Sin Ordu is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Magic Penthouse — Chicago’s most magical night of the month. Born and raised in Germany, he has been performing magic professionally since he was 15 years old. After receiving his Master of Science Degree in Business Psychology at the University of Kassel, Sin followed his heart to Chicago and started working as a Manager for the German American Chamber of Commerce. As a side hustle, he started his passion project, The Magic Penthouse, which quickly grew to become #4 on TripAdvisor for Shows & Concerts. Since 2018, Sin has been managing The Magic Penthouse full-time. In addition to his work in the event and entertainment industry, Sin regularly gives leadership and communication seminars for trainers and managers across the United States.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Magic has been my passion ever since my brother showed me a card trick when we were kids and refused to tell me how he did it. Naturally, I spent countless hours researching and reading to figure out the secret. By the time he finally shared it with me, I was already hooked. For the next 15 years, I would spend multiple hours every day practicing sleights. Eventually, friends asked me to perform at their birthday or wedding, and that’s when I realized that I could monetize the idea.
It was my side hustle for many years until one day in 2015 when I ran into (my now business partner) Nick Roy at a magic shop. We became friends and shared the same passion and vision for magic. We realized that magic could be so much more than just top hats, bunnies and sawing women in half. We wanted magic to be relevant for the 21st century: young, elegant and sexy. That is how The Magic Penthouse was born.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
Honestly, I was expecting success too quickly. Everything takes longer than you think. I would meet people who LOVE what we do and promise me the world, but it wouldn’t come to fruition until 12–18 months later. Everyone is busy with their own life, and it’s frustrating to realize that things are just going to take a little (or a lot) longer than anticipated.
The lesson I’ve learned from this is to have a follow up system and to be patient. (At least I am trying.)
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Something that I’ve noticed (and that I’ve also been told), is that I am extremely critical and I always want to improve. After the very first Magic Penthouse, people left us raving reviews and praised us. Most people would have been satisfied with that response and would have repeated the same event again, but we don’t do that. We’ve never repeated the same event. This is because I don’t believe that it can ever be perfect. If we can’t think of anything to improve, we weren’t looking close enough.
Today, when I compare our very first event in 2016 with our last event, it has changed and improved 1000 times. Everything is in constant flux, and therefore it’s always original and unique.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”?
The biggest changes are going to result from the smallest things.
I think we (humans) are terrible judges when it comes to opportunity. We think that this one TV appearance is going to change our lives, but really it’s the small meeting in a coffee or magic shop that is going to make all the difference. Therefore, I highly recommend to any entrepreneur: Say yes to any meeting that comes your way.
No one is going to trust you before the third meeting.
It’s not enough to go to a networking event once and try to meet as many new people as possible. If you are selling a high-end product or service, keep meeting the same people and remember them. They are not going to become a client because of your business card, but because they trust you… and that takes time.
Time management is the key to maintaining happiness (and sanity).
Being an entrepreneur is like going to college during exam season; You always feel like you should be studying, even when you are just trying to enjoy a Netflix series at night. The only way to avoid the FOMOW (Fear of Missing Out on Work) is by creating a clear to-do list for the day. Once it’s done, drop the pen and close the laptop.
Set time aside for the fun parts of your job and don’t give them away.
I love creating new magic but when I started managing the company, I felt like I should be spending more time on the business development than “geeking out” with friends. Eventually, I noticed that I need to do both in order to maintain my passion for magic and stay connected to our magicians.
Surround yourself with people that LOVE your product.
Don’t just hire people who seem qualified. Hire people who are emotionally involved. Before deciding to work with anyone new, I first invite them to experience The Magic Penthouse as a guest. If they are the loudest ones screaming in the audience and the last person to leave after the event, I know they are going to go above and beyond to help our business.
BONUS: You make the rules… forget industry standards.
When I first started managing The Magic Penthouse, I thought we had to function like a “normal” company: 40-hour work week, regular meetings, boring business cards, … but we don’t. Anything that you can do differently will be a good thing down the line. And if it doesn’t work out, change it. You make the rules.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Only results matter, no one cares about the time you spent on whatever task. If you’re done with your tasks for the day and it’s only 1:00pm, it’s a good day. Enjoy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My business partner Nick Roy is pretty much the opposite of me in every possible way, which can be challenging. But he has one quality that’s invaluable and a big reason why The Magic Penthouse is where it’s at today: He is unbelievably optimistic and enthusiastic. When you’re working with someone who is always convinced that things are going to work out perfectly, you start believing in it yourself. Once you start believing it, you start to see it happening. It’s a beautiful self-fulfilling prophecy.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
We want to become the thought leader for magic in the Midwest. Whenever someone thinks about making something magical and impossible happen, whether that’s at a corporate event, social gathering, product launch or seminar, that call must come to us. E.g. a bar wants to create a cocktail that looks, tastes, smells and feels magical — give us a call.
As far as personal goals, when I quit my full-time job to pursue The Magic Penthouse, I set the rule for myself that I am going to spend at least one month in a new international city each year. This year, I was in Istanbul with my fiancé for 4 weeks and I can’t wait to experience Tokyo the same way next year. If I can keep this work-life balance up for as long as possible, I am happy.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
Anyone who attends The Magic Penthouse sees magic with new eyes, and I know that we are pushing the envelope in the magic industry. I believe that we are on the verge of experiencing a new era for magic performance, and I hope that we inspire young magicians to strive for integrity and authenticity.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Magic is just a medium; it could technically be anything! When we stop thinking of it as light entertainment and start thinking of it as impactful messaging and memorable experience, we realize that it can be a game changer in any industry. For example, we are creating magic around fundraising for patients with Cystic Fibrosis and developing magical presentations to teach people about mental well-being. Magic has a wow-factor that triggers primal reactions in every human — that’s a powerful tool that can be used for good anywhere in the world.
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