A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from my friend from my old university who had been living in Israel for many years.
He had a small business and had been trying to make a few thousand dollars off the back of the popularity of balloon rides.
He was making about a half a million a year.
He wanted to make his own balloon ride for the local community.
The idea was simple: a wooden coaster with a rope on top, a small set of wheels, and a giant balloon.
He thought he could sell them to local schools for about $25 a set.
That’s about as much as he made in a year, but the idea was that if it worked, the school could buy them back and resell them at a profit.
It sounded great, but there was a catch: there were only a few of them in the world, and they were not very well made.
“They are not made to last,” my friend wrote.
He went on to explain the basic mechanics of making a balloon train, but at that point he was completely lost.
I tried to help him out.
I explained that balloon rides are a pretty common sight in the United States, and that it’s pretty easy to get one of these from the local toy shop, and if you have some time, a little extra money, you could try making one yourself.
I suggested he start out by making a single one.
“I’ll build a small train for $200.”
He got the idea.
He started with a wooden model of the toy shop’s building, made a few modifications, and then added a rope to hang a large wooden train from the roof of the shop.
He assembled the model and then started making it work.
He bought a small box of parts, made sure he had enough wood for the train, and added the rope to the model.
“Just keep adding and adding and the rope will eventually come together,” he said.
He made a wooden roller coaster that he then added to the track.
“It’ll work out,” he promised.
But as the balloon train went on and he continued adding ropes and wood, the wooden roller began to buckle, and eventually the train would simply fall over.
It took a few weeks for the model to fall apart and break.
The roller coaster eventually broke, and he spent about $1,000 repairing it.
That wasn’t all he was able to salvage.
He eventually found a set of ropes for a small wooden roller that he also bought, and the idea for the ride was born.
He used the ropes and the roller coaster to build an entire set of wooden rollercoasters that he installed in the community, and sold them at some point for about a thousand dollars each.
After the ride had sold, he purchased the remaining rollercoaster parts and put them on the bottom of his driveway, where he hung it.
This time he sold the ride and his wooden roller, but that wasn’t what really got me excited.
I asked him what it was about balloons that made them so popular.
“People are so into balloons, that they just love them,” he replied.
“Even though it’s not a very popular product in Israel, people really want to go and see it.
People come to see the balloons and they love it.”
I asked if he had any advice for anyone making their own balloons, or anyone who might want to try it out.
“Never make one that’s too small or too big,” he advised.
“Don’t just try to do it yourself, make one small and make the next big.”
And with that, he went to sleep.
I woke up to a message from my former friend.
He hadn’t made his first balloon train in about four years.
“What’s up?” he asked.
I told him that it was a very simple idea that he had come up with, and I said that I would try to help.
He agreed and we discussed how he might use his knowledge of the materials he had learned to build one.
We spent the next few days and nights together.
I kept his ideas in mind.
“You need to make your own balloon train,” he told me.
I decided to take the idea a step further.
I created a spreadsheet, a list of all the materials I had learned, and started to make my own balloon trains.
I made a list, too, of all of the tools I had acquired to make this project a reality.
I bought a couple of the parts I needed to make the balloons, including a couple dozen small pieces of wire, some cardboard, a few nails, and several glue sticks.
I also bought some plastic tubing and plastic tubing strung together, and some rubber bands to attach them to the sides of the balloon trains so they would not fall apart.
I put the tubes and balloons together and started making my first balloons.
A few days later, I went back to my old college friend and asked if I could have him build me