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Finding magic in small business

Finding magic in small business

When Andi Gladwin met fellow magician Joshua Jay more than 10 years ago, they quickly recognized a kindred spirit in one other. But they developed more than just a friendship.

They decided to take the joint leap into entrepreneurship, as both saw a need and opportunity in their passion for an online shop that could provide professional-grade magic tricks for new and veteran magicians alike.

Word of Andi and Joshua’s pet project, Vanishing Inc. Magic, quickly spread around the world. It wasn’t long before the orders started coming in.

Their personal approach to excellent customer service and ultra-fast shipping, combined with hiring fellow magicians at all levels from marketing to the warehouse crew, earned their business rave reviews and a loyal customer following.

Andi and Joshua sat down with Longitudes to share their story and explain how they turned their passion project into a micro-multinational that sells products in markets spanning the world.

Longitudes: What’s your favorite magic trick?

Andi: This is a tricky question, but our favorite trick is always the one we're working on. Magic tricks take years of development, and this is both the most frustrating and fulfilling part.

We have to get inside the head of our audience members and play chess. When they look here, what do they see? When we say this, what will they think? What will attract their eye?

We love creating magic, and we employ a team of magic engineers in China to help devise prototypes that we design. It's all in the service of creating a perfect illusion.

“Vanishing Inc. Magic started as a passion project. It now reaches aspiring and world-renowned magicians around the globe.”

Longitudes: For your money, who is the greatest magician of all time? And why?

Joshua: It's too tough to even say. What we will say is that the greatest magicians of our age, and any age, are not the people you've heard of.

It's certainly not Houdini. The greatest living magician right now is Juan Tamariz, an older magician from Spain. He's a household name in his native country, but around the world he's more known as a magic philosopher and creator. We're releasing a comprehensive tutorial DVD set with him for the holidays this year, which is an honor. 

Andi Gladwin, co-founder, Vanishing Inc. Magic

Longitudes: What’s the greatest misconception about magic?

Andi: That the only difference between the magician and the audience is the secret to the trick. This is such a damaging thought, and it leaves out the decades — the thousands of hours of practice — required to make magic look real.

We sell props and tutorials to magicians, but they're the heroes in this equation. Even simple illusions require masterful presentation and showmanship, and this is the part that is easiest for people to overlook.

Longitudes: What is your most memorable customer experience?

Joshua: We're always tickled when we see one of our creations used in a big show. Recently one of the most famous magicians in the world used our prop booth in his television special and in an arena of 20,000 people.

That prop started as a sketch in our notebooks, and we covered the first prototype with duct tape and cardboard. We were flattered to see the finished product astounding so many people on a grand scale.

Longitudes: Can you take us back to the moment when you shipped your first international package? What was the destination?

Joshua: We soft launched in April 2008, and we were immediately struck by the demand for magic all over the world. Our first international package went to Peru, of all places, and we added in a handwritten note to thank the customer for being our "first."

We've stuck to that practice, too. We encourage our warehouse staff, whenever possible, to place handwritten notes in the packages when someone purchases a book or a trick. We get great feedback on this all the time. 

Longitudes: What made you decide to take your business international?

Andi: We've always been an international business. Our biggest business takes place in the U.S., then the U.K., then Australia, Canada and the rest of the world. But we ship packages to magicians in truly every corner of the world.

And one of our biggest customers is the captain of a freight ship, so we send huge orders to him at shipping docks all over the world since he's a constantly moving target. Our goal — as corny as it sounds — is to bring magic all over the world. 

“For UPS, there's no problem too small and no goal too big. They treat customers more like partners than clients.”

Longitudes: Give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur who is considering going international.

Joshua: The key to our international success is fast customer service. That's key. 

Longitudes: What is special about your relationship with UPS? How has UPS helped you overcome certain barriers or challenges?

Andi:UPS has become our primary shipping agent because they're so accessible. There's no problem too small and no goal too big. They treat us more like partners than clients.

We share our ideas and goals, and they help provide a roadmap to reach those goals. Our company has doubled in size several times since we started. We consider UPS a big part of our growth and success story.

Click here to learn more about UPS’s Worldwide Economy service, which is helping Vanishing Inc. Magic grow their global footprint.

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