Interview With Kris Jones of Special Guest
I recently had a fantastic opportunity to Interview Kris Jones. If your a blogger may know him best for his best selling book Search-Engine Optimization: Your Visual Blueprint for Effective Internet Marketing.
I was familiar with him because I have heard a lot of buzz about his newest venture Special Guest which is a new app the allows regular people like me and you to hire celebrities. How amazing is that?
There is a talent database. You can hire Disney Princesses for your children's parties or Famous Actors, Actresses, and Musicians. Could you imagine being able to hire a celebrity to show up at your birthday party or corporate event? You can even hire talent from The Voice.
So let's learn more about Kris and Special Guest.
MB: Let's talk about you since you are an accomplished motivational speaker and best selling author. It is extraordinary your background is actually in law and psychology. It is an astounding feat to graduate from university. You have done that three times. How did your educational experience help assist you in the process of establishing and building Special Guest?
KJ: Honestly, I've been a high achiever since I was a teenager - always focused on setting and accomplishing goals. I wasn't a traditional student that went to college to get a job - instead, I went to undergraduate college (Penn State), graduate school (Villanova), and law school (Albany Law) because I was interested in psychology and law and I was motivated to earn degrees. That said - my dedication to education carried over into my professional life. For instance, in 1999 (while a graduate student at Villanova) I launched an online gourmet food business with my brother Rick. I approached that with the same level of dedication and discipline I did w/ my education. As my education continued and I became a more experienced entrepreneur, I started to have considerable success. Over the last 15 years, I've continued to be a "high achiever" in everything I do. Because of my experience and success building apps - my dedication and discipline have helped Special Guest positions for considerable success. I'm not sure I've ever been more excited, passionate, or dedicated to a project in my life than I am Special Guest!
MB: You revolutionized search engine optimization. You wrote a best-selling book how does that help you in your business today?
KJ: I've written three editions (2008, 2010, 2013) of the best-selling book "Search Engine Optimization - Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing," which has sold over 100,000 copies. Being an author (for nearly ten years now) has helped me in business by giving me credibility and also earning me invited to speak at various Universities, conferences, and events around the world. I've found being an author is a lot like acquiring a college degree - they both have a way of providing credibility to open doors in life and business.
MB: So I hear you’ve been invited to speak at the Disney summit in November. How did it feel when Disney came calling?
KJ: Keynoting a Disney event was by far one of the coolest opportunities I've had as a public speaker. Disney flew my family to Anaheim, CA and put us up at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. Aside from speaking at the event (which was awesome), we got to spend several days at Disney, which was an amazing trip.
MB: What Inspired you to start Special Guest? Did you start this on your own? How did Damon Wayans Jr (Disney's Big Hero 6 and The New Girl) get involved?
KJ: I've been a successful Internet entrepreneur for nearly 20 years, and I've been building apps since the beginning of the App Store. My business partner Damon Wayans, Jr is a successful actor and comedian. Damon does a lot of stand-up comedy around the United States. One way he practices jokes is to go to "Open Mic's" in the Los Angeles area. An open mic is basically a stage, a microphone, and an audience - it includes all types of acts from music to dance to comedy. Damon uses open mic's to practice jokes. About two years ago he performed an open mic, and the women that went before him electrified the audience, and he personally was blown away by her talent. As she was leaving the stage and Damon was going on stage he said to her "You're amazing! Who is your manager? Where do you normally perform?" In short, the young woman said to Damon that she doesn't have a manager, has never been paid to perform, and that she was overwhelmed by how difficult it is to break into the entertainment industry." Damon is fortunate that he has a talent manager who works on his behalf to get paid gigs. However, Damon realized that 98% of talented people don't have managers and struggle to get paid on a regular basis to perform. Damon wanted to build an app to make it easier for anyone, anywhere to hire talented people. I was introduced to Damon through a common friend, and we began building special guest last year. We got cast on Apple TV's first original content series "Planet of the Apps" last year, which was exciting because it allows us to partner w/ Black Eyed Peas founder Will.i.am to really explore the idea of building a mobile app to help talented people get paid gigs. On the TV show, we also raised $1.5 million, which has helped us focus on building a remarkable app.
MB: Special Guest is a unique business. Not only are you giving actors an opportunity to work outside of Hollywood and interact with their fans but you’re also giving talent a head start. How do you find your talent?
KJ: At first we leveraged being on the TV Show (Planet of the Apes) where we got a ton of exposure. Since Damon is an entertainer, he's been very helpful with making connections to lots of talented performers. I'm a digital marketer, so we've also leveraged Google and Facebook. Finally, we acquired a company called "Pare Booking" and we recently soft-launched a program called "Venue Connect," which ultimately means that Special Guest now is a talent buyer. This allows us to book talent on behalf of venues and we've had incredible growth ever since launching the program.
MB: Special Guest can meet a variety of needs. What do you offer?
KJ: You're absolutely right - we are a platform to help all kinds of talented people get hired. For instance, some of the talent categories currently supported in the app include Actors / Actresses, Artists, Bands and Ensembles, Circus Acts, Comedians, Cultural Entertainment, Dancers, DJs, Impersonators, Magicians, Musicians, Photographers / Videographers, Speakers / Officiants, Specialty Acts and Kid's entertainers. We have many former contestants and finalists from American Idol, the Voice, and America's Got Talent, as well as seasoned entertainers and up and comers.
MB: So what should someone expect when hiring talent from Special Guest?
KJ: We make the process super easy. The platform is used by professional venues (restaurants, clubs, theaters, etc.), planners (wedding, corporate event, etc.), and anyone, anywhere (Mom's and Dad's booking kid's entertainment, office parties, house parties, etc.). Special Guest is a platform - not a tool. That means we help talent buyers discover talent, communicate with talent (in-app), reach an agreement (in-app), pay talent (in-app), book talent (in-app), and rate/review talent (in-app). We are like Uber, but for booking talent.
MB: Does Special Guest provide entertainment or talent for Children's parties? What would you like parents to know?
KJ: Absolutely! This is one of the primary reasons Daman and I launched Special Guest. We both have kids. Many of our friends have kids.There are over 40 million kids under the age of 12 in the United States - they all have birthday parties. And it's a pain in the butt to locate and hire kid's entertainment! Not so with Special Guest - it's completely easy. So what I'd like parents to know is that there is a ton of talent on Special Guest (particularly in the Los Angeles market) to hire for your next kid's event - from magicians to impersonators (Spider-Man, Disney Princesses, SpongeBob, etc.) to singers, dancers, and kid stars!
MB: Since nostalgia is all the rage right now does Special Guest offer talent that would be appropriate for a 1990's or 1980's party?
KJ: Totally! We have many categories of themed entertainment (i.e., 40's bands, 50's singers, 60's performers, 70's - 80's - 90's bands, etc.). In fact, we are also actively booking themed performers (i.e., 80's bands) for venues in the Los Angeles area.
MB: What am I dying to know what does Special Guest have to offer Disney fans?
KJ: In my opinion - nothing can replace a LIVE Disney experience! It's just so magical! That said - Special Guest App allows anyone to hire former Disney stars, as well as Disney princesses and performers. Imagine how memorable it would be for Mom and Dad to hire "Enchanted Princesses" for their daughters 10th birthday party? They can do that through Special Guest App!
What do you want people to know about Special Guest? We are focused on becoming the default app for people all over the world to discover and hire talent. Our goal is to democratize the process with the specific goal of helping as many talented people get paid for what they love to do.
MB: Are you a part of the talent? Is your role more behind the scenes?
KJ: I'm behind the scenes. It's all about the talent in the app and making Special Guest the best app in the world for hiring LIVE entertainment. This has been one of the most fun projects ever! It's really exciting to work in Hollywood with celebrities and even more interesting to help entertainers to get paid.
I would love to thank Kris Jones of Special Guest App for taking the time to answer my questions. I will be checking the app out regularly to see what celebrities join. I think Special Guest was a genius idea. It will give a lot of fans a chance to hire their favorite performers. I was compensated for my writing services. My opinions are genuine as was the interview.
You can Find the Special Guest App Website here.
You can find the Apple App here.