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To many people who just don’t get it, she’s the red balloon girl, who bobs up at small business events, corporate conferences and anywhere she can leverage her business — and that’s everywhere.

Naomi Simson is more than the red balloon girl — she is a 24/7 entrepreneur driving her business to increasingly higher levels.
So how did the business start?

“I had already left corporate life when I became a mother and I was running a freelance marketing group,” she recalls. “I had been keeping an eye on developments on the Internet and thought it would be wonderful to have a scaleable business to run from home. I just needed a business idea.”

Now for those looking for hints, remember that success leaves clues and one regular source of local business success comes from looking overseas.

Simson’s leg up came from one of her clients who had seen a similar idea in the UK but was not an online business. Out of this came her Red Balloon Days where anyone or any business can buy experiences for friends, lovers or staff. These experiences range from jumping out of plane to riding a horse to walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

One of Simson’s favourites was the guy working on an oil rig off the West Australian Coast whose wife was in Tasmania during their twentieth wedding anniversary.

“She was truly delighted to receive a star named after them on the exact day when he was so far away,” she says. “But probably one of the most thrilling for me was the ‘Back-of-Stage’ experience at Auckland Zoo where we hosted 20 blind children who got to experience touch, smell and sound right up close to cheetahs, elephants, giraffes and many other animals. They got to ‘see’ animals.”

The business was set up on the good vibes and efforts of family and friends. “I called in many favours and asked lots of people for help, ideas and mentoring,” admits Simson.

But in the early days it wasn’t money or expertise shortfalls that Simson found as a challenge. “First of all, just the aloneness of it all was hard,’ she says. “Everything was up to me – there was no helpdesk to call if I needed computer assistance, there was no corporate expense accounts and no brand to fall back on!”

And it was no bed of roses on the hard business front either.
“I spent most of my precious dollars on the outsource development of the website,” she confesses. “Having no experience of online marketing at all, I had no appreciation of just how bad that website was. And to make matters worse, I had spent all my dollars and had no money to spend on the promotion of it.”

As with many start-ups, there were more mistakes. “The precious email list that I had gathered together to launch Red Balloon was inadvertently spammed by a test email,” she reveals. “There were many and numerous other disasters but the point is how you deal with them.”

Simpson believes entrepreneurs are like clown punching bags, who just keep popping up – one punch after another! So how did she change things?

First up, she asked anybody and everybody for help, ideas and support but there was one perennial problem — there wasn’t a lot of money to seek professional assistance.

However, being open to others’ ideas and observations brought a significant pay off to the business. “My brother-in-law made some very poignant comments about the website – not that I liked them at the time,” she explains. “But I did listen and acted upon them.”

Since then, this very important channel to Red Balloon Days’ customers is always open for improvement. “The website is never ever finished,” says Simson. “We have a weekly release to upgrade the site. The changes started less than a month after it was supposed to be finished and they have never stopped.”

Business improvement has not just come from friends and family. There are another group Naomi really listens to closely.
“We listen carefully to customers and we react to trends,” she insists. “We also watch how customers use the website through analytic software and with the developments of online technology. We don’t want to miss out and we want to keep giving out customers a wonderful online experience.”

Naomi and her business have received many accolades, but what lies behind the success? “To have dramatic growth you must have dramatic stability,” she suggests. “Process, planning and purpose set you free. All we have to do is deliver on the plan. Knowing the critical number that you’re playing for and having a rhythm of communication give us a system for growth.”

This is the language of the educated business person who has taken her passion and focus, as well her appetite for hard work to create a great business.

Words such as processes, plans and critical number come from the great business educators/coaches, who have shown the way for many very highly successful business growers.

From their teachings and Simson’s individuality, marketing magnets such as a ‘100 per cent Pleasure Guarantee’ are conceived. This little point of difference doesn’t explain Simson’s success, but seen in the context of everything she does to make a difference — and there is a lot — it is certainly why Red Balloon Days has gone from being a good to a great business.

Published on: Sunday, June 28, 2009

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