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Starting a balloon business is super exciting, but also a bit scary. What if your designs aren't good enough? What if your prices are too high or too low? What if you have no idea how to market your balloon business?
Take a deep breath. Feeling anxious about a new business is normal.
I don't know about you, but I find it most helpful when I can look at examples, when I can talk to people who have already done what I am about to do.
So I've reached out to experienced balloon business owners and asked them for their top tips. Click on the links below to jump directly to their answers:
Greg Brown, Director at Balloon Market and Presenter of Balloon Market TV (BMTV) on YouTube. We started in the business in 2004 as a balloon in a box delivery business as well as doing some decoration.
We sold inflated balloons online that were delivered next day across the UK. Then when the recession hit in 2008 / 2009 we decided we needed customers who came back again and again rather than once a year.
That was when Balloon Market was born as our trade-only website to support the balloon decoration, retail and events industries.
I would say the same as any business – learning the business stuff!
Learning the actual skills to create something with balloons is easily accessible with training courses online, YouTube videos (including BMTV), face to face training and supportive industry groups.
However the business stuff is the stuff that will make you successful or not. This includes, finance, taxation, marketing, brand building, hiring people, managing people, process design, communication etc.
These things tend to end up on the “will get to it later” list as you are out creating with balloons.
The second challenge is confidence, particularly when it comes to pricing. People feel they are new so don’t have the skills to charge what they should or simply don’t believe they can do something so turn jobs down.
So pricing for profit is absolutely a skill that should be learned on day one!
The one sure thing that will increase confidence is training. Go on as many training courses as you can afford whilst you build your business. This gives you the confidence to go out and get the jobs that you really want.
You will be more profitable more quickly when you learn from people that have been doing it for years!
Take on the job you have never done before and then figure out how to do it! There is no greater motivator to learning than having to do it for a customer’s deadline!
Don’t under-price yourself just because you are less experienced, particularly if you have been on training courses. Use our pricing tool!
Learn to be happy solving problems.
You will have problems and you will need to find solutions, quite often, in some hotel an hour before the event! Remember the biggest part of running a business is running a business, not actually producing the pieces for the customer, although still a very important part!
You will need to be comfortable with business problems as well as balloon related problems.
We built BMTV as a form of communication and support for our customers and the balloon community worldwide. We speak to Industry professionals, discuss the issues of the day, show the basics and also designs by world renowned industry professionals. It is a really good starting point.
Audible and Podcasts
I use Audible and get a new audio book every month. I also listen to a few podcasts on a regular basis. Audio books and podcasts are great as you can listen to them when you exercise, when you commute and maybe even when you are working (depending what you do!).
They give you access to the most successful people in the world telling you how they built their businesses. Why would you not want to know that? My favourite is Gary Vaynerchuk – if it wasn’t for him, BMTV wouldn’t exist!
Face to face is always best but if there aren’t any in your area, then online courses can be good also. We have our, relatively new, Balloon School Pro courses on Vimeo. More will be added soon!
My name is Christine Maentz and I started Volunteer Balloons in May of 2015. I had been professionally twisting balloons for special events since 2011 and was very content doing so.
At almost 60 years old I had no plans of starting a new career or business. However, I let myself be convinced by a local artist who was starting to offer balloon decor classes, that my talents could be put to better use and increased revenue! I took the 5 day class and aced it - working with balloons was already easy for me.
At this point, I was convinced I had to obtain my CBA (Certified Balloon Artist), and so dived into the Qualatex material to prepare to take this exam.
There are many challenges when starting any business! I think the biggest is that as much as we love our balloons and the emotions that we can create with our arrangements we forget the “business” side: sales, marketing, office work, accounting, inventory management, etc.
Yes, we do have a very fun & unique business but we mustn’t forget what makes it operate efficiently.
The second biggest challenge I believe is pricing. You need to be aware of all of your costs and labor and not be afraid to charge accordingly. Final cost to your client should contain all of your time, starting from the 1st correspondence to the final delivery.
Use a job cost form correctly and make sure it includes the correct percentage of your operating expenses.
If available, pick a business name that will easily come up with search engines. For instance, (your city) Balloon Works or (your city) Balloons Galore. Purchase your domain name and if you can’t do it yourself, hire someone to help you set-up your online presence.
Have your email address set up with your domain name. Example, BalloonsbySarah@gmail.com is not professional. It's so important to appear professional - even if you are working out of a spare bedroom, you can look big.
Use a name that you don’t have to spell to your customers. Set up a website - even if it’s just one page. You can build as you go. Put up your best pictures.
Get the correct equipment.
Forget about making an arch form using PVC and plywood. Purchase an AeroPole System. Your work will be outstanding and your clients will notice.
Purchase the best inflator you can afford that will inflate all sizes of balloons. You will save so much time. And time is money.
Know your competition.
Know your competition and maintain a friendly and cordial relationship. You never know when you’re going to need help - or they may need help one day and could call on you.
Never, ever talk down the competition no matter what. You are selling a product that relates to joy and good times. Remember clients are shopping for a positive experience… not ugly gossip.
Qualatex Course and Certification
I would strongly recommend you contact the people at Qualatex and order the course they provide (on DVD’s). You will learn everything there is to know and you will be preparing for your eventual certification (CBA).
Although not essential to operating a legitimate balloon decor business, being able to tell your clients that you have been certified as a balloon artist certainly adds credibility to your business.
Online Resources and In-Person Classes
There are so many online resources to tap into! I still watch at least 1 hour per week of balloon decorating by other professionals on Youtube. You’ll learn different technics from a variety of artists and you will soon find some that you prefer to others.
If you’re able to attend hands-on classes or conventions, go and learn! You’ll make new friends and learn methods that will help you develop.
Finally, practice, practice, practice & never turn down a job - no matter how difficult you think it could be. Call on colleagues for help!