#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

“It all depends on the one you feed…….”

Image

From an old Cherokee parable…..

The Cherokee Chief is talking to his grandson:

“Your entire life there will be two wolves that are always at war within you, one is full of ego, anger and hate, he represents fear, bitterness, jealousy, frustration, revenge, and darkness. The other wolf radiates with light and love, he is kindness, hope, compassion, understanding and reconciliation.”

The young man pondered this for a minute and asked a question:

“So which wolf wins?”

The Chief smiled and put his hand on his grandson’s shoulder:

“It all depends on the one you feed…….”

 

Everyone has value.

Image

Today I went out with 3 other members of my Rotary and we took shoes, socks, warm sleeping bags and few other sundry items to the men living in camps in the woods around Wesley Chapel.

The fellow in the picture is Will, a Vietnam veteran and an artist who told me he has sketched this beautiful lady many times and he has no idea who she is, but occasionally he dreams about her! Will has been homeless for a few years now, and when we brought him the supplies he invited us to sit on some plastic milk crates next to his tent and we talked for awhile.

He told us how children occasionally mistook him for Santa Claus, but he would smile and tell them he was one of Santa’s elves….

We had met many of these men during Thanksgiving when our club gave out hot turkey dinners, they live illegally in tents in the woods on pieces of land owned by anonymous developers. Will told us that the police would occasionally come by and kick him off a parcel of land, but that only forces him to move to another place where he is trespassing again.

There is no easy solution for people in Will’s situation, many times they are unemployable due to alcohol addiction, appearance (like missing teeth) or a lack of skills and reliability…..

… but they are still human beings; worthy of our compassion and worthy of our time.

You can’t make an alcoholic go to meetings, or force someone to show up for work on time, but you can give them a warm pair of shoes, a sleeping bag, or that camping tent in your garage that’s you haven’t used in years.

Benjamin T. Alexander

December 2013

 

The Seasons of your Life

Hanging out in North Carolina with Todd Barrow.Image

written by Ben Alexander, founder of BalloonDistractions.com

Todd started with us as an entertainer filling gigs part time and now runs one of the largest regions in our organization. I got to spend some time with him during the summer of 2013 and we had some great conversations about work, life, and all the BIG questions.

Todd and I are both knocking on 40, and we’ve both had all kinds of varied and weird jobs. Todd was in the military, counseled young people for drug addiction, and even installed water filters!

One of things that Todd and I discussed (over a beer or three) were the “seasons of life” that we all go through along this journey, and how certain types of work fit better at certain points in your life.

Case is point is the college student that joins us and fills gigs as an Independent Contractor, they log on, choose where and how often they want to work, and the flexibility of this works in their favor.

Then you have the stay at home Mom, she might have kids in elementary school, but she doesn’t want the hassle of a typical 9-5 job, so she learns to twist and uses our company to get out of the house 2 nights a week and earn a couple hundred $$$.

The third example might be a retired military veteran who gets out of the military in their 40’s with a small pension and joins our team as a Regional Partner and earns 40K per year by organizing the team, selling new clients and occasionally filling a gig to keep the schedule populated.  

Each of these three examples represent someone in a different season of their life, with different perspectives and goals, along with varied levels of life experience.

As a company we respect whatever season of life you happen to be in, and we’re grateful that people from various backgrounds, ages and experience have joined our team.

So what season are YOU in?

Are you happy with where you are in life, or do you want to make a change and do something different? We are looking for Regional Partners in 200 metro markets throughout the United States, check out our website at BalloonDistractions.com!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Night.

There I stood, a third grade child onstage at the VFW hall, alone in the hot spotlight at the Christmas Concert for Alice Costello Elementary School in Brooklawn, New Jersey. My music teacher Mrs. Monihan looked up from the piano and began to play the introduction to Silent Night. I took a deep breath and began to sing the first verse, in the clear soprano voice that I inherited from my mother:

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, all is Bright….

As I sang the rest of the third grade class stood behind me and used ASL to sign the lyrics with their hands. The only sound was my voice over the microphone and the piano. Mrs. Monihan, our music teacher with perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable red nails, had chosen me to sing in front of the 1,000 or so folks that always packed her amazing Christmas concerts.

Holy Infant so tender and mild…..

Even at the tender age of 8 I had already sung this beautiful song countless times, my family attended the Methodist church in Brooklawn, the very same church that my parents had been married in many years earlier. When Mrs. Monihan heard my voice piping up above the others in our 3rd grade music class she knew I’d be a good fit for the solo.

Mrs. Monihan was the type of teacher who poured her entire being into her work, she had a wicked laugh and she played the piano at breakneck speed. She would take a bunch of kids from our blue-collar town and teach us to sing and play instruments and feel the wonder of music in our hearts. Many years later, after I was in college on a scholarship to study vocal opera I would think back on Mrs. Monihan’s tremendous influence on my life and the wonderful gift inside me that she unwrapped with her boundless enthusiasm.

As I stood there singing in the bright circle of light on the stage I only had a very vague understanding of the evil out there in the world, I was very blessed to have loving parents who took care of me and made sure I was safe, fed hot meals and taken care of with a roof over my head. Other than the usual mischief that little kids get into at that age I was innocent to the horrors of the world.

In that moment, at the crowded VFW hall, I was able to sing a beautiful song and move the hearts of the people in the audience.

When the song was over there was a moment of silence, and then the audience erupted and clapped and went bonkers. It was a great moment.

Fast forward 30 years…….

December of 2012 was a really busy month for me, I was running Balloon Distractions and also doing consulting work for a company headquartered in Philadelphia. I was constantly on flights between Philadelphia and Tampa. It was one of those rare days when I was home in Tampa and able to work from my home office.

I was doing some admin work when I took a break and clicked over to Slate to check out the news. I saw a story about a shooting unfolding at an elementary school in Massachusetts. I got up from my desk and walked out to my living room to watch CNN on the TV.

As the details about Newtown unfolded on my TV screen I sat there on my couch and began to cry. I wept in that profound way that empties the caverns of the heart and makes sorrow easier to carry. This tragedy, more than any others, shook my faith and stirred something deep inside me. As the owner of a business that makes children HAPPY the Newtown massacre brought me down for a long time after, and even now represents a permanent shadow on my heart.

I wept because we were so close to Christmas, a holiday that’s about love for children, a holiday that celebrates the BIRTH of a child. I wept because of the love I have for my own daughters… I could only imagine the pain those parents were going through when they learned the news.

Any mass shooting is a horrible tragedy, but the Newtown massacre extinguished the lives of 22 children who woke up that morning with an expectation that the world around them was a safe place in which they were loved, well cared for, and kept away from any evil OUT THERE in the world.

My only consolation is that the children from Newtown all went to heaven as a group, and I’m positive that there were many people “up there” to greet them, comfort them, and hold them close. If you are not a person of Faith then I suppose you believe that those innocent souls are truly gone, snuffed out like a flame from a small candle, but I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Sometimes it takes two extremes to really understand and appreciate what is out there in the universe. After Newtown many people lamented that the world is a bad and evil place, but that is only because the Adam Lanza’s of the world get more attention than 100,000 good people like Mrs. Monihan.

Every day, in small towns and large cities all over the world, there are good people who wake up in the morning and then go out to work hard and do an excellent job. Some of these jobs might be high profile, like the mayor of a city, or they might be very humble jobs, a janitor mopping a floor in a high school, or a domestic changing sheets in a hotel.

Sometimes no one notices the good job that they are doing, but they do it anyway because they have pride and abiding respect with themselves and THEY know whether they did a good job or not.

Good work is a counterbalance to anyone out there doing BAD work, and doing something to make a child smile counteracts (in a small way) the bad things that are happening  to children elsewhere.

Bad things happen, but I choose to believe in the good that is out there, the people like Mrs. Monihan who choose to be a beacon of light.

-Ben Alexander

2015

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. 

Twisting balloonz in Honduras!

In April of 2014 I’ll return to Honduras on my third trip… this was written after our first trip in January of 2012: 

Last week I went to Honduras along with 4 other members of my local Rotary club to install clean water filters in a joint project with Pure Water for the World. The trip was paid for by our Rotary club aong with a $3,000 sponsorship from Wesley Chapel Toyota / Honda.

     

I packed my steel-toe boots, leather gloves, some heavy duty work clothes and a bag full of balloons. Our group of Rotarians were joined by a handful of other folks from around the country: a writer, an accountant, a dentist, 2 paralegals, a construction consultant and the CEO of an electronics company. Our base of operations was the town of Trojes (pronounced TRO-hayes).. a rag tag town with dirt roads near the Nicaraugan / Honduras border.

Pure Water for the World (PWW) has installed over 2,000 water filters and over 600 latrine facilities in the communities surrounding Trojes, and during our trip we added several water filters and 7 new latrines to that total. Another component of PWW’s mission is educating Hondurans about basic hygiene issues.

In Trojes we stayed in the Hotel Moderno ( I think it rates NEGATIVE 3 stars in the Michelin guide). Every morning about 200 roosters would promptly wake us up at 5AM. My first morning I climbed up to the roof of the hotel and was amazed at how you could hear roosters crowing and dogs barking from every point on the compass. From my vantage point I could see the entire town and the tropical mountains beyond…

Everyday after a decent breakfast at a local outdoor restaurant we would climb into the back of several 4X4 pick-ups and head up to the homes far up into the mountains. Sometimes it would take almost 2 hours to reach our destination, and as we climbed the mountains on muddy, slippery roads we were always about 8 inches from plunging off the side and falling several hundred feet into the jungle below. Once we got off the truck we had to hike a couple hundred yards down a steep muddy path to get to the target household.

The people living up in the mountains lived in adobe shacks with dirt floors, no electric, no sewer system, windows that were just a hole in the wall and a wood burning stove. One family that we helped grew coffee, beans and rice right there on the side of the mountain. Every home had one or 2 half starved dogs wandering around along with a gaggle of chickens and curious barefoot children everywhere you looked.    

The Honduran people have a different attitude about danger and child rearing, I would see little kids right on the edge of the roads all over the country, and many times you would see a child totally alone with nary an adult in sight. Up in the mountains these little children would run up and down the muddy footpaths like it was nothing… I got the feeling that any child who reached adulthood must be one tough son of an onion….   

This trip gave me a new perspective and made me thankful for all the things we take for granted here in the United States.