For Randy Crain, owner of Crain Entertainment, the magic and entertainment seeds were planted at a young age. Even though it took some time for those seeds to sprout, his love of magic would eventually lead him to owning a business and bringing joy to people's lives. Crain shared the story behind the journey including lessons learned, strategic partnerships, future goals and advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
"When I was 10 years old, I remember watching David Copperfield do magic on TV," he said. "I got hooked and wanted to learn to do my own magic. I checked out some books and started learning tricks."
Despite Crain's new found love of magic, life got in the way and it wasn't until his 20s that he did something with it. At the time, he was living in North Orlando working part-time at a restaurant and also doing some youth ministry work. One of the kids that was part of the ministry brought in a video series of magic tricks. Watching the videos reignited Crain's fire. He started doing tricks for the youth group and also performed as part of kid's night at the restaurant. Crain eventually made a connection that would propel his hobby into an legitimate business.
"I befriended a retired magician," he said. "He loved what I was doing and told me to run with it. He and his wife took me under their wings and gave me some great advice and guidance. After getting more and more requests, I started doing private parties, events and shows at schools. I came home one day and told my wife that I was going to become a magician. She said, 'Okay, as long as you can pay the bills'. From that point on, I really worked hard. I booked events on weekends and business steadily increased. Around the end of 2002, I told the owner of the restaurant that I was leaving to pursue my business full-time. It was scary to leave a steady source of income, but I knew what I wanted."
Crain Entertainment became official in the Spring of 2003. For the next four to five years, Crain built up his business gaining customers, confidence and learning new skills along the way. He added entertainment options including face painters, stilt walkers and DJ services. Around 2008, Crain made a new connection that reshaped the future of Crain Entertainment.
"I got connected with the owner of a business that did balloon twisting," he said. "He would send balloon artists into restaurants to entertain the patrons. We teamed up and started working together. It was a challenge working with someone new, learning the restaurant side of things and learning to twist balloons, but we worked well together and continued to grow the business. We came up with the idea of having Regional Leaders. We recruit high school and college kids, single parents and part-timers to twist balloons and create balloon sculptures for restaurants. Once they get the hang of it, they can become a trainer and teach others. In the process they can also become a Regional Leader. At that point, they're able to go out and sell our services to restaurants and the community and earn some additional income."
Crain shared that many of their Regional Leaders are promoted from within. It takes someone with an outgoing personality and an entrepreneurial spirit to make the team.
"Our goal is to take someone with no skill set of balloon twisting and train them to work in restaurants and do events," he said. "Eventually, their skill set will lead to other skill sets and they become Master Balloon Artists."
When it comes to the restaurants they actively pursue, Crain explained that restaurants with 'paper' napkins as oppose to 'cloth' napkins are the source of their focus. They want a family-friendly place that's open to having fun.
This past April, Crain bought the restaurant balloon twisting side of the business from his partner. He explained that decision and what the future holds for the business and, on a personal level, for Crain.
"Since getting into the restaurant side of things, I've realized that they're a viable source for entertainment and revenue," he said. "I bought the company for two reasons. I was always challenged with not have a system to take care of invoicing, scheduling, booking, and payments. I could have control of a system that I knew well and could leverage my efforts to create more opportunity. With this system, we can book ANYBODY, ANYWHERE, for ANYTHING not just restaurants and entertainment. As long as there will be parties, events and restaurants, there will be a need for entertainment. The entertainment niche will not go away. Our system of technology will book 100,000 gigs per month in all 50 states seamlessly. Right now we're sending artists into restaurants in five different states. Our future goal is to expand into even more. There are many online resources that book entertainers for events, but I want to make it simpler, and more beneficial to both the entertainer and client. I hope to have 500 to 1,000 entertainers connected to our system in the next two years with a million dollar annual revenue and growing. On a personal level, my passion is still magic. My dream has always been to own a bed and breakfast with a built in theater to perform a Las Vegas style illusion show and have performers come from around the country. That's been my childhood dream. I believe in starting where I am and doing what I can with what I have. Lake County would be a great place to start this."
Crain, who describes himself as having a strong faith in God, offers up some great advice for people wanting to pursue their dreams and start their own business. "Continue working your day job and start your own business on the side," he said. "Create enough surplus income that you have a savings to fall back on when you decide to leave your day job. Too many people just launch and go full-throttle. If you don't have the necessary support and resources, you're just going to be spinning your wheels. I recommend people have 6 months of income set aside before venturing into anything full-time. Also, learn new skills outside your interests. It's important to be educated in other areas. Education is important, but so is visualization, prayer and positive thought. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'A man is what he thinks about all day long'. You have to visualize where you'll be and what you'll be doing. In the book of Proverbs it states, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish'. In order to succeed at anything worthwhile, you must picture it in your mind over and over."
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