Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Few Highlights from My Recent Canadian Simply Organics Balloon Tour.

Traveling to new and exciting places is definitely one of the perks of being a Qualatex Instructor. Sadly, we don't always get the time or the opportunities to really see much of the countries that we work in when we do get to go. But when those opportunities do arise, we certainly do what we can to grasp them.

Earlier this year, I was invited by Pioneer Canada to teach at three locations - Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. This was truly a dream come true, as Canada has been on the top of my bucket list of places that I wanted to teach/visit. And as a bonus my husband John, who works for Premium Balloon Accessories was able to join me for the tour!

The first stop of the tour was in Boucherville, Montreal. Boucherville is a suburb of Montreal on the South shore of the Saint Lawrence River and is the home of two Qualatex distributors - BLC International Inc. and SKS.

Alex & Ellie Ventura teaching
their balloon wall design .

Our tour started with a two-day training event with both myself as well as the very talented Alexandra and Ellie Ventura of Pacha Balloon Creations, in Vaughan, Ontario. Alex and Ellie's class was based around organic style decor. Their class including their fabulous Rose Gold  Microfoil Balloon Wall which they embellished with organic features. They also created a lovely canopy design, and wowed us all with the awesome Q-Boom system to explode two 3' Giant balloons! 

A huge shout out to the fabulous Lynn from SKS for being the translator for our classes! 

Lots of hands-on opportunities, learning great ideas and techniques!

Alex and Ellie show the delegates how to make these awesome numbers
using the organic style and in pastel colours! 

I love this wall, the precision of the foils versus the freeform flow of the organics! 

How cool is the Q Boom - Exploding Balloon System! 
So what did I learn from my time in Montreal? First of all, I never realised that Montreal was on an Island! The language spoken is predominantly French. They have a famous food called poutine - poutine is a dish that includes French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy - it sounds very interesting, but I was sadly never able to try it! 

After a seven hour road trip we arrived at our next tour destination - Toronto, the home of Pioneer Balloon Canada, Colin Stewart and of course, the recent NBA Championship Team, the Toronto Raptors! 

The Tour Bus Crew! 

After another very successful days training, and another group of very happy delegates, we were able to take a (sort of) day off!

Time to visit the home of Chrome! 

How cool is this artwork that is on display in the entrance of the Canadian head office! 

For me, getting the opportunity to visit one of the balloon production plants can only be equated to being like a child in a candy store. How exciting was it that on the day we visited, Chrome balloons were being made and what an amazing to sight it was to see. 

What did I learn during my time in Toronto? Well, Pioneer Canada's head office is only 45 minutes from Niagara Falls! Wow, what a magnificent sight that was! 

Fun fact: did you know that the lovely LaDonna Belcher funded her very first balloon convention by selling hot dogs! Here is LaDonna showing Paul Baker, Pioneer Canada's National Sales Manager and our official tour guide, exactly how it's done! 

LaDonna shared this story with the delegates in Boucherville and Toronto after talking to them about WBC 2021. Her belief is that if you are determined enough to do something there is always a way to do it and I could not agree more! 

Our third and final stop of our Canadian Tour was in Calgary. As this was a travel day, Paul AKA #paulsfault decided that we should leave bright and early - a wonderful 4am start so that we could spend the day once we arrived in Calgary visiting Banff with the promise to see some amazing Canadian wildlife! Jackie Ochitwa was to be my final tour teaching buddy and she joined us for the day.

Once we arrived in Banff, we were treated to a famous Canadian delicacy - Beaver Tails! So what I learned here was that Beaver Tails are not actually the backend of a beaver, but are in fact a sweet pastry treat made of dough covered in sugar, cinnamon and other delicious toppings! 

The final stop of our days adventure was at the stunning Lake Louise. This was such an incredible place with the most beautiful scenery, and a place that I would definitely love to visit again. As for seeing some of Canda's amazing wildlife, we saw a chipmunk, deer, horses and a few ducks... not exactly bears, moose or anything more exciting - definitely #paulsfault

My final training day in Calgary was shared with Jackie. Working with Jackie is always such a pleasure. We each taught for half of the day and it was such a great way to end my Canadian adventure!

Jackie Ochitwa teaching some of her amazing designs in Calgary

Sue Bowler adding those finishing touches to her organic frame

John and I wearing our wonderful Canadian Hoodies!
I would like to conclude my Canadian adventure by saying this was a fabulous experience this was for both John and myself. It was an incredible honour to be invited to teach in such a beautiful country. We met some truly talented and very gracious attendee's. Our hosts at Pioneer Canada were simply the best - thank you MaryLynn! With a very special mention to the lovely Paul Baker, who kept us well and truly entertained for the entire tour, the adorable Glory, fabulous Sandra and the dazzling Daniela. And finally to my fellow extremely talented instructors Alex, Ellie and Jackie who were a dream to work with! I hope that I get the opportunity to return one day! 

Happy Ballooning!


Monday, June 24, 2019

Using Facebook's Pages to view Features - How Do You Discover How Your Competitors are Doing on Facebook

We all know that spending time working on social media can be very time consuming. But how great would it be if we could find a way to see what our competitors, the businesses that we admire, or other like-minded businesses are doing on their business Facebook pages. If we could see how and why these businesses are working so well, we could easily try to imitate and follow a similar strategy!

This can be done, using Facebook's Pages to Watch, which is hidden away in Facebook Insights!

Insights can be found at the top of your Facebook business page - you can use this tool to maximise your sharing/posting strategy. This data will help you to understand more clearly what works best for you, while avoiding the things that don’t. If you don't see Insights, click on More.

To find the Pages To Watch feature, you need to scroll down past Your 5 Most Recent Posts:

So what is so great about the Pages to Watch feature?

This feature is particularly useful if you want to see what types of posts are working for your competitors or other businesses like yours. 
You can see exactly what content they are posting, how often they are posting, and when they are posting. You can also view which posts have the most engagement.
With all that information, you can start looking at your own posts and analysing what you could do differently. When you use your insights information, you know which posts work best for you and which get the most reaction. When you learn this, you will be able to create more posts that mirror your successful posts. 
You should post videos occasionally, as they always seems to get more engagement. Or maybe you need to post more regularly? The great thing is that you can compare your activity against the pages that you are watching and you can see quickly if you efforts are working! 
You can watch any brand page on Facebook you want—you don’t even have to like the page. If you have 100 to 10,000 fans, you can create a list of up to 100 pages to watch
I would recommend you look at a minimum of five other pages to get started, the more you watch the more opportunities you will get to see what is making them more successful than you. 
The businesses you "watch" are in order of total Page likes, from highest to lowest. Depending on whose pages you view, your business is placed within that ranking to see how you compare with the rest - and oh boy does this kick-start your competitive drive!
If you've never used Insights, you should try to implement them into your daily social media activity, or at least make a goal to check them once a week. This tool is packed with tons of valuable information that will truly help your social media efforts! 
I expect you would like to know whose pages I watch... well, I'm not telling! ;) But, I do enjoy seeing how my renewed efforts are making my page more productive than those that I am following!
Happy Ballooning!

Sue Bowler

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Inspiration for Under the Sea Theme Parties

Perfect for all ages, the "Under the Sea" theme remains one of the top design ideas for party decor.

Fabulous "Under the Sea" Decor created by Cenário Balões of São Paulo, Brazil.

For me, this is one of those themes that you can really let your creativity run wild. 

When I look for inspiration for theme parties, I often look at children books, one of my favourite being  "The Rainbow Fish".

"The Rainbow Fish written by Marcus Pfister was orgiginally published in German, but then later translated into English by J. Alison James. This book tells a story of a fish who, though he does not have rainbow scales, has still very colourful ones. He has very special scales — one that are silver and shiny."

Not only is this book incredibly charming, it is also beautifully illustrated with a fabulous palette of colours and lots of sparkle - which is also perfect for confetti-filled balloons! As soon as I saw the beautiful backdrop created by Luiz Carlos da Costa Silva of Cenário Balões, it immediately took me back the fabulous Rainbow Fish stories - remember, our job is not to just create decor but to also create the wonderful memories that it makes!

Beautiful entrance decor by Cenário Balões
Qualatex® Chrome™️ Balloons, are perfect for this theme, featuring that stunning metallic shine. And that Chrome balloon mermaid tail is perfect in every way!

Did you know that we can take Chrome balloons to another level? Check out the Custom Colour chart to find out how to make some of these fabulous new colours using Chrome, Jewel Tone and Pastel Pearls that are rich, radiant and reflective - perfect for under the water theme decor. If you would like to download this chart, click on the link.

TIP: It's very easy to custom colour using 7" Chrome balloons with 5" Jewel Tones - although the 7" balloon is slightly bigger it will easily fit inside a 5" balloon.

This Quick Link
® base was designed for a window display that I designed for a Mermaid theme. I used a mix of under-sized Chrome and "Jewel Chrome", double-stuffed balloons as the fillers.

How cute is the "Party Narwhal" balloon (below) - I have to be honest, until I saw this balloon, I had never heard of Narwhals before!

Often dubbed the unicorns of the sea (and considered to be the closest that we will ever see to a living unicorn), narwhals are strange and beautiful creatures with long tusks protruding from their heads, like a unicorn.

Once again, the lovely Jackie Ochitwa waved her magic  wand and designed this adorable and extremely sellable 2nd birthday design - look at the fishtail on the number two balloon.The use of a 13" Crescent Moon balloon as a tail is so clever!

Mermaids are still really popular, and with a remake of Disney's Little Mermaid in the works, it will soon be the number one must have party decor for girls! Last year, Jackie very kindly shared her Mermaid balloon sculpture design with Balloon Magic, so just in case you missed it, I've included in this blogpost- thank you Jackie! 

Here are some of our special shape Microfoil® Balloons that are perfect for this theme:

40" Party Narwhal
38" Enchanting Mermaid
35" Amazing Octopus
43" Fashionable Fish
30" Super Sea Star

To complete this inspirational blog post, I would like to share more remarkable under the sea installations. The incredible Cenário Balões team from Brazil was able to craft these outstanding octopuses.

Decor created by Cenário Balões of São Paulo, Brazil.

Decor created by Cenário Balões of São Paulo, Brazil.

Decor created by Cenário Balões of São Paulo, Brazil.

This is a theme that will always be popular! If you have a shop or store window, why not you let your creativity flow and give yourself the chance to see the reaction from your customers, and use your designs to inspire your online customers too! 

A huge thank you Luiz Carlos and his fabulous team for sharing some of their amazing work and to Jackie for her fabulous Mermaid video tutorial! 

Happy Ballooning!


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Little Introduction to Instagram Stories - How Do They Really Affect Your Page?

Many of us work hard to build an Instagram feed that promotes and grows our businesses. Hopefully, along the way, we have started to grow a healthy number of followers, also known as our audience.

If a client lands on your Instagram page, it’s important that you engage them immediately by visually communicating your style and that you help your visitors to capture the essence of your creativity. With so many balloon companies actively using Instagram, it is important that we stand out. Here are a few suggestions that you can use to help achieve this:

  • Show clients your talents, and that you would be a good person to work with.
  • Ensure that your Instagram feed is appealing and consistent.
  • Make sure that the work that you present on Instagram "Sells the Dream" - our job is not to sell balloons, but to sell the special memories that our balloons make, whether it's a beautiful bouquet of balloons that we deliver for a special occasion or amazing decor that we create for a corporate event, a wedding, or a party.
So now that we have started to grow our followers, we need to learn how to keep them engaged - remember, it is just as easy to unfollow someone as it is to follow them!

Instagram Stories are a great way to communicate with your audience and potentially acquire new followers! Unlike your Instagram feed, your stories can be a much more casual affair. Instagram Stories help to capture the little moments throughout your day. They don't need to be pristine, but they should give your followers a glimpse into what goes on in your world. The key to having a successful Instagram Story is staying true to your brand's personality and style.

Let's start by looking at how you can create an Instagram story. I recommend that you have your smart phone on hand so that you can follow along as you go through the steps below.

Start by clicking on the Instagram icon to open your Instagram home screen.

1. Swipe right from your home screen or tap the camera icon in the top left corner of the screen to open the Instagram camera. 

2. Take a photo by tapping the record button or take a video by pressing down on the record button for up to 10 seconds. You also have the option of making a Type (this is fun to play with if you have never tried it before), Going Live, creating a Boomerang, using Superzoom, Rewind, or doing a Hands-Free Video.

Other story options:
Photo: Select your most recently taken photo or video
Thunderbolt: The flash button.
Arrows: Switch from front-facing camera to back-facing camera and vice-versa.

Smiley face: Instagram’s face filters feature

3. You can also upload a previously taken photo or video from your camera roll by swiping up or down.

If you select a photo from over 24 hours ago, a date sticker with the day, month, and year that the photo was taken will automatically appear. You can remove the sticker by dragging to the trash icon at the bottom of the screen.

4. Tapping anywhere on the screen will bring up the text tool. You can play with text size and colour, and you can also use the “@” sign to tag another account, or the “#” sign to share a hashtag.

Instagram recently launched the ability to search for Instagram Stories by location and hashtag, meaning that if you include a hashtag in your story, other users can see it even if they don’t follow you - this is an excellent way to find new followers!

5. Select from one of three different pen styles to doodle on your photo. You can also erase any drawings that you add to your story with the eraser brush - like my hand-drawn rainbow!

6. You can add stickers by selecting the sticker button in the top right corner of your screen or by swiping up on your story. Some of the more important ones include the location sticker, hashtag sticker, mention sticker, selfie sticker, poll sticker, emoji slider, and question sticker!

7. By swiping right or left, you can you can apply different filters. 

8. When you’re done, tap the “Next” button to share!
Your story will appear at the top of your followers’ feeds, but it will also be accessible on your profile page by tapping your profile picture.

9. You can see how well your Instagram story is performing by swiping up while viewing your story. This will display the number as well as the names of people who have seen each photo or video in your story.

Here's a story that I posted a few weeks ago. The information is invaluable! It shows me how many people clicked on the link that directed people to the blog, and how many people visited my profile and the number of website clicks - this information will tell me how successful my stories are and whether it's achieving any positive results. Make sure to always check your insights to see how well your posts are performing.

The great thing about stories is that they only last for 24 hours from the time that you posted it! If you want to keep stories, you can save them to Highlights which is featured on your home screen above your posts. You can add to and remove them from Highlight as often as you want. You can also create different Cover titles that enables you to file your stories according to difference topics or categories.

Is Instagram Stories something that you should be actively using? It's a definite yes from me! Not only will you keep your audience engaged, you have the potential to attract new followers too! Remember, this is your opportunity to show your audience what goes on in your world - whether it's in the midst of work, at a training session, creating new designs, or showing off new products...

Good luck and I look forward to seeing some of your wonderful stories!

Happy Ballooning!