Clowns, mimes, magicians, storytellers, puppeteers. In a world of video games and movies with spectacular special effects, how can these simple entertainers hope to compete for the attention of children--and the discretionary dollars of their parents? By delivering a memorable experience, live and in person.
"No matter how technology advances, we're still programmed to experience things directly," says Naomi Caspe, 44, who operates The Magic Makers, a children's entertainment business, with her husband, Douglas Kipping, 45. "Kids remember a party with clowns and jugglers long after they've forgotten a movie."
That immediacy is the key to the growing children's entertainment industry, according to Caspe. Professional entertainers can charge up to $200 for a one-hour private party and more for a performance at a corporate event, such as a company picnic.
Kipping and Caspe, who has a degree in early educational communications, launched their San Francisco company in 1984 for less than $1,000. They began by performing for local residents and at parties for children and grandchildren of celebrities, including "Star Wars" director George Lucas and actor Robin Williams.
But The Magic Makers has found markets beyond children's parties. It also performs at conventions, festivals, schools and museums, and has presented its show in Japan and Taiwan. In addition, Caspe offers a workshop for teachers, showing them how to use magic tricks to demonstrate scientific principles.
Although The Magic Makers earns $75,000 per year, profits in the children's entertainment business are relatively slim, Caspe says, because of travel and prop expenses. But for those with a love of children and a fondness for the spotlight, there are greater rewards than money.