The magic touch

UWO student-entrepreneur banks on an Appleton legacy

Posted on Oct 1, 2017 :: The Business of Life
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

When Rajon Lynch scored his first gig, he earned $60 to perform magic for a kids’ party. The only problem? The Oshkosh resident didn’t realize the party in Appleton was quite so far, and not owning a car, he had to call for an Uber, which ended up costing — yes — $60.

Lynch learned from the incident and has developed a more solid business plan — one that actually includes a profit and helps fund his education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

The 21-year-old had only passing interest in magic as a kid, trying out simple sleight of hand feats he saw on the Disney Channel and dabbling in small tricks with friends in garages. Three years ago, though, he saw a poster on campus for a performing arts camp. When he applied, he had to identify three skill sets he could teach, and magic was at the bottom of his list. Nevertheless, he was hired to teach magic.

Lynch knew only small tricks when he started at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts summer camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York, but by the time he finished, he’d learned big-time illusions.

Magic is unusual in the performing arts world, in that it’s a community in which people are encouraged to share, Lynch says. Magicians create tricks that others can buy and get license to perform. Two magicians can perform the same trick in different ways, so it’s all about developing your own style, he says.

“In magic, it’s like, I saw that trick,” he says. “I saw someone else do it, but they did it so much different than you. I love both of them.”

Returning to UWO, Lynch, a marketing major with an emphasis in sales, began to devise plans to support himself through his newfound talent. It started, as it does for many magicians, with performing for kids’ events. From there, he began booking gigs at corporate functions.

1017_TBOL_2Lynch has performed for Harley Davidson and Kimberly-Clark and was recently hired for a show at the Indy 500. In these settings, companies typically hire him either to break the ice or add an element of something unexpected to surprise people. As a bonus, these events also allow Lynch to put into practice some of his marketing skills.

Finding success, Lynch was able to quit his part-time job and focus entirely on his magic business and attend school full time. He created a website and newsletter and established a strong social media presence. He also took the stage at the inaugural TEDx Oshkosh event. His talk, entitled “The Ham Sandwich,” touched on the importance of relatability in magic and in life.

For his latest venture, Lynch, who also teaches at Appleton’s History Museum at the Castle and Paper Discovery Center, created Now Serving Magic, a three-course magic show in which he partners with area restaurants for a show and meal.

For $50, attendees can enjoy a three-course meal and magic show. Lynch and a team of two other magicians perform a show at the beginning and end of the meal and do closeup tricks tableside between courses.

Reaching out initially, restaurant owners were skeptical, given the newness of the concept and Lynch’s youth. It took some persuading for restaurants to realize Lynch would do all the work.

It’s only natural that Lynch, who considers himself a comedy magician, performed his first Now Serving Magic show at Appleton’s Houdini’s Escape Gastropub. He’s since brought his act to Appleton’s GingeRootz and Stone Arch Brewpub, and the events typically sell out.

The Appleton focus is no coincidence. Lynch sees magic as an integral part of the city’s history, and he’s promoting himself as a new, younger face of the craft.

“It’s important to sell that magic was really big in Appleton,” Lynch says. “They’re very proud of Houdini.”

Lynch says magic has helped him prepare for his career. Through it, he’s started his own business and honed his public speaking skills, bragging rights that set him apart. Conversely, his degree program and the college’s small business development center have helped him build his magic business.

“It’s definitely making me more unique because a lot of college students look the same,” he says. “We all have the same GPA, we all go to work at the same places, and we all try to get jobs at the same places.”

After he graduates in a year, Lynch wants to move to New York and work in marketing, but he’s also considering the possibility of touring around colleges doing magic. Eventually, he’d like to devote himself to magic full time and produce his own show.

Lynch has come a long way from his novice magician days and no-profit gigs.

“He made leaps and bounds with everything he learned,” says Eric Brown, who taught magic with Lynch in New York that first summer. “He definitely has a unique personality and commands attention and has a little bit of that it factor that draws people to him.”

The job: Magician

Rate per gig: : $120/half hour for closeup magic; $350 for 45-minute stage show

Employees: 1

Hours: 20 per week, including practice, writing and performing