NAOMI SIMSON: Red Balloon Days
has been around since 2001. We launched on 1 October, and we're a gift-giving business. We give people a good time. So instead of giving somebody a physical gift, you give them an experience. And an experience could be anything from learning to drive a steam train to flying a helicopter, or maybe just a complete day of relaxation and pampering.
I left corporate life about a decade ago now. I'd been a corporate marketer. And I decided that I wanted to have a little bit more time with my children, so I became a freelance marketer. And as a freelance marketer, one of my clients suggested to me, "Oh, have you seen this idea in the UK? We could do that. It would just take a little bit of marketing."
And then it came, of course, to establishing a name. And there was a 1956 movie called 'The Red Balloon' and it was about this little Parisian boy called Pascal who met a red balloon and this red balloon took him on a wonderful adventure and that's where the name came from. A red balloon is a symbol of happiness. And I sort of had this thought - "Wouldn't it be really nice if in, you know, like, 10 years time people saw any red balloon, and saw it and smiled and remembered the first Red Balloon Day they'd ever been on." So that's it.
It does seem a long time since we first launched. It's only five years, but it's almost like there's not a time before I was doing this. And what happens was... Fantastic business idea, that's great. First marketing plan, dated 1 April, 2001. April Fools' Day. Should've picked something out on that one. But we launched the website on 1 October, which was also three weeks after September 11, and I honestly thought nobody would ever come and buy anything. And it was two months and seven days before our first customer came. I literally would go to the website and say, "No customers today." So very grateful to Damien Chown who gave a gift of a stress-busting massage to Scott Hedge, and wrote on it, "Good on you, mate," or something. So Damien, this man out there in the wilderness - he was the one who started and gave it to this guy.
So in the first year we only sold 300 experiences, then we were selling about 300 a month for next year. The next year it was 300 a day - 300 a week and then 300 a day at Christmas time. And that sort of got us thinking about just the numbers of the whole thing. And when we created that "10% of the Australian population", had no idea how we would get to 10% of the Australian population. Because if you do the sums, that's 2.2 million, and at that time we're selling about 3,000 in a year. Hmm. But what happened was in creating that big, hairy, audacious goal, something happened. So we went from 10,000 to 20,000. And this year we thought we'd be really conservative on our growth and only forecast for a 55% growth, and we're currently running at 126% growth. Can you believe from 25 to 1,500 and we're still going? Like, in any given week now we might publish 22 or 25 new experiences. Every month, absolutely, there's at least 50 new experiences.
And we invent them and they invent them and our suppliers then invent new ones and it's...you know, it's really lots of ideas regularly. But we have the obvious ones, like, you know, jet boating, horse riding for two. But then we have some that we'd just make up ourselves. For instance, we thought, "What did we always want to do when you're a little kid? Hmm. I know. I wanted to run away and join a circus. What about trapezing?" And then we've gone and find fantastic trapezing suppliers or, like, quad biking. Some of the boys were saying, "When we were little, we just wanted to drive..." I know my son himself, he's like, "Oh, I'd love to, you know, have a quad bike." So it's such a variety, and the development of new experiences never ever stops. There's some that you think, "There's no way they're ever going to sell." I'm just going, "Why did we put 'love-letter writing' on our website?" And then people buy them and they write these beautiful letters and it's really gorgeous. You know, from 8 to 80, you've got to cater for everybody. And, you know, the world is an experience, so which one is going to be just right for that person that they've always wanted to do?