Hi Jan, thanks for joining us today. Too often the media represents innovation as something magical that only high-flying tech billionaires and upstarts engage in – but the truth is almost every business owner has to regularly innovate in small and big ways in order for their businesses to survive and thrive. Can you share a story that highlights something innovative you’ve done over the course of your career?
The Most Innovative Thing
Choosing the most innovative thing I’ve done in my career is a tough call for so many reasons.
First of all, where does a career begin and end? Furthermore, what is truly innovative? Is it about finding a way to turn a known way of doing things on its head? Or trying something completely different?
I’ve done some things in my life that some people consider innovative. Other people think they are just crazy. Me, I follow my gut.
Some of the craziest things I’ve ever done are the ones that make me proudest:
Things like paying people really well for their work.
Speaking up when there is an ethical breach.
Hiring and training people with disabilities.
Creating entertainment activations to create a specific mood and vision—no matter what it takes.
Speaking professionally on how to tap into an enormous pool of invisible labor while tapping into a new market with large discretionary spending power.
My latest obsession is how to create jobs for the person instead of having people fit into jobs.
Huh? Yes, we can do that. You can do it, too. I presented on it in my talk, “Intuition in Business” in Anaheim, CA, in May 2022 at The Special Event/Catersource Conference.
The most innovative thing I want to do RIGHT NOW includes plastering a living person with soil and living stuff in it. There is quite a bit more to it than that, but until it is a fait accompli, I’ll spare you the details.
Is It Woohoo?
One thing that has significantly impacted people’s perceptions of who I am and what I do are ‘readings.’ Most commonly, we utilize something personal like lips, palms, handwriting, or face shape. Some people find it woohoo or are afraid that we’ll see that they are embezzling their company. Word to the wise: Yes, we could discern those kind of nuances, but that is most likely not what you are hiring us for!
Did you know—you can read anything? That means anyone can interpret anything and give it meaning. Although many companies have tried to hire us to conduct psychic forensics or develop algorithms for their investors, that is not what we do.
What we do is create new ways to move people and put them in touch with themselves through innovations like ‘Food Readings’ and ‘Butt Readings’ (clothed)!
Maybe my greatest innovation has been the flavored and scented chocolate ganache I created for our Chocolate Lip Print Analysis.
It might be the creation of the Contactless Entertainer Booth that gave you all the feels of the original Zoltar Booth, let you interact with a live human being, and protected you from aerosol particles.
Independently working with people and for them, allows me do what I believe is the right thing, which is my greatest innovation. To choose what you stand for, to swallow fear and stand up for truth is an incredibly liberating feeling.
Or, as the late Pastor Niemöller famously said,
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out,
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out,
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out,
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
― Martin Niemöller
We all watch each other and follow cues that are sometimes overt and sometimes hidden. I believe we should set our North Star high and follow it. Set it so that caving in to greed would cause you more pain than pleasure.
What I do
I realized that making people’s special events magnificent and all about them was the most creative, inspiring, and useful work in the world.
I create interactive, immersive, or just plain extraordinary moments that celebrate people’s most important life events, gatherings, or impactful moments.
How? We dig deep, find out what our client really wants, and build an experience around it that helps them achieve their goal.
In brief: We can get the Montagues and the Capulets tongue-kissing.
Or at a wedding reception, we created an unforgettable experience sitting under an exquisite tea tent in the Egyptian Ball Room of the Fox Theatre, giving teacup readings with Rooibos and Oolong on fine china. Their wedding was featured in the 2023 January Atlanta Styles Wedding Magazine!
Transitions – Solutions – Traditions
In other words:
We help companies make transitions, create solutions, and reinvent traditions that no longer serve their purpose.
By producing customized, interactive entertainment, we connect people to each other, to you, your company, your project, or your mission.
We help your guests understand what makes you tick/your true nature.
We show your guests your creativity, how much you care, and how much they matter to you.
A Pivot and a Mission
Clients repeatedly come to us to design and produce their signature events. After focusing almost exclusively on entertainment, it became clear that they love having us as trusted advisors.
We listen and ask questions, create options, source and manage vendors and builds, but more than anything, we make our clients shine!
We recently worked with a community organization that had received a grant to produce a fair to educate and unite their community. We helped them safely gather as a large group, share information to a crowd that encompassed over 300 dialects, and helped create unifying and uplifting activities. Even though the event was postponed three times, with three venue changes, we helped them successfully meet all their goals!
Why I Do It
I’m driven to find different ways to tell a story, teach, and move people to see things from a different point of view. Sharing a sensory experience with someone is powerful and transformational. Watching someone light up as they feel seen and accepted for themself is extraordinarily fulfilling. We embed the insights into a specific context, nail down the story, costume it to fit our client’s concept and expected outcome. Then, we design an activity flow with all the moving parts that contribute to the happy ending—the moment your guest feels truly seen for who they are—THAT is the true work.
Who do you serve?
The Atlanta Botanical Garden hired us for their annual fundraiser. They wanted to thrill and delight their VIP supporters and encourage them to increase their donation levels.
Our entertainer wandered through the gardens costumed as an Edwardian Lady. She shared good fortunes to guests she encountered on her stroll. We also embedded a call-to-action in the readings. The entertainer would pause, shift voice and posture, and state, “We have a Public Service Announcement,” then tell the patron, for example, “you will be selling those old Ferragamo shoes and donating the proceeds to your Atlanta Botanical Garden!”
A well-known marketing company hired us as a gift to their client of 30 years—a major chicken company’s conference breakout sessions and trade show. Our mission was to reassure franchisees that “Yes, there might be a wing shortage, but more are on their way!” Lucy, from I Love Lucy, made her way through the exhibition hall, looking for Ricky and passing out cookies and fortunes to amused and astonished attendees. The future of those desperately sought wings was also included! Franchise owners felt understood, valued, and warmed up to the rest of the conference.
Share your problems with our Concessional Booth! Coming soon to a country near you, tell the entertainer your problems or sins (just like your favorite bartender). In exchange, get a sip, good tips, and a nosh!
How to find us:
Handy Entertainment: https://handyentertainment.xyz
Discover Atlanta: https://discoveratlanta.com/meetings/partner/handy-entertainment/
Can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I started Handy in 2009. Fast forward to December 2021. I asked my favorite son if he knew why I started the business. His answer, “Because you wanted something to do?” “No,” I said, “I already had plenty to do.”
In 2009, he was nine years old and struggling. He was struggling in school, he was struggling socially, he absolutely was struggling at home, everywhere. The only thing we knew was that he had “stuff,” but we didn’t know what.
I took a deep breath and told my young adult boy that I’d started the business to make sure that no matter what he ended up being capable of doing, no matter what his diagnosis, we would find a way to create meaningful work for him and help him be able to earn a living.
Silence. He looked at me. He was astonished. Proud?
Then I asked him how he felt about that. He said he felt fine. A pause. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” he asked. “I didn’t want to embarrass you.”
He said, “You should tell people that.” “I can’t,” I said, “it would be labelling you as someone who has “stuff.”
Laughing, he said, “I tell people I’ve just met that I have ‘stuff’ and that I struggle. Not as an excuse, but to explain why I do things the way I do.”
Then he told me to tell this story.
Any advice for growing your clientele? What’s been most effective for you?
I really care about my clients and am loyal to a fault. I also get a kick out of giving people things as gifts that I believe will serve them.
During the first year of the pandemic, revenue was way down. I sent out holiday cards, with a commissioned design from a young artist whose work I love. I also decided to give everybody some fancy dress options for their Zoom calls!
This is how I stumbled onto Pearls and Bowties! Working with a colleague, I designed a big fat pearl choker and some big old bow ties with eye-popping patterns. I sent them out with the cards and I believe I got more joy out of their responses then they got out of our swag!
This is when I realized that I was in the thick of “My best Pandemic Evah!”
Can you share one of your favorite marketing or sales stories?
There is this thing called Guerrilla Marketing. Jay Levinson developed the concept. I look back at some of the times when I didn’t know how to show people what we did in a way that would make them comfortable hiring us.
That’s when “A Good Costume Is A Terrible Thing to Waste” happened!
If after an event, I was wearing a good costume and it was still business hours, I’d pop in and say hello to a nearby prospect or former client and drop off some ‘swag’!
People loved it. I loved it. Swag sometimes melts. Sometimes I melt. But it is so much fun to surprise people and leave them happier than you found them!
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