We had the good fortune of connecting with Leesa Zelken and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leesa, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I have been in business as a children’s party planner and entertainment expert for over 25 years. Long before social media, long before COVID. Finding, achieving, and maintaining success has been possible because of one word that has been very popular this year, but always part of the vernacular to me as I navigated my business this quarter century. That word is “pivot.” This idea of pivoting was never more necessary than in March 2020 when I embarked on a never-been-tried-before platform of virtual party entertainment, now some 500+ virtual celebrations later. What started as a local to Los Angeles only business, Send In The Clowns has now been established as the premiere expert in the virtual party realm. In the early days of SITC, we offered simple backyard party entertainment—characters, entertainers, shows. Then, clients wanted larger scale events, so we brought on more staff, more services, and more ability to create concepts and scale up events. Now, we’ve added Virtual to the mix and enjoy a worldwide clientele, from Hong Kong to the Cayman Islands, Canada, to Zimbabwe, both coasts of the United States and everywhere in between it seems. “Pivoting” is emblematic of what I have done since the inception of my business.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Since the early ’90’s (agh!!) I have been working day to day as an LA based children’s entertainment and event planner. In the very earliest days, I donned costumes and wielded party props from house to house entertaining throngs of small children at birthday parties, before very many people had the idea let alone thought it could flourish into a thriving business. What started out initially as just “me” quickly became a larger entity as I hired and assembled more staff and more services. Pivoting along the way had me constantly re-inventing, reassessing, and refreshing my business model often. I learned right away to say “yes” to every reasonable request. There were times that this seemed insurmountable (Yikes–what did I just say “yes” to?) But, I found that saying “yes” put me in the expert position of creating exactly what that “yes” would be, inventing services, creating new concepts, fulfilling wishes, and setting the standard for what was possible.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Day-drives in LA is my favorite way to show an out of towner a good time. There will never be a time that I drive up the PCH toward Malibu that I don’t feel “on vacation.” Something about that drive feels like an instant getaway. Stopping for a walk on the Malibu pier, or driving further up the coast for sight-seeing and beach-walking at Point Dume is always a highlight. Similarly, the coastline drive from El Segundo, through the South Bay, and all along the coast of Palos Verdes is a scenic feast. In the days before COVID, a special capstone to any day would be a visit to Terranea Resort, either to enjoy the day spa and sit by the pool, or lunch or dinner at a restaurant overlooking the ocean, with a usual guaranteed treat of spotting a whale or two.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
While I am the sole proprietor/CEO/Owner of Send In The Clowns, none of what I have been able to achieve would be without the troupe of talent that I have been lucky to assemble over the years. From eager, “all-in”, talented staff on the front-lines of party entertainment, to wildly-creative collaborators, colleagues, and even competitors who always push me/us to do our best and most sincere work, there are countless cohorts who have been integral parts of the Send In The Clowns “party wheel.” Lest we forget clients, who, without their trust, loyalty, and aspirations a business I would not have.