Thursday, July 1, 2010

That Idea Blow'd Up Real Good!

I recently drove my "college boy" back to college for summer school... 5-1/2 hours. That's a lot of time to think about things and to share a discussion only a father and son can share. In our case, we spoke of the fireworks industry, as we noticed all of the "pole barns" erected near the freeway selling fireworks, 365 days a year.

OK, so that might not have been the discussion you'd have, but then, you weren't in my car and you most definitely are not my son. And in his world, life moves at a frenetic pace with thoughts that careen between the sophomoric and the brilliant.

We both had a thought.

The idea I'm about to share is a million dollar idea. You know, the kind I say I have at least once a week. So instead of hoarding it, I'm sharing it with you to: 1) Practice what I preach 2) This is the only way to give the idea a chance to actually succeed.

"Why on earth would fireworks stands operate all year long? There just can't be any business other than just prior to the 4th of July?"

That's what we thought. We stopped at one of them and asked the owner, and she answered our questions candidly. We found out that 90% of their business occurs within 4 days of the 4th. Four days! The problem is being found and available when folks want their fireworks. So most fireworks dealers concluded that you erect an inexpensive building to warehouse the stuff, pay for the licenses and taxes, and simply stay open to ensure that you get as much of a billion dollar industry as you can. The days of the small road-side stand have evaporated, primarily because after 9-11, the kinds of materials you could distribute changed and the rising costs of Chinese fireworks, as cheap as they are, needed to be bought in larger volumes to make the kind of profit that made sense for these fireworks sellers. But 361 days of nothing for 4 days of sales?

The answer is BOOMTOWN!

Here's the idea in a nutshell:

1) Erect a flag pole with a giant branded flag for Boomtown and pay rent to a farmer who's field runs next to a freeway with a nearby exit. The pole and flag stays up for 365 days, the warehouse, does not.

2) In June, you pay additional rent to the farmer to construct "Amish style", a warehouse where you will sell the fireworks. You even get locals to help do it for free because you are willing to barter the best seats in the house for the spectacle which is to occur on the 4th.

3) All of the advertising - billboard, radio and local paper and posters heads out the door in June as well, alerting everyone to Boomtown.

4) Boomtown is open from June 30th to July 5th. 

Folks park in the farmer's field just off the freeway. They buy their fireworks just like they normally would. The flag allows traffic to recognize where Boomtown is located throughout the year without paying for the upkeep and taxes on a building the rest of year.  Smart, right?

Now for the best part. Everyone lights off their fireworks and goes to the fireworks shows on the 3rd and 4th... and on the 5th, they buy fireworks at steep discounts. They do so at Boomtown, too, only the "spectacle" that occurs on the evening of the 5th. That's when we blow up Boomtown. 

That's right, whatever isn't sold, is part of the theatrical event of the season. Folks can even be encouraged to bring other stuff to be blown up, too. Maybe additional structures are built (i.e. a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a statue of some foreign despot, your old crashing computer) so that they can be blown up. The local fire department can be called in to keep everyone at a safe distance, ensure the safety of the event and to help train their volunteer fire fighters. There's a band, t-shirt sales, food vendors and a whole entourage of like-minded businesses who would love to take part in the festivities. Tickets could be sold to the event (or not). Maybe the sales of the fireworks is enough? Maybe the ice cream vendor who sets up shop with you, pays a cut of their action for the opportunity to join in the fun. I don't know. I don't care... go nuts.

It's Woodstock... with gun powder. What could go wrong?

Are there 1,000 reasons NOT to do this? Of course. What permits and ordinances need to be satisfied? Which mayoral candidate wants to get behind this one? Would any farmer be willing to go along with this madness? Kids and explosives... should I say more?

That's why giving away the idea is such a blessing. I have the 2% inspiration in spades, what I don't have is the 98% perspiration that's necessary to achieve the results. Someone has to pick up the ball and run with it. It could be you. Do you have to pay me for it? Nope, but you will... because if you can make this one fly, I've got 100 more ideas where this one came from — and a son in college who might just be your point man for Boomtown!

For those of my generation... you might recall this skit from SCTV, where the inspiration for this idea may have first taken shape.

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