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Okay first, I know I’m a major nerd when it comes to Harry Potter even now…but I’m not as obsessed as I used to be. As a teenager, Jim Dale’s voice reading each book used to be my soundtrack for getting ready for school, doing my chores, long road trips, and working on art projects.
Now, I mostly just get excited for each new Fantastic Beasts trailer.
But when we were going to Orlando and my mom insisted that Michael and I go to Harry Potter world, it wasn’t hard to convince me to go. But…I had pretty low expectations. My sister told me how good the butterbeer was. My friends told me how fun it was. But at the end of the day, the main thought I had was this: “it’s a huge money-making scheme. The tickets are outrageously expensive, and they’re trying to sell me on something that is just never going to be real.”
So, with my skepticism, I went.
And I’m slightly embarrassed to tell you exactly how I felt as I went through the opening in the brick wall behind the Leaky Cauldron…
The street opened up into Diagon Alley and the buildings were charmingly crooked and there were advertisements for all kinds of wizarding goods and the HP movie soundtrack was playing.
Here’s how I truly felt: like I was coming home.
I know. Nerd alert.
But there’s no other way that I can describe it. Everything was familiar. It was like I had been there before. Later, we got on the Hogwarts Express and went to Hogsmeade. The chimneys crooked and beautiful. Hogwarts looming in the distance. And when I looked at Michael, and we talked about it, he felt the same.
“Michael, I really want to live here,” I said. He agreed whole-heartedly.
We left the Harry Potter area after we had seen all of the attractions and shops to check out the rest of Universal Studios, but we were back pretty quickly. We just wanted to hang out there for a long time.
Just feel a little longer like we were in the world we loved.
We sat down to watch a performance of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” and while we waited, I just looked around and thought, “well done! Well done, Universal Studios.”
I mean, I had come looking for reasons to not like it. I can be a little bit of a harsh critic, and here I was smitten with the place. I had been so worried that they’d take shortcuts to cut costs and just rely on the name of Harry Potter of being such a big draw to make their money. I was afraid it would be a disappointing experience.
And yet, it was obvious that the creators, architects, actors, and everyone else who came together to make this place was thinking of one thing above all else: the visitor’s experience.
And here’s the #1 unforgettable thing I learned:
The more they stayed true to the things fans already love about Harry Potter, the things they hoped to experience, the more they could get their visitors to buy into the idea that magic is real–at least for today, that these characters are real, that they finally get to try the things they’ve been reading about for so long, the more people will talk about how awesome it is, the more people will want to come after hearing that, the more people will want to come back.
I think new business owners often think that to sell, they have to trick or persuade or lie a little in order to get people to buy.
What I learned at Harry Potter world was exactly the opposite:
Find something that people want. That they’re craving. Solve their problems. And give them a chance to buy.
Dorky as it was, I was so excited when I was standing on that cobblestoned street, could point my wand at a light that was turned off, make just the right motion, have it turn on, and finally feel–even for just a moment–that it was all real.
Emma Natter is a business coach and writer. Her work intersects entrepreneurial strategies with the creative process so career hopefuls can find success, impact, fulfillment, and confidence in going their own way.
I’m Emma Natter, a path-to-success paver and art-trained business coach who first shattered her own career expectations by selling out of handmade styling goods from her little NYC apartment. Now as a strategist to thousands of creatives, I teach you to harness your passion so you can do the same.