By Teresa Ferguson
With three months left of my pregnancy, I was excited and depressed at the same time. I was looking forward to my three months maternity leave, but knew that when it ended I would have to be separated from my little guy to go back to work. In my heart I knew that I would be devastated going back to my traditional job and leaving him with a babysitter. I have always dreamed of owning my own business but had no idea what I could do from home to make the necessary money we needed to keep our bills paid.
As I was getting bigger and bigger, my 2-door sports car seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. As the end of my pregnancy was coming to an end, my husband and I decided that a bigger "family" car was a necessity. I noticed that about ten dealerships displayed the same balloon clusters. I thought to myself, the owner of these ten dealerships must be a multi-millionaire.
I was curious to know how many other dealerships the owner had in addition to that one, so I asked one of the salesmen. His response surprised me, "Just this one." I told him that I thought that the similar balloon clusters in all the dealerships meant that they were all owned by the same person. He replied that the dealerships must all be decorated by the same company. He continued to boast about the balloon decorating company. "They come in once a week to fix and change the clusters, all for only $200 a month."
Immediately dollar signs went off in my head. Fifty dollars for one hour of work - once a week - per dealership!! That is $2000 a month that the balloon clusters in the 10 dealerships we had seen. I thought to myself, I could do this!! I went home and began researching online for "balloon recipes."
I found that there are so many different ways to decorate with balloons for both corporate and private functions. Holidays, weddings, religious occasions, birthdays; the list of potential places to decorate is endless. If someone is celebrating it, decorations are needed. I found recipes for archways, backdrops, murals, small and large sculptures, centerpieces, and companies that supply high quality balloons for making these designs. I had the information; all I needed was a place to operate The Balloon Pantry.
Because of the type of business I was able to set up a home office and operate from the back room in my house. I bought a balloon business package, lots of home business books, and a lot of balloons. One of the most important things offered in the balloon business package, was 20 pictures of designs that the seller had created. These would prove to be instrumental in sales presentations.
My husband and I sat at home evenings and just started playing. It was so much fun and we realized that you could make anything out of balloons. I made up business cards and decided that it was time to "open my doors." I started telling everyone I knew about my business and showed them pictures. I called and visited local businesses offering my services at a reduced rate - to get my foot in the door. For initial sales calls, I either schedule them for when my husband is home or have a relative or neighbor watch Joshua. After contracts are signed, I just bring him along to the client's office or place to be decorated.
I once read that for a person to establish creditability in a business, they have to hear the name three times. I had my work cut out for me. I attended bridal fairs and have gotten established credibility with photographers, D.J.'s, caterers, formal wear providers, and musicians. Their referrals are priceless, and I also refer my clients to them. Sometimes when my sister was up for a ride I would pack her and Joshua in the car and just go out cold calling in my area. I ran into perspective client's organizations and give my pitch while they waited in the car. I figured, "whatever works." Looking back I realize that the most important aspect of my business is continued dedication to marketing and advertising.
The initial response was slow but that was O.K., I knew that Rome was not built in a day. When we decorate, we leave business cards on tables, in bathrooms, wherever there was enough space for a card. One of our big breaks was through a friend who owns a pizza shop. He offered to staple our fliers to pizza boxes. Now that we are established, we are now thinking about expanding and adding on a balloon bouquet delivery service. This means that we will have to move out of the back room into a retail location. Eventually we are going to open a location in a big city 30 miles from here. I have big dreams for The Balloon Pantry and am having fun making them come true.
Thank you for your time in sharing my personal experience. I wish you the best of luck in whatever endeavor you partake. If you need any help or information please feel free to call or e-mail me. I would love to talk to you.
The Balloon Pantry