Entertaining is what Fenelon Falls area resident Sharon Bell is all about. In 1999 she started working as a single clown, as her business grew clients started asking for different services and eventually she developed Checkers Entertainment Services. As that grew Sharon started to hand-pick professional entertainers and services from conferences around the world and to date she has a variety of 500 professionals she can call on for any number of events.
Clients ask Sharon to use her creative abilities to fill all the needs for their events including all the details. “As one Christmas season closes we start to think about what we can provide for the next season,” says Sharon, adding that clients book from six months to two years ahead and she gives her clients a reminder in June to book their location, caterers and entertainment. “It’s important to get entertainers booked that early, and the clients appreciate the reminder.”
With 10 prime dates leading up to Christmas and not counting weekdays, Sharon says that the Christmas season, which starts right after Halloween and runs to the last Sunday before Christmas, probably accounts for more than half her yearly income. The other half comes from events like all the major celebrations like Valentines, St Patricks Day, Easter, Canada Day, Native Celebrations, Festivals, Corporations, Grand Openings, Staff and Customer Appreciation Days and more. “If a customer has a theme, I can create what they need, although I don’t do anything sinful or immoral,” she laughs. She adds that she designs the costumes for whatever theme is required. Her 91 year old mom actually sews the comstumes for her. Sharon now has more than 200 outfits.
Doing a count down, 12 weeks—9weeks—six weeks to the start of the Christmas season helps with organization and while clients may not have a specific date when they call they must have a tentative date.
All of the events Checker’s Entertainment Services provide are family oriented with Santa and Mrs. Claus being amongst the most popular. “I have Juno Award winning musicians that provide family shows, we have animal shows, birds of prey and farm animals to name a few of the types of entertainment provided. “We have even done a farm petting zoo on the third floor of a high rise. We have professional face painters, balloonists, glitter tattoos, air brushers, loot bags, pick-a-pocket characters with treats in their pockets, children’s entertainers, musicians, magicians, stilwalkers and an improv show.” Along with all that, and depending on the event, there’s a portable Santa sleigh, popcorn, candy floss and sno cone machines. Whatever the need, this lady can provide everything from caricaturists to mascots. Not all the parties are for children as Sharon does opening events for high rises, home builders and year end parties for companies and corporations.
Although Sharon still does many events herself she always makes sure to go to larger events where she might have as many as 15 entertainers hired, she recalls one recent event where they had to handle 1500 or more people. “I’m fortunate to have a hubby who drives everywhere, helps pack and unpack and is also part of the act,” she admits.
Asked why her business is so successful, Sharon says she believes that providing the customer with exactly what you say you are going to provide, being reliable, trustworthy and honest and getting back to people quickly when they call has all been part of the equation.
Sharon has won the 2011 and 2012 Readers Select Award WinnerFavourite Children’s Entertainment.
Being organized is also a big part of success and Sharon is a very organized person, she writes all the client proposals and invoices and orchestrates all the details from insurance and mileage and costs analysis to booking contractors and seeing that costumes get to their destinations on time. “People think it looks easy but the prep work is costly and time consuming. Still she admits she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I like the excitement of the Christmas Season it’s a challenge to put together an event and see it come off successfully. If the clients are happy, the contractors are happy, the families are happy then I’m happy.”
Checkers Entertainment Services can provide events all across the county. One of her largest this year saw her put twenty-four entertainers across Canada, two per province from B.C. to Nfld., for a chain store event. Sharon also does creative art workshops and laughter therapy presentations for conferences and special interest groups.
Asked why she does what she does, Sharon says, “It fulfils and challenges the creative passion in me.”