ET6- Blind Blogger Max Ivey- No Excuses!
If A Blind Guy Can Make Money Online, Why Can’t You?
Max Ivey is just a regular guy who was in the carnival and midway business for years before he decided to start an online ecommerce business selling used carnival gear and trailers and brokering sales between private parties. The only catch is he is now blind, and was when he started his online business.
I talked to Max for awhile about the carnival business because to me that is an interesting business and one I knew nothing about. He filled me in on the details and contrary to my perception that it was fading out he says it is still going strong just changing format.
I then chatted with him about his online business and the challenges that holds for him. Turns out they are the same as for any other online entrepreneur- getting traffic, worrying about conversions, collecting emails, etc.
But Max has the additional challenge of not being able to see what is on the screen!
For some things, like email, this isn’t too bad because he’s got a program that reads him his email. But imagine the challenge of laying out a website, deciding on what pictures to use and how to line things up when you can’t see what you’ve got! And you can’t look at other sites to get ideas and for comparison.
Of course he has some help for these kinds of things but I get the idea Max is a pretty independent guy and he’d figure out a way to get it done either way.
What I really liked about talking with Max is that it is inspiring to know that there are people who can do things successfully even though they have a lot bigger challenges to get to the same results as most others. And what that means to me is that is doesn’t leave people who don’t have those challenges with a whole lot of legitimate excuses for why they can’t succeed if they really want to do it.
If you want to check out his online carnival business follow the link. If you are looking for some more powerful inspiration check out theblindblogger.net. If you are looking for excuses, stop right now- you don’t have any!
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Matt: This episode of Entrepreneur Talk, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Max Ivey from the Midway Market Place. He’s got an interesting story and interesting business background. Thank you very much for taking the time to be on the show. Just kinda jump in and give us some idea what you got going and kinda what your background is. How you got there?
Max: Hi, Matt! I appreciate you having me on the show. People do tell me that I have a rather unique business and that’s part of the attraction, part of the reason why I get so much interest in my website when I leave comments on people’s blog and stuff online. I grew up in a family of carnival owners pretty much all I really wanted to do was to run my family’s carnival, do what my dad did. [Inaudible 0:01:09.9] Dad’s kid and whatever he do was what I wanted to do. I was looking up to take part in running a small 7-8 ride carnival for about 20 years. I worked with him side by side, traveled up and down the road. Probably rode a million miles or more and riding the old pick-up truck from Houston, Texas all the way to Nebraska. One direction all the way to South Carolina. The other direction all the way to the northern fort of the other direction, we were constantly trying to find better places to operate our carnival especially during the summer month when it’s too hot here in Texas. Xaner had described to me a good part of this country. I enjoyed doing that. I did the bookings. I helped out with setting up and taking down the rides when they needed me to. I uploaded some kid’s game. I owned a couple of rides on my own. I used to have this baseball jersey from I when I played with the baseball team. It had number 25 on the back of it. I used to joke and always say “Well, I am the 12th man on our team. If things are bad enough, they call my name. I just have to go up there and do what they want me to do because the odds are if they are asking me to do, that means there ain’t nobody else.”
Matt: That’s how, I’m sure, the way it goes a lot of times. In a lot of small businesses out there, there’s always somebody that’s gotta be the one that picks up the slack no matter where it is.
Max: Yeah. Well, being visually impaired in the business, I did what I was able to do. If it got down to it having to be done because in small businesses, in family businesses, a lot of times, you don’t have the personnel, the skills, the money, the resources that you like to have. It’s more about getting things done than it is about how you do it or who does it. I like to say that our goal was to get open to make opening with rides that were safe and clean for the family to come and enjoy the Midway. But if it were an Olympic sport, we would have never wanted any stall points.
Matt: That’s interesting. Just out of curiosity, I never come across a Midway or carnival business. How does it work? Do you pay a flat fee to take the spot? Whatever you make from the games and the rides is yours to keep or do you do a revenue share with wherever you’re setting up? What are the economics behind a business like that?
Max: You mentioned two that are correct. Sometimes, especially on a shopping center or mall, when you’re working, you pay the owner a flat fee and whatever you get is yours. If you’re doing a festival or a fair, genuinely there’s revenue sharing. You would pay the people who put on the event anywhere from 10% of it to about 55% depending on the size of the event and the quality of the event. People think I’m crazy when I tell them a lot of times at a state fair like the Texas State Fair or the North Carolina State Fair that the organizer would receive over half the money. That is the case especially at the big state fairs, county fairs or tri-state fairs like we have in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts. Also, you have advance where they pay you. You can manage set up the equipment and you will receive a flat fee to operate the rides and games no matter how long, a certain amount of time, or a certain number of visitors. It only just depends on the event and on your operation because some people, pretty much all they do are events where they rent a location and put on a carnival and keep the idea. Then, there are some people who all they do are revels where they don’t do what we do any what we call Pay for Play Events. It just depends. Usually the larger corporate operations are the ones more likely to do state fairs or to do advance where they rent the location. Just take your chances as what it comes down to. If they get good weather and they do the promotion and they get the people out there, then they reap the rewards from taking those risks. It’s not something we did very often because most we ever had is 8 rides. If we are on a location, we have to get really lucky to justify paying rent on a piece of property. Of course, the rents we paid, we might have paid $500 for a week or 10 days on a little location. As an example, I know for a fact that here in Houston, they have this malls, I know for a fact that they charge between $10,000 and $25,000 a week to set on those locations. If you have 35 or 40 rides, or someone who is challenged to do it, you could make it work. We never had that kind of operation. Then after my father died, me and my brother, Patrick, we were able to keep the show going for about 3 years and then we realized we weren’t able to keep it going as we’ve connected with my Uncle Shaw. A few years after that, we stop travelling all together except for taking the food truck when out on the weekends. Now, we have a few contracts left over from when we had the carnival, when we booked in or we sub contract the rides. But most of my involvement in the carnival business nowadays is with the Midway Market Place, helping people sell their equipment or I’ve got a couple of manufacturers that I represent. So, I knew rides. But most of it is surplus used equipment. I like to tell people, helping people sell their used rides kind of makes me feel very good because I can remember when we had our carnival. Most of the times we could not afford to buy a newer stuff or even different stuff unless we could sell the stuff we already had. I helped a lot of people who are in that same position. They wanted to change up the look at their Midway or their ride inventory. In order to do that, they have to sell what they have. I’ve had several cases where people have wanted to retire from the business or they wanted to get in to a new business and their only assets they had was their rides, games. In most cases, I’ve been happy to help people move forward in their business whether it be to stay in the industry or to get out of it or do something else.
Matt: I’m sure it’s a pretty unique market place that you’ve got there. There’s probably not a whole lot of people brokering used carnival equipment. How was the industry over all? Is it continuing to grow? Or is it sort of flat? Is it going away with all of the other entertainment options that are out there? How does that impact what you got going?
Max: I don’t know that the industry is going away but I know that it is changing and there are people who are adding amusement rides and attractions that you wouldn’t think of. One of the things that I’ve decided when I started selling amusement equipment 9 years ago was that my sight was going to be more than just carnivals and amusement parks and more of just United States and Canada. If you give me example with some people or some places that are now adding amusement items that you wouldn’t think of, you have some of the really big department stores or shopping mall that have few attractions to actual amusement parks inside the mall such as the mall of American Minnesota and there are several up in Canada. Zeus and Aquarium are starting to add more than just trains and carousel. Here in Houston, they recently add the Kiddie Waterpark to go with their zoo. You have pumpkin patches and a new area which is being referred to as Eco Tourism where you have family farms, orchards, vineyards, people operating pick your own food, pick your own Christmas tree that are now having concession equipment, inflatables and even some mechanical rides, the kiddie rides. There are places that you wouldn’t think of, they are starting to incorporate rides and games and then the traditional places, the amusement parks and carnivals, I will say that the problem we’ve had here is US I think they are more robust in Australia, New Zealand and Europe than they are here. But I tell you, I think if there’s any real danger to the industry, it’s not the entertainment industries. It’s not the internet. It’s not the big movie theaters. It’s not the theme parks and all the new neighborhood amusement parks. It’s the, I hate to bring this up, but it’s on everybody’s minds that more of this advance we have like what happened in Paris, what’s happening in Lebanon, these mass shootings that we’ve had it here in US, anything that makes people afraid to gather in large groups, those are the kind of things that are really hurting the industry. I think they make it difficult especially for me to sell equipment. I tell people the 2 things that really seem to be the problems are whenever you had a rush of accident like we did 3 or 4 years ago on our actual ride. We had a summer, I think it was 3 or 4 years ago, we had several incidences where there were public accidents. Those were the kind of things. Anything that makes the people afraid to go to the amusement park or afraid to go to the carnival, those are what makes it difficult for me to sell the rides.
Matt: Yeah. That makes sense. It’s not something you have any control over, obviously but I could see how that obviously can hurt your business. It makes sense to branch out, to be appealing to as many different venues as possible not just the traditional carnivals and fairs but as you mentioned the pumpkin patches and the family farms and the malls and so on. It sounds like you’re taking your business, your industry experience and turn it into a business and then use that to kind of launch as far and wide as you can to kind of boost your own income and your own visibility to various potential customers.
Max: Right. I tell people that the number 1 job I have is to find markets of their customers. I think it very much applies to anybody in business. I guess that’s why you see so many brick and motor business operators there are now, having websites and blogs and trying to do what they can online to market themselves and give themselves a competitive, if not advantage, over the big major chain operators. At least give them the opportunity to find customers and get people into their stores and into their business. That’s what I’m trying to do with the Midway Market Place. Just today, I was posting to Facebook and Twitter about how I think people missing the opportunity to market their products and services because they start to realize the amusement industry is and how many different types of products and services that are needed by people who operate carnival amusement parks. Even with the traffic my website gets, I’m surprised every day that I don’t have more people advertising or at least wanting to do interviews or have me do blog and reviews of their products in able to show them to a new market, to some people who are probably might thinking about trying to reach.
Matt: That’s the thing. The world is so big. There’s so many things that you’ve never been exposed to. One of the fun things I get to do with these is talk to people who are in markets I’ve never even heard of. They are selling products that never once crossed my mind. You are an example. It would never have crossed my mind to have a business selling Midway equipment and ride concessions but obviously, there’s a whole market, there’s a whole industry out there. There’s always so much time in a day. But to kind of switch gears a little bit, aside from having all the regular challenges of an entrepreneur, finding the market, getting the advertising, the world out there transacting all the sales, you’ve got some additional challenges that you’ve managed to overcome on. Tell me a little bit about that and what you’ve done to kinda compensate with the extra challenges you’ve had.
Max: Yes, I am totally blind. I say that because I’ve had no functional vision which means I do everything online using the screen reader. Most people are familiar with screen readers by now but for those who aren’t, you have a synthesizer that generates voice and then you have software that helps you use that synthesizer to you navigate the screen so you can access the websites, your emails, your blog post, your software you use to create your blog post, read your comments, do your social media stuff. Many people who do these radio shows or have blogs tell me that go “Max, you know, I’m thinking about the stuff that goes to just running a blog. There’s a lot of aspects to it.” You know, having the ideas, writing the post, promoting them, maintaining your website, keeping up your audience, doing interviews, replying to comments. It just goes on and on as far as things that you have to maintain the business and I have to do all of that as I side person. Couldn’t imagine doing it as a blind person. To me, most of the time, I don’t really even think about it. There are times when I’m trying to get something done and I just can’t get it done and I end up having to ask somebody else to do it for me. At those times, then I realized, I am a blind computer user and I have to find new ways to do things some of the time like recently I was trying to create some merchandise to my website, The Blind Blogger. I’m calling this step No Excuses Gear because everybody always talking “You know, Max, if you can do it, what is my excuse?” so I thought it might be a good name for the page and I realized that no matter which side I went to, whether it was [Inaudible 0:17:35.7] or whatever, no matter who’s side I went to, there wasn’t any of them that were accessible to screen readers so I ended up having to put the word out online. I finally got 1 person to help me with a couple of items.im still looking for somebody else to help me submit some other ideas that I’ve had for some inspiration or merchandise because I don’t want it to be just text. I want it to have some images. I’m trying to tell people the idea that I have in my head and then get that to end up on the page or on a shirt or on a mug and having look like what I think it’s gonna look like because no matter what the result is, I’ve had no way of first hand deciding if that’s what I wanted it to be or not. It is interesting. For the most part, I manage the website and do the blog and do most of the stuff all by myself. When it comes to the photos and the videos of the equipment that I have for sale, when I need to add photo or an image to a blog post, then, usually, I’d be at somebody help me sort through all the images and tell me which ones to use or not use and what order to use them. But I like to tell people, if anybody is doing this and they are doing it successfully, it’s because they have a team. if you don’t think they have a time, it’s because they hide them or they don’t give them enough credit for the work that they are all doing to help them get there. I just show up every day and do the next job. If I could do it, fine. If I had to ask somebody help me, fine. If it turns to be something I just can do for now, then I turn off to the side, don’t worry about it.
Matt: Yeah. I think that’s a good approach whether you’re blind or not is to just kinda keep plugging away and prioritize and do things that you can do and do them the best you can and just kinda keep on working. You don’t expect overnight miracles but if you keep plugging away, I am big believer that persistence is the number one most important trait for an entrepreneur. It’s not being super smart, or having a ton of money behind you or connections or anything else. It’s just really persistence. If you keep plugging away and you keep trying to get where you want to go, eventually you’re gonna get there. It’s only quitting that’s gonna stop you. But if you don’t quit, eventually you are gonna get there.
Max: Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more. That reminds me of an old line that WCP gets credit for that something that used to say with on the car waiting on the lobby the lines goes “The only way you can lose is to die or quit playing and you look like you’re pretty good in health, kid!”
Matt: Yup. That’s a good saying and certainly applicable to entrepreneurs. Like you said, it’s hard enough doing this stuff everyday with all my facilities, in fact all these years, however good they may be. But you’ve overcome even additional challenges. I think No Excuses T-shirt is a very appropriate motivator for a lot of people good at making up reasons that they can’t do things. But realistically, just your really your own motivation that either keeps you going or stands in your way.
Max: Yeah. For a lot of times, I fought against this ideas that I can motivate other people. I thought, I’m just a guy who shows up every day and working hard to build my business and support my family. But, eventually, enough of my friends said “You know, Max, the problems is there’s too many people out there that don’t have a reason, there’s nothing physical otherwise, keeping them from going after their dream or building their business yet they’re doing that to actually move forward, not taking the action. They find excuses or reasons or whatever they want to call them and they said [inaudible 0:21:59.3] and don’t take the easy way out is inspiring to us and it would be inspiring to more people if you would share your story more.” That’s one of the reasons why I do these radio shows. It’s partly to promote my business because let’s be honest pretty much everything we do online is to promote our business or build our brand but for me it’s more about sharing my story. If I can inspire other people to do those little things every day to keep plugging away as you said, to just keep doing their next job and hopefully eventually getting there, getting close to getting there. I think there are a lot of people said that their problem is that they get overwhelmed or they get too caught up in their results rather than just actually doing the next thing that they are supposed to be doing.
Matt: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of hype in the entrepreneur world and in the community. People buy into the idea that it only takes a little bit of effort and a little bit of time before you start seeing big results and as any real entrepreneur knows, it almost always the opposite. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work before you see even a little bit of results but if you stick with it, eventually you’ll get there. The results can be massive. But it’s very rarely it’s an overnight. Like you said, there’s always a team of people or other people that you are relying and you need help and its more than just one person sort of overnight success story almost always. You wanna go in with the reasonable expectation and then keep plugging away and then if you do those 2 things, pretty soon, you’re gonna find yourself be in one of those success stories.
Max: Yeah I listen to a guy that does a radio show on their station. He interviews people every week and more often at night, he’ll talk about his 10 year rule. He says that “In Nashville, it takes about 10 years to become an overnight success.”
Matt: That sounds about right. Well, I definitely appreciate your time today, Max, in sharing your story and telling us about your business. What’s a good way or where can people find you online or how can they get in touch with you if they would like to do that?
Max: Alright. If they want to check out the amusement equipment and there’s some pretty interesting for them to look out, there’s some good videos, its midwaymarketplace.com. The site where I offer the coaching and I’m available for bookings for public speaking or when they can find my e-book, Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light: A Blind Man’s Inspirational Guide to Success, that’s all in theblindblogger.net. I also offer an online course to teach people how to get booked on shows like this and use them to share their story ,promote their brand and build their business. If anybody wants to get the whole to me, to email, just ask at theblindblogger.net. The number is 979-215-1770. The email again is just to ask at theblindblogger.net. I mention that because I tell people if there’s anything you ever really want to know about Max’s side, what kind of guy he is, just remember the email address.
Matt: That makes sense. That’s nice and memorable and of course I’ll include all the links on the show notes. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate and I really enjoyed hearing your story. Have a great rest of your day!
Max: Thank you for having me on the show. I hope that sharing my story does help some people out there, that they realize that as far as having a business online, or thinking about having one, it’s all about just doing the next thing. As what I always tell people, my core belief is “I do what I can as well as I can today and then I’ll do it more or do it better tomorrow.”
Matt: Words to live by. I appreciate it, Max. Thank you very much.
Max: Thank you, Matt. I appreciate you having me on here and you have a great weekend.