How To Strike Out On Your Own

by Sage Reddy

entrepreneur home business image

Laughing all the way to the bank!

“Dad, I want a balloon?” my 6-year old, Ravi, begs.
“Sure… if you can find ’em,” I respond. Fat chance you’ll find balloons here. All the vendors are stuck outside the park. Funny how kids always want what ain’t there.
“There!” Ravi says, pointing to the balloon lady.

Sure enough, there she is. I swear she wasn’t there only a minute ago. And I thought I was pretty observant. Hmm. And how did she get in?

We’re visiting my folks in southern India and are enjoying our Sunday at the local park. The park is lovely, to say the least. A veritable tropical paradise, beautifully landscaped with green lawns set amongst tall decorative palms, painted gazebos, fountains, art sculptures and other tropical flora and fauna. The contrast of bright greens against the red dirt is what gets me. There is a large pond in the middle of the park and an unpaved walkway that goes around the perimeter frequented by walkers.

Enterpreneurship comes in many forms

The balloon lady looks like a poor Indian villager that just made it to the city only yesterday in order to eke out a living, toting a couple of soiled and tattered bags that house her entire life belongings.

Presently, her operation consists of a stick perched against the wooden bench, to the top end of which is attached a bunch of long rubber strings. There’s a bag full of balloon supplies by her feet and a hand pump that she’s working feverishly. She’s not alone. There’s a man by her side, equally shabby looking, most likely her husband.

I ask my kid to go over and find out what she wants for a balloon. He comes back and chimes, “ten rupees.” Kind of steep for a silly balloon by Indian standards, but ridiculously cheap by western standards. Converting dollars to rupees, it comes to about 20 cents. Back in the US, I’d happily fork over several dollars for this balloon to make my kid happy.

Ravi is the first kid to buy a balloon from the balloon couple. But within a matter of minutes, they are surrounded by tens of kids and parents. So these enterprising village bumpkins have gone from “open for business” to “thriving” in less than 10 minutes. How many of us can say that about our online business ventures?

Her competition?


Forget balloons, save for the park-managed cafe, there are no other vendors inside the park. All the other vendors are stuck outside the park. Question is how did this one get in?

Oh, I know how. She’s not towing a large and conspicuous cart like all those other vendors. With a bag tucked under one arm and a walking stick in the other, she and her man paid the park entrance fee like everyone else and got in. At the ticket booth these two probably looked like a poor couple wanting some quality time at the park.

How to thrive when everyone else fails

What can this enterprising balloon lady at the park teach you about business skills? Several things. Let’s run down the list:

1. Always give people what THEY want.

Your online business cannot prosper if people don’t want what you’ve got. It’s not enough to be an entrepreneur; you must know what people want. The balloon lady could be selling something else in this park, like books. But she’s not. The park is full of kids. What do kids want? Balloons.

You’ve started your online business and blogging is a great way to promote it. But it’s not enough to blog; you must write about what people really want to read. Do you know what people are hungry for? For that, you must…

2. Do your market research.

Even if this village simpleton does not use a fancy term like “market research,” that’s precisely what she’s done. Chances are, she tried her hand at other things—and failed. But she sure got it right with the balloons.

Study the market before you jump in. (Even if you jumped in without sufficient research, it’s never too late to study your market.) Use your head. It’s much cheaper to fail in your head than in reality. Before you jump into any online business, look around you. What do people around you want in life as you know it? Keep your eyes open for business opportunities. People are always hungry for stuff. Then ask yourself…

3. Is it my cup of tea?

The Indian lady is not here trying to sell magazines or newspapers, even if there are buyers for it. Chances are she’s never read a book or a paper. Why pitch something you yourself are not into? She likes to work with her hands more than her brain. She likes to put things together. She likes kids. It’s a perfect match.

Assuming you know what people want, does it get you excited? So excited you can’t stop thinking about it? If not, look for another opportunity. You don’t need to be a great writer to be a successful blogger; you just need to have absolute passion for whatever it is you’re pitching.

4. Don’t take no for an answer.

While most vendors are stuck outside the park, thanks to park regulations, this balloon lady found a way to go where the action is—inside the park.

I’m not asking you to break the law, but most of us hear “no” and we walk away. Most will, but you don’t have to. If you take no for an answer, you have an employee mindset, not an entrepreneur-mindset.

Being an online entrepreneur is not easy. The competition is stiff; there are limitations galore and hurdles everywhere. Entrepreneurs will never take no for an answer. They’ll look for workarounds and loopholes to get around the “no.” They will break down obstacles… without breaking the law.

5. Show up

Turns out, the balloon lady is here every weekend. Sure, she doesn’t need to motivate herself to show up. The money is inspiration enough. People recognize her. They know what they’re getting. They can count on her. Chances are, she didn’t strike gold on her very first shot at entrepreneurship in the city. But she did something many don’t: she continued to show up.

You’re pumped about your new business opportunity. But can you deliver? Do you have what it takes? If a few frustrations early on in the game are enough to wash away your initial enthusiasm, you don’t have what it takes. The hardest part about going into business for yourself is “showing up”—even when the chips are down. If you can show up, rain or shine, and deliver consistently, luck will always be on your side.

Here’s to your online (and offline) success!

Image Source: duiops-net

This post was written by...

has written 23 posts on Ask Sage.

Writer, philosopher, Life Coach, author, wisefool, blogger, foodie, musician, tinkerer and husband to a beautiful wife. Founder of Aikya Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to human happiness.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

bali wood house November 10, 2014 at 7:43 am

I love how you always share a story to go along with what you have to share! It really makes for a fun read and is a great way to tie in a real-life scenario with what you have to share! This is a great example of thinking outside the box!

I have any design too..
bali wood house
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Mark May 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Wow Sage!

You covered and articulated so many excellent points! And your excellent way of writing and story telling almost magnetically compel one to go deeper and deeper into your content! Great job!

Your details are so graphic and seem to flow so effortlessly!

It’s almost as if, one is actually there as you describe each situation! Tips #’s 1,3 & 4 really struck a cord!

Awesome job! I’ll definitely be back to study here more often! Thank you for sharing your powerful and extremely helpful and practical insights!


Garry Ford October 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Hey Sage,
nice post, like your style linking the real life to the theory.
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Albury Photography April 11, 2012 at 5:54 am

Hello, I’m Jake Bowers. And I really love to read your blog as well as the examples that you’ve mention. Thank you so much for this helpful contents. I am looking forward to see more example contents like this.

If you have time you can also visit this site that I managed to surf in:
Albury Photography
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Raena Lynn March 1, 2012 at 2:53 am

Hi Sage,
This is my first visit to your blog, and I love your writing style. I love when a post reflects a personal story. This one was an eye catcher. The five points you made are excellent when it comes to being an entrepreneur. All five are great, but if I have to pick a favorite, it would be #1 Always give people what THEY want.” That is the key to being successful. As you said, the park is full of kids. They want balloons! Be there with the one with the balloons!

We have to think out of the ordinary and be as consistent as the balloon lady. Thanks for an enjoyable read!

Raena Lynn
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Sage Reddy March 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

Thank you for your kind words, Raena. It’s so good to see you here! I’d say you picked my favorite one too: Always give people what they want. Simple insight and simple to practice—but few of us do that. Go figure!


William Earl Amis Jr III February 10, 2012 at 7:43 am


This couple should be an example of what it takes to make a business think out of the box.

Blending and doing what is normal will not get you far. Hey, two people selling bread and their is no difference in style and type. However, a new person arrives and takes a bread maker with a window display to show all the people who pass by how wonderful his process of making bread is. He also, knows that it generates that wonderful smell, which makes everyone want some.

He thinks out of the box and adds a free sample of his famous sweet glazed bread that melts in your mouth.

Now, who is going to make the most sells? He is of course by thinking out of the box.

Next time you are faced with imagining how to present something that everyone needs yet can get at another location. Think smarter not harder.

Sage, just had to comeback and add this to your awesome story. I love your style and will be back again.
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Sage Reddy February 14, 2012 at 3:54 am

Well said, William. Thanks for adding so much to the stuff I post. Indeed, if you’re going to do exactly what everyone is doing you’re not going to get very far. Don’t word hard, work smart. Unfortunately, most of us would rather go dig a ditch than use our heads. Blessings!


Jeffrey T. Sooey February 8, 2012 at 8:54 am

Thanks for the great post. You were able to get some very valuable lessons from such a simple observation. The balloon lady has indeed showed us that if we know what people want and give them what they want then this can be the start of a successful business. I agree that we need to be consistent with our efforts and at the same time know where we are good at and focus on that skill. Also success does not come overnight so we must be determined to reach our goals and not give up easily.


Sage Reddy February 9, 2012 at 3:04 am

Hello Jeffrey!
Good to see you here. And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. And for spreading the love on twitter. I agree with all you say here. Concise and well said!


JosephJYoung February 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Hi Sage,
Ingenious on the part of the couple. Simple, yet powerful. They needed to make a living and found it by giving to others. The lesson always comes clear every time I read such an account as this. Lot of heart in this and much to take away from it.

thanks for your observance and sharing it!
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

Thank you, Joe! Glad you liked it. I love these kind of people and their stories.


Lilach Bullock February 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Fabulous post Sage (I love the piccie too).

It just goes to show how important it is to know what your audience wants and provide it for them.

Times are hard now but in business there are always peaks and troffs, only the fittest, smartest people will survive.

Brilliant story that is an important lesson in business:)
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

Thank you, Lilach. It’s always great to hear from you! As a successful entrepreneur, you already know and practice everything I’m saying here. :)


Lou Barba February 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hi Sage,

Very nice narrative..I like the way you describe the park and the contrast between the red dirt and the flowers. The thought that went through my mind was that these people probably were carrying everything they owned. Nothing like being “strictly from hunger” to get the job done!

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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:26 am

Thanks for your good words, Lou! As a great storyteller yourself, I can see how you’d be drawn to certain words in a story. Agreed, nothing like hunger to put a man to work!


Trevor Barrett February 1, 2012 at 11:50 am

“How to thrive when everyone else fails” what a great line. Unfortunately too many people are failing in today’s economic climate in the previously affluent areas and it is hard for them to accept. They need to “get some balloons” and get out into the park.

It is so like internet marketing. We have to make sure that we get out of our comfort zones and put ourselves in front of people.

Anyway this is my first visit here and I like the way you write Sage, I will return.
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:22 am

Thanks Trevor, and it’s great to have you here. Indeed, anytime is a good time to get out of our comfort zones. Even more so when the chips are down and times are hard. Hope to hear you again!


Rebecca Reddy February 1, 2012 at 11:32 am

It seems being in business is about two things really: Knowing what your audience wants and doing what it takes to provide it. It seems that the most successful entrepreneurs are the individuals that are passionate about what they are doing. It is their cup of tea!
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

I hate to admit it, love, but you’ve really simplified it. Well said!


William Veasley February 1, 2012 at 9:58 am

I have seen rough times. When I first started selling t-shirts things did not go so well. I did no market research and I made shirts that no one really wanted. The shirts that I made were not even in style!
I had to learn my lesson and do some reasearch first. I started out by asking people what color shirts they normal wear and what colors they wear on them. The research we do of our market goes a long way. Listening skills mean everything these days.

Keep working hard!

God bless,
William Veasley


Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

Thanks for sharing your honest adventure in t-shirts, William. “Market research” is just a fancy way of saying, “ask questions and listen.” It is very good to have you here, William. Do come back. God bless you too!


Tosin February 1, 2012 at 6:41 am

The good thing about life is that we can take what life deals us to make such fantastic lessons like you’ve just done. I write such a lesson about a particular beggar here in Nigeria. Awesome lessons from him.

The lessons are great and one that I can relate too. I particular love the fact that you should form the habit of giving people what they want. Sometimes we are clouded by our likes and taste and assume that that’s what others want. It’s not true.

Ask questions and watch the trend to find out what people want and give it to them in a way that no one else would and watch people become loyal to you.

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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

Hey Tosin! Everything you say is right on the money. I bet you’re someone who’s already practicing all the principles of the balloon lady. I’d love to hear the story of the beggar in Nigeria sometime. :)


Donna Merrill February 1, 2012 at 2:00 am

Hi Sage, First I want to say that I am blessed that I have found you. I love reading your blogs. This one, is so brilliant how you teach us in story form, which I believe is the best way of learning – entertaining.
As for the Baloon lady, as I was reading this I just felt like her. There are many ways to skin a cat as they say. She found a way to get on the inside. We, as marketers can do the same with some initiative. Knowing what we love to do, and keep doing it. Showing up and being persistent is the key.
Thank you for an awesome lesson,
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

It’s always a delight to hear from you, Donna! And thank you so much for your sweet words. I agree, we’re all suckers for stories. Growing up, I went to a catholic school in Bombay. The head of the school was father Frank. To this day, he remains my favorite public speaker. Reason? He always opened every speech with a story.


marquita herald January 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Great advice and I really enjoy reading about your trip and experiences in India. I’ve been a supporter of KIVA for a long time and love learning about the entrepreneurs in other countries I’ve been able to help sponsor. Thanks for the great read!
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:57 am

Hello Marquita! Good to see you here again and thanks for your good words. My wife is an avid supporter of KIVA too.


viviana January 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Srivinas, I love the way that you took an example of your daily life story and how you can relate it to the business world. Brilliant!
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:55 am

Thank you, Viviana. I really appreciate it!


Dr. George Suarez January 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I often visit your blog because reading your posts makes me feel good. I like the way you narrate and the way you connect with the practical life of your readers. This post reflects about hope and believe and I found it very enriching. Keep it up!


Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:37 am

Thank you, Dr Suarez. I really appreciate your feedback.


Kostas January 31, 2012 at 9:42 am

Hi Sage,
You are an excellent storry teller and you can so easily use an everyday example that most of us would not even think about and transform it to an enterpreneurship lesson. You certainly have a gift on that…
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:33 am

Thank you, Kostas. I appreciate that very much. I like to hear good stories. So might as tell some to get my points across, right? :)


William Earl Amis Jr III January 31, 2012 at 6:45 am

I am glad that trip was a wonderful experience and seeing the family is always a blessing.

I can understand how that couple used their imaginations to look as everyone else to get a prime location. Then keeping all simple without hype, they just needed the basic tools to create fresh product on location. This was a benefit most people would overlook.

They showed everyone how to and could then name their own price. I have no doubt that based on what object they may create later that day from just simple ballons. They could charge various amounts to meet their daily production level.

It was an amazing example of timing and location. Then leverage to increase production and prosperity. They only had a small cost and the rest was the time willing to produce product.

Sage, your an amazing coach and visionary in our industry. I am excited upon my visit to your blog. The unique writing style is simply priceless.

I thank you for this share and usable technique exposed. Looking forward to your next awesome post.
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:32 am

Good to see you here again, William, my good man. Thank you for your kind words. I think you’ve taken apart my story quite nicely. :)


Stacy January 31, 2012 at 12:43 am

Hi Sage,

I love how you always share a story to go along with what you have to share! It really makes for a fun read and is a great way to tie in a real-life scenario with what you have to share! This is a great example of thinking outside the box!

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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thank you so much for your good words, Stacy. I tell stories because I like to listen to stories. I can forget facts and data, but never a good story. :)


Hezi January 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I love the way that you took what looks like an ordinary day event, and show how many life changing ideas you can take out of it. I really love what you said in #4: “Don’t take no for an answer”. This is so true. So many people hear “no” and believe that this is the end of the story. Usually it is just a lack of will, like the saying goes: “If there is a will, there is a way”. Who knows? Hopefully in a year or two we will find this couple in the entrepreneur magazine :)
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Sage Reddy February 2, 2012 at 9:26 am

Thanks Hezi. Good to see you here again. I’m not surprised that you really dig “don’t take no for an answer.” Being a go-getter that you are, I don’t see you as someone who would. :)


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