This blog post was written by Billy Vranish, an outstanding young man who joined our Tampa, FL team as a high school student and worked with us until his second year or college. We did not have to edit a single word, this is exactly what he wrote:
When I was sixteen, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in making some money and gaining some experience in the workplace. I knew she had been working for a local company in Tampa called Balloon Distractions, twisting balloons in local family-oriented restaurants for the patrons, and she was getting calls to perform for private parties as well.
Initially I was very skeptical. I enjoyed performing in front of people, as I had been in choir and multiple musicals throughout middle and high school. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try.
It turned out that I had a natural talent for balloon twisting, probably because I focus so much on following directions. Memorizing and perfecting twenty or so shapes took less than a week, and after a month, I had learned close to forty. My friend, officially my trainer, decided that I was probably ready to make it in the big time.
Before I could have my formal “restaurant training” Ben Alexander called me one afternoon and asked if I would be interested in filling a “gig” that Saturday. He said that he had heard good things about me from my friend and that it was an emergency. I acquiesced, and on Saturday morning showed up to a Perkin’s in Tampa for what would be the first of many gigs to come.
I called Ben after my gig and told him how much money I had made and how the morning had gone. He congratulated me and welcomed me as a twister with all of the rights and privileges membership provided. I was put on the schedule and allowed to choose my own gigs.
Not having formal restaurant training was a huge advantage. As I explained earlier, I am adept at following directions, and formal training might have hindered the creative development of how I approached and entertained customers. My training as a twister was more organic. I enrolled in three to four gigs a week and learned on my own, and was successful from the very beginning.
That Perkin’s became a regular gig for me every Saturday and Sunday morning. Tuesdays were Beef O’Bradys. Wednesday I would work at either Chili’s or Sweet Tomatoes, and I would pick up random gigs throughout the Tampa Bay Area based on my availability and the quality of the gig.
The first formal training I received was when I brought in my girlfriend and another friend to the business. After training them according to my own experiences, we went to a local restaurant where we would both meet Ben for the first time. The people I brought in to meet him became a testament for my own work ethic and success, as I assured Ben that both of them were duly qualified and met the standards I had set for myself.
They would both go on to be successful twisters, and a few years later, I trained my sister to join Balloon Distractions as well.
My favorite part of the job was the clientele. The nature of the business is such that a twister is a very public figure within the restaurant. I enjoy meeting and getting to know people, and twisting balloons broke down barriers that I might have otherwise not challenged in another setting. I always said that it was easy to make a seven-year-old boy a helicopter in the colors of his soccer team, or a cute little four-year-old girl a pretty flower bracelet to match the dress she wore to church that morning but I succeeded in a key demographic- adults. I became talented at approaching people much older than I, overcoming the intimidation factor. One of my absolute most favorite places to work was a Bennigan’s at the Channel district in Tampa, famous for having yuppie and tourist crowds, including bachelorette parties, convention attendees, and local couples out for a night on the town.
The lessons and skills I learned twisting balloons have become an invaluable asset during my college career and beyond. One of the most important skills I honed was the ability to remember names and faces and be extremely friendly. I also discovered that I had a knack for getting to know people very quickly and establishing relationships. Furthermore, my leadership skills and self-discipline improved, as I was essentially my own boss.
The job also required a maturity well above my years, and I like to believe that I rose to the occasion. Skills aside, being a balloon artist still impacts my life to this day. Employers viewing my résumé inevitably ask about my high school job, and every once in a while, I enjoy taking out my balloons and entertaining my younger family members or the local kids at a community center while volunteering.
For a young, friendly, and driven person, becoming a balloon artist is a fantastic experience. It prepared me for life beyond college by illustrating the importance of personal relationships and communication and was an entertaining and fun way to make a little bit of money as well.