Saturday, December 30, 2017

What Was Your Top Ballooning Trend In 2017?

As I write this, there will be many of you who will be working hard on your New Year's Eve events. The months of meticulous planning and preparation ensure that each job gets done and goes according to plan! I wonder how many of you get that sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach that does not go away until the last balloon drop has been released and you can go to bed feeling like you have done a great job! I wish all of you that are working on New Year's Eve decor every success!

Organic Decor by Georgia Petrou of Boutique Balloons, Melbourne.
Balloons by Georgia Petrou
of Boutique Balloons Melbourne, Australia

Well, this is it — the end of another exciting and very busy ballooning year! Organic style decor appears to be one of the greatest hits of 2017, with many fabulous examples of stunning decor created in this random and unique way!
Qualatex® SuperAgate® — marble effect balloons — are also on-trend and will continue to be very popular in 2018, too! The use of greenery with balloons also proved popular, and again, this is a trend that will continue.

Confetti Christmas Tree by Chris Adamo - Balloons Online, Australia
Design by Chris Adamo, CBA,
of Balloons Online, Sydney, Australia

What could be more spectacular than Chris Adamo's fabulous gold confetti Christmas tree! Confetti-filled balloons are certainly a big hit with customers, and this tree was simply F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! I think we might see more of this type of work in 2018! I know that decor with "gold" accent details will certainly be popular in 2018! 

I know a little bit about confetti balloons, too! We recently made more than one hundred 3' confetti balloons for a Christmas party. They looked absolutely stunning! 

Silver Confetti Balloons by Sue Bowler, CBA.
Silver confetti balloons by Sue Bowler, CBA and her awesome team!
Photo by Nicci Rene.

Another big trend for 2017 was the highly fashionable unicorn. This lovey balloon sculpture was made by Michele Russo of Connecticut Balloon Creations.

Tania Torre, CBA, of Balloon Express Shop in Terme Vigliatore, Italy, creates a beautiful design, working with the "Magical Unicorn" Microfoil®, Crescent Moons, Stars, and a rainbow.

How effective is this
simple unicorn design! Working with an 11" Fashion SuperAgate balloon and accent details.

Rumour has it that mermaids will be the new unicorn for 2018! It appears that we have all become a little obsessed with mythical creatures and I love it! 

Balloon walls have taken a little twist in 2017— out goes the precision and in comes the random sizing! However, to do this well, you still have to consider the elements and principles of design. I love this design by Avital Shechter, CBA, of Balonir, Israel. 

Balloon Wall by Avital Shechter.

I loved designing this round balloon wall for the Qualatex 100th Anniversary celebrations. It was inspired by a design that Luc Bertrand, CBA, made earlier in the year for the Qualatex Booth at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. A huge thank you to Luc for sharing his creativity and another one of his fabulous designs.

We had some amazing contributors to the Very Best Balloon Blog in 2017. Chris Adamo shared his superb Design and Calculator Tool with the ballooning community. If you have not tried it out yet make sure that you do. It's awesome! He also showed us how to make a Bubble Balloon Stuffing Tool, tool! Kerry Ferguson, CBA, of Pioneer Europe Ltd. demonstrated how to make fabulous balloon tassels using poly ribbon and transformed an everyday product into something exciting and new! 
There were so many fabulous balloon artists from around the world who took the time to help me with many of this year's blogs, so a huge thank you to all of you!

So what will 2018 bring us? Well, if I knew, I would be a very clever and potentially wealthy person. However, I do know that Qualatex will announce an amazing new product very soon and I can tell you that I am very excited, and I know that you will love it! 

Later next year in the U.K., we are expecting the arrival of a new Royal baby. I wonder if Avital has got it right with her stunning "Royal Baby Boy" design?

"Royal Baby Boy"
by Avital Shechter.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2018! Maybe this is the perfect time to make some positive resolutions that will help your business to flourish and grow. It could be something as simple as reviewing your social media activities — and don't forget to measure the effectiveness of your efforts, too! 

I hope that some of you will be joining us at the World Balloon Convention, in San Diego in March. We would truly love to see you there! 

And finally, if you have any ideas or suggestions for future blogs, please do not hesitate to contact me and let me know -

Happy New Year & Happy Ballooning!

Sue x


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Best Ballooning Moments.

Wow, what an amazing "ballooning" year 2017 was! 

Probably one of the most significant milestones was Pioneer® Balloon Company celebrating 100 years in business, which culminated in September with a whole weekend of celebrations and parties held at the Worldwide Headquarters and the Wichita Country Club.

Qualatex celebrates 100 years
Fabulous party decor designed and created by Edward Muñoz, CBA,
Silvia Santos, CBA and Eve Antonello, 

Qualatex World TourTo celebrate Pioneer's 100 years, Qualatex® hit the road with a rock star lineup of awesome instructors, offered brand new classes and gave delegates exciting networking opportunities with the Qualatex World Tour!  The Tour had sixty-nine stops around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Europe, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Latin America, South Africa and South Asia!
Qualatex World Tour

Qualatex Mystery Box Competition
Mike Hurst, CBA and, Aimee Smith won the
UK Mystery Box

A Mystery Box competition was held at each location where contestants were given a box of balloons to create an innovative, eye-catching design in the span of only 30 minutes. They could compete as an individual contestant or as teams of two. The top entry of each stop on the tour received a prize and advanced to compete with the winners of all the other tour stops. A grand prize will be awarded to the world champion. 

I asked members of the QBN Facebook Group if they would like to share any of their best 2017 "Ballooning Moments!"

Tony Davey, CBA — "My best ballooning moment was being a late entry (following a cancellation) into the mystery box competition at the UK stop of the Qualatex World Tour, and being runner-up with Heydi Alvarado. That gave me the confidence to believe I could do more, to start the QBN process and (ultimately) become a CBA in the same year. The event was also a great networking opportunity and I’ve stayed in touch with many people I met."

Randy Harbin CBA "For me, the best of 2017 was meeting my team of helpers 10 minutes prior to the start of the sculpture competition at Ballooniversity, and still taking home the title, 'Designer of the Year!'"

Black Sabbath Tour - Balloons by Matt Lewis

For Matt JB Lewis, CBA. "It was creating the Balloon drops for the UK leg of the 'Black Sabbath —The End' tour. Matt called upon the help of a number of balloon artists to assist him: a number who have also said that this was one of their best 2017 ballooning moments!
Stuart Davies, CBA  "It was such an awesome experience helping Matt on the last one!"
Sandra Mckeon, CBA —  "One of my best bits of 2017 was working with Matt JB Lewis on the Black Sabbath Tour in Dublin, seeing a huge drop come together, and the reaction of the crowd!!"
Matt Lewis with Mike Harris and Black Sabbath.
Zahraa Jawad, CBA — "My best ballooning moments of 2017 were many. First I met Fiona Fisher where I attended her wedding classes. It was so fruitful and inspiring for my business. Then, I attended the Qualatex World Tour-Dubai, and became a CBA on that same event and won the mystery box competition, too." 🎈

Balloon Clouds by Bubblegum Balloons
Balloon Cloud by Bubblegum Balloons

Claire Jackson of Bubblegum Balloons "We have had the most exciting year, including moving into a new 7000 sq. ft. premises and trips to Dublin, Berlin, and Canada." They also created 289 sq.m balloon cloud!

Saskia Hurtares, CBA "My 'Best Balloon Moment' in 2017 started when I won the 2017 Qualatex World Tour Mystery Box Competition in New York City.  After I won, people started following me on social media networks and asking for online balloon decoration courses, so this inspired me to become the instructor of my own online course.  I created the private group 'GloboVip Members' on Facebook, and it has been one of my best accomplishments of 2017. I am now competing with all the winners of the 2017 Qualatex World Tour in hopes that I win the Grand Prize: Full-Access to the 2018 World Balloon Convention.
I am proud to be Ecuadorian from a city called Portoviejo. What a blessing it is to have the opportunity to participate in competitions like these and win. For me, this has opened doors to many opportunities. I thank Pioneer Balloon Company for their QBN program, which taught me the principles and elements of balloon design.  Thanks to that knowledge, my design qualified as the winner."

Isaiah O'Connor, CBA, — "For me, I had two moments. The biggest one was being able to afford to move into an office. Seeing my business name Ballong Event Byrå, up on the wall was amazing. The other cool thing was having my glitter heart instruction video go viral."

Pam Pearce, CBA "Our best ballooning moments of 2017 has to be going to the various balloon events that have taken place in the UK this year. Even after 27 years in the balloon industry, we can still always gain something, even if it's just how much we all care about and support each other."
Design by Mike Hurst - Reds
Mike Hurst, CBA —  "So many to mention. The Sabbath gig with Matt was just incredible.  Teaching my personalisation course in Israel was an experience I'll never forget. Launching my Quick Link numbers class was a proud moment, and then having the pleasure of your (Sue Bowler's) company in the shop for a day was an absolute treat. Decorating the GOSH Christmas party was so much fun, and our shop going from strength to strength is very pleasing. And being involved in content creation for is awesome. But, there's one moment that I'm particularly chuffed about, which was when Pioneer Europe Ltd (Qualatex Direct) asked me to create a 'Recipe of the Month' for QBN members. I received some great feedback from this and got a massive buzz from the whole experience."

Stuart Davies, CBA — "Walt Disney International - LONDON PRIDE 2017. This will be up there close to the top of my best moments for several reasons. Firstly, it came from a business colleague that I have been working with for some time, and I love seeing how partnerships like this develop. Secondly, working with several amazing teams, including staff from Pioneer Europe as well as Walt Disney. Thirdly, because Disney allowed me to march with them, it was one of the most emotional days I have ever known.
Disney London Pride - balloons by Stuart Davies, CBA

Qualatex US — Balloon Images — I was invited to be a Guest Designer for the Christmas Design Inspiration article in the Summer. This was such an amazing honour, as it's a phenomenal magazine, and one of the first things I ever read when I first came into the balloon world! :)
In a year full of WOWS — the conversation that told me that I had been chosen as one of the designers for the World Balloon Convention in San Diego in 2018 really blew my socks off!

And finally, being selected as a Qualatex Instructor. Late this Summer, I was invited to attend the Qualatex 'Train the Trainer' course at Pioneer Europe HQ. As part of my training, I shadowed Qualatex Instructors on some of their courses. I then attended the European Qualatex Instructors Meeting, where I was in a room with so many people I had looked up to and learned from in the last few years. It is not often that I feel overawed, I think I had a big inane grin on my face all day!"

Black & White Balloon decor by Sue Bowler CBA

2017 has certainly been a great year for many, including myself. I have had so many fabulous ballooning moments this year. I visited India, Dubai, Belgium, Trinidad & Tobago, Germany, Italy, Australia, USA, and Sweden to teach at balloon events, met friends - new and old - and worked with some truly fabulous balloon artists. I also had the honour to design and decorate one of the Pioneer 100 Year celebration parties earlier this year, and for me it was such an amazing opportunity and privilege.

A huge thank you to all those who contributed to this post and shared your stories. I am sure that many of you have some wonderful 2017 ballooning memories, too! 

Happy Ballooning & Season's Greetings to you all!



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Why Supporting Charities Can be Good For Business

Design by Tope Abulude, CBA
For the past five years, a group of excited balloon professionals have gathered at a London hotel to decorate a party. This a very special party. It is for children who are being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). GOSH is a very special hospital, the children treated there are mostly referred there by other U.K. hospitals offering care to children and young people with rare, complex, and difficult-to-treat conditions. The balloon professionals that attend travel from all over the U.K. and would not miss this day for the world! So why do they do it?

Daffodil Sculpture by
Chris Adamo for
Cancer Council.
Working for a charity and non-profit organisations can be very rewarding. Apart from the feel-good factor of supporting charities, working with non-profits could help boost your business' network and company image.

Companies can do this in so many ways: offering to raise income, gifts in kind, pro bono support, and volunteers for a cause. 

As a balloon company, we can offer balloons or decorate an event. 

When I first started my balloon business, I found it very difficult to know how to work with all the charity requests that I was getting. I am sure that many of you have found yourself in a similar situation.

I asked a few fellow balloon professionals their thoughts on working with charities and non-profit organisations.

"We support local charities and anything that I personally have an affinity with. To be more precise if a local school or charity wants something —less than a few hundred Australian dollars at retail price — I will often say 'Yes.' I feel good about helping, and that investment ALWAYS pays off. Locals want to support local — especially if they know we support them, said Chris Adamo, CBA, of Balloons Online, Sydney, Australia. 

"When I say local, that has to be within a few minutes drive — Sydney is a big place.  Anyone more distant, I will offer DIY materials at cost price. I don't want to make a profit from a 'not-for-profit' organisation. I personally do one large project for one of Australia's larger charities, Cancer Council. I have been doing it for years. It feels great being able to help, and in return, they have put me in touch with the corporate sector. Business is all about relationships and trust. Working with charities is a fast track to that process. It also gives you a blank canvas to try a new product, style, or technique."

When I ran my home-based balloon business, I also supported one main charity each year by decorating their big fund-raising event. As a small business, I was unable to give the decor for free as my funds would not permit this. However, my solution was to sell the decor at cost. For anyone who uses a Job Cost Form, you will know that your cost includes materials, labour costs, and expenses. Therefore, I did not make any profit from the event, but it meant that I could afford the materials and to pay those helping me on the day. I felt that it was important that the charity knew the true value of decor that they were receiving. When I sent the invoice, I would show the full cost of the decor, and then I would show how much discount they would be getting. It is important that they understand the full value of the decor that you are providing for their event.

Joette Giardina of Balloon Coach says, "In a previous career as a social worker for a non-profit organization, I knew how much we counted on the generosity of others to provide services to our clients. So when I started my balloon business, I felt it important to offer a discount to non-profits for our services to be able to still make a profit for the company and to help the community.

As business owners, we can give back to the community in several ways. One is to serve on the board of a local charity to give of our time to help plan and promote a fundraiser
This did two things for me. It got me in a room with other business leaders from my area that I would have not met otherwise. They appreciated that I gave up my time to help the organization and in return, referred people to me to purchase decor for other events outside of the event we worked on.

I see a lot of talk on balloon groups that say giving "FREE" decor to a company just brings more free work, and from my experience, I disagree with that. It's all about how you set it up. I am of the mindset that it is important to be a part of my community and to give back as I can to those who need it. When deciding to give my time or work, I think it's  key that my heart needs to be in it, and not to do it just because someone asked for something free. Support a charity that you can really support because it's a cause or organization you care about.

As a business owner, you can choose one charity a year that you support — or multiple —based on your finances. That way I can say, 'We are a small business, and as such, we have a charity that we give to annually.'  But we like to help the other wonderful non-profits, so we can extend a 10% discount for your event."

Joette has written a great article on this subject: 5 Tips to Creating Sales When Non-Profits Call Your Balloon Company Asking For Donations. 

Giving back to the community means benefits for both charities and the businesses that support them. Using marketing to promote charitable works can work well for companies. But it’s important that this kind of marketing doesn’t come across as self-serving. 

Promote through Social Media Channels

You can use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to promote your company’s charitable works and engage the community at the same time. 

Your social media profiles already create a sense of shared experience with your customers, you’ll be able to show customers that you truly care about the charities you support.

Put articles on your blog and website
Write an article for your company’s blog, or create a “community” section on your site that provides details about your favorite causes. Instead of splashing your latest good deed all over your homepage, simply draw site visitors to those pages through a small banner that says, “We support This Charity… click here to find out how you can help, too!” Provide a specific call to action that allows customers to join you in your efforts.

Post in-store signage

Use signage to remind customers about the causes you support. But instead of loudly proclaiming, “Look What We’re Doing!” create signs that give customers a way to help. You might develop a campaign that provides a specific donation for every sale, or asks customers to donate directly.

Volunteer time and effort
They say actions speak louder than words. So get out there and act already! Volunteer time in addition to money. Include employees and customers for a day of charitable giving by issuing invitations and putting up signage to advertise the event. Don’t forget to include signage at the volunteer location, too.

Choose just a few charities and participate in a meaningful way
Some companies mistakenly think that if one charity makes them look good, a dozen will make them look even better. This method can backfire—it appears that you’re just collecting as many charities as you can in order to promote yourself. Instead, choose just two or three charities that you truly care about, and participate in meaningful way. Instead of giving twelve charities $100, give one charity $1200.

Marketing shouldn’t be the impetus for giving; your customers see right through your ulterior motives and are turned away by your insincerity. A true, sincere desire to help people in need comes first; capitalizing on the market value of charity is a secondary perk. Promote your company’s good works in a way that is designed to help the charity more than the company, and you’ll do both.

Wow, what a fabulous article, I wish I had some of Nelson James' advice when I started my business!

There is some truly great advice in this post for those of you who are unsure how to work with charities and non-profit organisations. You might decide that in 2018 you will find a wonderful local charity and drive all your efforts in their direction rather than waiting for them to find you.

A huge thank you to Chris and Joette for their invaluable advice.

Happy Ballooning!