Monday, May 20, 2019

How Will the Balloon Industry Cope with a World-Wide Helium Shortage?

Many of us have experienced helium shortages before, and although it might seem to be majorly problematic, there are always solutions and alternative decor ideas with air-filled balloons that we can offer to our customers.

But before we look at alternative decor ideas, we should first try to understand the type of helium that is generally used within the balloon industry and why helium is in short supply. Especially because this might help when speaking with customers.

Just to clarify, the 8% helium used by balloons includes weather balloons too, of which there are hundreds released twice a day world-wide.

This is an excerpt from USA Today - 10th May 2019
"A big reason for the shortage is that about 75% of all the helium comes from just three places: Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar, ExxonMobil in Wyoming and the National Helium Reserve in Texas, according to gas-trade publication
In Texas, the reserves are being depleted, while at the same time overall demand for the gas has been growing."
In the U.K., a statement was released from one of the top helium suppliers, which highlighted the differences in the various types of helium, as well as the future of helium.
"It's important to be aware that there is a distinction between pure, liquid and impure, gaseous helium. Gas companies prioritise supplies of pure, liquid helium for critical medical uses e.g. MRI scanners in hospitals, ensuring that they can remain fully operational.
Helium for balloons is a different product - it is impure and gaseous and produced as a by-product of supplying liquid helium for the MRI market - a market which makes up around forty percent of the helium business in the U.K. Impure, gaseous helium cannot be used directly in medical MRI scanners or in other applications that use super-conducting magnets. Impure helium can be recovered by the customers and re-liquified if the customer has the necessary plant on site, and if not, it can still be recovered and reprocessed in the balloon market. Historically, recovery has only been viable for large users of helium, but new opportunities are constantly being reviewed and implemented with customers to help them conserve and reuse their helium. 
For the future, there is still plenty of helium on our planet, with investments being made to bring various new sources on-stream in the coming years. The locations and environments of these new sources will mean the market prices for helium is expected to continue to rise, but making these investments will mean that helium will continue to be available fo many years to come. Rising prices in the market will also drive an increase in investment in the means by which customers can recover more of their own helium."

The Pro Environment Balloon Alliance (PEBA) recently issued the following information:

"Medical Helium is not used to inflate balloons. The helium used to inflate balloons is not pure enough for medical use. It is a by-product gathered during the production of medical grade helium. Instead of wasting this resource, it is collected and recycled. The sale of balloon gas offsets the cost of medical helium. 
According to an Australian Helium Gas supplier… The transportation of Liquid Helium from an ISO into a storage flask (Dewar) is a very meticulous process. Due to liquid helium’s sensitivity to warmer temperatures, the majority of the liquid helium boils off in the transfer process. Instead of losing this helium, the boil off is captured in a large balloon. This lower grade helium is then recycled and compressed into smaller storage cylinders which becomes part of the balloon gas supply.
If this boil off were not captured and recycled, a huge amount of helium would be lost and wasted in the process. This recycled helium is use for weather balloons, scientific purposes and balloon gas. Reductions in demand can also be experienced due to increased recycling and increasingly efficient use of helium.
The helium industry reports that non-essential market segments like the balloon industry sector are experiencing shortage of supply and absorbing large price increases due to the fact that essential markets receive their supply first. 
The shortage is due to a number of factors that include global economic forces, political issues, rationing and unscheduled maintenance on a large helium facility. 
Due to these fluctuations of supply and demand, the balloon industry is decreasing its reliance on helium by increasing our use of air-filled designs. Shortage and price increases provide incentives to reduce helium consumption and the industry is evolving accordingly. We are already reducing our helium consumption by stopping balloon releases, this is environmentally and economically responsible." 

While we often read in the press that party balloons should be banned to save helium reserves, in reality, if we are using balloon gas, we are using a product that has already been used for medical purposes, and we are merely using a recovered product that is no longer suitable for medical or other specialist purposes.

We may never knowing the true and accurate reason for the shortage or why it's currently so difficult to obtain. Dan Flynn, COO of Pioneer Worldwide shared his findings;
“There are mixed signals from the major helium suppliers as to the expected timeframe before the market tightness is over. Most estimates are the supply will be restricted throughout this year, though availability should increase in 2020.”
So rather than getting upset about this problem, we need to embrace it and find good alternative solutions of which there are many.

Have you seen the latest on-line edition of Images Magazine? To remedy this current shortage, the entire issue features only air-filled designs and decor ideas! Click HERE for a direct link.

Here is one of the fabulous new designs by Sam Jossie, CBA, Pioneer® Balloon Company

If you use the search facility in the Balloon Decor Inspiration gallery and set the search to Air-Filled designs, you get over 600 results! 

Who wouldn't love this wonderful entrance decor, designed and created by Luiz Carlos da Costa Silva, CBA, of Cenário Balões, São Paulo, Brazil.

For more inspiring ideas check out some of my older blogposts that are packed with air-filled decor designs! 

From Traditional to Contemporary Jungle Party Decor Ideas.
Air-Filled Decor is the Only Way To Go! 
Fun, Quick, and Highly Sellable Air-Filled Balloon Characters - Step by Step Video
Finding the Perfect Air-Filled Decor Solution

I would love to hear how you are coping with the helium shortage and what alternatives you are using!

Happy ballooning!


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Customising Balloons with Vinyl - including Step-By-Step Video Tutorials

Personal Bubble Balloon by Jacqui Pettitt of Tiffany's Balloons - UK
This beautiful personalised Deco Bubble is 
by Jacqui Pettitt, of Tiffiny's Balloons 
in Chelsmford, U.K.

The ability to professionally personalise balloons has revolutionised the balloon industry. The simplest approach to personalising balloons is to use glue pens and glitter, or a marker pen. But unless you have perfect handwriting and the ability to write on a curved surface, neither of these beat using a die-cutter machine like a Silhouette Cameo or Cricut - there are many other brands available, but these are the two brands that appear to be the most popular in the balloon industry.

Personalised gifts are currently the "in thing" as far as the giving and receiving of gifts is concerned. The ability to be able to offer your customers the option to write a special message or add a name or special age to the balloon is an absolute winner!

If you are thinking about buying a die-cutter such as the two listed, there are some fabulous tutorials to help you on your way!

If, like me, you're not great at reading instructions and want to get started immediately, I recommend that you watch this helpful tutorial by Dominic Cassidy, CBA of Q Corner first. He talks you through the setup of your work area in the software for the Silhouette Cameo & Portrait, Silhouette Studio - and it is probably one of the best 16 minutes you will spend before actually trying to use your machine! 

The next tutorial below covers how to use the TEXT TOOL - I truly wish that I had watched this video sooner! In this video Dominic shows how to use the text tool, and also shows some great tricks to make the text follow a curved line or any other shape!

Now what if you want to personalise a balloon with an image, like the unicorn face? The next tutorial - TRACE TOOL will show you how to trace an image that you want to use.

The unicorn face was made from a number of different resources. First, I used a 24" Deco Bubble with a 16" White latex balloon inside to make a solid white balloon rather than a clear Deco Bubble. I found the unicorn eye lashes and ears by Googling UNICORN FACE clipart - be careful as some clipart images are free, whilst others are licensed and require payment. I was initially unsure how to make the horn but I found a great horn shape that worked perfectly. The flower shape was already available in the cameo library and the cheeks are simply circles.

Here is another beautiful example of a personalised balloon by Jacqui Pettitt. I love Jacqui's attention to detail as well as the way that she composes her balloon designs for her social media marketing.

Personal Crescent Moon Balloon by Jacqui Pettitt of Tiffany's Balloons - UK
Personalised Crescent Moon Design by Jacqui Pettitt.

If personalising balloons is something that you have been thinking about doing for a while, or maybe you have already bought your machine but have not found the time, then this is the time to get started! 

If you are in need a little inspiration, check out #personalisedballoons on Instagram - with over 39,000 posts, it's packed with some truly outstanding design ideas.

A huge thank you to Dominic Cassidy and Q Corner for allowing me to share these great video tutorials, and to Jacqui Pettitt for sharing some of her beautiful designs!

Happy Ballooning!


Monday, May 6, 2019

How Important is a Blog to your Business?

I have been writing the Very Best Balloon Blog for eight years. To date, I have written 395 blogposts and have had over 1,900,000 page views. Some of my blogposts are more popular or relevant than others, but my aim is always to write about topics that I know will help  or inspire someone.

So why is blogging important to your business? 

One of the most effective ways for a small business to build their brand while also providing relevant content to their target audience is through regular blogging.

Blogging provides the opportunity for you to connect with your existing and potential customers in a special, more conversational way.

Adding a blog to your website keeps you relevant in the minds of users. It is an inexpensive way to drive traffic to your site.

What should you blog about?

I would imagine this is why so many people don't write a blog, as pinning a topic down that you believe to be a read-worthy topic is not always simple. I can find inspiration from a multitude of venues: be it a question posted on a balloon related Facebook group, or when I have something exciting and new that I want to share! But to be honest, I struggle with finding appealing topics as well. However, with a little thought, I can usually find something appealing to write about.

I've have had a little peek at some of the balloon related blogs that have been posted, and have seen a fantastic variety of topics that would definitely be inspiring and informative to customers. Here are a few that I would like to share with you:
Balloon Decor Created by The Balloon Crew, Sydney, Australia
Balloon decor created by The Balloon Crew

The Balloon Crew, Sydney, Australia (AKA Chris Adamo's balloon company) recently posted about "Cool Colour Combinations". I love how they share some of their favourite and trend worthy colour schemes. They talk about "Custom Colour Blending" and all the ways they can create any colour you desire. They even showcase some fabulous examples of decor that they've created using customs colours.

Another one of The Balloon Crew's blogposts talks about Confetti Balloons, cleverly entitled "Balloons and Confetti go together like cheese and fine wine!" 

Nifty Balloons, LA, USA - AKA Shana Brenion, covered a topic which is especially important to all balloon balloon companies: Balloons and the Environment. Many have covered this topic recently, and for a good reason! There has never been a more important time in our industry than now to educate and inform customers and fellow balloon artists of best balloon practices in regards to the environment. This blog is extremely informative, as it covers the differences between latex and foil balloons. Shana's closing statement is especially fantastic:
"Balloons are no more harmful to the environment than food waste or paper trash. You still have to remember to pick up after yourself when you’re done – but hopefully you were planning on doing that anyway! Pop all the balloons you aren’t taking with you, don’t randomly release balloons, and remember to pick up after yourself – the environment will thank you!"

Here are a few more ideas that you could use to create a great blog:
  • Current balloon trend's - customers will be excited to see what's hot in the balloon and party market!
  • Educational events that you have recently attended - share your excitement and enthusiasm to learn, expand your knowledge and skills and grow your business.
  • DIY Decor - Teach your customers how to make simple party decor - there will always be DIY'ers, so make it easy for them to buy everything from you!
  • Give your customers a behind the scene opportunity - you at work, even a short video of an installation.
  • Introduce them to your team and explain their roles within the company - maybe give credit to the person who makes the best cup of tea!
  • Introduce new product ranges available, like the trendy Mr. & Mrs. Balloons or the NEW Qualatex Script balloons. 

Blogs are important for SEO 

No matter what type of website you have, if you want it to be accessible, you need it to show up in the search engine. And that can be difficult.

One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of ranking high in the search engines is to start a blog.

How often do we update and add new content to our websites? Probably not as often as we should! All of the major search engines love fresh, relevant content, and blogging is one of the most straightforward and inexpensive methods for a business to create this. Every time you blog, you boost your ranking which will generate more traffic.

A blog will also help to keep people on your website longer!

Blogging helps you to connect with your customers

When you're in a store, how often do you get asked "how can I help you"? And how many times the response is "I'm just looking". A lot of interactions with customers can be like that. Making a meaningful connection can be difficult sometimes, and no one likes to feel that they are being pushed to purchase something. Luckily, one of the easiest ways to connect can be through a blog that you have posted. A specific blog may even tell them everything they need to know about a new product, or actually guide users to that product directly. 

Having an active comment section, will allow visitors' to the blog to respond to your posts, and you will be able to respond directly to their comments, which is huge in building trust and relationships.

How long should a blogpost be?

I have read varying reports on what is the ideal length of a blogpost - some say they should be short and never more than 600 words, others say that the optimum blogpost should be 1,600 words. Personally, I would say see what works for you and adjust as you go! You will be able to see which posts get the best reaction from the number of times it is viewed.

"I don't have time to write a blog"

Blogging can seem like an overwhelming task if you are strapped for time. Let's face it, how do we ever find time for our social media activities? I agree, writing a blog does take time. Try to allocate a few hours once a week to work on a blog post, and use some of your blogpost content for your other social media posts, like Facebook or Instagram. Don't look upon it as being a chore, view it as a very important part of your businesses growth and a significant way to connect to existing and new customers.

I hope that this blogpost inspires you to start your own blog! There are many great free blogging platforms; I recommend that you do a little research and find one that will work for you. I use Blogger - which is a Google based platform and find it really easy to use.

Happy Ballooning and happy Blogging too!



Friday, April 26, 2019

IMPORTANT - Update on Balloons in the Environment

There has never been a more important time in our industry than now to educate and inform our customers and our fellow balloon artists of best balloon practices in regards to the environment.

In the last year, there has been increased press coverage of balloons and their effect on the environment. Only last week balloons made headline news in the UK; but it was unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. I know that the same is happening in many countries around the world!

It is important that everyone within our industry is proactive in helping to educate consumers on best balloon practices - particularly ahead of the publication of the Single Use Plastic Directive.

Pioneer Europe, in conjunction with the European Balloon and Party Council (EBPC), has developed a collection of environmental marketing materials that we can use freely within our businesses to educate consumers to enjoy balloons responsibly, promoting the message: "Don't let go."

We need to share this message with fellow balloon professionals to ensure that, as an industry, we become a united front that shows and demonstrates that we care about the environment and that we are a responsible profession. 

This means, no more balloon releases, and that includes the release of latex balloons too. Check out more details on this at my blog post - Why We Should Ban Balloon Releases.

So how can you help?

Start spreading the word! There are five downloadable flyers that you can use:

  • Posters
  • Leaflets
  • Carecards
  • Weight Labels

These are available in 24 different languages. Click on the appropriate language and it will take you directly to the link.


We ask that you to download and share the materials with your customers and fellow balloon professionals immediately. 

Posters can be displayed in your shops and stores.

Care Cards can be handed out with every balloon order and delivery. 

Weight Labels can be stuck to the base of weights.

When creating decor for a client, make sure that you supply them with  Balloons and the Environment  - A helpful Guide leaflet.

Any of these could be used in your social media campaigns.

These materials are also available to purchase in printed format in English only. If you would like to know more click HERE.

Please help us to spread the word. Be sure to always ask customers not to release balloons and to always dispose of their balloons responsibly after they have finished with them. Please help us to educate fellow balloon professionals who may not understand why this is such an important issue.

Thank you for reading!

Happy and responsible ballooning!


Thursday, April 18, 2019


Donut theme parties continue to be a hot trend for 2019. This theme fun and colourful, meaning it will work for any kind of  party!

I had great fun designing and creating this theme table-scape! The best part is, although it all looks yummy and edible, with exception of the milk, everything is made from balloons or a prop! 

Donut Display by Sue Bowler CBA - The Very Best Balloon Blog

If you have a vinyl cutter, such as the Silhouette Cameo or Cricut, you can easily transform plain balloons into sprinkle covered balloons! I used this technique for the Geo Donut column and the 18" White Microfoil design on the table. 

Making these donuts was so much fun!
To create these, I used 16" Geo Donut balloons, and added just a puff of air to fill the balloon without stretching the latex. Once knotted, I removed all the excess neck and trimmed back to the knot.

To turn these into donuts, I used acrylic paint to make the icing. Once the paint dried, I used a latex based glue (Elmer's Rubber Cement) to adhere the sugar sprinkles. And yes, they are real sugar sprinkles! 

This column was designed by Cam Woody, CBA, Pioneer Balloon Company, Wichita, KS, USA, and was the inspiration for the column that I made for the photo-shoot above.

Here are two more wonderful donut design ideas by Cam!

Here is another painted Geo Donut balloon, but this time it has been inflated! This design works well with the "Birthday Sprinkles" 18" Microfoil - and it's available in 9" too! 

I found the instructions on how to create these fabulous painted Geo Donuts on Imaginarium! Just click on the link to read the full instructions.

How divine is this arrangement that includes the NEW "Fantastical Fun Birthday" 18' Microfoil - a fun-filled foodie treat, that features unicorns, rainbows, ice-creams, pineapples, donuts and burgers! 

Did you spot the NEW 9" air-filled donut balloon in the base!?

"Birthday Sprinkles" - 9" Air-Filled #58439
18" Microfoil #57263
18" Microfoil #57265 (pkgd.)

"Donut" - 9" Air-Filled #58455

I love this Donut Table - by Pretty Chic Details, California, USA.

I think that this is such a fun theme to work with. Instagram and Pinterest show that this theme is often used for Baby Showers, First Birthday parties, summer parties, Bat Mitzvah's and Sweet Sixteen parties just to name just a few.

Here's a date for your diary! June 7th is National Donut Day -make a note and be sure to include it in your social media campaigns! 

I thinks it's time for a donut!

Happy Ballooning


Thursday, April 11, 2019

New Product Announcement - The Mighty Big Little Balloon

If you missed the big announcement yesterday, let me be the first to tell you! As the saying goes "all good things come to those that wait" and oh boy, was this worth the wait!

After the hugely successful launch of both the 11" and 260Q Chrome balloons last year, Qualatex has announced the latest edition to this fabulous range: the 7" Chrome balloon!

7" Chrome Organic Style Arrangement with the 18" "Birthday Pedestal Ombre & Stars"
"Why a 7" balloon" you say? I say, why not?! There is nothing that a 5" balloon can do that a 7" can't. In fact, it can do even more! 

Topical Chrome Gold Topiary Design - Sue Bowler CBA
Elegant Tropical Gold Arrangement by Sue Bowler

I had the opportunity to work with this mighty big little balloon - and if you hadn't already guessed, I adore working with it! They inflate to a beautifully round shape when inflated to all sizes - which is perfect for the increasingly popular organic trend! With size options ranging from 3.5" to over 7", you get a beautiful shape every time.

Perfect for air-filled decor, this balloon will work well for centrepieces, arrangements, and those lovely little accent details in larger decor - what's not to love!

I hope that you are as excited with this news as I am! I am looking forward to further exploring their uses with my decor and centrepiece designs!

Happy Ballooning!


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Few Elegant Design Ideas for Milestone Birthday's!

2019 is set to be a big year for milestone birthdays, as it will see all of the ‘last babies of each decade,’ all celebrating significant ages that now end with ‘0’.

A milestone birthday is a great excuse for a big celebration, and the perfect opportunity for you to show off some of your amazing ballooning skills!

30th Birthday Designed by Sue Bowler

Here are a few designs that I recently made. I am really enjoying working with the Northstar balloon collection, especially the 16" Numbers. They look especially fantastic when paired up with some of the NEW Qualatex Birthday balloons, such as the "Birthday Metallic Dots," as featured in the 30th design above. Note: I added the number 30 in vinyl to the balloon to create a 30th balloon to match the number 30 at the base. 

I am also loving the new milestone additions to the "Pink and Gold Dots" range. I anticipate that these will be very popular!

50th Birthday Design by Sue Bowler CBA

Both of the above designs are a little different from the usual balloon bouquet style and are perfect for deliveries, table arrangements, and even window displays!

I made something similar for one of my Spring Fair displays at the NEC, Birmingham, which took place earlier this year. The great thing about these displays (below) is that they are all air-filled - which makes them long lasting! To create this effect, I simply used very fine monofilament line to give the illusion of floating balloons. All of the latex was either double stuffed or treated with Hi-Float.

Window Display by Sue Bowler of BalloonArt by Sue Bowler

Here's a fabulous design that I spotted recently in the inspiration section on the Qualatex website.

Born to Stand Out! - A birthday wish that is "FLAMAZING!"

Design by Genesis Nieves and Iravid Nieves of Decoracionesglobos

Designer name: Genesis Nieves, CBA and Iravid Nieves, CBA, 
Decoracionesglobos™, Miami, FL, USA

How fun is this new style of balloon bouquet? It's packed with so many exciting visual elements. This type of design opens up the opportunity to create something exciting and unique. I am sure that the recipient would be very happy to receive this!

It's time to get creative and show your customers how you can make their event even more special and memorable! 

Happy Ballooning!