How to go from an Underground Poker dealer to an Experiential Staffing Agency

Like most entrepreneurs, my path has been erratic. There were lots of stops, lots of wrong turns, and more than a few false-starts. But, unlike most entrepreneurs, my path started with poker.

If you’ve ever been to a bar or strip club and seen a smartly-dressed dealer throwing down cards from behind a poker table, you have a pretty good idea what I did back in the early days. The hours were rough, but working the tables was fun, and also gave me the opportunity to meet unique and interesting people.

While I’ve changed in more ways than I can count over the years that have followed, I still wouldn’t advise sitting across a poker table from me. I’m now the founder and CEO of Brand Besties, and I can say with no hesitation that even Matt Damon’s character in Rounders couldn’t handle my skills.

In any case, after I’d gained a ton of experience behind the poker table, and cultivated a base of regulars, one of them offered me an opportunity that was exciting, had the potential to pay off my student loans, and was 100% illegal.

I went all in.

That’s how I started dealing for underground Texas Hold ‘Em games. There are lots of stories from those days (I’ll never forget watching my buddy John lose his 1957 Corvette to pocket 3’s), but the real win from those years was learning the fundamentals of executing experiential experiences. What activities needed to be provided to connect with your audience, the impressive added value we could offer our audience in their time of pain, and most importantly, choosing the right talent to make those ever lasting impressions – all came from lessons learned while managing underground poker games.

In a fairly short amount of time I realized that managing the events was even more fun than dealing the cards and less time consuming. During this time I explored other opportunities.  I went on to train Toys ‘R’ Us employees and special staff to roll-out a new credit initiative through Chase Bank. Because film was my first love, I worked as a body double for Michelle Rodriguez in the film Machete. Somewhere along the way I was even part of the team that put Pantene hair products on the map. The last, by the way, was probably my first real introduction into the execution of experiential marketing, and I was terrible. I’ll tell you more about that story soon.

Over the years I’ve learned just how critical experiential marketing is, and how often organizations do it really badly. I’ve worked with brand managers, party planners, individual consultants, and entrepreneurs, and they’re all looking for essentially the same thing – mind-blowing, successful, actionable results from their events that:

  • Are memorable
  • Drive social engagement and sharing
  • Educate and inform the audience
  • Inspire people to take action

Sure, each of those people look for those results for different reasons, but understanding what drives people, and what they respond to, is key for events that deliver successful outcomes.

That’s where Brand Besties comes in. In addition to learning the best strategy for Blackjack, why Ms. Rodriguez is a total bad-ass, and how to manage a remote ‘on-the-street’ team, my experiences have taught me what really makes experiential marketing tick, and I can sum it up in one word: staffing.

No matter where you are in your career or corporate hierarchy, proper staffing is the key to making your events sing. You know, like Whitney Houston. You need brand ambassadors that:

  • Know how to tell your story
  • Have the ability to engage and interact with your audience
  • Radiate enthusiasm and passion about your message

We’ll get into specific examples of how Brand Besties delivers the talent, and strategic partnership you need to get each of those done in future posts. For now, I want to just say how happy and proud I am that you’re here, and how much I look forward to getting to know you (make sure to comment to help me do it!).

~ Corina

 

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