Play Is Serious Business

Play is serious business for companies like Incredible Adventures. It can make your fantasy adventures come true, whether it involves flying a MiG over Moscow or training for covert ops like James Bond. In the process of serving up your wildest dreams, the company has helped collaborators develop creative new revenue streams and drum up lots of attention.

The 20-year-old Sarasota, FL-based company first began arranging MiG-29 flights over Moscow in 1993. Since then, it has evolved into a venture that offers dozens of fantasy trips, camps and adventures across the globe for consumers and special services to film companies, says President Jane Reifert.

While fantasy is Incredible Adventure’s main business, offering adventures is a new revenue stream that can be a godsend for its collaborators during bad economic times.  When the construction industry took a major hit after the economic crisis of 2008, Bennett Construction launched People at Play, featuring a construction adventure experience.

In 2007, “We had some civil engineers out to the office and the idea came up to let them try out the construction equipment. They got out there and they loved it,” says Alisa Bennett of Bennett Construction and president of People at Play, also in Sarasota. “I really thought there was such a big idea in it that I wrote a business plan,” Bennett says.  Finally in 2010, after they survived the downturn, she launched the venture, offering mainly individual packages.

So now, people from all walks of life live out their childhood Tonka truck fantasies learning to operate bulldozers, diggers and other equipment. Bennett says that clients like learning from their experts. The employees, who spend most of their time in the cab of a construction implement, enjoy sharing their expertise and being like a rock star for the day, she explains.

“The construction industry doesn’t get the respect it deserves for building our infrastructure,” she adds. Bennett also says that people are often surprised that it’s not as easy as it looks. Operating the equipment properly takes good hand-eye coordination and the ability to think about ten different tings at the same time, she says.

All the resulting publicity-from the Today Show to The Herald Tribune-has helped build a great deal of interest in People at Play. “It has changed how we’re perceived in the marketplace, as out-of-the-box thinkers,” Bennett adds. She’s taken her marketing abilities and innovative thinking a step further. “About 80 to 85 percent of our packages are given as gifts, so we’ve created a gift package they can order that includes things like a hard hat along with the gift certificate.”

Reifert of Incredible Adventures reiterates how valuable these “side” businesses can be. “You can be economically stagnant or go out and figure out other ways to make money.”  She explains that her company is always launching new projects. (Shark diving and all the flying adventures are still the most popular.) Lots of their creative ideas come from their customers, who express a desire for something, which leads to the creation of an adventure, Reifert explains. Her network of off-beat businesses has also led many a film crew to the company for help in finding specialized equipment and experts.

Perhaps surprisingly, Incredible Adventures seems to be recession-proof, even when some ofthe adventures carry a hefty price tag. “We’re a worldwide business. When the economy is bad in one place, it’s good somewhere else,” she says. “People spend the money because they realize life is short.  Things wear out. Memories Don’t.”

 Image Credit: Incredible Adventures

About Vera L. Dordick

Vera L. Dordick is principal with Tangible Development LLC, public relations practitioner, and creative provocateur. At Tangible Development, Vera specializes in crisis management and public relations but has a particular interest in creativity training and helping companies foster more creative environments. She also blogs on the Albany Times Union website on marketing and creativity. Vera holds a BA in Journalism and Russian from Indiana University and an Associate degree in Culinary Arts from SCCC.