“We’ve been everywhere, man”

I am often out and about meeting people, customers and suppliers and, of course, speaking to groups can take me to anywhere in Australia (and sometimes overseas). It still surprises me that a business that no one had ever heard of a decade ago now appears in the most remote and far distant places.

I dreamed that RedBalloon would one day become a household name in Australia and New Zealand – and in the past few weeks I have discovered that this dream is on its way to becoming reality.

On a flight to Bali to present at one of our fantastic supplier events, I sat next to a woman and she asked what I did. I said I founded a business more than a decade ago. She said ‘oh’ and told me she was an aviation lawyer. I enquired about that, so she politely asked me a little more about what I did. I said I founded RedBalloon. At that point she got all excited, blushed and said, “Oh, oh, I don’t believe it. Your business is amazing! I know all about it. I buy all my gifts from you…” and the conversation went from there.

I was at a supermarket (buying supplies for the trip) in Sale, a large country town in eastern Victoria and the kind employee helped me scan at the checkout – she could clearly see that I was a novice. She asked if I was in Sale for work and I said, “Yes, I am the founder of a business called RedBalloon”. She said, “Wow, that is a fantastic site. I bought my mum her Christmas combined birthday present from it – I cannot believe I have met you here at work, in Sale”.

Then I was in Colac in western Victoria for a speaking engagement – and the hair was a flutter – I had to rush to a hairdresser for a quick blow dry. The hairdresser of course asked, “What brings you to Colac?” I told her and she called everyone over and said, “I cannot believe it. This is the woman that started that great business RedBalloon – you know the one, it is amazing – and I’m doing her hair. Just wait until I Facebook this … can I have a photo…”

Three faraway places and the RedBalloon story preceded me. But then, just now I asked a colleague to find out where our customers reside – of course, we are everywhere in Australia and New Zealand.

But here is something that amazed me: 346 Peruvians, 223 Jordanians and 33 people from Christmas Island have all visited our store online in recent months. In fact, we have customers (i.e. people who have purchased from us) in 129 countries outside of Australia, which means we are earning precious export dollars for Australia.

It is the beauty of being online – 24 hours a day, seven days a week we can serve anyone in the world. Now this was something that I could never possibly of dreamed of.

Naomi Simson is considered to be one of Australia’s Best Bosses. An employee engagement advocate, she practises what she preaches in her own fast growth business. RedBalloon was named as one of only 13 BRW Best Employers in Australia in 2012 for four years in a row with an engagement scorecard of over 90% in each of those years – the average in Australian businesses is 54%.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker, a blogger and a published author, most recently publishing Five Thanks a Day. She has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.


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