“Everybody’s just like so serious and just goes through the motions. Why live life that way? It passes you by,” said Alex Groesch, the 23-year-old Forest Parker who might just be the village’s youngest CEO.
Groesch is the hardworking (sometimes to a fault) founder Butterfly Productions film company, which he launched in December out of his apartment on the 7400 block of Franklin in Forest Park.
A little over six months later, Groesch estimates he has produced videos for about 20 customers, including Suze Solari, a fashion consultant and entrepreneur in River Forest; the Oak Park-River Forest Symphony, in which Groesch is a cellist; and 16th Street Theater in Berwyn. Groesch said he gets most of his business through cold-calling and referrals.
“The art community is very tightknit, they all know each other, especially in the theater world. If you can send an email to someone saying, ‘Contact from so and so,’ they’re a lot more likely to open it,” he said.
Growing up in St. Louis, Groesch said he was always an artist and a natural entrepreneur. He loved drawing and producing music videos and has been playing cello since he was 6. One summer, he spent three months calling some 400 musicians and organizing an orchestra of 60 people to play a piece he wrote.
“That helped me learn how not to be afraid of hearing ‘No’ from like 99 percent of people. You just never know what’s going to work, but you might as well try,” he said.
When he entered college at the University of Notre Dame, he decided to major in finance and Chinese, both practical choices he felt pushed to pursue by his parents, professors and society. By his senior year, he knew he didn’t want to become an investment banker. Acting was his favorite class.
Groesch’s last six months in school he devoted himself to producing a “mockumentary” about “Bluebird Day,” a fictional biannual holiday he started in high school but that became very real.
Celebrated the second Friday in October and first Saturday of May, the holiday is intended as non-sequitur, celebrated by doing something you used to love, but no longer have time to do. Groesch emailed every professor he had at Notre Dame about appearing in the film, and about 10 agreed to assemble in a room at the same time and talk about the importance of the holiday on camera. That experience cemented his love for film.
After graduating, he moved to Forest Park to produce trailers for a Chicago-based theater company. One day, while shooting at a park in the Austin neighborhood, an actress asked him to film her event.
“That kind of was like an ‘Aha’ moment for me,” he recalled.
Why work for someone else, Groesch realized. He decided to try to make a living producing short videos for theaters, storytelling groups and businesses, and launched Butterfly Productions.
Now comprising 12 employees, Butterfly videos cost $400 to $1,000, and Groesch said he gives a discount to nonprofits. He also started another business, Chicago Property Buyers LLC, and intends to invest his earnings from Butterfly in flipping houses in Forest Park, Oak Park, River Forest and elsewhere.
“It just seems like more and more people are OK with just the status quo, but my whole life I’ve wanted to push for more than that,” Groesch said. “I just want people to think outside the box; the way people do things doesn’t need to be that way. Like the banks tell us it needs to be some way, the government tells us it needs to be some way, schools would say a practical job is to go work for a company and make $60K net profit, but I would argue the most practical thing is starting your own business.”