Clowning around rewards this start-up with growth

Case study

Who       Sean Weatherly
What    Noodles the Clown
Where  Melbourne, Vic

bw-cs-Sean as NoodlesWhen Sean Weatherly mucked around at school, he was punished for it – now he is being rewarded for his skills clowning around!

Sean launched ‘Noodles the Clown’ in 2010 and has not looked back.

Through combining low overheads by working from home and leveraging income by outsourcing performances, Sean is building a profitable and sustainable business providing professional clowns as entertainers in the children’s-party market sector.

His business growth has been constant: his business doubled forecast sales in year one and year three is on track to triple year-one turnover. Not only is Sean fulfilling his dream of creating his own business and working for himself, he is also able to provide jobs for other performers – he now has seven performers working for his business.

What was the motivation and inspiration to commence his business in 2010? ‘Being a regular out-of-work actor I wanted to be able to provide myself and other jobbing actors with performance work rather than relying on Newstart during the down times,’ Sean says. ‘Having worked for another children’s-party entertainment company I recognised a niche market in catering high-quality entertainment, particularly for boys.’

Sean completed the NEIS program with the BEC at Kangan Institute in Victoria and attributes his early success to developing his business plan. He considers the time taken to research his potential market – and also investigate his competitors more closely before commencing his business – were critical in making some initial decisions. The operational and marketing strategies developed with the knowledge acquired from his research provided him with confidence to act.

‘I recognised a niche market in catering high-quality entertainment, particularly for boys.’

‘With a lot of travel involved in this particular business it made sense to make this a home-based business,’ he says. ‘Without the cost of renting an office or shop space and being able to claim a portion of utilities, profit can be maximised and keep the service at a competitive price for customers.

‘Some of our competitors who are booking agencies represent other home-based entertainers. However, they add quite a large commission fee to cover their overheads. Essentially they are a booking service. Operating my own booking service provides the incentive to increase staff numbers and earn that commission myself while also having quality control over the training and consistency of the staff, which an agency does not have’.

Sean clearly identified his competitive advantage and used it to position himself with a guaranteed level of service that exceeded his competitors.

The initial support provided to Sean in his NEIS program made him realise the value of using professional advisory services, and he continued to maintain contact and use additional services to add to his management skills.

The ongoing assistance Sean has received has been of value to his progress. ‘Without the BEC recognising the merit of my business idea and accepting my application, my business idea would have struggled to become realised,’ he says. ‘For those starting a business for the first time the BEC provides the skills and support required to get a business off the ground. They provide excellent mentoring and networking opportunities.

‘I have attended several BEC seminars and not only learnt tips from other business owners but they also provided exposure to a network to tap into and I made some extra sales from attending one of the conferences in costume, which was a bonus!

‘The Kangan Institute BEC staff have always been approachable and I felt well supported by them, not only during my course but after completion. In fact I stay in touch with the manager, Joe Imbesi, to keep him up to date with my business. I’m also on the database to be notified of any business seminars they run so I can extend my business skills and knowledge to better my business and network with other businesses.’

When asked to explain how, in such a competitive environment, Noodles the Clown has achieved continuing growth, Sean was willing to outline his approach to marketing.

‘The key to my business success has been largely the design and format of our marketing materials and promotion of our service. Our presence in the market is largely online and we have a fantastic website design which is bright, colourful and easy to navigate with information about all of our performers.

‘Our main source of advertising is through Google Adwords, Facebook, and word-of-mouth, plus meeting new customers through corporate events.’

‘Our event format caters for all budgets and includes packages ranging from a basic balloon party through to the top event package, which includes balloons, face painting, games and a 25-minute magic show.’

Sean’s pride is evident when he says, ‘Due to the high demand for our service I have just started training two more performers, bringing our total workforce to seven performers.’

Joe Imbesi, Business Enterprise Centre, Kangan Institute, Vic