Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Are you a Decorator, Twister or Deco-Twister?

When I first started in the world of balloons there was a distinct difference between a balloon decorator and a twister and never did the twain meet! 

However over the years, there has been an increasing overlap between these two worlds in the form of deco-twisting. The term "deco twisting" was first coined in the late 90's by several artists who displayed twisted elements in their balloon decor. However, deco twisting only really started to become popular with balloon artists and customers from around 2010. Ten+ years on, it is more popular than ever, especially when you look at all the detailed Marquee Balloon designs that are extremely popular today where there is always the addition of fabulously twisted details!


Elegant Balloon Marquee Design by  Balloons For Everything in Chicago, IL, US.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Moon Gates, Infinity Arches and Hoops - Elegant Wedding Trends

Weddings are back on the agenda! 

With that I mind, I felt that this is probably a good time to start talking about weddings again  and bring some inspiration to our brides!

Organic-style decor remains a favourite for weddings with moon gate arches, Infinity arches, and round arbors (or wreaths, depending on the name you refer to them as). These dreamy, full moon shaped arches have been the hottest ballooning trend for quite a while now. They really add that wow factor with their graceful shape and delicate nature - their uses are endless. Moon gates make a pretty epic backdrop that can be used as a top table backdrop, a gorgeous photo booth backdrop or for framing the cake table.

Elegant Wedding Wreath Designer name:  Instagram User @balloonilicious

Elegant Wedding Wreath Designer name: 

Instagram User @balloonilicious

Elegant Moon Gate Arch by Sue Bowler, CBA
Moon Gate Arch by Sue Bowler

I made the Moon Gate Arch as featured above. I designed it as part of a display for the Qualatex Trade Booth at Spring Fair 2020.

I made the frame using aluminium rods, and I created angular connections for the base to give it that circular shape rather than a traditional arch.

AeröPole System have now made a Circular Arch Adapter Kit - this creates rounded arches with the existing AeröPole System. This kit is now available from your local Qualatex distributor.

Wedding Hoops

In keeping with the circular theme, hoops are also very popular for weddings! Shown below are a range of hoops that I have made in different colour themes. I love to add flowers and greenery to my wedding designs.

Country Garden Elegant Wedding Hoop by Sue Bowler, CBA

Shades of Blue and Lilac - Elegant Wedding Hoop with balloons and flowers by Sue Bowler, CNA

Stunning Wedding Hoop featuring balloons and flowers in elegant shades of Pink and Peach
Wedding Hoop by Sue Bowler
Shades of Pink and Peach with accents of elegant silk roses and delicate greenery

Hoops can be displayed in many different ways; they can be hung or secured to fittings such as a staircase or on a pole and base as shown below.

Wedding Hoops by Sue Bowler, CBA

Elegant Wedding Hoop by Sue Bowler

If you would like to learn how to make one of these awe-inspiring hoop designs, check out this great video by Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Nir Balloons in Israel. 

In this tutorial Nir and Avital will explain and demonstrate how to make romantic, round and floral balloon frames using a combination of pastel colours, stunning flowers and of course balloons.

Balloons can look absolutely stunning at weddings. I believe that statement designs such as a moon gate or infinity arch as shown above are the most appealing to brides at this time, rather than a room filled with balloons which can look gaudy or over bearing. It is important to understand trends as well as have the capacity to react to them. Remember, most wedding decor trends start in the floral industry - I definitely take much of my inspiration from this market.

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me @suebowler


Sunday, May 16, 2021

From Unicorn's to Fairies - Whimsical Theme Decor Perfect for Summer Parties

There is something simply enchanting about Unicorns and Fairies! It is such a magical theme when it comes to creating decor! This magical idea is perfect for birthdays, new baby celebrations and baby showers too!

I am not traditionally a lover of outside decor, primarily because of all the problems that you can incur when putting balloons outside, (I will revisit this later in my post.) However, there are also many benefits when creating a fairy theme party outside! It's all about setting the scene and outdoor space that will allow us the opportunity to find the perfect setting! 

Sculptured Balloon Number by Sue Bowler, CBA.
Sculptured Balloon Number by Sue Bowler, CBA.

During the pandemic I created decor for my Granddaughters 5th birthday, due to COVID restrictions, we had to have an outside party, and to be honest it was absolutely perfect as the extra space allowed me to be a little more creative.

Unicorn by Sue Bowler
Unicorn Column by Sue Bowler

Garden Decor by Sue Bowler
Garden Decor by Sue Bowler

If you would like to learn how to make the Air-Filled freestanding Unicorn Design, and other simple balloon ideas to use outside, check out the video below.

If you would like to learn how I made the Number Five that I made for Alexa's birthday, check out the post that I wrote last year: How to Make a Styled Framed Number, and Make a Five Year Old Very Happy!  or click HERE
 Here is a little more 'Unicorn' inspiration!

Rainbow and Unicorn by Sue Bowler
Rainbow and Unicorn by Sue Bowler

Rainbow by Sue Bowler
Rainbow by Sue Bowler

So what are the factors to remember when working with balloons outside? 

You need to be aware that:
  • Balloons will swell and expand in the heat.
  • Darker balloon colours will absorb heat and pop faster.
  • Balloons will oxidise (go misty and cloudy) and lose their clarity.
To combat these issues, follow these rules:
  • Firstly, use quality balloons such as Qualatex®; quality makes a huge difference. 
  • Use much larger balloons than required. 
  • Work with 16¨ latex balloons rather than 11¨, and under-inflated them. A 16¨ balloon should not be inflated to greater than 12¨. This will allow the balloons to expand with the heat. If using 11¨ balloons, do not inflate them to any bigger than 7.5¨.  Always fully inflate balloons to their maximum size and then deflate until you reach the desired size. NOTE: Just under-inflating a balloon will make little difference. The idea is to stretch the balloon to its limit and then let it down to size. This will make the balloon more durable and less likely to pop in the heat.
  • Use light-coloured balloons and avoid using dark colours. Use accent elements such as ribbons to introduce the darker colours into the decor.
  • Plan for the balloons to oxidise. This is not a bad thing, it merely changes the visual texture of the balloon. Explain in advance to your clients that the balloons will look more “velvety” and acquire a rich, matte finish.
  • Use white balloons as much as possible; they reflect the sun and fade less.
  • When working with framework and poles, ensure that you cover these in white duct tape or wrap with white modelling balloons. This will help to keep the framework and poles from getting too hot.
  • If working with helium-filled balloons, keep in mind that extreme heat speeds up the balloon diffusion process. So, in high temperatures, helium will escape much faster than normal, drastically reducing float time. If you can find a way to provide shade for the balloons, it can slow the process.
  • Do not use water to cool down balloons. As the water dries on the latex, it becomes slightly sticky. The balloons can stick together, causing them to pop as they expand in the heat or move with the wind.
  • Use Qualatex Bubbles™️ and Deco Bubbles whenever possible as they can withstand the sun, rain, and wind, making them much more reliable for outdoor decor.
Summer time is the perfect opportunity to create some fabulous outdoor party décor and further inspire your customers with fun and exciting ideas! If you are struggling for good photos, why not set a party in your own garden? This will give you the opportunity to practise, and get some great photographs... that's exactly what I did! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler

Sunday, May 9, 2021

How Much Should You Charge for Your Balloons?

How much should you charge?

Being creative is fun, but working out how much to sell our work for is not quite so exciting!

I have written a number of blog posts on this subject, but with many new people joining the world of balloons, I felt that this was a good time to revisit this topic! 

I regularly see posts on Facebook asking for help with pricing and I know from my own experience that understanding how to cost your work is probably one of the more difficult aspects of running a balloon business. However, it is one of the most fundamental things you need to have at least a basic understanding of before you set up any business. Get it right the first time, and you’re well on your way to having a successful business. Get it wrong and you’ll either not make enough money to survive or you’ll be too expensive for your customers.

If an item is readily available at a variety of outlets, such as a carton of milk or a weighted helium -filled 18” foil balloon, then it will have a ‘market’ price. However, if it is a bespoke balloon sculpture, event decor, or even an elaborate arrangement, then pricing is not so straightforward.

Take your time to absorb this post, as it is full of important and helpful information, especially to first-timers! I have shared two great pricing tools that will help you with your pricing calculations, however, you still need to understand how to work out the different costs that you will need to include So please read through or watch the video's that I have attached to this post as each will also help greatly! 

So how do we price our work?

Remember, the price that you charge may be VERY different from the price that another balloon company would charge and you will understand why very soon.

There is one simple rule to remember when pricing - make sure that you make money!

To be able to calculate a selling price we need to know the following things:

  • How much our materials cost including helium (balloon gas), accessories and add-ons
  • How much we need to charge per hour
  • How much does it cost us to run our business (in other words, what is the overhead?)
  • How much profit do we want to make

Material Costs

Material Costs should includes all the components that you have used in the design or decor that you have made. This includes balloons, balloon gas, accessories, etc. It is a good idea to create a cost sheet with unit cost prices for every single items you use, even down to the little glue dots you may use!

How much should you charge for your time?

Calculating an hourly rate for a self-employed person is not easy. Many people begin by looking at the hourly rates of people that are employed. However, the rate for a self-employed person cannot be equated in ANY WAY to the hourly rate of an employee, and here's why.

An employee (someone who is employed) will in most cases be compensated for some or all of the following

  • Holiday/Vacation time
  • Sick leave
  • Work breaks
  • Obtaining quotes for a customer
  • Paid even when they have no work to do
  • Is provided with a place to work
  • Is provided with equipment, computers and all office supplies
  • Employer contributes towards a pension
  • Employer covers all the bills (heating, telephone, internet)

As a self employed person you will not get paid for any of the above and in addition:

  • You need to pay for premises - unless you work from home
  • You need to pay for business equipment (e.g. computers)
  • You need to pay for insurances (e.g. public liability)
  • You need to sort your own pension
  • You need to pay all the bills
  • You need to do your own marketing
  • You need to pay accountancy fees

In the world of being employed by a company there’s a simple formula to calculating out an hourly rate: Take the annual salary, divide it by 2 and remove 3 zeros.

For example; If someone is earning £20,000 a year, they are roughly earning £10 per hour. If they earn £25 per hour, they roughly earn £50,000 a year. 

If you want to make £20,000 per year from self employment you will need to charge more than £10 per hour. Remember, the rate that you pay yourself needs to include the time that you spend visiting clients, doing admin, sick days and holiday allowance... plus other expenses. 

Check out these Self-Employed Day Rate Calculators to help you to determine how much you should be charging. I am sure that there are similar calculators that reflect employment rates in different countries. Check them both as they work slightly differently.

https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/self-employed-income-calculator.aspx and https://www.freelancesolutions.co.uk/day-rate-calculator/ 

Running Costs and Overheads

This is the cost of running the business.

While overhead costs are not directly linked to profit generation, they are still necessary as they provide critical support for the profit-making activities. The overhead costs depend on the nature of the business. For example, a retailer’s overhead costs will be widely different from someone who works from home.

Some examples of overhead costs are:

  • Rent
  • Utilities (water, electricity)
  • Insurance
  • Office supplies
  • Advertising expenses
  • Accounting and legal expenses
  • Salaries and wages
  • Depreciation
  • Government fees and licenses
  • Property taxes

Overhead costs can include fixed monthly and annual expenses such as rent, salaries and insurance or variable costs such as advertising expenses that can vary month-on-month based on the level of business activity.

How do you calculate your overhead rate/percentage

To calculate the overhead rate, divide the total monthly overhead costs of the business in a month by its monthly sales. Multiply this number by 100 to get your overhead rate.

For example, say your business had £1,000 in overhead costs in a month and £5,000 in sales.

Overhead Rate = Overhead Costs ➗ Sales

The overhead rate is £1,000 ➗ £5,000 = .2 or 20%

This means that the business spends twenty pence on overheads for every pound that it makes.


Making a profit is vitally important for the growth of your business.

The term Gross Profit is the Overhead % and Net Profit % added together

The term Net Profit is a company's profit after all of its expenses have been deducted from revenues.

What net profit margin should a UK small business aspire to make in the UK?

A good margin will vary considerably by industry and size of business, but as a general rule of thumb, a 10% net profit margin is considered average, a 15% - 20% margin is good and a 5% margin is low.

In the balloon industry we generally use a Job Cost Form. The job cost form is a manual tool that will help you to calculate a selling price.

Here is an example of a Job Cost Form that I completed for a design that I made some time ago.

Now for the good news! There are now two Interactive Pricing Tools that I am aware of. These tools were created and shared by two UK Balloon Wholesalers. With both of these tools, you can easily work out the prices you should be charging for a product, service or decorating job. You will need to input materials, quantities and costs and then a total cost will be calculated for you. Adding in labour and other expenses, you can accurately come up with a direct cost for your job. From this figure, the tool then works out a selling price for you based on your desired level of profit and assumed overheads.

Balloon Market Interactive Pricing Tool

This tool also gives you the option to manually price your designs using the 
Manual Pricing Tool – This is a printout version of the interactive pricing tool so that you can write in details and work costs out yourself. A bit more difficult, but definitely worth doing - this is the same as the one that I used above when costing the Pedestal Bouquet.

There is also a Formula for Manual Pricing – This is a little guide on how to work out costs and selling prices. The numbers correspond to the boxes on the Manual Pricing Tool.

And to help you with your helium pricing, there is a Helium Calculation Sheet – This sheet is to work out your helium costs. All you need to do here is enter in what you have paid for your cylinder and the rental charges (if applicable), and the sheet will do the rest of the work for you. You can then transfer these costs into the Interactive Pricing Tool or Manual Pricing Tool.

To download this tool follow this link: https://www.balloonmarket.co.uk/interactive-pricing-tool

The other Pricing Tool is an App that has been created by Greetings House that you can use on your iPhone and is available from the App store, just search Greetings House. You are able to change the values and currency in the setting easily.

Both of these tools are completely free! I am sure they will become invaluable to your business as they are to mine! 

Here are two excellent videos that I believe will also help you to understand pricing a little better. The first one is from Balloon Market with Mark Drury of Qualatex Europe. Mark has helped countless balloon businesses work out the correct costings for their decorations and has given a lot of people the confidence to price correctly. Please note that this video was filmed in 2017 and prices quoted may differ.

The second video below features Keith Stirman and Dominic Cassidy - The Boys of Q Corner. In this video, they share their extensive knowledge of costing using the Qualatex Job Cost Form.
They show how to easily find the minimum sale price of your balloon work, as well as what happens when you discount your work, and how it affects your bottom line. They also demonstrate how to ensure you are pricing for profit and not just turning over money. Remember: Turnover is vanity, Profit is sanity & Cash Flow is reality! For the links that they mention visit 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXayX0IriPo&t=478s or click HERE

As I stated at the start of this post, pricing is probably one of the hardest parts of running a business, but it's so very important to get it right to ensure that you make a profit. Making a profit is essential for a business to survive.

I hope that you have found this post helpful! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebower