And, now he’s making a business of it.
The 20-year-old, who hails from Pennsylvania, opened Ben Heath Entertainment in Colorado Springs last year, while still working another job. This year, he went full-time with his balloon twisting, stilt walking, fire-juggling business.
He always had a love for juggling — he used to compete in high school. But it wasn’t until he met Colorado Springs juggler and balloon-bender Zach Griffith, who owns Colorado Circus, that he learned his mad, crazy balloon-bending skills and thought he could make some money selling his talents. Now, he’s a regular at HuHot Mongolian Grill and Mason Jar restaurants and kids want him for their birthday parties. He works parades, nonprofit events and county fairs. His entertainment skills are putting him through college — he is a student at Charis Bible College — but he wants to grow the business and ride the high life of stilt walking as long as he can.
Your balloon creations are very elaborate — Tom from Tom and Jerry, Fred Flintstone, Batman — how did you learn to create balloon art?
I first tried my hand at balloon twisting when I was a little kid, it didn’t go well. I later learned the basics from a man in Pennsylvania but never did much with it until September of 2011. I met Zach Griffith (Colorado Circus) at the Patriots Day and Ride for Hero’s Festival on September 10th; since then, he has taught me a little more than the basics. He helped me get started twisting balloons at HuHot (N. Academy) and after that it has been mostly up to me to make up everything else. While in the restaurants during the week I freely tell the kids that I can make anything and that is really what pushes me to learn more.
When was the first time you juggled with fire?
The first time I juggled fire was shortly after I met Zach. I was the best juggler he had ever met and he was the best balloon guy I’d ever met. The very next month he and I were juggling fire at a Halloween event in Littleton, Colo. I’ll admit, the very first time, though I didn’t burn myself, I did lose all the hair on my hands and part way up my arms.
When did you decide that balloons, fire juggling and stilt walking could be a viable business?
I really never made that decision myself, but it certainly has become just that! I simply practiced juggling a whole lot when I was still in high school and happened to meet people who would hire me for different events at schools or YMCAs. When I met Zach he was already working the business full time so it really wasn’t a question of whether or not I could do it.
Who is your target market?
My favorite thing to do is to meet people and get to know them. Over time we become friends and have a certain amount of trust. The same thing happens when I’m making balloon sculptures; at one restaurant I have three families that come every single week without fail. I know their names; I know their kids names; I know what they like to do and where they work. And they know everything about me as well. We always have a great time talking while I make balloons for the kids. And seriously, they have some creative kids. So my answer to this question is very simply, parents and families. I do a lot of kids’ birthday parties and school carnivals.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Smiles, laughter, building relationships with people. Who could possibly imagine a “job” better than going to birthday parties and making everyone laugh.
What is the key to your business success?
“The Key to success is being ready for opportunity when it comes.” But more importantly I believe the key to my success is my heart in everything I do. I love people and I hold a person and my relationship to them in higher value than any monetary gain.
Your business is putting you through college. But, what is your long-term plan with the business?
I would like to see this business keep growing year after year and for it to support me wherever I go. I expect that I will soon be overrun with more business than I can personally handle. At that point I will rely on several other talented people around me along with my little brother who plans on moving here in 2014 and just happens to be the most talented person I know.