A portait of a man from the waist up
Ilias Anwar graduated from VCU in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree from University College’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program. (Contributed photo)

Starting with just a blog during freshman year, VCU alum Ilias Anwar has built a thriving creative agency

He once considered dropping out, but finding the Interdisciplinary Studies Program propelled him and his Gen-Z-focused TCC Entertainment.

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Ilias Anwar’s enthusiasm is palpable. In the first half of 2023 alone, his media company, TCC Entertainment, has tackled projects that have included covering the NFL Super Bowl weekend, teaming up with the Project Iftar charity to feed over 15,000 Ramadan meals in the Middle East and collaborating with the Atlanta-based Trap Music Museum, which documents hip hop culture.

“I think our company has some of the coolest projects coming to our table, and I’m thankful for it every day,” said Anwar, who graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree from University College’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Anwar’s company has grown exponentially since he started it as a hip hop blog during his freshman year at VCU in 2017. His interest in the genre stems from his fascination with artists such as Drake and Kanye West, and with the blog, Anwar wanted to cultivate a community that was interested in underground music.

“At the time, Soundcloud [a platform where artists share their music] had different artists buzzing on it. That blew up and went mainstream, and so did we,” he said.

Charting a new path

When he came to VCU, Anwar planned to major in fashion design major, with hopes of creating a luxury line. But he soon realized it wasn’t the right fit, so he switched to the VCU School of Business.

“I wanted to do something in the entertainment industry, and I started TCC Entertainment” with the blog, Anwar said, adding that his co-founder was VCU alum Phil Osae.

The blog featured commentary and opinions about up-and-coming artists. As it grew, Anwar began helping with event promotion and development.

“We did over 100 events and a couple of music videos, which helped us morph into a creative agency,” he said. “By my senior year, we were already around 100,000 followers.”

Now with over a half-million followers on all platforms, TCC is much more than a blog. Its projects range from media and event production to commercials and brand identity.

“We are a creative agency. Every project is a different endeavor, and it all started with the blog. If you are a brand and want to attract Generation Z, that is what we are here to offer,” Anwar said. “We work with sports, pop music, film, entertainment and fashion as well.”

Anwar also co-founded Tapped, a booking and networking platform for the entertainment industry, with VCU alum Johannes Naylor. Anwar has spent the past two years in California, adding more customers and record labels. Currently, he is raising $500,000 for Tapped to support a team of seven employees and to relocate to New York City.

Beyond his two companies, Anwar also is working on a book called “Cheat Codes,” which teaches people how to grow their social media presence online.

Digging in, not dropping out

In early 2020, Anwar considered dropping out of VCU because he couldn’t find an academic program that fit his varied interests. He was willing to take the risk because TCC Entertainment was thriving.

Then he learned about the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, a major that is built around letting students combine multiple disciplines to create their own major Anwar credits VCU, and specifically one IDS adviser, with helping him gain clarity around his business.

“I met a new academic adviser, Richard Quarshie, and without him I probably would have quit school. Not only did he help me craft my major to psychology, marketing and entrepreneurship, but he also helped me graduate on time,” Anwar said.

VCU also played a big part in his development because of its diversity, student organizations and programming.

“Bryant Pugh, who previously taught Winning Presentations in the School of Business, helped me out. He always pointed out opportunities for me. What he taught me through that class will stick with me the rest of my life. He genuinely cared. He was relatable,” Anwar said.

Pugh was impressed by Anwar’s confidence and his support of classmates. 

“He was one of the best presenters, and he would constantly help others,” said Pugh, who earned undergraduate and graduate fine arts degrees in theater at VCU. “Ilias has the natural ability to speak directly to your soul. It sounds dramatic, but this is true. Few individuals, at least in my experience of teaching communications, possess this skill.”

Pugh became familiar with TCC shortly after Anwar spoke about it in class – and immediately knew that Anwar and his crew were onto something. 

“I saw the potential when I heard about Ilias creating concert recaps with significant artists such as Moneybagg Yo, Megan Thee Stallion and Meek Mill, to name a few,” Pugh said. “I was more amazed because they organized this out of their apartments and dorm rooms.”

A first-generation student who describes himself as curious and eager to learn, Anwar credits his never-ending motivation to his parents, who emigrated from Afghanistan.

“I believe this gave me a great outlook to see the privilege of being an American citizen – but also to understand the sacrifices my parents made as immigrants,” Anwar said. “Every day, that guilt sits with me that they left their homeland so one day I could live in a free country and have opportunities they never had. When you hear what my parents went through and see the work ethic my father has, it's hard not to want to always keep going. He’s my hero.”