The How they did it series is a regular feature on the blog where we showcase balloon business professionals in various stages of their business journey. Today’s featured balloon artist is Liz Farley owner of Gather. I love how creative Liz is and the resilience she has mustered to follow her dreams and create an amazing business even through the most difficult of times!
Hi there Liz! Tell everyone a little about you and your business
I have a shop in Bingley, West Yorkshire. It is a rural community, but very close to Bradford and Leeds. The shop sells, partyware, cards, gifts and balloons. We also run crafting workshops and crafting parties. And we offer an event planning service on a variety of scales, from a birthday celebration to a full wedding. We pride ourselves in our knowledge of suppliers, both local, national and international and like to channel as much business as possible to our local small businesses: bakers, caterers, musicians, florists etc.
My husband was supposed to be my partner, but a week after we opened in 2018 he had a stroke! We have been up and running for 18 months. Before that I did some wedding planning in between being a full time English teacher for 15 years, and before that I worked in PR and Events in London. I NEVER thought balloons would feature in my life, to be honest I thought they were a bit tacky and should stay in the 1980s. However, I am a total convert now and think they are the BEST form of venue decoration – for style, coverage and value for money. I love experimenting, learning and trying new things and showing people how fab modern balloons really are.
What made you decide to start a balloon business?
I didn’t decide to start a balloon business. The initial idea was a partware shop with tasteful and modern party supplies. People started asking for balloons so I started doing them. It grew from there. Before the shop I could probably count on one hand the number of balloons I’d ever blown up in my life!
What do you love most about running your business?
I’m answerable to me. I’m not subject to a dysfunctional education system that I used to work in, or a misogynistic boss that I used to work for. I can be creative, reactive, proactive. Any failures are left to me to sort, and any successes are mine to celebrate.
What has been the toughest challenge for you building your business and how are you overcoming it?
Definitely having the energy and creativity to get a new business off the ground whilst my husband was lying in hospital paralysed down one side from a stroke. Because of this our trajectory has been slower than I would have liked – but we’re getting there.
What piece of advice would you give to yourself if you were starting out all over again?
Do more with balloons earlier – they’re a great earner and easily represent 60% of my takings.
How do you organise taking orders in your business to ensure smooth running?
Not well enough. I definitely need a better system and one that can be handed over to staff when I can take on full time staff so things can happen without me being there all the time.
If you own a retail store/commercial premises what tips would you give to get more customers in to your store?
WINDOWS WINDOWS WINDOWS and SOCIAL MEDIA
Do you have any tips for other balloon business owners?
Top Tip – Say YES to everything. You’ve always got time to work it out. I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done if I didn’t just blindly say yes and then work out the logistics later. Remember, you are the expert, and that is what people pay for. There is a lot more to balloons and their needs than people think and it’s important to show that you’ve got those expertise and that someone can’t just buy a helium tank and some balloons and do it themselves with the same result, whatever youtube says!
Thank you so much Liz for sharing your amazing story with us! How can readers connect with you?
The best place to catch up with me is on Facebook where I am hanging out with my customers
I love that we are on this adventure together, ordinary people taking extra ordinary steps towards our vision. Creative entrepreneurs who had the courage to take the leap, and put one foot in front of the other so that we might have the freedom to live the lives we dream our businesses will give us. By sharing our stories we can inspire, help and support each other to keep going, to overcome the challenges, the hurdles and enjoy this journey of creative discovery!
I’d love for you to share your story with me and the readers of the blog. Please get in touch and join the growing band of balloon business owners creating amazing every single day!.
🎈Until next time…. Stay Amazing! 🎈