The apple does not fall far from the tree….

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written by Ben Alexander

Next month my oldest daughter Claire turns 16. When I started Balloon Distractions she was only in kindergarten, she’s been there all along from Balloon Jams in our living room to expanding this across the entire country. Many times Claire and her sister Grace went with me to restaurants to train new artists, and they’ve been there all along when my wife and I have discussed business challenges across the dinner table.  

There are a handful of event gigs that I’ve been doing year after year, Claire has been going along with me as my “apprentice twister”. She’s wonderful with children and very good at handling people in general so I’m getting her ready to rock some restaurant gigs once she’s mastered a few more shapes.

My youngest daughter Grace has ZERO interest in doing this, so I’m glad Claire has stepped up to the plate. I don’t want to push them, I’m just glad to spend time with Claire, she is a joy to work with.

We’ve been in business 10 years already so it makes sense that we will still be around in another 20 or 30 years. I think Claire has some natural leadership talents that could lend themselves well to helping me lead this company, not just in the United States but internationally as well.  

At the same time I don’t want to be the type of business owner who promotes his child just because of blood, Claire will have to prove herself at every level.

As a parent I’m doing my level best to make sure both my daughters get a solid academic foundation that opens many doors to them, whether in business or elsewhere.  

 

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Balloon Jams from Seattle to Schenectady!

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Balloon Jam in DFW, August 2013.

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Balloon Jam in Seattle, November 2013.

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Balloon Jam in Los Angeles, September 2013.

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Balloon Jam in upstate NY, July 2013.

written by Ben Alexander

Between April and October of 2013 I was fortunate enough to visit every single region that we do business with across the United States.

I did not get a pic at every jam (maybe in 2014?) but I got a few that really captured some great moments with our teams. Traveling around and training our Regional Partners and meeting their amazing teams is a big part of what I do as the owner of the company, and a great joy for me as well.

Our teams are a great mix of college kids, stay at home Moms and military veterans who have joined us to make great part time money and have a ton of fun as well.   

 

Get out of your comfort Zone!

Many  eclectic jobs  led me to where I am today:

Here is a short list, in no logical order:

  1. Paid Baritone for a Presbyterian church.
  2. Insurance agent for Mutual of Omaha.
  3. Basic construction, ripping up sidewalks, building fences, etc.
  4. English teacher in Taiwan.
  5. Art model for my college’s life modeling class.
  6. Volunteer firefighter (no pay, but a unique experience)
  7. Balloon Twister 4 Tips in countless restaurants.
  8. Owner of a balloon twisting talent agency.
  9. Burger flipper at Dairy Queen.
  10. Waiter at many different restaurants.
  11. Lifeguard at several lakes and pools across South Jersey.
  12. Swim Instructor for children.
  13. Rollerblade instructor in Taiwan.
  14. Selling gold plating services to car dealerships.
  15. Selling deregulated energy door to door.
  16. Managing large door to door crews that sold deregulated energy.
  17. Selling underwater scuba camera equipment over the phone.
  18. Selling mortgages over the phone.
  19. Selling employment advertising over the phone.
  20. Selling solar and energy efficiency door to door, in NJ, PA and FL.
  21. Selling cars (mostly Toyota) in MD and FL.
  22. Mowing lawns and basic landscaping.
  23. Auctioneer’s assistant and go-to (when I was 12 years old)
  24. Delivery driver for Naple’s pizza in Mullica Hill.
  25. Substitute teacher all over South Jersey (my 3rd year in college)
  26. Package sorter on the midnight shift at UPS.
  27. Direct Sales with Amway and Life Leadership.
  28. Getting paid from sales of my first book on Amazon.
  29. Sales consulting for 2 marketing firms in Philadelphia.
  30. Goofed off with the EB-5 investment program in Taiwan, never made a dime.
  31. Imported Super Sonic Spheres from Taiwan, same result as #30.

I’ve tried so many unusual things in my life that nothing is that weird or unfamiliar.

In college every single time I got fired from one job (I had a big mouth and it got me in hot water) I would look around and try something different.

I feel bad for the person who turns 18, gets a job that he hates, then stays in that job for 40 years because he is hooked to a measly paycheck. How boring, right?

Be open to new ideas and experiences, and as you get older you will continually expand your comfort zone. When you stretch yourself you will learn how to be resilient and adjust to anything.

Trying many different things also teaches you to be resourceful, a great quality to develop whether you are an entrepreneur, teacher or any profession.

Once you’ve taken off every stitch of clothing in front of a room full of art students, or traveled 12 time zones away on a ONE WAY ticket to a foreign country to work, everything else is small potatoes.

I started Balloon Distractions (when I was 29) because I never found a job that I actually liked.

Previous to that I could never hold a job longer than 24 months.

When you move OUT, way OUT, from your comfort zone you will gain tremendous confidence and trust in yourself. After living in Taiwan and learning how to speak a bit of Mandarin Chinese I was not afraid to live somewhere very far from what I knew growing up.

Moving to Florida in 2003? No big deal, at least it’s still in the USA.

Consequently I feel at home everywhere I go here in the States. The entire USA is within my comfort zone. As I traveled around the United States building Balloon Distractions I always felt at home, whether in Seattle, Miami or Houston.

A little job or hobby that you try out in college can lead to something significant down the road. When I was twisting balloons in college I never would have guessed that it would lead to Balloon Distractions.

More recently I got involved in residential and commercial solar with Tampa Bay Solar. Here I was, learning a totally new industry at 43 years old! I’ve been making a great income and learning a ton. I feel like a million bucks.

Be thrilled by the potential of the unexpected, and don’t hesitate to get out of your own comfort zone! The only thing you risk by trying something new is loss of time.

Ben Alexander

blog was originally written in 2014, updated in May of 2017.

WhiteWater!

There is a great business book out there called “Predictable Success” that talks about the various stages that businesses go through as they scale from start-ups to fully mature companies.    

One of the stages of development is described as “Whitewater”. At this stage many companies flounder around  and struggle a bit as they put together needed systems in order to grow to the next level. The last 2 years have been a little turbulent as we sorted out BD’s finances and figured out that we were better off just focusing on what we are really good at: sending entertainers into restaurants, and booking parties and events.

In 2010 we were NOT running at full efficiency. Since then we’ve made dozens of small changes, like paying our people via direct deposit, and major changes as well, like a total rewrite of our compensation plan.       

Three years ago Balloon Distractions was a little bit like an old rickety car going 90mph, we could do that speed for a while but it was pretty shaky; the engine was knocking, there was smoke coming out of the tailpipe, the wheels were about to fall off, etc.

8 engine, not only can we scale up to 100 mph and run at that pace all day, but we can also put our foot on the gas and speed up to 150 mph with steady confidence.    

To run a national company you need experienced admin staff, strong training programs, tightly managed and measured financials, a decent website,  robust IT, call checkers to maintain our quality control, and a compensation plan that can be scaled up as the company grows.

All of these tools cost money and time to create and maintain, just our IT and remote server costs us $12K a year, but our online scheduler is crucial to the day-to-day operation of a company with hundreds of entertainers working across 34 regions in 4 time zones.

With the structure we have in place right now we can triple the size of our gross revenue with no further structural changes or invested capital. The entire framework is there and ready to go.

If you know of someone who lives anywhere in the USA, and they want to work part time and develop an extra $3-5K per month in income please ask them to reach out to me. We are recruiting Regional Partners in cities all over the United States, we will train and mentor them to success, all they need is a great work ethic and a positive attitude to match!

Build the Lever.

Archimedes once said:

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” 

A small business can only give so much to the local community, but a national business that generates 10 or 50 or even 100 million dollars per year can do so much more. When I started BD it was just a concept in my imagination, a wild idea with which I had no idea whether it would work or not. As I write this today we provide a living for many of our Regional Partners and great part time income for the high school and college kids on our teams across 42 cities.

It all started with a crazy idea in 2003… a tiny seed that sprouted into a nationwide business. 

I have another crazy idea and I’d like to share it with you. If you are brand-new to our company this idea might have an impact on your life, as well as the people you bring on and train as you move up through our system.

Imagine for a moment that we have scaled up to 200 regions across the United States and we start opening day camps each summer that employ our balloon artists as counselors and teach children positive thinking, balloon twisting, face painting, comedy, magic and (maybe even) juggling. Our counselors would make a great hourly wage each summer and our camps would be a great training ground for our next generation of entertainers. Our summer camps will be unique, fun, and cater to that offbeat child who might not fit in at soccer, cheerleading or football camp.

To GIVE BACK we would offer 20% of the enrollment at a reduced rate (or free) to kids in the neighborhood who normally would not get to enjoy such a neat experience.

What kind of impact would BD have if we gave a child from a rough background the opportunity to learn something joyful like balloon art, magic or face painting?

What if we encouraged that child to get better each summer and brought them on as an entertainer when they turned 16 years old? … What IF when that child reached 18 they were awarded a Balloon Distractions scholarship to help them get through college?

Could we take a child “under our wing” so to speak and change that child’s trajectory into adulthood? 

Could a little BALLOON talent agency do ALL that? As I write this we are like a small lever that provides a modest income for 300 members of our team, but when we are in 200 cities with 10,000 children in summers camps we can do AMAZING things. Balloon Distractions then becomes a huge lever that can do great things and impact the lives of thousands of children in a positive way.  

Granting 100K in annual college scholarships is not possible at our current size, but is becomes tenable when we are in every city in North America.

If you are reading this as a new member of our team consider the impact that YOU can have in the life of a child. Perhaps your Faith called you to join on our team and to lend your talents to our mission.  

Balloon Distractions does AMAZING things in the lives of the children we entertain, the college students and Regional partners who earn an income from this business model and the lives we save through our clean water efforts in Central America. 

The bottom line profit is important in any business, but with Balloon Distractions you are a part of a higher purpose than just making money.

In my personal life I don’t need a bunch of fancy JUNK with which to impress people.  My greatest reward will be going to the college graduation of a young person who entered our summer camps as a  child with NO CHANCE in life, knowing that my company gave him that shot at success, an opportunity to learn, grow and work hard to see tangible results at the end of the day… or when I’m in Honduras and make a balloon for a child who is healthy and thriving because they have clean water to drink.

The summer camp concept will take a few years to fully develop, but if you are a Regional Partner right now consider the fact that you are already teaching your team a skill that enables them to go out and average over $20 an hour in income on a regular basis, and over $50 an hour when they perform at special events. That skill will also make your team well suited to working as camp counselors once the summer camp concept is launched in your region.  

As a Regional Partner you are making a positive difference in the lives of all the people you train and develop, and you can’t predict the end result of teaching just one person this new skill. I’m sure the guy who trained me back in the 1997 had no clue that I would go on to start a company, and that BD would go on to train over 4,000 balloon artists so far. 

The story of Billy Vranish, in his own words.

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.

Make $500 by helping us!

This might earn you $500 bucks, please repost / share.

Balloon Distractions is paying out a $500 FINDERS FEE to anyone who leads us to a NEW Regional Partner in any city in the United States. The new RP must build their region to 8 weekly bookings in order for you to get the fee.

Regional Partners fill bookings in restaurants, get new restaurants onboard and build the entertainer crew in their region.

They typically earn $2K per month part time, $4K a month working full time. We train them on EVERYTHING, all they need to start is a reliable vehicle, an outgoing personality, and a modicum of ambition.

Our current Regional Partners range in age from 18 to 68, and they come from all backgrounds; from college students to school teachers to retired military folks.

If you have a likely prospect get their contact info to: BenAlexander@BalloonDistractions.com

-Ben Alexander

Founder / CEO

www.BalloonDistractions.com