The Prince Of Productivity
Whether he’s making a killing by selling sneakers, hanging with Hollywood’s elite or promoting local concerts,
Would you believe that all Connor Tumbaga has accomplished started because he was bad at math?
“I was getting really bad grades in school and I had a math tutor,” the Punahou School alum remembers. “That was my least favorite subject.”
Spending one-on-one time with his 12th-grade mentor led the two to talk about topics outside of algebra. For example, their shared love for sneakers — and not just any sneakers, but rare ones that cost quite the pretty penny.
“Whenever we would be in a math tutoring session, he would show me a new pair of shoes that were dropping,” recalls Tumbaga. “I was like, ‘Why would anyone wait in line for shoes?’ I had all the questions that all the adults have now asked me since I was 16 years old — and they still ask me today — ‘Why do people want these shoes?’ Well, it’s because they’re limited-edition shoes.
“He said, ‘Do you want to wait in line for a pair of shoes, then you can flip it and make money?’ As a 16 year old, making $200 on a pair of shoes — or just making $200 in general — is a big deal.”
Eager for his new venture, the Mānoa native woke up before the sun to secure his place in line at Ala Moana Center Foot Locker. He then posted the sneakers on social media for more than he paid, and quickly saw how much of a market there really was for it.
“It’s easy money and doesn’t take away from your day, so I started doing this every weekend because there would be a new shoe drop every weekend, and I was like, ‘Wow, I can really capitalize on this,’” he says. “I hired other people to wait in line, then it grew to me hiring people in New York, LA, London, Paris and Tokyo because there were limited shoes that were dropping only in those cities. Hawai‘i only got such a small amount compared to what these major cities got.”
As Tumbaga’s sneaker sales saw dramatic growth, so did his social media following. Before he knew it, he was one of the top resellers in the game, with his client list including big stars like Ariana Grande, Drake, Justin Bieber, Post Malone and more.
“I came up with this unique business strategy to have them buy the shoe then I would gift them an additional pair of shoes in exchange for a shoutout on their social media, which then grew my following following even more,” Tumbaga says, adding that Tik-Tok influencer Bryce Hall was his first celebrity sale. “I did that and continued to do that and then got picked up by some serious celebrities — like real celebrities with a real cult following — and it kind of took off. The celebrities told their friends and so on and so forth.”
When it came time for Tumbaga to graduate from high school in 2020, he already had a booming biz under his belt. Unlike his classmates, who were thinking about what college they wanted to go to, he was planning his next business venture.
“I always told myself that I was never going to work for anyone,” he says. “ A lot of the older people in my life say, ‘I can’t wait till reality hits you and you have to go get a job. There’s no more flying first class and doing all this stuff’ — and that enraged me. I was like, ‘Why are these people telling me that I can’t have this? That I have to go to college and get a ‘real’ job … So, I literally made it my mission to fly first class and that I would never get a ‘real’ job.”
Inspiration for his next entrepreneurial enterprise could come from virtually anywhere. But where Tumbaga really shines is when he turns his passions into projects. Such is the case for his latest undertaking: concert promotion.
“It was a kind of a no-brainer,” he says. “I have all these connections in entertainment because I would go to these concerts and I would go to Rolling Loud and Coachella and do shoe transitions there. I met a lot of managers, talent, promoters and agencies, and to put on a show like that really excited me. I was at a Justin Bieber show in Atlanta and I leaned over to Justin’s manager, Scooter, and I said to him, ‘I want to do a show like this. I want to put this on.’ We’re in a room with 50,000 people all singing his songs. This is magical. If I can’t be the talent singing up there, I want to put this show on.
“From that moment, I went home and I was talking to my girlfriend at the time and was saying, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and I never felt myself so passionate about something — ever. There was a huge, huge need in Hawai‘i for music that our generation listens to.”
His first show was scheduled to take place on Nov. 18 and feature rapper Tory Lanez. The artist’s recent album, Sorry 4 What, rose to No. 1 on Apple Music’s Hip-hop/Rap chart.
“When I was looking at the pool of artists to bring as my first artist, I wanted to make a big boom in Hawai‘i — a guy that everybody, or most people in my generation, knew, and somebody who was on the come up to releasing another album,” says Tumbaga. “Tory was about to release an album, he’s not signed to any record label, he’s independent, he doesn’t have much restriction and he can do whatever he wants with his music. He’s a super creative guy. I’ve been in the studio with him many, many times, and (I knew) what he’s cooking up was going to be No. 1.”
Tumbaga’s skills as a showrunner were put to the test when it was announced that Lanez was sentenced to house arrest for an ongoing criminal investigation.
“One lesson that I’ve learned through all of this is life is all about change,” he continues. “Change is the one constant in life and adapting to change can be a great challenge. Learning how to adapt and successfully navigate through change is key.”
To provide attendees with an experience unlike any other, Tumbaga has invested in a facility called The Warehouse, located at 2020 Auiki St. in Kalihi.
“We’re building out a space called The Warehouse, which is literally what it is — it was a warehouse and (we) basically turned it into a large, 3,500 capacity concert venue with state-of-the-art technology, lighting and video screen monitors, and stage production.”
Coming up, Kodak Black is set to perform on Dec. 10, and although Tumbaga’s lips are sealed about future performers, he promises that music fans have a lot to look forward to in 2023.
He lists Dominic Fike, The Kid LAROI, Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Frank Ocean, Lil Baby and Giveon as his dream artists to bring out.
“When you hear that Connor Tumbaga is going to do a show in Hawai‘i, you know it’s going to be high-end, you know it’s going to be sophisticated and you know that it’s going to be somebody that you want to listen to.”
Tumbaga has accomplished a lot in the years since his math-tutee days — and all before he’s turned 21, too.
“I think the only drawback to being young is that sometimes I can’t get into certain events and meetings because they’re serving alcohol and I’m under 21. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t do any of that stuff — I just want to get into the meeting to network with people,” he says, laughing.
“I’m counting down the days,” Tumbaga adds about his highly anticipated 21st birthday in January. “I’m not even going to drink on my birthday. I’m not going to Vegas. I’m going to a nice networking event that’s 21-plus.”