Tuesday, September 22, 2020

"I never thought my profession would be a balloon artist" - Featured Artist Keren Fridman Braha, CBA

It gives me great pleasure to share Keren Fridman Braha's ballooning journey as part of my International Balloon Month - featuring Balloon Artists from around the World.

Keren Fridman Braha

Here is Keren's incredible story...

Hi, my name is Keren Fridman Braha, CBA from ISRAEL, a 37-year-old balloon artist. I have been the owner of the business called “Balloons” since 2004.

I never thought my profession would be a balloon artist. I knew that art was a part of me: from a young age I loved painting, drawing, sculpting, building models in different materials, and even designing and calculating the works I created. 

I studied architecture and art in high school and college. This was my direction, to combine my design vision in the field of real practice. In order to finance my architecture studies in college, I continued to perform with children at various events. Another hobby I always pursued was working with children: I was a summer camp instructor, organizing children's birthdays.

From the age of 17, I started working with the balloon artist Ori Livney, and through him I was introduced to the world of balloons. I fell in love with the latex material and the possibility of creating almost anything you want.


Balloon Hats by Keren Fridman Braha
Fabulous Balloon Hats by Keren Fridman Braha

From that moment on, I incorporated balloons into every friend's and family members birthday and experimented with more techniques. 

In 2004, at the age of 21, I started my own independent business.

In 2007, I decided to leave my architecture studies in favor of the balloons. I flew to the Qualatex Balloon Convention in Thailand and there I passed the CBA test.

I continued to make sure to go to all the conventions that were in Israel and even conventions abroad like at Millennium Jam in Belgium, WBC in the US, and more.  When I gave up studying architecture in favor of working with balloons, everyone looked at me with a look of 'Why?' It's unconventional, an unstable professional, can I make enough money and live like this? Even when I have a family of my own? I knew that when I want something, I go with it to the end. I decided to invest my whole being in my balloon business. Now, when classmates and friends meet me, they are proud of me as the decision to stop studying architecture, to take risks and not go the normal route of a young person. They see how successful I am and that it is definitely possible to earn very nicely, progress, persevere and be happy when going with the heart and talent.

Balloon Arch by Keren Fridman Braha
Fabulous Balloon Arch by Keren Fridman Braha
The ability to know what you are good at and capitalise on it can be a useful advantage in our lives. For me it is one of the important things, and my most important tip for everyone is - "it is to walk with the heart and not to be afraid."
I was attracted to running my own balloon business because I loved the amazing responses I received from event to event; it made me happy and I felt that creating a business of my own is exactly integrating who I am.
The art, the design, the architecture I learned, all of these combined with the patience, the desire to be happy, the desire to help others created my business: "Balloons". From year to year, I made sure to innovate, upgrade, and be better, compete in Israel and abroad in balloon competitions.

I officially opened my business in October 2004, having worked with balloons before. However, October 2004 is also the month my mother died of cancer. I decided that I would not allow myself to sink into the pain, and that my mother would want me to be strong and to keep moving forward and succeed.
I remember traveling 30 days after her death to a birthday show I organized for a 5-year-old girl. I cried the entire drive to the vent, but when I got to the parking lot, I erased the tears, put on makeup again and went inside with a smile. Why? Because that is how life is. I decided to go back to work and smile, just like my mother was, strong and happy. I decided to continue to make others happy as I know how to.


Keren Fridman Braha
Keren Fridman Braha


Since then, I have been volunteering at the Oncology Department for Children with Cancer. Making them balloons and with all the difficulty of seeing these kids, it's the greatest sense of satisfaction to know that I was able to make them smile and enjoy.

My balloon business grew and developed, and I was exposed to other areas besides working with children.
I started performing at weddings. Each time, I set myself a new destination to reach. The business grew and supported 8 employees, which now included my husband and brother.

Balloon Tree by Keren Fridman Braha
Balloon Tree by Keren Fridman Braha


 

The art, the precision, the perfectionism in every project, the color combinations are all reflected in both and that is why my business provides services to a wide range of clients. The combination of twisting and decor is who I am. The business grew from year to year, the revenue grew, the amount of events increased until one day my life changed. In December 2016 I contracted breast cancer. During this difficult time of my life (4 physically and mentally difficult surgeries, 16 chemotherapy treatments, participation in a research of biological medicine for a whole year) the world of balloons gave me the strength to cope, to win, to keep smiling, to keep dreaming and to march forward.

Keren and her love of balloons sees her through the treatment in hospital

Even though the business has been hit in recent years due to my illness I had, I was able to lift it back up.

This is what I do today, smiling, happy, choosing what I love most to do in my business. I have chosen to evolve and grow again at my own pace, experimenting in different directions in the art of balloons.

My biggest personal challenge I have faced since starting the business was in 2018, when I had to bring back and lead lead the business to success and re-prosperity.
The determination and desire to not give up the business despite the experience I went through made me win and succeed in reaching this goal.

In the last two years, I have led several big balloon projects while collaborating with the best balloon artists from Israel, some of whom have become like family to me.

It is important to realize that balloon collaborations are a very important part of the personal success of each balloon artist individually and of course together. The secret is to be able to choose with whom to collaborate that will complete you.


 

My Covid-19 challenge - As with everywhere in the world, my business was hit and many events were canceled due to Covid-19. It only took me 10 days to realize that I must change direction and adapt the business to the existing situation which no one knows when and how it will end.
I realized that balloon deliveries are a service that will go best during this period.

 

Custom "Stay Home" balloon by Keren Fridman Braha

People are afraid to leave, or people who can not leave their homes, big celebrations and even small ones that have been canceled. All of these situations  necessitate finding another creative solution.

"Happy Birthday" balloon delivery design by Keren Fridman Braha

I decided to invent my own design line for balloon deliveries. Balloon deliveries that will be unique to my business with a personal touch in each design.
The transition from a business that provides invested designs for large events, to a business that provides invested designs for small events has been challenging.

You need to adapt the business to a situation where the whole market is facing it and know how to make immediate changes.
Some of the changes my business went through included:

- Marketing and advertising every day.
- The target audience of the business is changing and becoming mostly private individuals near my place of residence.
- Quick and good response to every customer who contacted all media, (even when sometimes the children are at home because there is a closure).
- Getting organized in front of a new schedule of preparing each design. Know how to produce in minimum time, maximum result.
- The desire to invent new designs in order to create a wide and varied catalog of balloon deliveries.
- Our personal transportation to the entire customer's home.
- Understand that in order to earn a lot during this period, you need to create a lot of small designs instead of a few large designs.  Try to run the business similar to a delivery store and not as an event designer business (something I have not experienced before)
- Create new quality designs that will make the customer want to order again. Designs that will last a long time and without helium.
- The ability to adjust each design according to the customer's request and add a personal dedication to each design.
- And the final and most important change of all - do not give in to lowering the prices of all the competitors around you. Know how to value yourself and believe that the changes are for the better. Customers will be paid for those who value themselves.


"Happy Birthday" balloon delivery design by Keren Fridman Braha


 All of the changes my business has gone through in the last six months have allowed the business to hold steady.

On the contrary, I have had great success selling ​​over 160 new designs in 5 months!
In addition to all the balloon deliveries, the nature of the events has completely changed. Also in Israel, little-by-little, small scale private events and business events are starting to take place. I call them boutique events of only a few dozen people. At these events, my clients, who want to celebrate, pay for an invested, creative and quality design. I love these boutique events. They have a personal charm that will last forever.

 Balloon delivery design by Keren Fridman Braha


My tip to any balloon artist is to know how to adapt himself and his business to the challenging period we all experience together in a creative and appropriate way for the environment in which he lives.
The art of balloons is an integral part of our DNA.

My advice to someone new to the balloon industry would be go after your dream and make it come true. Constantly learn new techniques, experiment, understand and learn what their strengths are in the field of balloons and turning it into an advantage in your business.

Wedding Bouquet made from balloons by 
 Keren Fridman Braha

For someone to be successful in the balloon industry they will need - Talent, determination, perseverance, creativity, patience, spatial vision and high planning ability and ability to cope with changes.

What is your favourite ever design that you have made? 

It is very difficult to decide on one preferred design, there are several:
- The dress I made in the Millennium Jam competition in 2008, which consisted of 3000 uninflated balloons.
- Design, planning and execution of the circus project in collaboration with 12 balloon artists who came to volunteer with me for children with cancer.

Circus Theme Decor by Keren Fridman Braha

Circus Theme Decor by Keren Fridman Braha

- Huge colored wall

Coloured Balloon Wall by Keren Fridman Braha

- Large space wall

Space Wall by Keren Fridman Braha


Space Wall by Keren Fridman Braha

- Huge bride and groom figures in the twisting technique.

Bride & Groom by Keren Fridman Braha

- Creation of a life-size tractor with entry to small details.
- Huge organic design within different spaces of a hotel that is all an ancient and beautifully restored stone structure.
- Big entry arch with pencils design for “back to school” theme

Back to School theme Arch by Keren Fridman Braha

My favourite Qualatex balloon is the Qualatex Chrome balloon.
Balloons in these colors changed the perception towards the word “balloon” in general.


Gold Chrome Butterfly by Keren Fridman Braha

They have made the world of event design more prestigious, elegant and special, and suitable for all types of events and not just children's events.
Thanks to these colors, lots of customers add balloons to their events because it just looks like a real piece of jewelry that transmits a huge "wow"

Elegant Chrome Balloon Decor by Keren Fridman Braha

 

Keren Fridman Braha, CBA.

Nofit, ISRAEL
https://www.facebook.com/balloonskeren/

https://www.facebook.com/balloonskss

https://www.instagram.com/balloons_art_
A huge thank you to Keren for sharing her incredible story. Through all the adversity in her ballooning career, Keren has always found the strength and determination to continue her journey and to grow her business, even during this COVID pandemic! 

Happy Ballooning and I hope that you are also able to ride the storms during these difficult times! 


Sue
Follow me on Instagram @suebowler




 

























 
 



 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

๐ŸŽƒ Will โ„๐•’๐•๐•๐• ๐•จ๐•–๐•–๐•Ÿ be Cancelled in 2020?

 



There has been much talk in the press regarding whether or not Halloween or other favourite activities such as Trick or Treating and Halloween parties and events, will be cancelled. All this discussion is due to the current pandemic, and the fear of not being able to do this safely.

But just because we need to remain socially distanced this year doesn't mean Halloween is cancelled — it just means we need to consider creative and safe Halloween ideas.

As balloon professionals, I think we can definitely create some Halloween fun with exciting ballooning and gift ideas. 

So what can we offer? After a little research, I discovered a relatively new idea called Ghosting, or Boo-ing, and thought it could be an exciting new Halloween opportunity that we could promote and market to our customers. For those of you who are new to this tradition, I have added an explanation below.


18" Emoticon Ghost
#58153

Ghosting a.k.a Boo-ing? 

Ghosting is a popular Halloween tradition in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and several other countries.

Depending on your location, this relatively new custom may be called "Ghosting," or "Boo-ing", but the concept is the same. Ghosting is a fun way to spread the Halloween spirit amongst friends and neighbours - Covid safely! 

Ghosting can begin any time in October, but the first or second week of the month is usually the best, as it allows sufficient time for the entire neighborhood to be "ghosted". Typically, you will need to "ghost" two people or families. You can do this with the following items:

- Two Halloween goodie bags/boxes, or 18" Stuffing Balloons filled with treats!
- Two pictures of a ghost with a "We've been Boo-ed" sign.
- Two letters stating that "you've been ghosted (or booed)" with simple how-to instructions to carry on the tradition.

After you have assembled your treats, the 'We've Been Booed' notices and "You've Been Booed" letters, you should deliver them after dark to your target families by dropping one on each porch, ringing the doorbell, and run. Do not get caught as you want to remain anonymous. Also Children delivering the packages should always be accompanied by an adult.




Letter and Instructions

You can compose your own letter, along with quick instructions, or add an elaborate Halloween poem. Whatever you decide, try to make the instructions clear. Two more families will need to be ghosted (or booed) within two days in the same manner in which you've been ghosted.

Along with the "scare" kit, leave a ghost or "boo" that can be left on the door. This will "mark" the recipient, allowing others to know that they have already been hit. Below is an example you can use, with the poem and instructions combined:

Poem

"You've Been Ghosted!

Late last night, we left you a treat. The tradition is fun, one we hope you'll repeat.

Take the ghost and pin it on your door, to let others know, you need ghosted no more.

Now it's your duty to pass on the surprise, to two more families, we must advise.

Gather some treats and deliver them soon, within two nights, under the light of the moon.

Include a ghost with each package you give, along with this poem for the tradition to live."




Goodie Bags/Boxes or Balloons 

Offering ready-made, pre-bagged, Halloween Gift Bags or Boxes with an added balloon spider and balloons is the perfect 'Ghosting' or 'Booing' treat and will be an appealing alternative to your customers! As part of the package, supply the "You've been Booed" notice and poem to pass the fun on.

Hat Boxes or Gift bags can be filled with:

11" Spooky Design

  • Qualatex Printed Halloween latex balloons that can be inflated by the family for home decoration
  • Glow-sticks and Glow- necklaces
  • Halloween Stickers
  • Pumpkin Carving Kit
  • Halloween Sweets - please read below if you are adding sweets or candy to your gift bags or balloons
  • Qualatex Balloon Dog Skeleton balloon
  • And many other Halloween merchandise items.
14" Air-Filled Balloon Dog Skeleton
#14978


Here is a very informative and helpful article from Sonia Payne of Balloon Biz Academy regarding selling sweets and treats, even if they are pre-bought and prepackaged - I have also attached a link for further reading.

๐ŸญIf you are thinking of adding sweets to your balloon designs, you MUST READ THIS FIRST! ๐Ÿฌ
Regulations around the storage and handling of food items including sweets (candy) vary depending on where you are in the world, but most countries have stringent regulations to prevent outbreaks of food poisoning.
๐Ÿซ Here in the UK, the laws are VERY strict, even if you are using pre-bought and pre-packaged sweets. ๐Ÿฌ You are still required to register with your local authority, and there are rules you need to follow regarding labelling, packaging and storage of sweets.

Thinking of Adding Sweets, and Drinks To Your Balloon Designs – Make Sure You Read This First!

Another great idea for Halloween - Doorstep Decor

Doorstep decor is a great way to show neighbours and passerby that Halloween is still being celebrated this year! Similar to Yard or Garden Art, why not offer balloon designs for outside?

These Golden Skull Balloon Columns make the perfect Doorstep Decor 



Remember that balloons react to cold weather, even air-filled foil balloons will shrink a little in the cold, so make sure that you prepare the balloons in a cooler rather than warmer environment. And if it is windy, make sure that the decor is very well secured so that it cannot fall over or blow away.

How about making a "Fangfully Frightful!" Balloon Tree with hanging "Glitzy & Glam Bats"
Designed and made by Cam Woody, CBA, Pioneer Balloon Company, Wichita, KS, USA


Don't forget to take advantage of these charming Happy Halloween Social Media Qualatex Lifestyle Images - available to download from Qualatex Marketing Materials  on the Qualatex website. These appealing lifestyle images are ideal for your marketing campaigns and great for Instagram and Facebook posts! 



This is the perfect time to get started with your Halloween promotions and marketing. Remember, if you are adding sweets and candies to your designs this year, ensure that you have followed all the regulations required to do this - check out Sonia's blog post link above.

This year Halloween might be more challenging than previous years, but it is our challenge as balloon professionals and small business owners to find a feasible solution and ensure that Halloween is definitely NOT cancelled! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Sue
Follow me on Instagram @suebowler






Friday, September 11, 2020

International Balloon Month Features Balloon Artist - Zahraa Jawad, CBA

September marks the start of International Balloon Month, so I felt that this would be a great time to feature a few of our very talented Certified Balloon Artists (CBA's) from around the world!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Zahraa Jawad, CBA, of Forever Balloons Boutique in Beirut, Lebanon. 

I first met Zahraa at MEBAC - the Middle East Balloon Art Convention 2018 in Beirut and then again one month later at the Qualatex Balloon School in Dubai. I have always admired her style, her choice of colours and of course her meticulous attention to detail! I hope that you enjoy viewing her ballooning journey as much as I have! 


Zahraa Jawad, CBA, of Forever Balloons Boutique in Beirut, Lebanon.
Zahraa Jawad, CBA, of Forever Balloons Boutique in Beirut, Lebanon.

Firstly, thank you to Zahraa for taking the time to talk to me and sharing her story...

How did you discover balloons?

In 2005, during college I started a part-time job with an event planner who did balloon decoration service at his shop. I was responsible for the balloon decoration part. With no clue about this business, I had a few days of training and then I picked up the basics quickly and started working, and I loved it so much! The shop had different brands that they used, Qualatex was one of them. When I saw the sapphire blue color, I knew that this brand is different, and then I started to understand the difference in qualities and how it gives different results in designs.


I only had this job for one year, then I finished my study and started a new Job within my major (Business Management and Marketing).


Let's Flamingle by Zahraa Jawad
Let's Flamingle by Zahraa Jawad

What attracted you into running your own balloon business?

Years later, after gaining business experience, my sister, who had studied the same major and had a great experience too in marketing, and I thought that it’s about time to run our own business. We had many ideas first, and balloon business was one of the ideas that we were excited about, even though I hadn't had any practice with balloons ever since 2005. 

After evaluating all options, we thought that balloon business will be a new and unique idea to introduce in our market area, which back then was not introduced as a professional art for all occasions, it was more like a basic concept and only presented as sections within party shops. We also love arts in general, so we said that running a business that we are passionate about and happy to be doing is the best option to go for. 

Forever Balloon Boutique
Forever Balloon Boutique - Beirut, Lebanon


Can you tell me a little bit about your business?

Our business is Forever Balloons Boutique. We specialize mainly in creating deliverable and easy to transport designs, columns and table pieces for all occasions, and famous for our baby born designs.


Our shop is the first in our area to present balloons as a professional art for all occasions using only the best quality of balloons. We started in 2014 with a small shop and a little capital, and the word of mouth with the social media helped us to get better known. Everyone was talking about our balloons designs and the quality of the balloons we use, the special colors, the wide variety of foils, and how long they last! A few months later, we started to attend the workshops and classes held by Qualatex and from there we were committed to learning more and becoming professional at what we do. Thus, we got our CBA as we moved to a new and better location and larger shop where we installed our QBB (Qualatex Balloon Boutique). Now our shop is considered to be one of the top balloon shops in the country, the top one in our area and we are blessed to have a very good customer base talking to everyone about our art and sharing with us their continuous celebrations ever since they started with us.



What has been your greatest challenge?

Our greatest challenge was starting the business in an area which is not familiar with balloons as art and luxury, but considered as a cheap item to have it for kids, baby births and sometimes birthdays but not really for adults. Party shops that had balloons sections introduced the cheapest quality, with low prices, but for sure with unprofessional finishing and performance from which where we picked up our starting point for success. We were brave to introduce only the top quality with professional finish which is compared to other shops much more expensive, but most of the customers valued and admired our work and more people wanted to add balloons to their occasions. 


Another challenge we faced, as the balloons became more popular for occasions, the main wholesalers for low-quality items which operate exactly in our area introduced low-quality balloons with wide range of colors and foils so that decorators will have more room to compete, and even end customers were able to buy the balloons and check shops for inflating or decorating! We committed to our principle in introducing only the best quality, it was challenging for a while, but with time the low-quality was no longer a big competition for us.


At this time, Lebanon is facing a severe economic crisis that has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lebanese currency has lost more than 80% of its value since October 2019. Our main challenge now is that our balloons and supplies bills that paid in dollars are making the cost of each piece too high compared to what it used to be, leading to a very high selling price if based on our standard Job Cost Form.


Earth Plane - By Zahraa Jawad
Earth Plane - By Zahraa Jawad


How has your business coped during Covid-19 

When the lockdown started in our country, we contacted our customers and announced through our social media that we will be operating taking online orders and covering as much areas as possible to deliver. Most important, we showed customers that we are taking all safety measures during the process of creating the balloons till delivering it. We also kept posting on our pages, especially photos of customers with balloons celebrating during quarantine, this encouraged more people to get balloons for their occasions too. We mainly addressed the balloons to be the best gift for the person who lost the chance to have a big celebration, not encouraging any kind of gathering and parties. 


Mother’s Day was just around the corner, which is usually our busiest time of the year. We didn’t want to miss on it so we introduced easy to deliver, new, and affordable designs. By delivering the balloon to the mom’s door step with all safety measures taken, we had the best number of selling of all Mother’s Day before. After we re-opened our shop, we continued to push online sales, better delivery service, and took all safety measures at our shop so people felt safe shopping at our space. 


Covid-19 cost us the Baby Born occasion, which is our main income for the shop, as hospitals are not allowing balloons anymore, and since gatherings are not happening at the parents’ houses, so balloons were 90% skipped. However, I wouldn’t say that Covid-19 caused a great harm for our business because we are mainly specialized in delivery bouquets and medium to big designs, not in huge setups and big decors, so basically, we didn’t lose big parties’ contracts as we weren’t decorating these in the first place. Although we lost a huge part of the baby born celebration, birthdays celebration took its place to be the best-selling celebration at the moment at our shop. 

Mother's Day Decor by - By Zahraa Jawad
Mother's Day Decor by - By Zahraa Jawad

 

What advise would you give to a beginner?

Invest in learning and use only the best quality regardless of any market you will be operating in. 

Work based on a JOB COST FORM, a business is not successful without profits regardless the number of jobs or great art you do.

Be unique in what you introduce, don’t try to be someone else. 


 

Zahraa with her sister and business partner Hawraa
Zahraa with her sister and business partner Hawraa


What qualities are important for someone to be successful in the balloon industry?

For someone to be successful in the balloon industry, they should be passionate about it. This art requires patience, hard work and love. All these should be associated with education and lots of practice, as this is the way to become a professional. A decorator who loves to work with balloons may have it as a hobby, but only a professional can be successful in this industry.

Love is in the Air - Design by Zahraa Jawad
Love is in the Air - Design by Zahraa Jawad


What is your favourite design/decor that you have made?


We have many favorite designs. The Flying Hot Air Balloon is one of them, and the Baby on Moon & Cloud, also the Deco-Bubble-Table design that’s for all occasions.

 

Hot Air Balloon and Cloud Centrepiece by Zahraa Jawad
Hot Air Balloon and Cloud Centrepiece by Zahraa Jawad

Baby Twinkle by Zahraa Jawad
Baby Twinkle by Zahraa Jawad


What is your favourite Qualatex balloon?


The Birthday Gold & Rose Gold Ombrรจ 18’’ foil, Elegant Roses and Butterflies Deco-Bubble, The new Rainbow-Cloud Super Shape. We can’t pick one ๐Ÿ˜Š


18" Birthday Gold & Rose Gold Ombre Microfoil Balloons
#12279

24" Deco-Bubble - Elegant Roses & Butterflies
#29718

 

32" Rainbow
#97538


I always enjoy seeing Zahraa's beautiful designs! Her attention to detail makes her designs prominent, and it is easy to see that she gives each of her designs the patience and love that they deserve. Recent catastrophic events in Lebanon has obviously caused disruption to business, but identifying new market opportunities and offering on-line sales has proved successful during these difficult months! I have really enjoyed learning more about this very talented lady!



Thank you Zahraa, and wishing you and Hawraa continued success for the future! 

Happy ballooning! 


Sue
Follow me on Instagram @suebowler