With so many new businesses entering the industry as the economy has been hit hard by COVID a lot of people have asked me “what do you need to know when starting your balloon business?” In this blog post, I am going to share with you the 5 things I wish I had known when I first started!
The truth is I never actually intentionally started my balloon business… Like many before me, it started as a hobby, a love of balloons, and a creative outlet. Before I knew it people wanted to buy my balloons and I thought why not! It will pay for supplies… I hated making balloons and throwing them away and my family was a little fed up with my kind donations of balloons filling their homes on a weekly basis! So I took on paid orders, but before I knew it my fledgling business grew arms and legs, all on its own, and literally started to run with me racing along behind, desperately trying to keep up! This went on for about 12-18 months before I hit a brick wall!
I was working flat out, juggling way too much and stressed up to the eyeballs. From the outside looking in people saw me growing a successful business. My Facebook page and website were filled with the amazing balloons I was making, people were lining up to book and people were talking about my balloon creations. What they couldn’t see was the reality behind the Facebook profile! I was working way more than full-time hours, earning hardly any money, and was seriously considering giving it all up!
So what are the valuable lessons I learnt to turn my business into a profitable and sustainable business?
1. Value Your Time Above All Else!
When I started out I had so many issues over pricing and valuing my time and self-worth. I was working 60 plus hours per week and not even making minimum wage. There are so many things to do when running a business… obviously, you have to make the orders… but there is also time spent marketing, answering customer enquiries, sorting out collections, doing wholesaler orders and so many other things just to keep the cogs oiled and the wheels turning! Initially, I didn’t even charge properly for the time to create the balloon designs let alone everything else I had to do…
When I look back now I can’t believe it took 12-18 months to work this out! You see all that time I was spending working on the business is time I couldn’t spend doing other things. Activities that would have grown my business faster. Not to mention the time I lost with my family: the countless football matches I turned up late to or left early when my twins were playing. The times I missed them score the winning goal… The weekend activities I turned down because I was working. The late nights and early mornings… the exhaustion at the end of a full-on weekend where I had worked flat out 16 hours a day… I kept telling myself it was worth it… I was building a future for them… for our family.
And this would have been true if… and it’s a big IF I had been charging for that time! You see that time is priceless… you don’t get it back… Every minute or second you spend on your business should be accounted for and paid for by your customers or you are essentially working for free! When you are calculating your prices, or coming up with new designs, or working on your business plan you need to understand exactly how much time you are going to spend on your business and how much you need to be paid for that time. You need to run your business as a business and not a hobby at the expense of your precious time!
2. Profit is Essential For Growth
Apart from not charging for my time and pricing properly, another big mistake I made early on was not controlling my spending in the business! Hands up if you have wandered around the wholesalers filling your basket with all these amazing balloons and supplies because the possibilities of what you “could” create are endless! For a creative mind, the wholesalers is akin to a child in a sweet shop!
I recently sorted out my workshop in order to turn it into a recording studio for the Balloon Biz Academy and oh my! The stuff I had in there that I had bought it with the intention of creating another amazing design but simply never got round to it! I seriously have a bit of a hoarding problem when it comes to balloon supplies! It was like the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe! The amount of stuff that came out of that workshop! I had accumulated hundreds of pounds worth of stock over the years…
It’s true you do have to always buy extra balloons in order to have spares, in case of failure, but a too diverse portfolio and failure to guide customers to designs that could have been created with a reduced level of stock meant I had way too much money sitting on the shelves, gathering dust and eating into my profit. Worse still I had no idea how much money I was losing in profit because hands up I was terrible at keeping my books in the early days.
Let’s face it numbers, spreadsheets and accounting aren’t really what fires a creative mind, but, it is what creates a successful and profitable business. Had I kept a closer eye on my income and expenditure on a monthly or weekly basis I would have had far more profit to invest and grow my business, and treat my family to the luxuries that running your own business should give you! You need to learn to love your numbers and watch over them like you would a small child because they are the biggest thermometer to the wellbeing of your business! You need to know what they are doing at all times so you can keep them out of trouble and safe and well! It’s also true that what you focus on is what grows the most… so if you want to grow your profit then you need to focus on the numbers!
3. Differentiate.. Differentiate… Differentiate!
Okay in the interests of transparency, this blog post is titled what I wish I had known when I started… I actually intuitively knew this from day one but it’s far too important not to include this in this blog post! You see I honestly believe this is what made me so successful in my business. It meant I could pick and choose the work I wanted to take on and I attracted clients who were willing to pay more for something unique and different!
In a crowded marketplace, I hear so many people frustrated because they know they should be charging more for their work and valuing their time, but other people are driving the pricing down locally with ridiculously low prices! The problem is when you are all making similar (ish) designs pricing can be difficult. Customers are price savvy and social media is full of your competitors so they will often go where they can get it cheaper. Now let me be clear on one thing… NEVER enter a pricing war… DO NOT reduce your prices to match others… you will NEVER win. All it will do is drive pricing down further.
The secret to being able to charge your worth is to develop your skills and produce designs that frankly others can’t make or… make sure you are constantly coming up with new innovative and creative designs before anyone else! That’s exactly what I did in my business! Air-filled designs are key to this… After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to inflate a balloon with helium! I highly recommend learning to use modelling balloons in your business. Start off using them to add accents but then take it further and learn to twist. My business has always included a huge amount of deco-twisted designs. A fine mix of large decor with twisted elements has set me heads and shoulders apart from everyone else locally attracting new customers and creating the customer loyalty you need for growth.
4. Balance Your Creative Needs with the Needs of The Business
Have you ever charged a price for a design that you know is way too low because creatively you just “needed” to do it? I bet you have! I know I have! I have even convinced myself it made perfect business sense! Whilst this can be a good tactic as a one-off to expand your portfolio, and start attracting the type of customers you want, you have to be careful you don’t end up on a slippery slope with this! You have to make sure you charge the correct prices for any subsequent orders!
It does mean sometimes a large proportion of your customers won’t be able to afford that particular design moving forward and that’s okay!
Let me repeat that… it’s okay that most of your customers cannot afford some of your designs…
Take a couple of seconds to let that sink in… You see, every business should have premium products that are hugely profitable but as a result, you make fewer of them! Not only does this raise the profile of your business but it also raises the profile of the industry as a whole.
In my business, my double entwined hearts and cake table princess carriage were good examples of this. My customers loved them… I got lots of enquiries for them but a very much smaller number of customers booked them. Did that bother me? Absolutely not! The thing is I made a BIG profit on these items so this was fine, it also meant I attracted a more discerning type of customer… the type of customer whose drive to get exactly what they desired, or something unique meant they were prepared to pay more for it. Interestingly they weren’t all super-rich either! For most of them, I simply offered installment plans and they paid for it over time ahead of their event. The knock-on effect of attracting this type of customer was that even if they didn’t book the premium products their overall expenditure per order increased. I had so many customers who wanted to book something from me even if they couldn’t afford the premium product so it’s a win-win situation to be in!
5. Be a Good Boss To Yourself!
Would you apply for this job? I am guessing not! Yet so many balloon business owners have a job like this! I say a job because running a business is supposed to give you a better quality of life and lifestyle for you and your loved ones. Yet so many people are their own worst boss!
Let’s take a couple of seconds to look at that boss YOU work for! Does this ring any bells with you? What truths are there for you?
- She expects me to work weekends and evenings and never gives me any time off.
- She expects me to answer messages from the second I open my eyes to the second I close them when I go to sleep.
- If she begrudgingly gives me time off, she just makes me feel guilty about it.
- She doesn’t congratulate me on a job well done.
- I am not allowed sick days unless I am physically unable to move from my bed or in the hospital.
- She thinks my phone should be in my hand at all times or else the business will come crumbling down.
- She doesn’t care that my loved ones and children need my attention too they can have 5 minutes of my time when I have a 5-minute break here and there…
- She then makes me feel guilty because I am neither a great mum/wife/carer or business owner!
- She says mean things and doubts me ALL the time.
- She was supposed to be my dream boss… she was supposed to make my life better… I chose her because I didn’t want to work for a boss who only expected me to work 8 hours a day, thanked me for my work, and was nice to me whilst paying me the minimum wage or above.. She turned out to actually be the worse boss I have ever had!!!!
Maybe you are not quite as bad a boss to yourself as I was in the beginning but I bet there are some things on this list you do, and can relate to, because most people do make terrible bosses of themselves! Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to say running your own business isn’t hard work because I would be lying, but what is the point if you treat yourself so badly? Take a good hard look at how you manage yourself and ask yourself would you treat an employee like this? I am guessing not… so make a promise to yourself that you will only treat yourself like you would treat others!
There is so much more I could write on the subject of starting your own business and what I have learned from my own mistakes and solutions… but this is supposed to be a blog post and not a novel… I am interested to know from you though… What do you wish you had known when you started in your business? Let me know in the comments below!
Hi there! It’s so great to have you here! Having grown my own balloons and venue decor business I really want to help you grow a profitable and successful business too! I can’t wait to see where your journey takes us! Make sure you come join us in the FREE community (link in the menu above) and accelerate the growth of your business – The Quick and Easy Way!
Until next time… Stay Amazing!