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 OmbrΓ¨ 18’’ foil, Elegant Roses and Butterflies Deco-Bubble, The new Rainbow-Cloud Super Shape. We can’t pick one 😊


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














3 comments:

Unknown said...

I have a balloonshop in a maternity in Brazil and love and get inspired by your designs. Beautiful work.

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for sharing

Unknown said...

I deeply admire her work. Is an inspiraton for me specially in the balloon delivery business. Congratulations for this article that remember us the keys to sucess in this industry. 🎈🎈