It’s Throw Back Thursday” #TBT and as I have just posted my 1000th blog, and it made me reflect on where it all began, more than a decade ago. That means I have been writing on average of more than 100 posts each year for the last 10 years.
What better way to celebrate than to do a #TBT post of where it all started.  I haven’t edited what’s below, it is how it was when it was posted – a raw and honest look into my world back on 1st February 2006. I have learned much in that time, my writing style has changed somewhat – but I still like to share what I learn, see and experience with others. I hope you enjoy my self-indulgent trip down memory lane… as much as I did.
And if you are interested… RedBalloon reached our ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ two years earlier than we had hoped – I had looked forward to that moment for over 10 years – you can read about it here.
…………
I wrote this for the Westpac follow up to the award.
Business profile
RedBalloon Days has been inspiring people across Australia and New Zealand with more than 1,500 exciting activities, ranging from having a personal chef cook for a dinner party of eight at home to learning how to fly a helicopter. Naomi has built RedBalloon Days into a trans-Tasman success story, providing hundreds of corporate programs and thousands of great days out every month. More than 70,000 people have enjoyed a RedBalloon Day experience. RedBalloon has been acknowledged as #10 in the BRW fastest growing start ups and as the winner of the 2004 Hitwise award for the most online visitors in the gifts and flowers category. In 2005, she was named Champion of Champions Entrepreneur of the year.
Overview of how your business got started
RedBalloon Days was launched by Naomi Simson, the CEO (Chief Experiences Officer) in October 2001. She has a long background in corporate marketing roles including working with IBM at New York’s World Trade Headquarters, in Denmark for a leading a subsidiary of EAC, and occupying senior marketing roles with Apple Computer Australia and Ansett Australia. She left corporate life when she became a mother’¦and that was when she started her first business as a freelance marketer. RedBalloon was established ‘because it seemed like a good idea at the time’.
“Originally, the business was set up with about fifty fun experiences in Sydney. It didn’t take long to see the potential for the business.” said Simson. However there are many reasons why RedBalloon should not have succeeded. In fact, when asked what is the key to the overnight success Simson remarks, “a lot of overnights!”
Also at that time the world was in turmoil ‘“ it was three weeks after 11 September and the tech wreck had hit. Dot Com was simply a very dirty word. Part of the struggle was because Simson knew nothing about the internet ‘“ “I thought I was too old to learn it at 37!” ‘“ and quickly discovered that her print design experience did not translate to that of the web arena. Simson readily admits that RedBalloon Days’ first-ever website was a design disaster.
“It was black writing on a red background ‘“ virtually illegible ‘“ and it had not been designed for web spiders to crawl it which meant it wasn’t until mid-2003 when we launched our third-generation website with search engine optimisation capability, that the search engines even captured our name.”
But Simson together with her ever growing team is creating an industry niche ‘“ for experiences ‘“ from scratch and found that the demands of a brand-new type of service needed intense attention and a clever strategy.
Why did you enter Champion of Champions?
I met a Business Manager from Westpac and he suggested that we enter. I entered really as an acknowledgement for the team. We are fundamentally changing gift giving in Australia and New Zealand ‘“ forever. Many of the people who have joined us have left major corporations to have a sea change with RedBalloon. It is for them and our suppliers who support us amazingly that I entered.
How did you feel about winning?
Surprised! And honoured. It was the last announcement of the night and unlike the other categories there was no “…and the finalists are…” list. When they announced my name it was quite surreal. The team with us were very loud – we usually are.
What did you get out of the event?
The event to us was an acknowledgement of the fantastic contribution that so many people make to our business. In addition to the team, we have our experienced suppliers, our fabulous customers and marketing partners. This acknowledgement is shared by all those who share our vision.
Do you view Westpac differently?
Yes…I think the sponsorship gets to the real heartland of small business NSW. I think of them as the Westpac awards – and I always mention them in the promotion of the win.
Next steps
Next steps, or strides, or great leaps? I very much see RedBalloon as a small business with a big businesses vision…watch this space! We have the Big Hairy Audacious Goal that 10% of the Australian and New Zealand population will have had a RedBalloon Day by 2015…that’s only nine years to go…we are very busy.

Grow & Scale Your Business by Naomi Simson

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