Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Balloon Class

I had two people to train today. One was motivated. The other wasn't.

How can you inspire others to accomplish tasks?
What's the best way to lead a team or crew of artists or entertainers?
What would be a better way to prospect so that I can weed out anyone that may lack motivation?

I attended Riverside Military Academy in Gainseville, GA where I learned that motivation either comes from within or without. Some people just have the inner workings that keep them going, doing what it is they are supposed to do. Others, they just have to be poked and prodded until they do what they are supposed to.

We can't change others, but we can change ourselves. If we are constantly staying on the ball, keeping things moving, and inviting others to join with us while we work... then we may be able to share some of our own motivation to others.

Also, hang around self-driven, well motivated people. Surround yourself with excellence and you will become excellent yourself.

My goal today is to find the motivation to do something I don't usually do on my own. I am going to let someone else motivate me to do something and then I am going to go out of my way to finish something on my own.

Ha ha, and I've already got the first one figured out. My room mate just walked in and conveniently reminded me to pay the bills today.

Now, on to figuring out what I'm going to get up and do on my own...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gig: Texas Roadhouse, Houston

So, I was working at Texas Roadhouse tonight and I had a blast.

At first, it was busy, but there were no kids around. I was getting a lot of adults that just didn't want a balloon. So, I started to make a large balloon sculpture of a monkey on a palm tree with bananas. It was only about 10 balloons, but I turned it into a hat and convinced the host staff to trade it off and wear it all night. So, that was fun.

And by the time I finished it, I had a waiter come up to me and ask me to go to his table where I was asked to make a Tropical Birthday Hat. It was awesome. I had a Birthday girl, her mom, and her kid all wanting something special.

I started with the girl getting a flamingo hat, complete with legs hanging under her chin. As I was finishing up, her mom was putting a $5 on the table. I wasn't done yet though. I made a crab for mom. (The $5 turned into a $10) and then I finished up with the daughter (who was about 24) and made her a dolphin hat. By the time I was done with the table, Mom (Grandma) had given me a $20 and I started my night off right.

Later on in the night, I was at a table about to get a 'no.' (I could read it in their faces.) And before I could hear them say 'no,' I heard a group of people yelling and screaming my name.

"Yay! Mr. Fudge is here!!"
"Hey Mr. Fudge!!! We're going to be sitting over there."

"Hey guys! It's great to see you back. I'll be over there in a few..."

Yeah... So, that 'no' I could read in their faces... It turned into a resounding yes after that. They wanted me to suprise every last one of them. So, I did. I made them each something cool and then went to visit my buddies from the week before.

When I got to their table, the daughter informed me that their elementary school class got a hampster and she helped to convince them to name it Mr. Fudge. (I never thought it would be so great an honor it is to be named after a rodent... Suprizingly, it meant a lot to me.)

After that, the son pointed out his Hershey's Marathon shirt where he completed and got first place in states for track and feild. So, that was really cool. I told him to that he was definately a Mr. Fudge fan if he was enterting Hershey events.

Thinking things were finished with the children filling me in, I was going to offer a balloon, but the father stopped me to inform me that they had all come up with a theme song for me. I wish I could remember all of it to share with you here. The tune was rather catchy and I wish I had it on tape to add to the end of my DVDs.

"Mr. Fudge is my name
if you know it, say it again..."

Okay, so I don't remember all the words... I tried.

Needless to say, I had an awesome time talking with the table. And though they did not want a balloon, they were sure to let management know how much they loved me and they were not going to let me go without promising to be at the sons birthday in May.

Before the night was through, I made a bunch of big, crazy, and conected hats that went on some individuals at a table. They were all 17-28 and absolutely loved it! (I actually got to make my ladybug hat for a lady at the table next to them too. So, that really made my night! I love when adults wear hats!)

Well, That's more than enough to share about my night tonight.

I am going to try and make it a point to leave gig stories when I can so that readers of the blog can see more into the life of a Balloon Artist Professional.

>jonathan fudge.
Your Balloon Man

Restaurant Sales

When I go out to pitch restaurants, I expect to walk away with at least one tryout at the very minimum. So, a lot of times I'll make it my goal to get a tryout before I allow myself to have lunch.

Thursday I woke up hungry, skipped breakfast, met up with my associate, and went out to pitch. Sure enough, it was a difficult area to get a tryout.

We ended up going to a huge mall in the area, wanting to pitch the restaurants within. After my first restaurant told me that it was owned by the hotel attached to the mall, I decided I'd have to talk to the hotel staff and the mall staff before I went any further.

That pushed our lunch back quite a bit.

Starving, with stomach rumbling, we set up meetings with the propper authorities at the mall and recieved permission to pitch to the individual restaurants. We did not have as much luck with the hotel staff. We got a couple of business cards and a cold shoulder. So, needless to say, we didn't waste our time pitching to the restaurants next to the hotel.

I was hungry, I needed to eat, and I absolutely had to get a restaurant to say yes.

I decided I was going to go to the food court so that I'd be reminded just how much I wanted to work.

Holding the prize before our eyes actually worked!

We saw a number of restaurants big enough to work in and we pitched them like there was no tomorrow. (Mostly because it felt like there would never be a tomorrow if I didn't get any food.) Sure enough, all the persistence and hard work paid off. we were able to land 2 tryouts before we left the mall.

And as you might imagine, I scored a pretty hefty meal as well. It was a VERY late meal, but it was a big one.

On the way home, we pitched a few more places. We mostly gathered intel so that we could come back again on another day.

I'm writing this now to say that with a full day of effort, I was able to land 2 gigs a week. I still have some stuff pending, but it is not set in stone yet.

If you are trying to accomplish a goal, try setting a reward for yourself. In my case, it was a punishment until I completed the task and then a reward after the fact.

It also may help to have a partner with you that will hold you to your commitment. With my associate there, I wasn't going to go back on my word, not even to grab a basket of fries for the ride home.

>Jonathan Fudge

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Artist Approach

"Artist" Approach:
“Hello, I’m Mr. Fudge and I’m your in house balloon artist this evening. That’s right! I take balloons and mold-and-fold-and-twist-and-shape-them until they resemble modern art. And for you young lady, I want to make something special – absolutely adorable – something that just says ‘amazing.’” Go on to make her a bracelet or a princess crown. With a slight adaptation, you can use this line to make anyone almost anything. And the best part, you get to choose what it is!

Basic Guidelines for the Restaurant Entertainment Professional

The following are the basic guidelines I use and teach to those interested in restaurant entertainment.
1) Appearance – Show up clean cut and well groomed in professional attire. Dress pants, closed toed dress shoes, and a button up shirt is the norm. I do not dress as a clown and do not suggest that others do it because of the high number of people that are terrified of clowns.
2) Timeliness – Always show up on time or early. It is also good to try and leave on time as well. If you do happen to stay late, be sure to let the manager know you are staying late as a courtesy
3) Priorities – Patrons are at the restaurant to eat first and to be entertained second. The best time to approach the table is after the food has been ordered, but before the food has arrived. If a server or one of the staff come to the table, do your best to get out of their way completely.
4) Safety First – Balloons are a choking hazard for all children under the age of three. Due to the nature of latex, it becomes very dangerous if swallowed.
5) Manager Clause – Everything in the manual is to be followed as written unless otherwise stated by a manager. If you are told to do something by management, assuming it does not endanger yourself or others, please comply. This only applies to the manager, not the wait staff.
6) Marketing – You are in the restaurant to help build business for the restaurant. Always talk positively about the restaurant you are in and encourage guests to come again. Not only does it increase possible tips you may receive, but it also maintains a positive relationship between the restaurant and yourself.
7) Staffing – You are not a part of the restaurant staff. If there is a problem, find out who can help and notify them immediately.
8) Humility – Know your place. You are an added bonus, an extra, something special that the restaurant added for their customers. You are never going to be chosen over that of a member of a wait staff. They always have priority. If you show them all the respect and kindness that you can, many of them will return the favor.
9) Understand No – A no is a no. Do not pressure the guests into anything. There are creative ways to entertain and amuse people that would not otherwise be amused, but do not push your limits too far.
10) Have Fun – If you are not having fun, then no one else is. Smile, enjoy yourself, and make sure everyone it happy. If you can do that, then you will do well.

This is on the first page of my restaurant training program. They are the 10 principles that I use while in a restaurant. I hope they will at the very least encourage you to come up with a list things to guide you throughout your business walk as well.

Just Another Unexpected Day Off...

Again, I'm reminded just how important it is to have a contract between an entertainer and their clients.

Today I was suposed to work at a Birthday party.

I sorted my balloons, set out my clothes, and began mentally preparing myself for the event. About the time I was about to get into the shower, I noticed that I had a message on my phone. So, I preceeded to call to check my voicemail only to find out that the Mother called to cancel me at the event.

I called her and inquired as to why she would wish to cancel.

"We're just not going to be doing it. We're calling it off."

"You're canceling the entire party?"

"No, just the balloons. We have a snow cone machine instead."

"Well, I'm glad you have a snow cone machine and all, but we agreed that I'd be performing today and my time is pretty valuble. Just yesterday morning, I had to refuse a $300 event because I had already made prior engagements with you."

"Oh, too bad."

Yeah... "Too bad." was the best answer I got today. And to top it off, I was hung up on.

There are days I absolutely love my job. This wasn't one of them.

Because of people like this, I now have to demand payment prior to the date of the event. I just informed my secretary that I would no longer put anything on my calendar unless I had the cash or check in hand for the event.

I know I'll lose some events because of this, but it is not worth it for me to give away a weekend full of work to someone without some type of commitment.

Until I have a contract drawn up, that's the way it has to be.

>Jonathan Fudge
Your Balloon Man

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Opera Style

Most of the really great routines that I do are things I had to creatively steal from Jimmy Leo. I now steal cell phones much more often and I make girlfriend catchers and I make it a point to have fun with my audience.

Just the same, I've found that my character deals with these different bits in different ways.

So, I'll take a story from my gig Thursday night and explain what my buddy and I did while twisting. Though this is something I haven't completely heard before, most of the pieces I had to fit together to make this entertaining came from different talks I've had with Jimmy Leo.

We were entertaining a large group of families at a restaurant and we were informed that it was a young lady's birthday.

So, out comes the 4-balloon opera singer hat.

My buddy makes the hat and informs her that she's going to sing happy birthday to herself (because neither of us could sing) and that she'll be accompanied by the sorounding audience.

So, He takes the lead, helping her sing and I direct her movements from her elbow, making her perform some very amusing opera singer movements.

After practicing a few of the pieces of the act, we then combined everything together to sing her a WONDERFUL birthday song where she was the center of attention, got a full round of applause, and walked away with the biggest smile ever.

Because it was her birthday, I actually stopped my "line." (I don't actually use a line, but I stopped making what I was working on.)

By having both entertainers bringing everyone's attention to this one girl, we were able to get a resounding aplause, a thank you from the owner, and a full 2-3 minutes of full out hysterical entertainment for the entire crowd.

Thanks again for the awesome talks Jimmy! Everytime I talk with you, I learn a ton of stuff.


My First Hug

Working with the public all the time, I’ve found that very few people are actually as grateful as you’d imagine they’d be. It is very rare that someone comes up and actually says thank you. Now, I don’t mean the people who have their mommy’s come up and remind them to say thanks, I am talking about people that genuinely show their appreciation for what I take time to do for them.

I’ve had a few times when someone’s thanks really stuck out and made an impact on my life. One time in particular, it even brought me to tears.

I was twisting a balloon in a Beef O’ Bradys. It’s a family sports bar in Tampa that has great food and a pretty awesome atmosphere. On this particular day, that atmosphere included a 4 year old girl that was running around all over the place.

It is not usually my place to discipline anyone, ever. So, I wasn’t really going to tell her she was out of place running around everywhere. Instead, I made her a huge hat so that everyone was able to see her before she could get into the kitchen in back or before she got too far away from her table for her guardian to watch her.

Well, sure enough, she started to run off again toward the kitchen. Being the awesome balloon guy I was, I remembered her name, called out to her, and had her come back towards me and her table. I was ducking down so that I could speak to her on eye level. And being she had the huge hat, and being I called across the restaurant to her, everyone was watching as she ran over to me without blinking and eye and gave me the biggest hug ever.

Now, normally that wouldn’t mean too much, but I had never gotten a hug up to this point from anyone I had twisted a balloon for. And beyond that, nearly everyone in the restaurant burst out in a simultaneous “Awwww.”

That moment was probably the best moment in my life up to that point. I don’t know what the deal was between her and her family and I’m not sure why there was such an issue watching her, but I do know that she running up and giving me a hug was at the time the best thank you I had ever gotten while twisting a balloon.

My First Big Tip

Sometimes I wonder why I do my job. It can be crazy, stressful, and literally a pain in the neck.

But on some days, I’m reminded just how awesome my job really is.

When I first started out, I was working for tips in restaurants. So, the idea of a big tip was something that intrigued me. I assumed that I would have to be the most amazing artist in the world and I’d have to do something really great in order to get a big tip.

However, when I got my first $20 tip, it was for a balloon dog. I’m not talking about a cool looking dog either. I made him a single 260 balloon dog, with two ears, four legs, and a tail. It was nothing special, but the guy gave me a $20. I was floored.

It just goes to show that a big tip doesn’t always come from the big and extravagant balloons shapes. That was an eye opening experience for me and I hope that knowing that can help those that are out there understand the world that much better.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Failure Leads to Success!

The greatest asset in this business is failure. That's right! --Failure. I know some of you are thinking that I am insane, but I want you to try and hear me out...

First off... What is failure to a balloon artist? Is it when a balloon pops? It is when a design doesn't look as well as you hoped? Is it when you don't know how to make something someone asks for?

All of these things lead eventually to success... Or at least they can.

When I started ballooning, there were a few things that I researched a LOT more than others. One of the things I constantly did was look at new designs on BalloonHQ so that I could figure out new ways of making stuff. And upon searching the site, I found a goldmine list of pop-lines. That's right! Lines that could only be used when a balloon pops. Some lines were so great that I even intentionally popped balloons a few times so that I could see the crowds reaction to it. Pop lines are amazing!

I think my first suggestion to any balloonist would be to learn so many pop lines so well that there is absolutely NO FEAR in potential poppage... I believe that this will decrease poppage dramaticly. When you are not nervous and relaxed, you are more likely to have the balloon live longer in your hands.

If you are just starting out, learn a few basics and work with them... Don't be afraid of challenges. If someone asks for a three-headed dragon and you dont know how to make one... Attempt it. Create it in your mind and try it out. What is the worst that could happen? You could fail horribly and pop the daylights out of it. Is that bad? Nope... That means you get to entertain... As an entertainer, you are given a LOT of leeway... You could say something like, "Sorry, I messed up... This isn't the three-headed dragon balloon, this is the recently slain dragon I was asked for last night... These hands just get away from me sometimes and I don't know what's been done until it's over..." Then... as an entertainer, guess what you can do next? "well, sinse your dragon has been slain, how about a dog or a monkey to take home.. .you know something that wont scare the neighbors away?"

Mistakes are great! You get to learn new balloons, practice pop-lines, and work on your creative genius. Creativity is not an inherent talent in most people... It is an aquired talent through practice.

Make sure you use your noodle or you might just turn out being as entertaining as a bowl of sauceless spaghetti...

In what ways can you practice creativity? Where can you go to learn new ways to do things? What are some ways you can be prepared to fail? How can you turn a failure into a success?

Jonathan Fudge

Purpose of This Blog

This blog is being set up so that I may keep the world informed in an informal way of my life as a balloonist. I intend on Posting on a regualar basis with all kinds of different subjects.

Some of the types of posts will include:
-Pop lines
-New Figures
-Table Approaches
-Gig Stories
-And anything else that may come to mind later on...

If at any point you see anything that may need correcting, please drop me an email. If you see anything that you may have an idea for, please drop me an email. If you have an email address, please drop me an email.

Jonathan Fudge.