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.

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17 year locusts and Sacred Geometry.

The more I read and travel the more I run into the inherent strangeness that is out there in our everyday world. The UNIVERSE has ALWAYS been multi-faceted and bizarre, and the oddest things are not always that obvious at first glance.

Case in point, sacred geometry: www.soulsofdistortion.nl/soda_chapter5.html

Sacred Geometry can be applied to modern business in many ways…. it is used to influence and persuade the general public in such a manner that we do not realize we are being influenced.

Lots of weirdness also sits on the Internet, waiting to be discovered. If you get curious about Ch’an Buddhism you are 2 clicks away from digital pics, video and a few blogs about it as well.

With platforms like Facebook you can post a weird YouTube clip on your Wall and share it with the 8 bazillion people linked to your profile…  in many ways technology facilitates the rise of stuff that most people would never know about before the internet.

I work from a home office and when I glanced out of the window yesterday there were 2 lizards (brown anoles) getting funky on the windowsill overlooking the garden. I’ve lived in Florida since 2003, I’ve seen them procreate before, but I still stopped for a minute and watched. I’ve observed these little lizards hunt bugs for food, fight each other, get eaten by birds, and when they molt they will eat their own cast off skin!

Disgusting, yes, but a bit fascinating as well. The entire lizard soap opera unfolds right in the rose garden, from procreation to death.

I’ve never seen a Cicada in North America with this interesting coloration.

When I visited Taiwan in July of 2010 I saw and heard plenty of stuff that one would not normally find here in Florida: tropical mountains, pet squirrels, cable cars that went high into the clouds, Hakka, Mandarin and Taiwanese spoken around me, bullet trains and snakes for sale as food at the night market.

One key to a dynamic life?

Stay curious and question stuff… and observe the world around you with fresh eyes.

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. 

Mike’s Story

Micheal is an entertainer on the Seattle team, this is his story:

“I was twisting at a restaurant the other day, spotted a table with a mom and son, about 8 years old. The boy was being difficult, holding his head down, with a sullen expression on his face, basically refusing to co-operate with anything mom wanted.

I approached the table, gave a big cheery HELLO, and preceded to ask if I could make something for either one of them.  The boy just ignored me – but not without first glancing at all the balloons in my apron. Mom said she wasn’t sure, as they were having difficulties even ordering their food.

I commented, “Yeah! Sometimes it’s really hard to decide, it’s all so good!”

We chatted for a few more seconds, and the little guy kept sneaking glances over my direction.

I finally asked mom what his favorite color was, (blue) and inflated a balloon, making a big production out of it. Then I asked if I could sit for a moment (next to the kid) “… ’cause my feet were sore…” (with a wink at mom). She said “Sure!” and I plopped down, and started waving the balloon like a wand. By now the kid was more staring at the balloon than down.

I continued talking to mom, telling her about Balloon Distractions, and that I twist all sorts of shapes, and I’m not sure what to make with this beautiful blue balloon.

This caused the kid to whisper ‘… a Dog…”

I sat there, slowly shaping a Sitting Dog, and explaining what I was doing as I went. The boy’s eyes were now riveted on the action. By the time I got to making it’s ears the kid was fascinated, and totally into it. I got him to tell me a joke, even got the mom to laugh at my exaggerated mistakes When I’d finished the shape (He chose the color for the eyes), the kid was smiling and laughing, and had decided he was hungry and happy. 

I got a $10 tip from a grateful Mom.”

What it takes to Build a Region.

Balloon Distractions started with one client back in 2003, a Perkin’s restaurant on North Dale Mabry road in Tampa, FL.

From that humble beginning we grew to a nationwide team of entertainers that crosses four time zones and entertains children from Seattle to Miami to Los Angeles.

Each local team is led by a Regional Partner, and we are seeking additional Regional Partners in over 130 markets across the United States.

Our Regional Partners are independent contractors, they determine the pace and growth of their region. 

What in the world does a Regional Partner do?

–        They fill gigs and make sure the schedule is filled each week.

–        Introduce this idea to new clients.

–        Find and develop a crew of entertainers.

How does someone become a Regional Partner?

–        Fill out the Regional Partner form on our website.  

–        Submit to a background check and fill out our Independent Contractor agreement.

–        Work your way up through the levels in our program.

How much do Regional Partners earn?

Your pay is based upon a percentage of incoming revenue from clients that you have established in your region, in a major market working 30 plus hours per week you can earn over $100K per year.

In a smaller market (less than 100,000 people) you can do this part time and on weekends to earn an extra $1,000 to $3,000 per month.

Some of our Regional Partners in secondary markets earn $25K per year working less than 10 hours per week.

Where do successful Regional Partners come from?

From retired military to full time college students, our RP team varies in gender, race, age and work experience. Even across this diversity there are some common characteristics among them:

–        They are willing to fill gigs and make people happy.

–        Expressive, outgoing and friendly.

–        Humble. Even the founder and CEO of the company goes out to make balloons for children on a regular basis.      

–        Goal oriented, it is not EASY or FAST to get up to $100K in annual income. It takes consistent commitment over a long period of time.    

–        Persistent and TOUGH. People quit, clients cancel, that’s life… but as long as you keep going you will find success in this business.

How does Balloon Distractions support the Regional Partners?

We have an entire system that walks you through every facet of our business, from twisting your very first balloon to learning how to run a crew of 30 Independent Contractor Entertainers.

We’ve moved our entire operation online, you can run a huge team with a laptop and a smartphone. Balloon Distractions handles the  billing, payroll, quality control and 90% of the weekly scheduling.

We also have trainers who can come to your region and help you launch your region.

Does it cost anything to get started?

As an Independent Contractor you pay for all your supplies: a balloon pump, some balloons, an apron, etc. You can buy these items anywhere for less than $100. 

You will spend time and gas building your region, so you’ll need to own a well-maintained and reliable vehicle. 

Our revenue is derived from charging our clients a specific fee per booking, you are paid a percentage of all incoming revenue in your region twice per month. 

Why should I work with Balloon Distractions?

Why not just buy some balloons and do this on my own?

Why do people spend millions on a McDonald’s franchise?

Because McDonald’s corporation has the best SYSTEMS in the world.

Here at Balloon Distractions we’ve figured out the optimal way to develop and organize crews of 25 to 50 entertainers on a weekly basis.

Balloon Distractions is already an approved vendor with many of the national brands, from Chili’s to Applebee’s to IHOP.

As you grow your region you also are plugged into a national support network of Regional Partners who trade ideas and tips on a weekly basis.

Mike Walker recruits in Philadelphia

The next section was written by Mike Walker, our 20 year-old regional leader in Philadelphia. Mike is one of our youngest and most successful regional leaders, he knows his stuff !

Recruiting twisters is the same as selling restaurants.  As a recruiter you are selling the concept of working for balloon distractions to prospective twisters.  Confidence is key, and just like selling restaurants, it all hinges on belief in the product and the ability to convey that belief to the target audience. 

Establishing legitimacy is a very important aspect of overcoming the doubts prospective twisters may have concerning their work with Balloon Distractions.  Many prospective twisters fear that this business is a “scam” (nothing is farther from the truth). It sounds “too good to be true” for many people (it did to me) but I make sure to avoid negative language such as “scam”, “con”, or “rip off.” 

Concerning payment I say this to every prospective twister

“Payment is all in tips, what you make is what you keep, balloon distractions never sees a single dollar of what you earn.  If you make 100 dollars working on a Friday night, you keep all of that money no payments to balloon distractions.  Balloon Distractions serves as a talent agency that simply finds restaurants for Twisters. 

Where I find all my twisters: Restaurants

I cannot begin to stress the importance of restaurant recruiting, three quarters of all the twisters I have trained, I recruited in restaurants.  Recruiting in a restaurant is the easiest way to recruit new twisters.  Prospective twisters meet you face to face and see the company in action.  When somebody sees a flyer advertising fifteen dollars an hour they automatically suspect the legitimacy of the job, however at a restaurant there is no doubt that this is a legitimate business.  Patrons can see us at work, as well as see first hand the clean cut and articulate nature of those already working for the company.  The “wad of cash” is the greatest asset when approaching prospective twisters.  Show the patrons how much money you have made in your x hours of work and then tell them how much you will walk out of the restaurant with in “X” hours total work. 

There is another advantage to recruiting in restaurants.  Beyond legitimacy, you can get a feel for the caliber of each individual while you are making them balloon animals.  In conversation, note their personality and take that in consideration while interviewing them. 

At first for me, restaurant recruiting was a very difficult and awkward process.  I would go up to a table of my peers, make them a balloon animal and offer them a job.  It seemed weird. As opposed interjecting how well twisting balloons pays at the end of entertaining a table of people, I now weave aspects about the job into my conversation with patrons, and I am ALWAYS constantly looking for any interest that the patron has.  Normally questions such as “how did you get into this”, or “how does being a clown pay?” are great ways to begin to recruit patrons at the table.  I always stress that I wish I had come upon this job sooner (which is true) and that it is the perfect job for high school and college students, or whatever their age demographic may be. 

For every table that expresses minimal interest in becoming twister, I write “$15/hr” on the back of the business card that I leave at each table.  I tell them to call me when they are tired of making minimum wage working 20 hour weeks, when they can make the same money in two shifts in Balloon Distractions.

At every table I work, I search for any slight interest that the patron has in becoming a twister, or making more money.  I always find ways to tie into the conversation how I got started twisting and how much I make (without making the conversation awkward for the patrons). 

Every night I make it my goal to leave the restaurant with the phone number of at least one prospective twister.  If they have your number there is a very miniscule chance that they will end up working with balloon distractions, however if you have their number and you call and set up an interview, there is a very good chance they will end up working with us.

Questions for potential recruits:

Basic questions we ask potential Balloon Distractions entertainers:

-Do you own a reliable vehicle?

-Does dealing with people make you anxious in any way?

-Do you have internet access in your home?

-Do you have a credit card with which you can order supplies?

-How do you feel able talking to strangers?

-Have you worked with children before?

-How do you feel about learning a new skill?

We hire people for their personality, and then teach the balloon twisting.

(December 2013)