Friday, March 27, 2020

Are You Ready for the Largest 100% Free, Virtual Balloon Convention in History!

Earlier this week, Keith Stirman and Dominic Cassidy from Q Corner answered a few questions regarding the convention during their live show. Here are some of the main points that they covered:

Is the convention free?
The convention is 100% free!

Who are the instructors, and how do I know when, and what they will be teaching?
There will be 92 instructors from around the world, who, over 120 continuous hours, will teach an incredible selection of classes. These classes will range from decor design, twisting, line work, painted balloons, fantasy flowers, business classes... and so much more!

To find out more about the instructors, visit The World Balloon Convention Website or click HERE. Below each instructors name is a corresponding number which links to the class that they are teaching, as well as more details regarding their classes listed.

When does the convention start?
Obviously, as we are all in different time zones, the start time will vary from country to country, but as the convention is technically going to be hosted from the UK, the official starting time is Monday 30th at 12 am (midnight Sunday). If you would like to find out what the time will be for you, visit and change it from 12am BST (British Summer Time) to your local time.

How do I watch the classes?

The Convention will be hosted on the Q Corner YouTube channel. We recommend that you subscribe to Q Corner on the YouTube channel before the convention. You can set reminders for specific classes that you want to watch, and when you subscribe, you will be entered into a drawing for one Premium Twin-Air Sizer™, courtesy of our friends at Premium Balloon Accessories! All subscribers to the Q Corner channel will be entered into the drawing.

Can I only watch the classes live?

No, you will also have the ability to catch up on classes that you miss. The convention will be filmed in 8-hour parts and will be available to watch once each section has finished... allowing a little time for Keith and Dom to post it. You can see which classes (by number) will appear in order, as classes will not be posted separately. You can set reminders to notify you when each of these parts are available! 

YouTube Schedule

Each day is split into three parts on YouTube, so the link will be the same for several classes in a row. The parts are as follows:
  • Part 1: Starts on Monday, March 30 at midnight BST. Covers classes #1-5
  • Part 2: Starts Monday, March 30 at 7:30 BST. Covers classes #7-13
  • Part 3: Starts Monday, March 30 at 16:00 BST. Cover classes #15-19
  • Part 4: Starts Tuesday, March 31 at midnight BST. Covers classes #21-25
  • Part 5: Starts Tuesday, March 31 at 7:30 BST. Covers classes #27-32
  • Part 6: Starts Tuesday, March 31 at 16:00 BST. Covers classes #34-39
  • Part 7: Starts Wednesday, April 1 at midnight BST. Covers classes #40-46
  • Part 8: Starts Wednesday, April 1 at 7:30 BST. Covers classes #48-53
  • Part 9: Starts Wednesday, April 1 at 16:00 BST. Covers classes #55-59
  • Part 10: Starts Thursday, April 2 at midnight BST. Covers classes #60-65
  • Part 11: Starts Thursday, April 2 at 7:30 BST Covers classes #67-73
  • Part 12: Starts Thursday, April 2 at 16:00 BST. Covers classes #75-80
  • Part 13: Starts Friday, April 3 at midnight BST. Covers classes #81-87
  • Part 14: Starts Friday, April 3 at 7:30 BST. Covers classes #89-94
  • Part 15: Starts Friday, April 3 at 16:00 BST Covers classes #96-100
Are all the classes being shown live?

With the exception of a few of the classes that will be pre-recored (to account for bad internet signals and other technical issues) the majority of classes will be shown live. So be prepared for a few glitches and get ready for lots of fun stuff too! 😊

Can I ask questions during the class?

Yes! You will certainly have the opportunity to ask questions during a class. 

Will any of the classes be translated?

Some of the instructors have already anticipated this and will have someone with them translating their classes during the live session. However, a selection of classes will be translated after the event has finished and will be available for all to view.

Will there be any competitions?

Yes! Some very generous manufacturers (see below) have donated some truly fabulous prizes. These will be up for grabs throughout the convention, but only during the live sessions, so that is a very good reason to watch live! 

Can I join in on any of the classes?

Yes! A number of the instructors plan to offer a hands-on session where you can re-create their designs and techniques during their classes. 

For example Chun Lin, Sung, who is teaching class #84 will be demonstrating one of his own incredible designs, and has listed all the materials that you will need to make it. To find other hands-on classes, check each of the classes listed in the Class Schedule.

Other Information:

All the instructors are giving their time to help inspire, educate and uplift the ballooning community at this very difficult time.

This will be an exceptional opportunity to learn from some of the most creative people in the ballooning world, and to see designers who rarely teach at all, let alone outside of their own countries! 

There is an awesome merchandise store where you can purchase one-of-a-kind Q Corner Merchandise! All Profits will go to charity! Click HERE for a direct link.

A huge thank you to Qualatex and the entire Pioneer Balloon Company Team who have worked incredibly hard to put this whole convention together in such a short time! Of course a MASSIVE thank you to Keith Stirman and to Dominic Cassidy who will be hosting the entire 120 hours... I have no idea how they will do it, but if anyone can do it, they can! 

And thank you all the wonderful sponsors, as well! This convention would not be the same without them!

Keep checking the Q Corner Convention page for updates, as they are being added daily! 

Wishing you a truly amazing week of getting to be part of the largest virtual balloon convention in history! 

Happy Ballooning!


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Social Distancing - Tips on How to Keep Your Customers Engaged From a Distance.

I think it's safe to say, this current crisis is unlike anything that small business owners have faced in the recent past. 

Each day, it seems as though we just sit and wait for even more government announcements, hoping for more guidance and advice to get us through these confusing and difficult times.

As we have all discovered, social distancing, while good for public health, is bad for small businesses. Many businesses have already closed their doors and those businesses that have managed to remain open, foot traffic has dropped significantly since the coronavirus outbreak, as more and more customers stay home and self-quarantine. 

As a result, every industry is looking for ways to hold on to their customers during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Here are some tips to keep your customers engaged from a distance:

Communicate proactively with your customers

The situation is evolving rapidly, and no one is quite sure what news each day will bring. It is much easier for customers to empathise with businesses in crisis if said business is communicating with them properly. In the past few days I have received a number of emails and social media messages from local businesses including suppliers, pubs and restaurants, and my heart goes out to each one them. Many of them have been very inventive and are offering their services in a number of safe and responsible ways! I have found that because they have taken the time to communicate with me, I am making it my mission to try to support as many of them as I can during these turbulent times! 

Keep contact with your customers and let your customers know if you’re closing your doors, changing your hours or any other steps you might be taking to keep your employees and work environment safe and clean. If your store is closing or closed, notify your customers on your social media channels, through email and on your website. If your store is staying open, describe the steps you are taking to reduce risk. 

In addition to letting customers know what you are doing, give them a way to stay connected. Now is the time to step up your social media activity! Customers spending more time at home will still need to shop for things. Facilitate this need by creating direction to your online store, taking orders over social media, start a no contact pick-up and delivery service - but most importantly, ensure that you work within Government guidelines. Be prepared for more people to view your website than in previous months. Maybe it's time to make those ultra- important updates and give your website a little spring clean.

Keep communication lines open.

Now you have your customers attention, keep those invaluable communication lines open! Give regular updates of what you can offer, show designs that you have made or are making for other clients. 

Ask your customers to share a testimonial or a photograph, or maybe just a few words on your Facebook page regarding the service that you are currently offering. I have seen some great stories and messages, and each one serves as a reminder of that business and what a great job they are doing to keep their customers happy and staying afloat during these extremely trying times! 

Even if you have decided to temporarily cease trading you should not cease communication with your customers.

This is an extremely important time to keep your communication lines open and active. You may not be able to supply balloons at this time, but you can certainly continue to communicate. I am sure that you will have heard of #throwbackthursday (#TBT); this is a great way to share some of your past favourite jobs and decor. But instead of #TBT how about;


I think you get the gist: every few days you can post something that will catch your customers attention in a way that will remind them that you are still there and will be back up and running as soon as you are able.

You don't need to be posting photographs every day, you could take this opportunity to create some fun and exciting posts using CANVA, a fabulous free design tool. If you are unsure how to use CANVA, I will add a link to a past blog post that shows you how! 

This was a post that I created using CANVA for National Unicorn Day! 

I am sure that many of you will be participating in the Q Corner Convention
The largest 100% FREE, virtual balloon convention in history! Starting Monday, March 30 - Friday, April 3, 2020, 24 hours a day - 5 days. Starting at 12 am GMT, the convention will
 be hosted on the Q Corner YouTube channel. To subscribe to the channel click HERE

So what does this have to do with keeping in touch with your customers? This will be a great opportunity for you to let your customers know that though you cannot trade at this time, the opportunity to learn does not stop, and you are looking forward to sharing some of your newfound skills and design ideas with them soon! Maybe film yourself watching a class or strategically place your balloon pump and a few balloons near during one of the demonstration! 

I took this photo when I re-created Jackie Ochitwa's Fairy design
that I learned to make from her online tutorial

Take Care of yourself

Situations like this are stressful enough on their own, and managing a small business in the midst of the chaos can amplify that stress. Before you rush into action, if you are struggling with excessive stress and anxiety, look for some ways to alleviate that. I know that when you’re overwhelmed and concerned about your small business, it can seem like you don’t have time for things like self-care. But this situation is a marathon — not a sprint – and it’s important to take care of yourself throughout.
Please try to stay positive during these unprecedented and difficult times. The balloon world is a very caring community, if you need some words of support and encouragement please reach out to one of the Ballooning Facebook Groups such as the Qualatex Group
Please keep safe and well!
Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me on Instagram @Suebowler

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Necessity of Obtaining Deposits for Bookings

Contracts, Terms and Conditions, and Deposits are vital for all businesses, regardless of how big or small they are. 

Whether your inaction is out of fear or a lack of confidence, not getting that deposit up front can end up by coming back to bite you.

This may feel like we are attempting to close the door after the horse has bolted, however, there has never been a better time than now to review your businesses terms and conditions, including non-refundable deposits.

I have seen many posts on Facebook about how to deal with customers who cancel at the last minute. If you don't already have a cancellation policy or deposit system in place, it is important to take steps to protect yourself with future bookings.

Asking for a non-refundable deposits in your terms and conditions is a solid way to protect  your earnings especially in an industry where last minute cancellations are likely to leave you out of pocket.

By asking customers to pay a deposit upfront, they are able to secure their event and the services upon which you have both agreed. A deposit is a gesture of good faith and commitment from the customer. This will ensure that you have at least part of the funds before they receive whatever goods and services you are providing. Though it's not a substantial amount of money, a non-refundable deposit is generally used to cover the unavoidable outlay of stock and materials or other bespoke items as a kind of security against any kind of cancellations.

The timing between the initial deposit and the final payment of the remaining balance should be pre-determined between you and the customer. The deposit should be set at a realistic and reasonable level. If you ask for too much, you may find that even with the most plainly worded terms and conditions, non-refundable deposits deemed too expensive can be difficult to enforce. Remember, it can only be deemed non-refundable if it covers the actual cost of the loss that may results from a cancellations.

Be assertive, and do not apologise

Many small businesses, especially new ones, find it difficult to ask for money at all. 
But if you want to be successful in the business world, it’s a fear that you must overcome. The first time you ask, it might feel uncomfortable, but do it anyway.

I have found that one of the easiest ways to overcome this fear is to not ask, but tell. After the initial consultation with your client, simply explain the next steps if they have indicated they would like to proceed. Say something along the lines of: 
“If you would like to proceed with the order, just let me know, and I will email you a full description of work, my terms and conditions, and an invoice for xx% of the event cost as a deposit.” 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Riding out the Storm: How to Cope in the Face of Adversity.

Earlier this week I read a Facebook post written by David Mahoney of Balloons Everyday, Texas, USA, which contained some very wise and encouraging words.
 "Focus on what you can do and can control. Don't worry about the rest. Best advice I was ever given."
 David goes on to talk about the effect of Coronavirus on business and the economy.
"Sure, things are changing a bit because of the Coronavirus but that does not change the facts that there are still lots of everyday business. Take birthdays in the USA... there is almost 800K birthdays everyday.
AGAIN.... 800,000 BIRTHDAYS A DAY!!!!!!
People will still get married, babies will still be born, companies will still do business, and anniversaries still happen.
Focus on what you can do, adjust where you need to, and push... You are still in control of you and can still succeed and achieve your dreams."

Yesterday, Steven Jones of Balloon Designers, Seattle, USA, gave his perspective on this situation:
"Good morning, everyone...with everything going on in the world right now, I just want to offer up a couple of thoughts.

1. For everyone affected by the COVID-19 issues going on around the world, you are NOT alone. The entire "gig economy" is feeling the impact of this situation, and believe me, if you aren't already experiencing cancellations and the like, you probably soon will be.
2. Remember that this can always be worse...yes, you might be experiencing a lot of cancellations and the like, but you could also be in a hospital bed somewhere suffering from this disease, so let's put things into perspective.
3. Breathe...and know that this WILL pass. Think of this like a storm...yes, it's going to do some serious damage while it's here, but it will eventually end and the sun will shine again.
4. Harsh reality time...let's be VERY honest with ourselves...we have invested and embraced a line of work that ultimately no one NEEDS. At the end of the day, what we offer is a luxury service that serves no other purpose than to inspire emotion.
Now, let me be clear...I'm not saying that's not important...not at all, or else I personally wouldn't be doing this. But at the end of the day, people need food, people need shelter, people need heat and clothing...they don't NEED an air sac of latex sculpted into the form of Baby when economic times like this occur, this IS going to happen.
And it will happen again one day...and it will happen again after that. It may not be viral related, but economic downturns are a part of life. You HAVE to plan for those in the future.
5. On the other side of this, call it pie-in-the-sky-optimism, but the reality is some of the worst times in our business careers are actually huge opportunities in disguise. Sure, a lot of us are losing revenue, but you're also gaining something you've lost a LOT of...and that's time.

USE THAT your business, organize, clean, take on that project you've been meaning to get to or hell, reconnect with your family and loved ones that you never get to visit with because you're constantly working. USE this time to your advantage as opposed to feeling sorry for yourself and the state of things.

6. Never forget one thing...that you are you realize what a bad a$$ you are? You are one of the very few people in this world that had the strength and fortitude to create a business. You have done something millions and millions of people only DREAM of doing...and you did it! You're driven, you're motivated and you're succeeding in ways others will never, ever know...
And you know what else? Just think about this...when people want to celebrate the greatest moments of their lives, their highest achievements and their most precious of memories, they think of YOU to share in that joy. Your gifts and your talents make their moments better, and they seek you out to bring joy into these major milestones. Your works are something they will carry in their hearts and minds for as long as they live....and that's something you should be proud of, regardless of the current state of things. 
So take a moment to catch your breath and absorb what's happening. Then remind yourself of who you are and why you do what you do and keep moving forward.
You've got this  

And you know what else? When this is all over, the whole world is going to be ready to celebrate! So get ready for that too
Thanks for listening " 
Both David and Steven shared some incredibly encouraging words and practical advice that can help you over the coming months. 

I too have a few final words that I would like to share with you that may help at this difficult time.

Keep a positive mindset

As much as this is a very scary time for us all, it won't last forever, so it is important to stay as positive through it all so we can come out shining!
Embrace adversity as a chance for opportunity
It is time to consider potential opportunities rather than dwelling on despair. Maybe we can't work on big events for this period of time, but as David rightly said, there are many everyday prospects available to our industry.
Be Informed

Find out what kind of help is out there for you and your business. In the UK this week, our Government announced some great new schemes that will help small businesses through this rough period. Even those of us who are self-employed will receive support if we are unable to work. Investigate if there are any new initiatives or schemes in your country that can help you if necessary.

Use your time wisely and productively

I don't know about you, but I have a long wish list of things that I need to do. My website is long overdue a complete revamp, I started an online social media course on Udemy and never completed it! My list is endless and I am sure that yours is too! 

Communicate with other Balloon Professionals

Whether it is through social media, or networking groups, this is the perfect time to initiate conversation with other balloon professionals. We all have some truly great ideas or knowledge that we can bounce off each other.

Keep safe, healthy and positive! Exercise regularly, get plenty of fresh air, eat a well-balanced diet, get sufficient sleep and make time for self-care. These habits not only boost your immune system and keep your body functioning optimally; they will also help you feel healthy and fit. Moreover, when you feel strong and healthy you will find that you are better able to cope with whatever is taking place around you.

Follow me @suebowler

Monday, March 9, 2020

What do you know about Communions? Here are some Creative Ideas and "Top Tips" for the Communion Season!

Anne Cahill-McGovern, created this beautiful
Communion centrepiece design using the
22" Elegant Greenery Deco Bubble with the
11" First Communion inside.

First Communion is seen as one of the holiest and most important occasions in a Roman Catholic's life. It is the first time that a person receives the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is the eating of consecrated bread and drinking of consecrated wine.
When a child experiences their First Holy Communion, it’s a major moment for themselves as well as their families. Like their Baptism, the day of First Communion is one that is filled with family, friends, and feasting after the sacred event has taken place.

Girls typically are adorned to look like little brides, wearing white gowns and veils, while boys wear their Sunday best or new suits and ties bought for the occasion.

Communion season is fast approaching, and as someone who knows very little about this very special occasion, I would like to know more! I'm curious about how communion celebrations vary from country to country, as well as how important the communion season is for trade within the balloon industry? 

Simple yet elegant, this beautiful design is perfect to celebrate any first communion.
Luc Bertrand, CBA, wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium

These adorable 14" Angel Boy and Angel Girls make a great addition to a Communion Centrepiece or arrangement.

I got some different perspectives from industry professionals, Luc Bertrand, CBA of WAW Balloons, Belgium, Tania Torre, CBA of Balloon Express Shop, Terme Vigliatore, Italy, and Anne Cahill McGovern,CBA of Elegant Balloons, Pearl River, New York, USA. It is clear why this celebration is a very important time for some balloon companies.

How important is a child’s first communion in your country?

"It is extremely important in the Flemish area but somehow a bit less in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Not only First Communion, but Confirmation would be as important. As for balloons, we will sell for both occasions; albeit that the demand might be different. Then there would be the non-Christians - they want to throw in a party for their kids as well and call it something that can be translated into 'spring-party'.
"For us in Italy, it is the most important religious event after the christening."
 "Communions are very important here in the US. It is a short period - 6 weeks starting the week after Easter. Over the years it has gotten a little crazy - little girls get their hair and nails done, and a top of the range dress can cost in excess of $500.00!  While communions don't tend to have the biggest budgets, they are very important to us and we have done very well over the years marketing to this area."

Communion designs can be totally on-trend with these beautiful
18" Golden Cross and Greenery Microfoil balloons and paired with the
11" First Communion Cross.

Beautiful Table Arrangement by Anne Cahill-McGovern

Can you describe a 'typical' communion celebration?

"Obviously there will be a celebration in church. This should be the most important moment of the day, but parents see the little kids dress, the party afterwards and the impression they will leave as more important. We call these parties 'the little weddings'.
Nowadays some priests try to boycott the party by having the celebration in church at a time that makes it impossible to organize a full party afterwards.

The party could be at home, a table in a restaurant or renting a whole venue. It all depends on how many guests are invited.
"The religious ceremony is in church; the party is celebrated in a restaurant with relatives and closest friends."

"Some people have parties at home but all the venues in my area are completely booked out nearly every weekend during communion season, except maybe Memorial Day weekend which seems to be the slower weekend for communions."

Happy Communion Flower
First communion in any language is a big deal for any little girl! And what better way to show it than with flowers!
 Luc Bertrand, CBA, wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium
How important is the communion season for your business?

"This is the moment with the biggest sales of the year. From early in the morning we inflate so many balloons that we can barely see the ceiling of the shop any more! We have recently installed three large corral nets to help us to manage the orders better "
"For us, it's the most important event after the marriage and eighteenth birthday, especially if we consider that it is concentrated in one month only." 
"Communion Season has always been a very important time for our business. We sometimes have as many as 20-30 communions added onto our regular schedule (bar mitzvahs, birthdays etc.) We know it is a short period and try to take as many as possible to make as much money as possible since the summers tend to be slower for us."

Here are some top tips to make communion season a success for your business.

Give your service plenty of promotion.

  • Start your marketing campaign early, as most parties will already be in the planning stages.
  • Find and join local Facebook Groups and Town pages in which you can promote your business. Many of these have a specific day that they allow local businesses to advertise, so check with the group admins.
  • Visit your local Catholic Churches, see if you can leave some printed literature with photographs of your work that could be offered to families, or maybe offer a special discount Remember CANVA is a fantastic tool for creating professional looking printed literature.
Keep your designs simple and easy to transport
  • Many of the parties will be relatively simple affairs that will just require bunches of helium-filled balloons to decorate a room or hall. Keeping your designs simple will enable you to sell multiple arrangements with ease.
  • Make sure that you have ready to go - "Cash and Carry" designs available on the day. 
Show what you want to sell
  • It is always a good idea to have a selection of designs to offer to clients. This is a great way to test your market and establish what customers are prepared to spend. Take a good photograph of each design to give you the opportunity to promote them in a professional way.
Offer a variety of decor to allow for different budgets.
  • Everyone is different, so we should ensure that we cater to the variety of tastes and trends. When you look a Pinterest and Instagram, you will see balloon decor can that varies from organic style decor to balloon bouquets. Some people still want a religious element to their child's event, whereas others have moved to more trending decor.

Use air-filled designs and Deco Bubbles
  • Communion season is notoriously busy yet short. To maximise sales opportunities, make sure that you offer decor that can be prepared well in advance. 

A big thank you to Luc, Tania and Anne for their input and the invaluable tips!

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler