Reading my blog posts from a year ago compared to now is pretty interesting. I have so much more information now that it’s like a different person is writing it. This morning I was reviewing the business plan that I wrote in graduate school for Simply Smiles. I learned so much in my first few months of business that most of the marketing plan was invalidated: I went with entirely different advertising strategies, spent much less to start the company than anticipated, and have posted sales and profits more than double my projections.
I previously broke my work into five categories: Sales, Team, SEO, Practice, and Customer. Let’s see how we have done in each category:
Simply Smiles Sales
Projected sales for the first year were about $41,000 before expenses. This number was chosen somewhat arbitrarily, as I needed to choose a number for my business plan that was both ambitious and reasonable. Privately, I worried that I would be unable to meet it in year one without a base to build upon. I previously relied heavily on word-of-mouth advertising, and my initial attempts to book restaurants were rebuffed. However, by the time the 8 month mark passes I will have surpassed that revenue projection and more than doubled by projected profits (which I will keep to myself!). New Goal: $65k sales for the entire year.
Simply Smiles Team
Team building is tough, especially when just starting out. There is a constant dilemma: have enough people to cover all the gigs, but have few enough people that everyone gets to stay involved. Eventually I realized that it’s better to have a tight group that do the majority of events, while retaining several other individuals who can step in when dates are saturated with requests. In the past, I only worked with people who exclusively worked for me. This had a lot of advantages, but here in Denver I have broadened my approach and made some connections with local balloon twisters. They have referred jobs to me, and I have referred jobs to them. It works out well for everyone, which is a relief since most of my competitors in Illinois were paranoid and cutthroat.
Simply Smiles SEO
My search engine optimization has been going fairly well. I’m on the bottom of the front page in some categories, and on the top of the second page in others. I know that continuing to work on it will yield results, as I have already seen some impacts. I’ve also been working with my Google My Business listing in an attempt to have it show up more often. That has also worked wonders, as collecting reviews lends credibility to my site. Did you know that if you have 5 5-star reviews, Google lists you as a 4.8 out of 5?
Simply Smiles Practice
It’s hard to say whether this is where I made the most progress or where I’ve made the least. Other than my clowning, I haven’t actually added a product line this whole time. I’ve been dabbling in caricatures and miming, but contact juggling has been my biggest focus. Take a look at these two videos and tell me the practice hasn’t paid off.
Simply Smiles Customers
My interactions with my customers have been wonderful. Birthday parties have been a surprisingly large percentage of my business, which is fine with me because they’re very enjoyable. However, I’ve found that they are not especially renewable, at least not when you do just balloon twisting. I’m hoping that I get to return to the majority of these parties and add new ones as well. I have built relationships with some event planning customers that look to yield promising results: I’ve found a new niche in the nursing home and assisted living industry, going in during my non-prime weekdays and entertaining for an hour here or there. I’ve been following up with customers to gain reviews, and now we are one of the best rated entertainers in Denver on Google, Yelp, and Gigsalad. Things are looking good in the clown business!