HOW to get your company on Shark Tank!

In our new book we share with you the specific strategy we employed to get Balloon Distractions on the ABC hit show Shark Tank!

From our initial online application, to our insane audition video, to actually filming the show in Hollywood!

Learn why NOT getting a deal actually INCREASES your shot at getting air time!  

You can download our book, We Twist for Tips, from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1502546671/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me

This book is a fun read for anyone who has ever wanted to start their own business, and especially for any of the ambitious entrepreneurs who want to appear on Shark Tank.

Happy Reading!

Leave #Him in.

When I started writing my most recent book it was supposed to be a simple “life guidebook” specifically for the young people who worked for Balloon Distractions. In the course of writing the chapters I realized that this could be a book for a much wider audience; young entrepreneurs everywhere, Shark Tank fans, and anyone else who wanted to effect positive change in their life.

Some of those chapters touched upon prayer and faith, and described my resistance to both for much of my adult life. When my daughter Claire shared with me how she prayed each night I felt moved to write a chapter about this, I felt that there might be a young person out there who really needed to hear those words. Perhaps the chapter about Claire’s experience would stay their hand and keep them from doing something rash in a moment of despair and hopelessness.

I had a conversation with my editor as to whether we should “tone down” the faith aspect of my first book. After all, if I had resisted faith for much of my life, how can I write about it now? I’m a flawed human being, one who has made huge mistakes, I moved away from Him, I even denied faith, so who am I to tell folks about God?

But then I realized that during those long years of resisting faith I still read books by writers who openly shared their faith; Truett Cathy, Zig Ziglar, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and many others. Even though I disagreed with them (at that point) I still felt a comfort in what they wrote, the faith of these authors did not deter me from learning and deriving a benefit from their books!

Having realized this I am keeping “Him” in my book. Without God I would have nothing, neither fingers to type, a brain to form a sentence nor the heart to feel his presence in my life. If you do NOT have faith at this moment I hope that these words lead you to it, I am praying that everyone who reads my book is moved closer to God, and not further away from Him.

God is about love, He accepts you and loves you exactly where you are right now, with all your flaws, with all your past mistakes, with all your imperfections. He wants you to reach out to Him in prayer, to ask for guidance. He can help you with the heaviest of burdens, but first you must turn to him and hand those burdens over.

All it takes is a simple prayer.

-Ben Alexander

September 17, 2014

#Success advice for any #startup interested in #Sharktank!

1. Make sure you know who your competitors are, if any. Tons of great product ideas pitch on Shark Tank and then Lori says “Yeah, I’ve seen this before, we just sold 10,000 of these last week on QVC.” This same idea goes for smartphone apps, you have to create something really unique in the app space and make sure no one else has already thought of it and did it better.

2. Make sure it has a WIDE application. The Scrub Daddy did $14 million in sales right after Shark Tank because it was a product that anyone on the planet (with a kitchen sink) could easily buy and use.

3. Don’t make your pricing insane. Who remembers the marital confrontation Stuffed Elephant in a Box that was a plush toy in a plastic box for $60? It might make for a fun gag gift, but not for $60.

4. Don’t ever mention “I’m going on the show for national exposure” anywhere in your application,  phone interview and certainly not during your actual televised pitch. With 7 million viewers per show that is one of those blatantly obvious things that the producers hate to hear. It seems that there is a culture within Shark Tank in which the entire “free exposure” concept is taboo to talk about.  

5. Be entertaining. Shark Tank is about 90% viewer share and only 10% real business. The brilliant producers who handled my segment rigged a balloon drop to coincide with the moment when I said “Balloon Distractions”. This would never happen in a dry business meeting with venture capitalists. I feel that some entrepreneurs get on simply because they are entertaining, not because they have a decent business idea. We are both; Balloon Distractions has done $5 million in sales and booked entertainers into restaurants 100,000 times, but I feel that we got on the show because I own a BALLOON business and the producers felt it would make for a fun segment.

6. If you have fun / attractive personalities in your business use them on the audition video. There are plenty of Shark Tank segments that have included good looking / sexy / pretty folks. This is TV after all, if you have a “looker” in your business include them in your pitch. In talking to the Nardo brothers at Nardo’s Naturals I’m convinced that Barbara invested in them because she thought the boys were sexy! I’ve watched every episode going back to Season 1, there has been no shortage of cleavage on the show….. case in point:

http://sharktankclips.com/season-3-episode-3-you-smell/

7. Before you pitch on the show go out and sell your product to PROVE there is some type of demand, even if your business is less than a year old. The sharks are impressed by hustle and moxie, if you go and work trade shows and state fairs for a few months and sell 50K in product you have proof that regular folks out there in the market can be converted to customers.

8. There is nothing wrong with taking something obvious and putting a new twist on it, grilled cheese sandwiches have been around for a thousand years, but Tom and Chee turned it into a successful restaurant franchise with proven sales and strong business systems.

9. Build your business big enough to support you full time. The Sharks hate part-time business owners. Your loyalties are divided if you make 70K as a pharmacist and 10K from your business. The Sharks know this, none of them became wealthy by building their companies 10 hours a week.

10. Last but not least, keep it very simple. Tom and Chee, Scrub Daddy, Chord Buddy, Wicked Good Cupcakes, etc. all of the successful pitches can be summed up in a short sentence. Our company sends balloon artists into restaurants to entertain the kids while they wait for the food to arrive at the table, that’s why we’re called Balloon Distractions!

Hope that helps, and Happy Twisting!

-Ben Alexander

Founder / CEO

http://www.BalloonDistractions.com

Acorns and #Entrepreneurs.

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As the founder of Balloon Distractions I have one simple goal that will probably take me another decade to achieve: get a team of twisters going in every city in the United States…. a couple thousand restaurants, and over a thousand balloon twisters.

No company has ever done this before in our little entertainment niche, but with existing teams in over 40 cities we have a good foundation and all the online systems in place to reach our goal.

During the work week I’m on the phone every day, talking to entrepreneurs in target cities and coaching all the new Regional Leaders that we’ve recruited since we appeared on Shark Tank earlier this year. Developing a Regional Leader is like planting an acorn, it takes time to grow but eventually you’ll grow a forest if you plant a new acorn every day, consistently and over a number of years.

During the weekends I’m out there filling balloon twisting gigs in our client restaurants, earning cash and staying in touch with the very basics of our business. Developing new leaders and then going out to entertain children keeps me grounded. I find tremendous in satisfaction in filling a gig, making kids laugh, and then driving home at the end of the shift tired, but with a pocketful of cash.

I used to think that it would be awful to be out twisting balloons at 40 years old, as if I had failed in some way…. but if we get this company to 200 cities and 3,000 bookings each week I’ll still be out there filling gigs. A child doesn’t care how big your business is, or even what you’ve achieved, they are in the moment and as an entertainer I’m bringing them a small memory of joy.

Nothing wrong with that.

If you are reading our blog and you would like to start a team with us take a look at this link:

http://balloondistractions.com/build-a-region.html

Have a GREAT weekend!

Benjamin T. Alexander

100,000 bookings, #DONE.

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Balloon Distractions has now sent balloon artists into restaurants over 100,000 times, it took us just over a decade to reach that number.

What does it take to book 100,000 restaurant gigs? Over 4,000 people have been added into our entertainer orientation program since 2003, and these hard working folks filled gigs across four time zones, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to Miami to Minneapolis.

We had to design an online scheduler to organize all those entertainers and clients, it cost over $80K to build.

We paid out well over $4 million in payroll and billed out over $5 million to our restaurant clients.

I personally burned through 4 vehicles and traveled to every corner of the United States, I’ve sold restaurants and trained people in at least 20 states and counting.

We estimate that our team has twisted about 10 million Qualatex balloons since 2003.

So what does the 100,000 number mean? It means that we have a profound understanding of our unique niche, and the experience to make this concept work anywhere, from Miami to Rochester NY.

You see, 100,000 is just the very beginning. We’re going to hit the “1 million gig” mark in the next decade, maybe sooner. We have a specific plan and we’re working that plan every single day. 

We’ve had our share of critics, mostly folks who failed to grasp our business model….

…. the dogs will always bark, but the train is moving on.

If you want to start a business (and bring JOY to children) check out this page on our site:

http://balloondistractions.com/build-a-region.html

God Bless!

Ben Alexander

May 30, 2014

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The 4 levels of #Leadership.

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These 4 levels of Leadership can be applied to any organization, whether its a church, a business or a local civic organization.

Level 1: Self-Mastery, becoming an Entertainer and a Performer.

The Entertainers on our team go through an extensive orientation process but ultimately they have to emerge as a self-starter, our people buy their own materials and log on each week to choose their own work. This requires a higher level of independence and discipline than most traditional employees in a traditional job. As an Entertainer on our team you do not need to ever talk to a supervisor unless you make a mistake or need to change your schedule.

In many ways self-mastery is the hardest skill to achieve for most people, it is the ultimate expression of self reliance. Once you have mastered yourself you KNOW what you need to do and you take action, no one needs to look over your shoulder or give you direction on a daily basis.

A child needs to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. A child must be constantly watched. To reach self-mastery is to become an true adult, one who is comfortable with responsibility and ready to grow as a leader.

Level 2: Building a Crew.   

Once you develop enough self discipline to order your own materials and show up for your bookings you must perform on a consistent basis over the course of a few months to prove that you can be reliable over the long term. Self-mastery is not something you do for a day or a week, it is a positive habit that you develop as a tool for the rest of your life.  

In our company you have to prove that you are consistent and reliable over 30 or 40 bookings before you become a Crew Leader. The reward in holding this position is that you can earn a commission each time your crew fills a gig.

Crew Leaders earn income from the wider organization, not just their own limited efforts. There are only 24 hours in a day, but when you have a crew out there working you are creating income for yourself, even if you are not personally working that day.    

A Crew Leader must learn several new skills: posting want ads, holding a professional interview, onboarding new Entertainers and making sure each new person goes through our online as well as in person orientation.  

Once you have gotten your new Entertainers started you must follow up and encourage them, our best Crew Leaders will ask their team to text them how much they earned at the end of each shift. If an Entertainer is averaging less that $25 per hour this is a clear indicator that they need further training and counsel.    

Level 3: Developing a Region.

Balloon Distractions never could have “gone national” without a team of Regional Leaders in place. This role requires you to not only become adept at developing Entertainers, but now you have to expand that out to developing Crew Leaders.

This role also requires mastery of a several new skill sets: making sure you have balanced growth in your area by selling this concept to the general managers of local restaurants and bowling centers. As the founder of Balloon Distractions I ran the Tampa Bay region as a Regional Leader from 2003 until 2009, during that time I filled gigs, developed Crew Leaders and sold enough clients to get the region up to 45 bookings per week.

As the Tampa Bay RL I was hands-on with my team, helping my Crew Leaders train new people and also showing them how to sell new clients.

Level 4: Developing other Leaders.

As the company grew I realized that I needed to take the Tampa management role off my desk and delegate that position out to my best Crew Leader. This was hard to do, I had gotten used to running Tampa Bay for 6 years!

With 20 Regional Leaders in the company back in 2009 it was time to focus on our leadership team, not just one region that represented a single digit percentage of our overall business.

I had to become a Level 4 leader myself by looking at the wider picture, how do we put this concept in every city in North America?

My role now is to make sure our operations can support that growth and that we are continuing to develop our own internal Entertainers into Crew Leaders, and helping the Crew Leaders step up into a Regional Leader role. Making it onto season 5 of Shark Tank gave us a huge dose of national media exposure and we are leveraging that into finding and recruiting as many Regional Leaders as possible.

Ben Alexander May 26th, 2014.  

From #Idea to #SharkTank, and the obstacles in between…….

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I’ve always kept a journal, writing in it occasionally when I found a free moment, normally when on the road while building my company.

Back in 2003, about a month after I started Balloon Distractions I wrote:

“Someday we will have this idea in 1,000 bookings per week!”

We’re not at 1,000 weekly bookings YET, but we are well on our way.  

The challenge in my business has been finding Regional Leaders, people who have an entrepreneurial mindset who could sell restaurants on the concept and train enough entertainers to fill the weekly bookings. By necessity the RL position has to be held by someone local, and finding the “right someone” has been our greatest challenge.  

Going on Shark Tank last January helped, we have 32 new Regional Leaders in development since the beginning of this year.

Running a region is not for everyone, you have to be friendly enough to go out and fill bookings yourself, but also feel comfortable interviewing potential new staff and pitching this concept to restaurant managers.

We’ve also reached out to the Entertainers who were on our team as college students many years ago, they are now in a different season of their life, with more bills to pay, many of these past Entertainers have joined us again to help us build new regions. 

When you have an embryonic idea it is impossible to predict what it will take to effectively implement it, there is a huge amount of trial and error that you will have to endure before you find the best way to create growth, revenue and profits from your idea.

Going on Shark Tank is neither the end nor the beginning of any business, just one more milestone along the continuum from start up to that billion $$ buyout from Google.  

-Ben Alexander

May 1rst, 2014

 

A Gift, really.

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To whom much is given, much is expected…..

When I was a 22 year old kid finishing up the last 50 credits of my Economics degree I did what most busy (and broke) college students do; went to a local restaurant and got hired as a waiter.

A balloon artist named Ray started coming into the restaurant on a regular basis, he would make amazing shapes and people would tip him really well. Ray was a law student at the Rutgers Camden campus. Balloon Twisting in restaurants was a lucrative side business for him.

As a waiter with 5 tables in my section I was limited to THOSE 5 tables, but Ray the Balloon Guy had the ability to work all 120 tables throughout the restaurant, so if one table stiffed him he could go on to the other 119 that would hand him a $1, a $5 and in some cases a $10 bill!

A week later I was at the Ray’s house in Blackwood, I paid him $100 to teach me 15 shapes, the following week I made $800 in tips by working 6 nights in a row at the TGIF in Marlton, NJ.

In the year following that I finished my degree, got married and became a father. Since my wife had just emigrated from Taiwan she did not have a driver’s license or the easy ability to get a job, so the financial responsibility of my little family rested squarely on my young shoulders.

I sold insurance 40 hours a week, and twisted balloons in restaurants another 25.

Because of the SKILL that Ray taught me I had enough cash for food on the table, rent on our apartment and gas in my car. When I had a dry month in insurance sales balloon twisting saved my bacon.

Ray probably does not know that a few years later I started Balloon Distractions in Tampa. If it weren’t for Ray and his creative idea I never would have appeared on Shark Tank!

Over 2,300 Independent Contractors have come through our system in the past decade.

2,300 people who have used BALLOON TWISTING to pay for college tuition, car notes and mortgage payments.

Ray has indirectly passed his skill onto an entire Army of balloon twisting Entertainers!

If you are on our team please consider becoming a Crew Leader / Trainer.

You can pass this skill onto other people and change their lives in a very positive way.

If you are a person of Faith consider the repercussions of teaching other people how to give JOY to children.

This is a GIFT, and if you are on our team you get to bestow that gift to many people.

Thank you for reading our blog,

Ben Alexander

February 20th, 2014

SHARKS! …. in balloon hats.

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Shark Tank posted this pic on their Facebook wall today, and various bloggers have written about us ALREADY so there is no secret that our episode airing THIS Friday will be a BIG moment in latex history.

HUGE THANKS to all the members of the Los Angeles team who came out the day before and made these amazing shapes; the motorcycle for Robert Herjavek, Shark Hat for Lori Greiner, Fruit hat for Mr. Wonderful, Crown for Barbara Corcoran and Dallas Mavs player for Mark Cuban.

Most people have seen an artist twisting in a restaurant and never realized that you could build a fun and profitable business around that concept. We are the first company to establish a decade-long reputation with NATIONAL brands like Chili’s, IHOP, Applebees, Texas Roadhouse, etc.

Our online Orientation makes sure that 100% of our artists are trained to a very high standard, and 100% of our bookings are CALL CHECKED across 4 time zones.

We know that there are people out there who are looking for a fun business built on family values with a corporate culture of creativity and compassion towards children.

If you would like to work with us to build a region in YOUR area please go to:

http://balloondistractions.com/build-a-region.html

Feel free to hit the SHARE button below and work with us to bring more people into our fun and creative enterprise!