working with celebrities and artists alike in the events and hospitality industry, most notably with his company IE Group, which he founded in 2006. However, like most people in that industry when everything shut down so did life as Jeff knew it.
Leaving New York City behind, for a period of time, at the height of it all, Jeff went to stay with family on Long Island. That’s when he began talking with his longtime friend and colleague Mich Faulkner about what they could do to help others and lift spirits virtually through entertainment.
And just like that, FanRoom Live, a new platform to bring fans and celebrities together in all the comforts of home, was born. They created a space where people can meet someone, they may have never had the opportunity to otherwise. Once the concept was brought to fruition, Jeff said he and Mich knew they had to bring a name to the table and took the approach to ask their mutual friend and celebrity, Cedric the Entertainer to come on board as a fellow co-founder.
“We love Cedric and he is a close friend so we said to him, ‘hey, we got this idea,’” Jeff said explaining Cedric’s response to FanRoom Live was an immediate yes.
In early spring of 2020, the team started brainstorming and only a few months later in July, the first episode of FanRoom Live aired with George Lopez as their celebrity guest. The virtual meeting between Lopez and fans was not only produced with the intention of entertaining but became a template for guests moving forward to do even more to help others by taking the opportunity to raise money for charity.
The premiere episode of FanRoom Live raised money for Lopez’s foundation for kidney disease awareness, the George Lopez Foundation while it simultaneously promoted his Netflix stand-up comedy special, “We’ll Do It For Half,” which also premiered the same day leading fans directly from their virtual meet-n-greet to Netflix.
Amongst the three founders, when asked who handles what, Jeff said they make decisions and plan everything together as a team. As far as booking guests, Jeff said the mindset is: “if someone is a person with fans who want to meet them that is what FanRoom Live is there for.”
The show usually runs once a month, but if schedules allow and the demand is there Jeff said they will create whatever comes naturally.
With past celebrity guests such as Ice T & Coco, Lamar Odom, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Morgan Fairchild, Scheana Shay and Brock Davies from Vanderpump Rules and rocker CJ Ramone just to name a small few, once an artist signs on, tickets are listed on their website and then the day of event log-in information is shared with ticket holders to join the meeting.
Whether or not the celebrity chooses to benefit a charity, Jeff said the team leaves that up to them. Part of their role is making suggestions, but the platform is not just to support charities but to promote artists’ projects as well.
“Even connecting the celebrities with their fans is actually, if you think about it, is a cause in itself,” he said.
Putting smiles on people’s faces with an “up-close and personal intimate experience that is very unique,” he said is the goal. The co-hosts, Jae Benjamin and Stacey Toy personally introduce the fan to the celebrity and open the conversations.
“Things happen, moments happen, that are very special on both sides,” he added.
Wrestling star Jake “The Snake” Roberts was a guest on FanRoom Live and to his surprise saw a fan with an illness he had been visiting since the 80’s. There is no way anyone could have known, Jeff said, and described it as a completely organic moment.
“It was a beautiful moment when they both realized they were on the call,” he said.
One moment that stands out on FanRoom Live that Jeff said really hit home for him so far has been the episode when WWE superstar Paul “The Big Show” Wight came on the show and literally gave the shirt off his back to a little boy from the UK who asked him to donate it to be auctioned off for the charity he was raising money for.
“As much as he’s a giant he has a giant heart,” Jeff said of “The Big Show.”
The charity the shirt went to was Wresting For Warriors, an organization which supports kids who have a disability or terminal illness by bringing them together with their favorite wrestlers through events and by raising money to help those in the fight. Jeff, who is a proclaimed wrestling fan said that’s neither here nor there, but during the pandemic it became almost impossible for events so it was a cause he felt FanRoom Live could help to carry on.
The chain-of-events from that one episode didn’t stop there though said Jeff, when to his surprise a friend of his who is a wrestling podcaster saw the post-video and immediately reached out to Jeff with a donation of two world title belts; one from The Rock which was given to the boy from the UK on his birthday and the other from The Undertaker which was auctioned off for charity.
Looking forward to 2023, Jeff said, “really just building out, making the experiences better and even bigger than they are” is his plan for the future of FanRoom Live.
There has been a noticeable growth in the audience base of FanRoom Live according to Jeff over the past two years and continually moving in the upward direction. He said the show first started out with primarily celebrities and “their” fans, but they have now started to have regulars and other people simply checking-in because they heard it was something fun to do.
Jeff makes point to credit the success of FanRoom Live in large part to hosts Jae and Stacey for not only their work on camera making everyone feel so comfortable, but off-camera as well acquiring sponsorships and building bridges. Jae, co-executive producer of the show has most recently worked on the development of a relationship with GameStop NFT and Abante Productions; a strategic partnership Jeff said created to sell NFT tickets to the FanRoom Live shows through the marketplace.
“These tickets will actually be NFT’s you can hold on to,” he said.
Currently, they are working on creating their own technology Jeff said, and a lot of things are happening in the background, but they are going at their own pace and building on post-videos after the events air which are now getting millions of views.
“We now have sponsors that are coming in, because of the exposure and engagement,” he said.
To see who is coming up next on FanRoom Live or to learn more, visit fanroomlive.com or on social media handles @fanroomlive.