Starting a Balloon Business
Hi there! I am so excited you are here! The fact that you are reading this means you are looking at starting or have just started your own balloon business and I want to congratulate you on taking the first steps on what will be the most amazing journey! When I started my business there was no help. I knew I loved creating balloons (it was a hobby that grew into a business all on its own) and there were loads of courses for learning the skills to create amazing balloon art but none for how to actually run your own balloon business. I have seen far too many businesses fall by the wayside in their first 12-18 months and for this reason, I started the Balloon Biz Academy.
I offer loads of FREE advice here on the blog and in my FREE Balloon Biz Community to really help you drive your business forward… Starting a business is a course in itself, I am not going to lie… in this article, I am going cover the real basics but if you are serious about growing a business, and don’t want to waste the next 12-18 months trying to work it out by yourself, be sure to check out Starting Your Balloon Business: The Ultimate Guide. An interactive eBook and video masterclasses will get you growing your business fast because we all have bills to pay.. am I right?! So let’s get started together and look at what you really need to know about starting your own balloon business.
Homebased business: Balloons & Venue Decor Can be very profitable!
First up let me tell you that running a balloon business can be extremely profitable. Of course, like any new business it’s going to take a lot of hard work and without a road map some of this will come down to trial and error but it is absolutely achievable. A quick visit to the balloon forums will show you lots of businesses making a profit and growing year on year, many of them only offering simple classic decor but doing it well and in volume!. If you are looking for a business that is easy to start from home with low start-up costs then a Balloon and venue décor business might just be what you are looking for! It’s never been such an exciting time as it is now in the industry and if you are looking for a creative venture you will be amazed at what can be achieved. Most skills required to create balloons can be learned but it does help to have a creative streak and an eye for what looks good! Having a business road map will help you get the growth you need in the quickest time to build the best foundations for a successful balloon business!
Balloon Business Types – What sort do you want?
So what types of balloon business are there? Well, the first one you think of is maybe a retail shop on the high street selling balloons and party supplies, but you don’t have to have a shop many balloon businesses owners work from home or at least start working from home. You can do balloons for people to collect from your home or you can go out to local venues and supply balloons on their own or with venue décor. Some people also provide inflated balloons for sale at festivals and events like a street trader or offer balloon twisting to entertain at parties. Over time, lots of people also add on other services such as venue décor, children’s party entertainment, hire and rental props, etc but many stay as a true Balloon business.
Whichever type of balloon business you would like to operate my essential advice is to start simple and grow over time. Complicating things at the beginning often stops people from getting started in the first place and a year later they are still contemplating starting a balloon business! Take action today and get ready to start the greatest adventure of your life!
Balloon business for sale – to buy or start from scratch?
Whether you should start a business from scratch or buy an established balloon business is a question I hear a lot. By purchasing an established balloon business you hope to bypass the teething problems of getting out there and getting known, and start your business journey further down the road, in the hope this will guarantee success. If you purchase an already successful balloon business and know how to run a business, then absolutely this is a fantastic option. The only problem is, too many balloon businesses are sold because they are not as successful as hoped. Combine that with the fact that running a business is a journey and a progression of skill and knowledge for new entrepreneurs. It’s about learning the skills as you go and taking on a fast-paced busy business without developing those skills first can be stressful and overwhelming. The key questions to ask yourself are a) is the balloon business truly successful and b) am I ready to run a successful and very busy balloon business straight away or would I be better to start slowly and build my skills and confidence along the way?.
If you decide to opt for an already established business then make sure you do your homework first, as sometimes it’s more cost-effective to purchase equipment etc yourself. Also make sure you check, if you are buying a business with orders in the diary, that the pricing and profit reflect the sort of balloon business you want to run. The industry often sees people selling balloon businesses because they have been charging way too low and hence they can’t get their business established properly. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money, in order to buy a business, that is operating at a loss or with very little profit at the end of the day! Word of mouth is key in this business so ask around about the company, and see what potential customer’s opinions are, as it can take time to let people know there is new ownership and you want to know you are purchasing a company of good standing locally.
If you decide to start a business from scratch know that generally these do take longer to establish but the key benefit is that as the business grows so do your skills as a balloon business owner and your ability to keep up with the momentum. Taking courses in running a balloon business will of course fast track the growth of your business and generally, the investment you place in your own development is likely to pay greater dividends in the long run than the cost of buying a business because ultimately the success of the business will come down to your ability to lead it in the right direction.
Do your research – Get your business legal and ready to trade!
One of the biggest things I would tell you is before you make any decisions about your balloon business is to do some research and learning about what you need to do to set up your balloon business. This will enable you to understand your local marketplace and decide the best type of business, the structure of the business you need, what insurances and permits you need to trade, who you need to register with to pay taxes, and what direction you need to start off your business journey. These are the fundamentals that you need to get right so you don’t end up in trouble or with huge fines. Learning through trial and error is definitely not the way to go with the taxman and ignorance is no defense so you really need to get to grips with this from the start.
You will also want to put together contracts/terms and conditions to protect yourself and the customer and create business processes to ensure things run smoothly and you deliver the highest possible customer service. If you intend to employ staff you need to make sure you are meeting the regulations in terms of registration, insurance, and working conditions.
To ensure a smooth start to your business it’s useful to have a roadmap or checklist to follow so you can take action daily to move your new balloon business forward. It’s so easy to run off in all sorts of directions and go round in circles when running a business. Having a clear path to follow makes life so much easier and guarantees greater success. Ultimately the most expensive commodity you will have as a balloon business owner is your time. Believe me, there is never enough of it and knowing how to spend it most wisely is what will grow your business the quickest.
Making your business legal and fit for purpose can be one of the most worrying times for many people when first starting up a balloon business. You want to make sure you get it right and not land up in trouble for not doing something you should have done, or finding out later you have done it wrong! In Starting A Balloon Business: The Ultimate Guide I teach you step-by-step, not only how to legally set up and register your business in the UK or USA, but also the type of things you NEED to include in your terms and conditions to reduce the headaches later. You can access it here:
Balloon business names
One of the questions I see frequently is what to name the business. After all, you can’t buy a domain name, grab a Facebook page/Instagram profile, or order business cards until you have decided! Whilst ultimately you can call your business any name you want (provided it’s not been trademarked or registered previously) it’s often best to name your business something that has relevance to what you do and can grow with you as your business grows.
From an online search (and let’s face it that’s how the majority of customers find you nowadays) perspective, it really helps if you have the word balloons (and also venue décor if you plan to provide this too) in your business name. For example, if you want to call your business the pink frog or the green apple it makes far more sense to call it the pink frog balloons or the green apple balloons so people instantly know what you do and search engines will recommend you when people search for balloons locally on google or social media.
Emotive descriptive words can also help if you know the type of clients you are looking for. Choosing a name that will stay with you and last can be tricky because you really don’t want to have to go through the hassle of having to change the name later, but equally, you don’t want to spend too long deciding that you never get going either!.
Equipment needed to start a Balloons business
The good news is that to start a balloon business you don’t actually need too much equipment. You will need a basic air pump (hand and/or electric), a sizing guide to inflating the balloons correctly, a helium tank, and a helium inflator if you are going to offer helium balloons. You will also need some balloons – latex and foil, weights and ribbons, scissors, and some 260Qs for fixing air-filled designs. You will also need some way of talking to customers by phone and the internet as a lot of orders come that way.
If you are starting a home-based business you can purchase a lot of the balloon supplies as you go depending on the orders you get (although there are some designs it’s good to keep in stock all the time as they do sell well and are often last-minute orders). You will also want some initial practice stock to get practicing with and create portfolio pieces you can then use the photos from to sell to your customers.
Starting a retail store requires a lot more stock to get started as you will be looking to supply passing trade rather than just prebooked orders. The best thing to do for a store is to arrange a meeting with a local balloon wholesaler to discuss how they can help you get started.
Later you may want to invest in more expensive pumps that automatically size, stands, and frames but initially, you will just need the basics 🙂
Helium tank rental
Helium tanks can be purchased through a Balloons and party wholesaler. Usually, you pay an upfront price and then monthly rentals for every month you have the tank on your premises. By purchasing through a wholesaler you will enjoy lower pricing than going direct to the helium company as they will have negotiated a discount based on volume.
There are a variety of different tanks on the market. They come in different sizes (some more transportable than others) and each different make requires a different type of inflation valve so it is a good idea to do your homework on which cylinder is best for you. A good wholesaler will be more than happy to discuss your needs and not all wholesalers stock all types of cylinders.
If you get a traditional upright helium cylinder you will also need a cylinder trolley to keep it safe and upright and prevent accidents. The traditional helium cylinders are often quite heavy and all cylinders are under extreme pressure so if they fall they can cause injury and if the valve is damage there is potential for serious damages so they need to be stored either on a trolley or attached to a wall to prevent accidents.
The newer Genie cylinders are shorter and rounder and not nearly as heavy so do not need a stand as they shouldn’t be knocked over easily. You can get a handle and wheels for easy transport.
When transporting helium you should always make sure it is well secured. In England, you are also required to have a sticker on the outside of your vehicle indicating it is onboard. Outside of the U.K., you should check what the requirements are.
Balloon Business Starter Kit
If you are opening a retail store you should be able to get a balloon business starter kit from your local wholesaler with a selection of different types of balloons and supplies to get you ready for passing trade. Qualatex also offers the opportunity to have a representative advise on what you would be best suited for in terms of start-up supplies. It is also a good idea to get advice on the training courses you attend as to what you need initially to start out and keep your outgoing costs low in the initial phase.
Stuffed balloons machine
Some people start their balloon business by offering stuffed balloon gifts. If this is something you would like to do research the market in your area and ascertain there is sufficient demand as the balloon stuffers are a significant investment to make upfront. You need to make sure you are really pricing your products well to covering the cost of the supplies you put in them, and your time making them, plus the profit you need to run a successful business. Be aware if you plan to put food products such as sweets, chocolates, or alcohol in them there are rules and regulations regarding this and you may need to register or obtain a license/permit for their sale.
Some stuffed balloons can be done by hand but this is tricky and not really advised if you plan to offer this on a full-time basis. You will need to invest in a balloon stuffing machine to speed up the process and allow you to create them in volume without killing your hands in the process!
The ability to personalize balloons is in huge demand generally, people love their names on things, and a good early investment is a vinyl cutter to allow you to do this. A desktop size cutter is usually fine for what you will need to do. They are relatively low cost and very quickly pay for themselves in terms of orders. You do need a computer or laptop to connect them to as this is where you will load the software and design your cuts but they connect to most computers you are likely to have indoors so shouldn’t require an additional purchase (do always check the specification first though just in case).
I purchased my silhouette cameo 8 years ago (at the time of writing this) and I use it numerous times a week doing lots of personalized balloons. I have to purchase new blades and carrier mats from time to time but it’s still going strong so they definitely pay for themselves.
I would absolutely recommend getting training early on. There is some available online but hands-on practical advice is especially helpful early on. Balloon inflation is susceptible to changes in temperature and float times vary depending on the types and makes of balloons. Correct inflation technique is also essential to making sure the balloons you sell are of high quality and inflated to last, once your customers have taken them home or for the event at the venue. Return customers offer a higher value to your business and word of mouth is key to growing a successful local business so training early on to ensure you are delivering high-quality balloons is key to building your customer base. I would also recommend taking some training courses on air-filled designs. Helium is the most expensive commodity in balloon decor and its price has risen so much over the past year, and is predicted to rise again further moving forward, so being able to offer air-filled designs increases your profit margins. Air-filled alternatives will also help differentiate you from the cheap competition especially supermarket and high street chain card shops who very rarely offer such designs. Differentiation is key to setting your business above and beyond what else is on offer locally and air-filled designs most definitely will do that.
Build a Portfolio of your work
Customers want to see pictures of your balloons to choose from. Whilst you and I can imagine gorgeous balloon displays in our minds trying to explain this to customers is very difficult! For this reason, you need to start building a portfolio of balloon pictures to share with customers. This can be one of the hardest things when you are first starting out. In the beginning, everyone needs as much practice as possible, make designs that will sell easily first – birthday, new babies, etc then expand your portfolio. If you are going on training courses make sure there will be the opportunity to get good photos for your portfolio.
Don’t be tempted to steal other people’s work and claim it as your own. It’s so not cool! Not only can you find yourself in deep water with solicitor letters landing in your inbox you will quickly make a name for yourself in the industry and find you are not welcome in any of the social media balloon groups. Furthermore, customers will expect to receive balloons exactly like the balloons you show them. It is so much better to create your own photos in your style so customers know what to expect and are happy with what they receive. After all happy customers don’t just bring repeat business they also bring their friends and family too!
In Starting A Balloon Business: The Ultimate guide there is a video that shows you all the things you can do to quickly and easily build a portfolio when you don’t have pictures at the start.
Create terms and conditions/contracts for use with customers
Contracts including Terms and conditions are essential for any trading business and you absolutely need them for your balloon business. They protect both you and the customer. The contract itself sets out the specifics of the work you are undertaking for the customer. The included terms and conditions are the general “rules” that govern the contract you are entering into with the customers. They also set out what will happen when things go wrong. The purpose of your terms and conditions is to make it clear to the customer how they can expect you to carry out the work for them and what you expect of them to be able to do so.
I do advise all business owners to get legal advice around setting up their terms and conditions. Before you go and see someone though you will need to think about all the eventualities that might arise, where you will need to refer someone back to your terms and conditions, such as balloons popping, cancellations, postponing events, hire equipment etc, Whilst legal experts will be able to guide you on the way the document should be worded legally they won’t be familiar with your business per se so you need to have some ideas around what might need to be covered within your terms and conditions. In the Starting A Business: The Ultimate Guide you will find a full list of terms and conditions that are most likely to occur. You can access it HERE
Insurance and taxes
Other things to consider when starting a Balloons business is that you have the correct public liability insurance and that you have informed the taxman of your intention to trade. Depending on where you are in the world you will have different regulations to follow and you should check locally what you need. If you are based in the USA or UK this is covered step by step in the Starting A Balloon Business: Ultimate Guide. You may also need to inform your vehicle insurers if you intend to use your vehicle for work purposes. If you intend to hire employees you will also need to register and get the correct procedures and insurance in place.
Taking Payments and bookkeeping.
Okay, let’s face it… for a lot of us creative entrepreneurs the thought of numbers, spreadsheets, and general bookkeeping is enough to send us screaming to the hills. Hands up I am the worst for this… or at least I was when I first started out. To be honest, in my first year I had no idea what money was coming in, what was going out, or how much profit I was making… I was on a creative journey and as long as the money was flowing I was happy! Only it wasn’t flowing as well as I thought and at year-end when I had to then sit and do my accounts because the taxman was hot on my heels I was devastated to realize all that hard work really hadn’t accumulated to as much profit as I had thought and that was because I did not keep control of the numbers. If there is one key piece of advice I can give you when it comes to running a business it’s to learn to love your numbers… Whether it’s pricing or accounts you have to know what is happening in your business in terms of cash! Reality check…. that’s what being able to operate a successful business is all about. You need to be checking in with your numbers regularly…. You need to know exactly where things are working and be able to make changes quickly when things aren’t and the only way you can do that properly is to become friends with the numbers in your business!
Being able to take payment is obviously key to trading. Whilst you can obviously take the cash you will find a lot of customers today don’t keep that much cash in their purse. We live in a digital world where card payments rule so what can you do when working from home? I have run my business successfully without a card reader I simply use bank transfer and PayPal. Bank transfer is easy if your customer has a banking app on the phone and Paypal also allows for card payments too. There are fees for using Paypal but these are nominal and a lot of people like to use Paypal when making purchases over the internet as they provide customer protection in the event that they fail to receive what they have paid for. If you are going to be based in a shop or retail outlet you will probably find that customers expect to be able to pay by card so you will need a card reader.
Marketing your balloon business
There are so many reasons why people need balloons. Check out our free resource library at the end of this blog post, it contains a FREE eBook full of ideas as to the types of balloons you could make and supply in your business.
In an online world, you will find a large group of your customers who want to browse via the internet. They want to be able to shop and arrange their party or wedding balloons from the comfort of their settee. Whilst you will get a lot of business through social media this is becoming increasingly harder over time and you don’t own your social media accounts. For this reason, you will want a website for your business. A free one is fine whilst just starting out, although you might want to pay a nominal amount to be able to connect your own domain name (but this is not essential and should not stop you from getting a website). In order to get your website working for you make sure it is SEO (search engine optimization) friendly. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure you have a blog that you regularly update with content that the search engines will love.
Facebook and Instagram are in my opinion the best social media platforms for finding local customers close enough to purchase from you. Linkedin can be good also to attract corporate customers. Pinterest is great for finding inspiration and sharing to customers, especially at the beginning when you are still trying to build your portfolio. As I said before, it is getting harder and harder to get seen on social media but with the right tactics, there is still a lot of opportunities to get free organic advertising on both Facebook and Instagram.
Start building an email list of customers who want to hear what you have to offer. Social media algorithms show your posts to on average 2-4% of your customers. So for every 100 people you have on your page that is 2-4 customers seeing what you post. There are ways to increase this figure by creating content that the algorithm likes but when you consider my email open rates are around 25-30% and no algorithm deciding whether to show them your email or not (well apart from the dreaded spam box) its clearly essential to get them on to your email list. Not only that social media is a changing beast and you never know what the next update will be. If you were to lose your social media account tomorrow or Facebook started charging more than you can afford to advertise you would be back at square one with no way of getting your balloons in front of customers. By having an email list which you have grown and nurtured you will still have the means to get in front of customers and it’s a sure way to get sales. Last year for naughty elf I filled my slots within 2 hours of sending out to my email list and the vast majority came via email or messenger chatbot. All my seasonal campaigns such as mothers day, easter etc all sell out primarily through the emails I am able to send to my list.
Whilst a lot of people do their browsing and purchasing online its a very noisy place with so many businesses competing to get into their newsfeed. Don’t discount offline marketing. In fact, sometimes this can get you better quality orders than online marketing! Traditional marketing methods and networking with venues and other businesses to get your products out there and start to grow your business is key to growing a successful business. Work out who your POWER customer is and where you can find them and then make sure they are exposed to your business in as many ways as possible so that when they have the need to order balloons you will be top of mind..
So that was a very quick whistle-stop tour of starting a balloon business. I hope you found it useful! As I have mentioned throughout the post there is lots more information (in more depth), and video tutorials, in The Ultimate Guide, It is designed to take you step-by-step through starting and growing a business, reducing the time it takes to get established and making the profit you need to grow a sustainable business. I also have a FREE Balloon Biz Community where balloon business owners come together to share and learn from each other. I would love for you to come to join us so I can watch your business bloom and grow as we go on your business journey together! You will find the link to the community at the top of the page!