The Balloon Book How to Decorate with Balloons

How to Decorate with Balloons
~ Learn the Tricks of the Pros ~
By Amanda Hall
Copyright 2003
Amanda Hall
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without
permission in writing from the author or publisher.
First Printing
May 2003
Additional copies of this book are available by mail. Send $44.95 each (includes
postage, CA residents include tax) to:
It’s A Gas
1620 N. Euclid Ave.
Upland, CA 91784
(909) 982-3301
Table of Contents
The Making of a Balloon Artist
The Meeting- from phones to personal meetings
All Balloons Go to Heaven- the make up of balloons
Equipment that Blows
Basic Design
Indoor Décor
Outdoor Décor
Budgeting Your Costs/Pricing Your Product
Making your Business “REAL”
Should I Reinvest?
Problems Facing Home Business Owners
Balloon Decorating
Made Easy!
This manual is designed to be a “jumpstart” or stepping stone for you. It is
designed to give you the basics, but it is up to you to take what you learn here and create
fun and interesting designs for yourself. Just so you know- my husband and I have been
in the business for over 13 years and we both have never taken one balloon class. Yepself taught and we’re very good at copying designs and adding a little here and a little
there to make the designs “ours.” This is also what you have to do. You are going to have
to actually blow up balloons while reading this manual. Practice, practice, practice!
We know there are a lot of people out there that either want to start their own
business or would like to do professional balloon work for their family’s and friend’s
parties, so we have included some info on how to start up your business easily as well as
basic tips to get you going quickly. Whether you want to hear it or not, now that you are
becoming a balloon pro, guess who’s going to be the most popular person in town- you. I
can’t tell you how many kids come by our house each week to get their free balloons to
play with. And when you take the next step- buying equipment such as a helium tank or
air machine, how many people will be calling you to do their next event.
So let’s get right to it, so you can learn quickly and always know that you have a
source at to turn to if you need tips, advice, or equipment and
The Making of a
Balloon Artist
The balloon business fell in our laps. My husband, Matt, and I never once
remember thinking in our childhoods- “I want to be a balloon artist when I grow up!” It
was only after Matt worked for a small balloon company that we started developing the
skills needed to become “balloon artists.” Amazingly, we never took one balloon class or
attended one conference. We did things the old fashioned way, we copied.
I’m not recommending that you just proclaim yourself a balloon artist today and
go out and copy the work you’ve seen. Probably the easiest way to get started is to
practice the concepts that are common in the industry and once you have those down, you
would be able to create pieces that are uniquely yours.
Later, you’ll learn the basic designs that are well known today. Your customers
may ask you to do an arch or a bouquet, and knowing the basics will lay the groundwork
for more elaborate designs. There will come a time when you will feel secure enough
about your abilities that you will recommend sculptures and dance floor designs that you
have never attempted before (but you will know how to come up with the concept and
complete the design). For Matt and I, it took about 2 years for us to be confident in our
abilities. If you take hands-on classes, you may be able to reduce that time. Also, the
timeframe depends on how many jobs you complete and the scale of the jobs.
Traits of a Successful
Business Owner
For now, let’s concentrate on the skills you need simply to be a successful
business owner. They include:
#1- A willingness to take a risk- I can guarantee that you’ll most likely not get
very far in life unless you have some “guts.” Someone told me a variation of an old
saying- if at first you don’t succeed, don’t try skydiving. I’m asking you to forget your
past failures and mistakes and go for the “gusto.” It’s one thing to be careful and another
thing to be fearful and to let that fear overtake your life. There could be so many things
that you feel are holding you back, past failures, negativity from friends and family,
money, age, race, lack of knowledge or resources, etc. Ask yourself, what is really
holding me back? If you can’t figure this one out, I would suggest writing yourself a
letter. The title of the letter is “The Reason I Can’t Start My Business.” After the first
paragraph, you may start to see that your making excuses for yourself. It could also be
that you haven’t properly prepared yourself. For example, if you write that you don’t
have the knowledge to start a business, consider what you need to do to overcome that
hurdle. Just beneath your “excuse” write down what needs to be done to overcome that
problem. Maybe you need to go back to school. Perhaps you need to communicate with
the people around you who don’t understand your goals, and ultimately if you feel their
negativity is holding you back, you should shed their friendship for now. It’s time to
surround yourself with positive, successful people. Go to Chamber of Commerce
meetings and industry conventions as a guest for now so you can not only meet people
with similar goals, but you can gain outstanding advice to help you get started and stay
successful in your particular field.
#2- Organization and Time Management Skills- if these things don’t come
naturally to you, don’t fret. Many business conferences host development seminars in which
business owners share their knowledge on how to be more efficient and get everything
accomplished in your work day. Many tools can help you be more organized, such as, a
computer, a scheduling book, record books, and filing systems. My way of knowing it’s
time for organization is when my work space is filled with clutter after many days. Then I
know its time for a trip to my local office supply store to find the latest in equipment to keep
my space uncluttered. Time is something you will see slip from your hands more and more
unless you set stringent rules for yourself. Allow yourself a maximum time frame for
meetings with potential clients. It was very frustrating for my husband and I to offer a FREE
consultation to new clients, go to their house, sit with them for two hours talking about them
and their families for an hour and forty five minutes and talk about the décor we could do
for their upcoming event for fifteen minutes only to have them decide not to do balloons at
all. We usually walk away feeling totally betrayed since we had given such an effort. We
also feel like we wasted a huge chunk of time that we can never get back. It wasn’t until we
finally decided to set a time limit for meetings that we felt our time was being wisely spent.
Now, our funnest challenge is to see how quickly we can secure the client for their
upcoming event. This is covered in the chapter titled “The Meeting.” Another obstacle we
faced on a daily basis was setting business hours. Having a home office makes this very
difficult. The office is always there as a room in your house, a constant reminder that you
have things to do, and if you enjoy what you do, it makes it really hard to shut the door and
make personal time for family and yourself. We do have extended hours for people with
balloon or helium emergencies (believe me, it happens), but we tell them that there is an
additional charge for us to come out beyond our regular hours.
#3- Focus- if you’re working on invoices and suddenly the phone rings and your
neighbor wants to chat about their upcoming vacation, will you chat or will you politely
tell your neighbor that you’re in the middle of something important and you’ll call her
tonight when you have some free time? I still get stuck listening to my mom when she
calls me in the middle of the day, but I love my mom, and besides, how could you ever
tell your mom she’s not as important as your work. You will have to decide the
importance of the interruption and if it warrants attention. If you find yourself wanting to
watch television for half the day, consider the reason. Do you want to avoid your work?
Are you burnt out? Or do your favorite shows come on during work hours. Maybe you
could tape your favorite shows to watch later, or if you’re tired of work, maybe you need
to give yourself breaks. For example, I love gardening, and when I’ve been at the
computer for hours at a time, it’s nice to be able to go outside and get my hands dirty for
an hour. I might pull some weeds or water my plants or plan a new section of my garden.
It clears my mind for the rest of the day and gives me an invigorating feeling. You might
consider going out to lunch with a friend one or two days a week. You could exercise or
take your dog for a walk to the park. A big part of staying focused throughout the day is
to avoid getting tired physically and mentally and sometimes a little outside stimulation
really does help.
#4- Confidence- Not the same as cockiness. You want to project that you are
confident of your abilities on the phone and in meetings and that you can complete the
task at hand. This is especially true for decorators. Brides have so many things to worry
about for their big day that they often want to be reassured that everything is going to go
perfectly. The truth is, it won’t. Early on in our meetings, we used to tell brides that at
least one thing will go wrong (I think we thought it was going to calm them down a bit,
when in actuality, it freaked them out even more). Now we promise to do the work
agreed on, and we deal with the problems as they come up the day of the event. The bride
does not need to deal with worries and headaches on her day. Your projection of
confidence will put her at ease, and your professionalism in how you handle problems
will also help. Balloons will pop. Things may fall out of place. Your job is to be prepared
and do the job well. We’ll go over quick fixings in the chapter titled “All Balloons Go to
Traits of a Successful
Balloon Artist
Now we’re going to concentrate on the skills that will help you in the balloon business:
#1- Creative Ability- this is critical. When my husband and I started our balloon
business, we had very little creative balloon ability. This was mainly due to our
unfamiliarity with balloons as something to “create” with. Artists will more often use
paper and pencil or clay or paint before they’ll get out a bag of balloons and go to work.
We both grew up with a natural ability for drawing which helps in laying out a room
design. You should have a sense for sizing things (such as counting out feet and yards)
and putting things in proportion to one another. To really understand how to create
designs with balloons, you’ll need to get down and dirty. Blow, tie, get creative. Let your
imagination go. In the chapter on basic design, you’ll learn the necessary skills to create
simple designs. This will be your foundation for future creations. Sketch some ideas on
paper and then test them out with balloons to see if your ideas will work. One way to
make your clients feel special is to vary designs to give them their own unique design.
#2- Strength and Endurance- We love it when people we meet ask us what we do
and their first response is “Oh, you must love what you do. Doing balloons must be such
an easy job.” My husband and I simply look at each other and smile. In our minds we’re
suddenly remembering the days when we got up at three in the morning, ate a five minute
breakfast, drove an hour to our first job, unloaded tanks and equipment, blew up and tied
500 balloons (while walking back and forth outside on a car lot, in the dark, while it was
35 degrees outside), reaching, bending, fighting the wind, not to mention keeping your
fingers from being ripped apart from the latex, only to load the equipment to drive an
hour to your next stop where you have to now drag your equipment up a flight of stairs to
get inside a banquet hall, unpack equipment, set up poles, start blowing up another 2500
balloons this time climbing up and down a ladder to get the balloons onto the poles, being
interrupted by idiot banquet people who need you to move all your equipment you just
unpacked so that they can set up tables, then you climb up and down a 30 foot ladder to
rig two balloon drops filled with 1000 balloons each that you blew up in one hour, finally
you pack your equipment, drag it back down the stairs (don’t forget the stairs), load it,
drive an hour to your next job where you have to drive onto a campus, unload your
equipment, by this time it’s 85 degrees outside, you’ve stripped down a layer of clothes
while driving, in the meantime the cell phone rings for a customer who has suddenly run
out of helium for his grand opening and absolutely needs a tank today, you have to work
doubletime, blow up another 1000 balloons, work to create an arch, place the items so the
wind doesn’t disturb them, try to find the person who called you for this event so that she
can sign your invoice and you can move on, you’re standing in the full sun now for about
two hours while working, you finish this event only to pack up to go the opposite way of
where you need to go to take care of that client that called you because he ran out, unload
a cylinder for him, load his empty cylinder, by this time it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and you
haven’t eaten since 3:30 AM, you drive to your next stop, a night club that wants more
balloon drops and room décor, you blow and tie another 1500 balloons, you set up the
room décor in the dark because the D.J. is preparing the room and music which is
blasting while you’re trying to communicate to your crew, you finish, pack up equipment,
load up and head to your final stop which is another banquet hall which has a back
entrance with a service elevator that vendors are REQUIRED to use, so you drop your
equipment, then you have to move your truck because you can’t park in the back, you
transport your equipment through kitchens, down long hallways, into the grand ballroom
where you have to set up a full dance floor with table centerpieces, you blow, tie, glue,
arrange, get interrupted by more banquet people who need to set up the dance floor, you
must finish this event in one hour because of that extra little stop you had to make for you
customer that ran out, you pack up equipment, go get the truck, pack up and drive to a
restaurant to eat, then you have to go back to the two banquet halls at around 10 and 11
PM to tear down all the balloons, trash them, collapse your poles and other equipment,
load them into your truck to finally head home only to wake up in four hours to start all
over again.
Yeah, we look at each other and smile…
#3- Patience- you obviously need patience to deal with the idiot banquet people who
keep interrupting you and the customers who forget to call you until the last minute and
can’t wait until the next day. It seems like the decorators are always scheduled last. First
comes the room, then comes the D.J., then comes the cake, the dress, tux, flowers, etc.,
etc., until someone finally decides that they have enough money for balloons. Yeah,
something like $200.
#4- Tenacity- If you want more business, you will find a way to get more. The chapter
on marketing is going to help you on this one, but the old saying “the early bird gets the
worm,” has never been more true. You have to talk to everyone you come in contact with
about your business. Don’t give people one business card, give them two or three. They
need one and their friend needs one.
#5- Problem Solving- Balloons, even good balloons, POP! And they pop at the worst
times, just when you are packing up your equipment and are about to leave. So what do
you do when you have little or no time to recreate the design? You improvise. You’ll
learn how to quickly repair balloon décor, but this won’t be the only problem to arise day
to day. You may get a flat tire. Your balloon shipment may not arrive on time. You have
to constantly be on your toes, ready for the next obstacle.
#6- Can Handle Loud Noises and Surprises- again, balloons POP! So many
people jump when balloons pop in their face. It is, of course a natural response, and
you’ll get used to it. The equipment may also cause loud noises. The tank valves may
open up, the air machines drone, and more commonly, outside noises will bother you.
D.J.’s preparing for the night can be the most annoying. Nothing against D.J.’s, but when
they continue to play music after testing the equipment and you’re trying to communicate
with your décor crew, headaches seem to suddenly come from the depths of your soul.
These skills discussed here are all things that can be developed over time. I’ve
heard many people say that unless you’re born with certain skills you won’t be able to do
one thing or another. I believe that practice really does make perfect. My husband and I
are living proof. Never having taken one class on the art of balloons, not knowing the
first thing about marketing, handling problem clients with no retail experience- these are
all things we eventually mastered before the age of 25. If we can do it, surely anyone can.
I think the qualities we possessed that helped were: a drive for success and achievement,
dependability, responsibility, honesty, and a positive attitude. It’s true, these are things
you can’t really learn, you just are that way or you’re not. My mom always said
something to me that I think was the reason for my true success- “just do your best.”
She’s the wisest woman I know. What she was telling me was if you work hard enough,
people will notice (your clients, your teachers, whomever it is you have to complete a
task for) and they will appreciate your dedication. However, there will be those people
out there who won’t notice you or your backbreaking work at all, and there is nothing
you can do to ever please those types. But when you work your hardest, you know inside
that you put forth a great effort, and nothing those negative people have to say will
matter. Simply prove you did the job prescribed (document your work completely with
pictures, video and by having them sign an invoice), do not doubt your efforts (don’t tear
down work competed because that is your way of acknowledging that you haven’t done
the job correctly), and stand up for yourself (if they refuse to pay for work as laid out,
take them to small claims court).
The Meeting
We began offering FREE consultations as a way to show our customers that we
were dedicated to them and very interested in their event. We have never charged for one
consultation, whether or not we have booked the job. Yes, it’s very hard to walk away
from a client when you believed the meeting was going perfectly and they decided to not
book right away. As soon as you leave this sort of situation, I would say that you’ve
reduced your chances of booking them to about 25%.
Your consultation meeting will probably begin over the phone. The majority of
our potential clients come from the internet and by word-of-mouth. We find that word-ofmouth clients are usually going to book with you if a friend highly recommended you,
and these are the easiest and always the most fun meetings to attend. There is very little
tension in the air, you have something in common to talk about (your friend that referred
you), and the client is not even thinking of talking to another company.
The internet is probably the second most successful booking agent. Potential
clients can see pictures of your work online, you can have pages dedicated to different
types of events- birthdays, weddings, etc., and you can list unique things about your
company in detail. When a customer calls from the internet, usually they ask about prices
for the pictures you have displayed. This is your opportunity to ask them what type of
event they are having, and you can set up a meeting to actually sit down with them and
design their décor based on the styles they preferred.
The yellow pages tend to be the least successful in helping us book decorating
jobs. We believe ads will do better with keywords like FREE CONSULTATION and
ONSITE DÉCOR. The yellow pages are ineffective in showing photos of your work,
however, and this can make the phone conversation very cold. As much as you try to
describe your work over the phone, it does not compare to what photos offer- a real
display of what a room looks like filled with balloons and color. This is when we offer
the FREE Consult and a chance to show a picture book.
Use the form on the following page to help you take notes from phone
Order Sheet
Bill To:
Company Name: ___________________________________________________________
Name: ___________________________________________________________________
Address: _________________________________________________________________
Phone: ___________________________________________________________________
Email: ___________________________________________________________________
Fax: _____________________________________________________________________
Credit Card
Card Number: _____________________
Type: _____________________ Exp. __________
Name: ___________________________________
Delivery Info:
Message: _______________________________
Delivery Date: ____________ Time: ________
Event Info:
Name of Site: ______________________________________ Specific Room: ______________________
Address of site: ________________________________________________________________________
Contact Person: ____________________________________ Phone : ____________________________
Set-Up Date: ______________________________________ Time: ______________________________
Start Time of Event: ________________________________ Time to Start Décor:___________________
Tear Down Date: ___________________________________ Tear Down Time: _____________________
Colors: _______________________________________________________________________________
Themes: ______________________________________________________________________________
Special Items or Types of Décor preferred: __________________________________________________
Types of Décor and Estimates for Focal Points:
Entrance: ____________________________________________ Estimated: __________
Dance Floor: _________________________________________ Estimated: __________
Tables: ______________________________________________ Estimated: __________
Head Tables: _________________________________________ Estimated: __________
Cake Table: __________________________________________ Estimated: __________
Photo Backdrop: ______________________________________ Estimated: __________
Stage: _______________________________________________Estimated: __________
Other General Décor: ___________________________________Estimated: __________
Most customers will want to meet in the evening (after work). See if you can book
for late in the week- Friday is a good day because people are glad the weekend is near.
Ask for their complete address with directions and cross-streets as well as a phone
number. Find out where the event will be held and a phone number for that location.
Finally, call the day before the meeting to confirm that they are still available for the
We found that the more relaxed a meeting went, the more often the client did not
make a decision right away. It may sound a little greedy, but if you want the business,
push for a signature and deposit before you leave the meeting. This may be your one and
only chance to secure the sale, and if you create a sense of urgency, the client will be
more inclined to book you for their event. Look at your schedule book near the end of the
meeting and look a little worried. Say something like, “Well, things are booking fast for
that weekend so if you want me to pencil you in, we’ll need a security deposit of $XX.”
You may not even have to come up with the bid price and design right away. Just
promise them you will do your best to stay within their budget and that you will call them
with the final estimate.
The meeting is your opportunity to develop a relationship with the client and go
over balloon colors and decorating designs. You should recommend metallic or pearl
tone colors for most high-scale events. You will learn why in the next chapter. As far as
the general design goes, you will need to have the client sketch out the room, and better
yet, if the location is within your range, go take a look for yourself. Sketch out the entire
room- entrances, EXITS (very important because of fire code- you cannot block any
exits), stage, dance floor, tables, light fixtures, ceiling height and type (important for
rigging). Then take a brief look around the room and write your impressions- this should
include the colors of the floor and walls, the feel of the room- bare walls make for a cold
feeling, etc. Your potential client will be very impressed by the homework you did. You
can then make suggestions about what you think should be done- the walls need
something, the ceiling is too low for arches, but we can do this instead…Finally, ask
many questions of the client and listen very carefully to what they are saying. They will
often reveal very honestly if they don’t like a particular design. Once they say so, don’t
push that design! Come up with something unique from your pictures that says something
about the client’s personality. For example, if you find out the client and her fiancé met at
a theme park and rode the swan ride there for the first time, recommend a sculpture of
two swans coming together. She may love it or hate it, but she will most likely seem
intrigued with your unique ideas.
It’s hard to read people over the phone. Many times, they will just come out and
tell you that they don’t want to look for anyone else to decorate and they want to book for
sure. We found that we secure the sale more often when the customer has waited until the
last minute to get someone to decorate. Also, we have booked many events right away in
which the original decorator cancelled. Please, if I had to give you any business advice to
live by, don’t cancel on a bride the week or day before her event. You will lose business
very quickly in your city by doing this to just a handful of brides. Believe me, word gets
around. If an emergency comes up, as they do, call another company for the bride and
make arrangements. It’s a very good idea to meet other people in your business. You can
exchange business when one or the other is busy or has an emergency and you will have
much to learn from one another about new styles and equipment.
All Balloons Go
To Heaven
Typically, the average 11” latex balloon lasts about one day, that’s 20-24 hours.
They are perishable items and have a short-lived (but fun) life. When you think about it,
latex balloons get to see it all, parties, dancing, triumphs… It takes a lot to make a good
latex balloon. You could say it’s similar to good genetics and environment. It takes an
excellent manufacturer in the right climate to make the perfect balloon. Betcha didn’t
know that all this matters so much. It does!!! Take it from us, you don’t want to go cheap
on your clients just so you can make the few extra dollars. You’ll never get booked again,
and you’ll soon see why.
Latex balloons should be made with two things in mind, durability and color, but
this is not always the case. When looking for a brand of balloons, I suggest going to the
top of the line- that’s Tuf-tex made by Maple City Rubber Co. or Qualatex made by
Pioneer Balloons. Both of these balloons meet the standards of durability and color
choice. Each of these brands has their unique qualities- Tuf-tex makes a large 17” balloon
that has come to be known as the “outdoor balloon” by professionals, and Qualatex offers
a color line that is unmatched. Both offer sizes ranging from 5” to 36”, which opens up
creative ability. Start with these brands and then buy a few bags of the cheap stuff from
your local store. Look at the balloons uninflated side-by-side. The better brands will have
a long neck for easy tying, the neck roll will be thick- this tells you the latex is thicker,
and finally, when you put your fingernail through the neck of the balloon, the better
brand won’t break. You will have fewer balloons with holes in them and the color will
not come off onto your hands. Keep a bag of the cheap stuff in your consultation bag to
show your clients what you don’t use and tell them why. The cheaper brands are usually
made in warmer climates which is not an ideal place to make latex balloons. The latex
does better when made in cool weather. Also, the thicker balloon is going to hold up in
unpredictable conditions- hot temperatures, direct sunlight.
Latex balloons are made of latex. Not to seem condescending, but so many people
get angry with us when their latex balloons started drifting and were on the ground the
end of the next day. Latex is a pourous material, and helium escapes out of the pours over
the course of the life of the balloon. Helium is lighter than air- it has liftability. When you
fill up a latex balloon, the pours get stretched out. The bigger you blow up the balloon,
the bigger the pours get, and you got it, the more the helium escapes.
Blow up a latex
balloon to its
prescribed size to
maximize its life.
An overinflated
balloon will
allow more
helium to
escape through
the larger
There is a product you can buy to triple the life of a latex balloon. It’s called Hifloat. It acts as a coating agent for the inside of the latex. It comes with a handy pump
that measures the amount of Hi-float you’ll need for a particular size, and you simply
insert the uninflated neck of the balloon into the pump. You fill up the body of the
balloon, mush the material around inside, then inflate the latex. The Hi-float coats the
inside and seals the pours, thus helping the balloon to live about 2-3 days, sometimes
longer depending on conditions and size. Our experience with Hi-Float is that it is a nice
product if you have many jobs and need to pre-inflate balloons the night before for some
jobs. Otherwise, it adds to your cost. You may want to offer it as an extra item when you
sell balloon bouquets so your customers can enjoy their balloons longer. The Hi-float
instructions should be read carefully before used as well. The material is very thick and
can gunk up your regulator valve if it’s pumped into the neck of the balloon instead of the
Latex balloons will be affected by things such as light and heat and there are
tricks to prolonging their life in these situations. Something important to remember is the
smaller the balloon, the heavier it is when filled with helium. The larger size allows more
helium to carry it throughout the day or days. See the chart below for average flying
times for latex balloons in various sizes.
12-16 hrs
18-24 hrs
26-32 hrs
30+ hrs
36+ hrs
3-5 days
5-7 days
Avg. # per
110 Tank
Avg. # per
219 tank
.06 cu ft
.25 cu ft
.5 cu ft
1 cu ft
1.3 cu ft
1.6 cu ft
8 cu ft
35 cu ft
*Average flying times are calculated at normal indoor temperature and sea level. Actual
results vary by inflation, sizing procedures, temperature, and elevation.
The next most important thing to know about latex balloons is that they oxidize
over time. After about the first hour of blowing them up, they will start to get hazy or
cloudy looking on the outside. This is why you want to decorate events as close to the
start time as possible, leaving yourself about one hour to clear out equipment and for
guests to show up early and not see all the behind the scenes, work stuff. Keeping the
balloons cool and out of direct sunlight will also help their appearance. The sun is really
the latex balloon’s enemy. Once the latex starts to heat up, the balloon will expand and
most often, this is when the balloon’s life is over. It either bursts because it was inflated
to maximum capacity, or it leaks out of a thin spot and deflates. You can extend its life
once again!!! Simply inflate it to about 75% when the weather is hot. This will allow the
latex to expand as the helium and air heats up inside. You can also use light colors in
large sizes to extend the life. Use white, yellow, orange and pink during the hot season.
These colors reflect the light best. Also, the 16” and 17” can be underinflated and will
carry much longer than a standard 11” size.
The next item that plays a role in the latex balloon’s life is its make-up, not makeup as in cosmetics, but the type of balloon it is- a standard color, a jewel or crystal tone,
or a metallic or pearl tone. Standard balloons are made of flat latex colors, but this makes
them the most durable. Colors usually include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, white and
pink. Some companies offer shades of these colors, and they classify them as pastel
balloons, such as lavender, mint green, etc. Jewel tones are usually deeper tones of the
standard colors, but they are see-thru balloons. This crystal effect often makes them more
prone to popping in hot weather, but the colors are highly desirable for balloon bouquets
because the colors are vibrant. Finally, metallic balloons are the most popular for balloon
décor because the latex has a glitter in the paint that reflects light. This gives the balloons
a shiny effect that can make any room look instantly elegant. Something important to
note about any metallic balloon is that they will not float as long because the paint in the
latex is heavier. Cut about 5-10 hours off the average flying time.
The final determining factor of a balloon’s life is the material used for inflation.
The most common gases used are pure helium, helium mix, air, or nitrogen. Pure helium
is the most expensive and not commonly used by balloon professionals. Most
latex balloons are not designed to last more than a day or two, so pure helium
becomes wasteful. Some florists prefer to use it for mylars to make them last
a long time. Helium mix is more commonly used because it has just the right
amount of helium to make latex balloons and mylars float for an appropriate
time. When you ask your helium supplier for helium for your balloons, they will most
likely give you the price for this sort of helium rather than pure helium. Air can be used
for balloon décor that is sculpted onto poles or designed to be rigged, and can be very
profitable once you make the investment for an air machine. Air machines are designed
to intake air from our atmosphere and pump it through nozzles into your balloons.
Nitrogen tanks can be rented or purchased just like a helium tank, only nitrogen will fill
up the balloon similarly to air- the balloon will not float. Air from air machines tends to
do better inside latex balloons. Nitrogen seems to act much like helium on a balloon,
making it shrivel up.
That Blows
There is equipment that should be considered essential to balloon artists. Your
needs will depend much on the types of decorating you will be doing. Below I have
broken down the equipment by the level of work being performed- basic, expert, and
balloon pro. You may notice that the levels go from basic to expert, jumping an
“average” level. This is because once you have mastered many of the novice designs, you
will jump to a “higher” level very quickly. You will suddenly separate yourself from the
beginners simply based on the ease with which you will be able to perform. Please take a
look at the equipment below and really scrutinize over which items you really need and
don’t need. I will make suggestions here and there, but only take my word based on years
of my own experience with many of the products. What works well for me may not work
well for you. And vice versa.
THE HELIUM TANK will probably become the most essential part of your
tool chest (it’s kind-of a big tool, but necessary). Please read the following
information. It’s boring, but important!
EMERGENCY OVERVIEW: Helium is a colorless, odorless, inert, nonflammable gas. The main health hazard associated with releases of this gas is
asphyxiation by displacement of oxygen.
OVEREXPOSURE by this gas is usually caused by inhalation (A BIG NO!
NO!). Individuals exposed to high levels may experience headaches, ringing in the ears,
dizziness, drowsiness, unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting, and depression of all senses.
The skin of the victim may have a blue color. Under some circumstances, death may
FIRST AID includes removing the victim to fresh air. Do not attempt to remove
the victim without adequate personal protective equipment. If the victim is not breathing,
give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give them oxygen.
PERSONAL PROTECTION: To protect yourself from exposure, work in a
highly ventilated area. Avoid exposing cylinders to extremely high temperatures, which
could cause the cylinders to rupture or burst. Close the valve after each use and when the
tank is empty.
COMPRESSED GAS: Know that helium is considered a compressed gas and is
classified as a hazardous material as defined by 49 CFR 172.101 by the U.S. Department
of Transportation. It is considered Hazmat class number 2.2 (non-flammable). The UN
identification number is UN 1046. The department of transportation requires that you use
this label on your invoice or transport ticket. This information lets an emergency crew
know what is in the cylinders in the event that you are unconscious or harmed.
VEHICLE TRANSPORTATION: When transporting helium tanks, the tank
should be shut-off. The regulator should be removed and the tank should be capped and
secured. You must also carry a transport log or ticket. This slip must be in plain view in
the driver’s compartment while cylinders are being transported. You may also need nonflammable placards depending on the cubic feet being transported. Please contact your
local department of motor vehicles, DMV, for specific information in your area.
NON-VEHICLE TRANSPORTATION: When transporting a tank outside of
your vehicle, use a dolly. Never pick-up, roll, drag, or slide cylinders. The slightest
damage can create a leak in the neck of the tank. If this occurs the tank will need to be
hydrotested. Hydrotests have to be performed every 5-10 years depending on the type of
cylinder you have. Contact your local gas supplier or welder about information on
STORAGE and HANDLING: Cylinders should be stored in a dry, wellventilated area away from sources of heat. Store containers away from highly trafficked
areas and emergency exits. Post “No smoking or Open Flames” signs in storage and use
areas. Prevent cylinders from being exposed to moisture as to avoid rusting. Keep the cap
on the cylinder when not in use.
SECURING cylinders is a law. Cylinders should be stored upright and be firmly
secured to prevent falling or being knocked over. YOU CAN BE FINED BY THE FIRE
OPERATING the cylinder is simple, but you should be aware of the hazards
associated with helium and cylinders before operation. To turn the tank on, turn the dial
on top of the tank clockwise. To turn it off, turn the dial counterclockwise. DO NOT
check to see if the tank has pressure in it by opening up the valve without a regulator or
balloon filler attached.
EQUIPMENT must be maintained at all times because helium is a compressed
gas and can cause damage in some cases. If you suspect that there is a leak in the neck or
valve fitting of the tank, turn it off immediately and have the tank serviced by your local
supplier. A simple home test that helps you determine if there is a leak is to spray soapy
water around the neck fitting. If bubbles are produced, there is a leak. Leave the tank off
and have the supplier transport the tank and fix the problem.
used piece of equipment, and there are different styles varying
from simple and slow to quick and efficient. The regulator is
designed to fit any size helium tank. Regulator fittings will vary
depending on the country you are in (just be aware if you are
purchasing over the internet from another country).
INSTALLATION is as simple as placing the opening of the regulator valve up to
the opening of the valve on the tank and screwing it on with your hand. Older style fillers
are called wrench-tights and need to be tightened a bit with a wrench. The newer models
are called Hand-tights. I gather you can figure this one out.
TURN THE DIAL on top of the tank to on (clockwise), and the needle on the
gauge should point to the amount of pressure that is in the tank. A full tank will be at
about 2000 psi (pounds of pressure). All sizes of tanks will be filled to about 2000 psi. If
you need a tank to blow up more balloons, don’t ask for more pressure (no company will
break the law and go over the prescribed amount of pressure that a tank can hold). Ask
for a larger cubic foot tank.
TURN THE TANK OFF WHEN NOT IN USE to conserve gas. Bleed the
nipple on the regulator to release pressure within the regulator. Always unscrew the
regulator when transporting.
Air Machine
AN AIR MACHINE can be a great investment for any balloon artist because
once you’ve purchased it, you don’t have to have anything
refilled. Air machines are usually operated by electrical
power. You plug them into any standard wall outlet and turn
them on, and they go. Air machines work especially well for
doing air-filled balloon work such as, columns, heart and
other designed sculptures and balloon drops. I recommend visiting our website at to see the latest in Air Machine technology. There are now
attachments such as foot pedals that work nicely with the air machines to control the
on/off power (giving you a break from the noise). The current model, Air Force 4
features a paint bucket design with four nozzles on top that have attachments for different
sized balloons.
Speed Equipment
When you’ve mastered the basics of ballooning, you will start to become more in
demand by clients. Not only will they be calling you for repeat events, but they will be
referring their friends to you. When this starts to happen, you will want to invest in some
equipment that will make you twice to three times as fast as you were. Some of the
equipment does take getting used to, but once you do, you will never want to go back.
BALLOON REGULATORS: A standard regulator
does exactly what the name says, it regulates pressure coming
out of the cylinder and makes the gas come out at a more
manageable rate so that you can fill balloons. You will want to
upgrade to speed inflators, or also known as double or triple speed valves. These
types of fillers have two to three nozzles coming off the main part of the valve. They are
also made to let the pressure come out of the cylinder at a faster rate. When we teach
classes, students are always amazed at the demonstration of the economy inflators
compared to the speed inflators. We get lined up side by side, count down with balloons
on the nozzle and say “go!” We both start to inflate the balloons and the person with the
speed inflator is always three seconds ahead of the person with the economy inflator.
Three seconds may not seem like a lot of time, but it adds up when you have 1000-2000
balloons to inflate maybe three or four times in a day. Also, the speed inflators push the
helium out fast even when the tank pressure is getting low. On economy inflators, the rate
of release of pressure slows down with the amount of pressure remaining in the tank.
RIBBON RACKS and DOLLYS: Ribbon racks are ideal
for pulling off 10-20 pieces of ribbon and pre-cutting them for
events. Also, it is nice to have control over the ribbon as you tie
balloons. Dollies make transport of your helium tanks safer and
faster. There are different types of dollies available including ones with attachable trays,
ones with workbenches for sizing equipment, and ones for smaller cylinders.
Accuracy and Efficiency Equipment
SIZERS: There are cardboard template sizers and then there are inflation outlets
that connect to cylinders and help you size two balloons exactly the same size in less time
than a speed inflator. You may not need this type of equipment unless you need your
work to look very uniform. With time, most balloon artists develop an eye for size, but
when doing sculpture work, these sizers are very handy.
BALLOON STUFFERS: There are handheld stuffers that balloon artists use to
stuff multiple smaller balloons into larger balloons. There are also bigger box looking
machines that hold and inflate one large balloon so you may place items inside- often
called a balloon stuffing machine. Both types of equipment are nice additions to the
expert’s tool chest.
MYLAR TIP FOR INFLATOR: You may want to purchase an
inflator with a mylar tip. This mechanism allows gas to escape out the
sides of the nozzle when the mylar is completely full (this saves you
from bursting the mylar and will save you many dollars!)
TOOL CHEST/WORKBELT: This is a must have for experts. Purchase a small
work bag from any hardware store and put the following items in it: 1 1/8” crescent
wrench (for taking inflators on and off tanks), clear packaging tape, duct tape, small pairs
of scissors, clear 30 or 40 lb. fishing line, baggy with zip ties and paper clips, roll of
ribbon (white), pen and pencil, small calculator, duplicate form invoice booklet, and
business cards. You will need one or all of the following items at one point or another
and will be glad you came prepared. You may also want to purchase a soft leather tool
belt with three large pockets. These are great for holding loose balloons you are working
Balloon Pro
Special Effects
One way to wow customers and start to set yourself apart from the average
balloon artist is to invest in some special effects equipment made especially for balloon
artists. From confetti cannons to exploders, customers will love the unique décor designs
you will be able to offer.
CONFETTI CANNONS: These are usually battery
triggered (which is a nice feature because they are always going to
go off unless you forget to charge the battery). They are designed to
be rigged to the tops of columns are can be hidden by your design if
you’re creative enough. With the push of a button, confetti is shot
out to cover the crowd.
BALLOON EXPLODERS: Exploders are little mechanisms that are taped onto
latex balloons that have been stuffed with smaller balloons and confetti to be popped on
que. The kit consists of air hoses, and connectors and a small tank to push pressure
throughout the hose and push the tiny pins out on the mechanisms taped to the balloons.
These are highly requested at weddings over dance-floors.
LIGHTING: Lighting can make all the difference for your décor. You can
purchase can lights from hardware stores, and now there are bulbs made to fit in the
nipple of 36” balloons to light them up. Many decorators are now using cool light sets to
string onto columns and string over dance floors. It’s also a nice idea to light up
sculptures or backdrops with lighting.
A NOTE ABOUT SAFETY: Don’t forget to use duct tape to tape all cords down
and out of the way. Also, plan out the décor in terms of how you will hide things like
battery boxes, cords, tape, and clips. And always look at the room beforehand to draw out
exits and wall plugs.
Basic Design
I won’t lie. Balloon decorating takes a great deal of patience, skill and know-how.
Patience, however, is the key. It never fails that just as soon as you start packing up to
leave a job, you hear “pop!” And then you fear to turn your head to look. It could be
something as simple as a single balloon in a bouquet, or something as bad as a balloon
that was holding a cluster together in an arch and suddenly the arch is separating.
What matters most is how you handle a situation like this. Everything you do in
balloon décor factors back to the basic design elements. If you know exactly how to put
something together right from the start, you will avoid many common disasters. So, let’s
begin with inflation. Something that sounds simple, but seems to evade a lot of people.
And really, you can’t call yourself an artist until you’ve mastered this.
Task 1: Place the neck, or nipple, of the balloon over the nozzle. Inflate the latex balloon
until it just starts to “nipple out.” Technically, this happens when the bottom portion of
the balloon starts to fill in addition to the main, round part. If you continue to fill, the
bottom portion will “nipple out,” creating an alien head look. At that point you’ve filled
too far and will cause problems in your décor. The first problem is in the float time. It
will be decreased because you’ve overfilled and expanded the pores. Also, the latex has
no room for expansion if heat becomes a factor. The balloon will most likely burst or
shrivel up in an hour or two.
Task 2: Deflate this overfilled balloon by letting out helium until it is about 90% full. The
balloon will have a full, oval look to it. If this is a standard 11” balloon, it should be at
about 10-11 inches in size. You’ve just sized your first balloon.
Task 3: Tying is really not as bad as it seems. There is a quick method of tying latex
balloons and it involves creating a loop around two fingers and then sticking the neck
thru that loop. Be sure to stretch out the neck a few times before tying:
With practice, you will become very fast at tying. You may develop calluses on your
fingers from tying. If tying becomes too hard for you, look into using discs and clips.
You will not be able to use these if you get into work involving arches. If you are simply
blowing up balloons for bouquets, disc use is okay.
Task 4: Tie a balloon off, but tie it onto ribbon. This involves laying the end of the ribbon
over your hand or holding it from your mouth and then tying the balloon onto the ribbon
by stretching the neck out with thumb and forefingers of each hand. Place the neck close
to the ribbon and create a loop with two fingers again. Then stick the neck thru the loop
making sure to tie onto the ribbon. See diagram:
Task 5: This one’s easy. Move the balloon back and forth on the ribbon. This is just to
demonstrate that you’ve tied the balloon onto the ribbon correctly. If you tied the ribbon
onto the balloon, you cheated. Bad, bad, bad. Retry until you get the balloon to slide back
and forth on the ribbon. Note: it is harder to slide balloons on ribbon than on string and
line. This is why string or clear line is used for arches. But, it is nice to be able to correct
the height of balloon on a ribbon once the bouquet is tied to a weight.
The following tasks make up the basic designs of balloon décor. The directions resemble
those of a recipe including the items and equipment needed and the basic instructions.
Task 6: String-of-Pearl
Supplies and Equipment
Clear Line or String
Weights (or something to tie ends of arch down)
Latex balloons
Helium tank with regulator
Tie line onto one weight. Blow up one latex balloon and tie it directly onto the line near the weight.
Blow up the second latex balloon. Tie it just after the first balloon onto the line, leaving “bumping
room” for the balloons. This space allows the two balloons to just barely touch.
If one is to close to the other, simply slide the last
one out. Blow up the third balloon and tie it on. If
one of the balloons starts to “bump out,” move the
third one out and give each balloon enough space to
line up one beside the next. This should start to
resemble a string of pearls on a necklace, each
balloon looking uniform in size and lining up one
after the next. It may take practice to get the sizing
just right. Finally, tie enough balloons on to create
the desired arch size and tie the line onto the second
Task 7: Duplet
Supplies and Equipment
Latex Balloons
Hand Pump, Air Machine, or Helium Tank
Inflate one latex balloon (if using handpump) and don’t tie off. Hold it in other hand and inflate second
latex balloon. Note: this is much easier with an air machine because you can blow up two latex
balloons at once (cutting your time in half). Tie the two balloons together by first wrapping the necks
around each other, then tying a knot (like tying shoe laces). You’ve created a duplet.
Task 8: Cluster
Supplies and Equipment
Latex Balloons
Hand Pump, Air Machine or Helium Tank
You made one duplet, now make a second one by tying another two balloons together.
Take a duplet in each hand by holding then near the necks of the balloons. Place one
duplet inside the other so that the four balloons lay flat together. Now twist the two
duplets together by pushing one balloon from one duplet around a balloon from the other
duplet. The balloons should now be twisted at the middle. You’ve created a cluster.
Task 9: Cluster Arch
Supplies and Equipment
Latex Balloons
Helium Tank and Regulator
Tie line onto the weight. Create a cluster of four balloons. Push the cluster onto the weight while
holding the line in your hand. Pull the line through the center on the cluster and wrap the line around
one of the balloons and then wrap it around a second balloon a few times. Pull it up through center of
balloons and lay it aside. Create another cluster of balloons. Push this cluster onto the first cluster and
pull line up through the center. Wrap line down to first cluster and up to second cluster. Then wrap line
around one balloon on the second cluster a few times. Remember to pull the line tight up through the
clusters and push the cluster of balloons onto the arch as you go.
You can also create patterns depending on the color of balloons you use. The most common type of
design is the spiral arch. Work with two colors first to get this pattern down. When you cluster the
balloons, you can either have every other balloon a color, or you can have the colors together:
When you put the next cluster on the line, first line up the colors on the clusters, the turn the next
cluster slightly in one direction. Each next cluster you put on, will need to go in the same direction to
create the spiral effect.
Task 10: Columns and Floating Columns
Supplies and Equipment
Latex Balloons
Poles with base plates (not needed for floating columns)
Air Machine (helium used for floating columns)
Topper- large star mylar or 36” latex
For a standard column, first set up your pole. Create two duplets and hold one in each hand. Take them
to the pole and twist the duplets together onto the pole. Usually, the easiest way to do this is to twist
the top two balloons and bottom two balloons.
Twist the next set of balloons onto the pole, making sure to
line up the colors as desired. Continue twisting on clusters
until you’ve reached the top of the pole. Finish off the top
with a giant star mylar or 36” balloon. You can air-fill these
and then tie line onto the star or 36” balloon. Place the topper
on top of the last cluster and wrap the line down into two or
three clusters. Make sure to pull the line tight. Some artists
prefer to use 260Q (or balloons commonly used to make
balloon animals) to tie the tops on. Using a long stretchy
balloon like this is a good idea because as time goes by, the
260Q will continue to keep the top on tight.
A floating column (sometimes also called a Fantasy Cloud) is
created by first blowing up your topper. Then tie line to it.
Create your clusters with helium and push the cluster
underneath the topper and wrap the line onto the cluster.
Continue wrapping clusters on until you’ve reached the
desired size. Tie the line onto a weight. Create a few extra
clusters with air and wrap those onto the bottom of the line
near the weight (to hide the weight) or create a bow or nice
centerpiece to act as a weight.
Task 11: Bubble Balloons
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons- color 11” and 14” or 17” clear latex
Helium tank and regulator
Insert the colored 11” latex balloon into the clear larger balloon. A pencil can make this
easier for you. (If you have many of these to do, the trick is a pencil with an eraser head
in tact. Put the colored balloon onto the end of the pencil. Then use the pencil with the
balloon on the end to stuff the clear balloon.)
Pull the inside balloon’s neck to the side and insert the nozzle of the regulator into the
clear balloon. Fill up the clear balloon about half full. Pull both off the nozzle.
Then place the nozzle into the colored balloon’s neck making sure to hold both of the
necks together because now you will fill both of the balloons by filling the inside balloon.
Take the necks off the nozzle and pull out the inner balloon’s neck. Tie it off by creating
your loop, just make sure to tie the neck around the other neck. You can also tie off both
at once, but this requires a little more man power. Practice both ways to see which way
works best for you.
Indoor Decor
Now that you have mastered the basics, we’re going to move onto indoor balloon
décor. Decorating inside tends to be easier than outdoor decorating because you have a
controlled environment, unless of course children are a factor for the event. We’ve even
found that bigger kids, fidgety adults, can be more of a problem when it comes to
messing with your decorating. There are a few things you can do to make sure that your
indoor décor goes off without a hitch:
#1- THE LAYOUT: Before you start, look at your space. Make mental notes of exits
including the main entry, food/kitchen entry, and emergency exits. Avoid those areas at
all costs, with exception to the main entrance. Make sure to leave a large enough path in
the main entry for multiple people to walk through. Also note wall outlets for your cords
if you have lighting. Plan out décor within the room by using the layout design on the
next page as a template to sketch in where important items and focal points are in the
room. The items on the list at the bottom of the page can be crossed out as you work on
the sketch. It is a good idea to photo copy this sketch once it is approved by the client and
banquet hall staff and give each of them a copy. The more detail you include the better.
Banquet halls like to see measurements of items needed for the event- for example, how
big and where the dance floor should be. The client enjoys seeing this final room sketch
because it gives them a good idea of what the room will look like. Two important notes:
1) Be prepared to make adjustments to the décor when the day of the event comes and 2)
look at the sketch once the décor is planned out to see if any corners or focal points have
been completely disregarded. Suggest that those areas be decorated with something
simple so the “plainness” doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Electrical Outlets
Cake Table
Emergency Exits
Dance Floor
Ceiling Height
Head Table
Round Tables
#2- WORKSPACE: Select a space in the room with electrical outlets where you can work
without interruption. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been moved from one space
to another in a room, especially in banquet rooms. Sometimes, you must be very flexible
in terms of your work space. It may help to ask the banquet coordinator where you can
work. Once your spot has been chosen, use yellow work to tape off your area.
#3- THE FINAL OKAY: Your client may show up to make final preparations in the
room. You will most likely be able to discuss any final alterations with them at this time,
and ask them if they need to add anything. Make sure the client is the only one giving
you changes or additions. Many times, members of the family or company, other than the
client, will feel the need to tell you they don’t really like how something looks or that
they don’t like where something is, or worst of all, they will move something you have
already placed. In this case, politely ask them if they are related to the client, if they have
been told of any necessary changes to the prescribed décor, and that you will need
approval from the client for changes to be made.
#4- BEING CAUTIOUS: Check your rigging spots. If you have planned to rig any of
your work from walls or ceilings, make sure to have approval from the banquet
coordinator. Don’t trust the word of the client. It’s a good idea to call the head of
banquets before detailing the invoice of the décor to make sure rigging is okay. Don’t be
surprised if most banquet halls tell you that rigging is not allowed. Many halls decide that
it is better to not take a chance with companies messing with their nicely painted rooms.
This is a good time to talk about liability insurance. Talk to your insurance agent about
getting general liability insurance for your company, especially if you do rigging. Once
you have insurance, you can have your agent fax a certificate to the banquet hall. This
may reassure them that you are a professional company and will take care of any damage
made to their site.
Here are a few of our more popular designs that people request. In most cases you
will be working your way throughout a room, from one focal point to the next. As you do
more and more balloon jobs you will start to see how you can be more efficient with
decorating. For example, when we blow up single balloons for bouquets, we blow them
all up at once, and clip them off in bunches to tables with a large metal clip (you can get
one from any hardware store). Then you can walk throughout the room with the bunches
and tie off balloons to the centerpieces. Look for hints and tips in the next few designs so
you can not only make the décor look professional, but you’ll be very quick as well.
Task 1: Sand Weights and Bouquets
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
Air Machine
Play Sand/Funnel
Helium tank and Regulator
The cheapest weight we offer is a sand weight. Basically fill a latex balloon with sand by
inflating it with air and letting the air out; then use a funnel to fill the balloon with play
sand. We offer to wrap the sand weight with mylar wrap for an extra charge. You may
want to prepare sand weights in advance and cut the number of ribbon pieces and tie
these pieces all together around the neck of the balloon and then wrap the sand weight so
it looks “finished off.” Then place the weights in a box and pull all the ribbon together
and bunch it into the box to protect the ribbon. When you’re ready to inflate and tie off
you’re balloons, take a weight out of the box, hold a piece of ribbon and blow up the
latex balloon. Tie it directly onto the ribbon. Do this until all the ribbon pieces have
balloons on them. Curl the ribbon ends with scissors or a knife.
Task 2: Balloon Covered Weights/Centerpieces
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
Air Machine
Small Weights
Another type of centerpiece we offer is a cluster centerpiece. Have sand weights ready.
Blow up and make 2 clusters of balloons. Take the two clusters and bunch them together
into a cluster of 8 and make sure you have 4 balloons on top and 4 balloons on bottom so
it sits on the table flat. You can also inflate the top 4 a little smaller then the bottom 4.
Then take the neck of the sand weight and tie it around the bottom balloon cluster around
one balloon neck. This will help to weigh down the centerpiece if you tie helium filled
singles to it. We also use this balloon covered weight to hide weights in the string-ofpearls, and floating columns.
Task 3: Criss-Cross Arches
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
Balloon Covered Weights
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Regulator
Time: 1 hour (average dance floor)
Place the 4 balloon covered weights at the four
points in the room or dance floor where you want
the criss-cross display. Tie line into one of the
weights and pull it through the top and center of the top cluster. Blow up latex and tie them directly
onto the line- following the directions for the string-of-pearl arch. Make the arch the desired heightusually a foot or two below a low ceiling is sufficient. If the ceiling is higher, decide how high you
want the arches (remembering to keep them within view for the guests). Tie off the line on the balloon
weight at the diagonal end. Start the next arch by tying the line to another weight. Build the arch under
the first arch. Keep count of the number of balloons you have on the line, making sure the count and
spacing is the same. Simply let the second arch barely touch the first (make sure they cross in the
middle). Tie off the line on the diagonal weight. You can adjust the arches by moving the weights in
and out (not too much, as you want to keep the design of the 4 weights even on the floor). This is our
most popular dance floor design.
Task 4: Four Column Dance floor
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
4 base plates and poles
Air Machine
Time: 1 hour (15 minutes average per
It is easier to build all four columns in one workspace then move them to the corners of the dance
floor. There are five basic column types. Please refer to each one to get instructions.
Basic Column
This type consists of balloons blown up to the exact same size and
clusters are packed one on top of the other. Blow up two duplets and
twist them onto the pole and push down to bottom of pole. Blow up
two more duplets and twist them onto the pole and push them down
firmly into the bottom pack. Continue until you reach the top of the
pole. A 6 foot pole will hold about 40 balloons or 10 cluster packs.
Once you reach the top, you can put a 3’ balloon on top or a star mylar.
Hollywood Column or Square Pack
This column got it’s name because so many people said that the little 5” balloons look like
Hollywood lights inbetween the larger balloons. Simply pack a large pack on bottom. The
blow up a cluster of 5” and pack it onto the 11”. Alternate between 11” and 5” until you reach
the top. This column design is best done when two colors are needed. For example, blow up 4
11” blue and pack onto pole, the 4 5” gold and pack onto pole. You can place a 3’ balloon on
top to finish the look.
Light Pole Column
The light pole columns consist of 2 cluster packs larger on top and
bottom with smaller balloons running through the middle. Start from the
bottom and work your way up. You can put 2 or 3 larger clusters on
bottom. The use 5” balloons in the middle, then place 2 or 3 large clusters
on top. You can finish it off with a 3’ balloon or star.
Topiary Column
The topiary column is appropriate for weddings or elegant events. It is
often cheaper in terms of materials used, but may require more time
depending on what you use to fill the space between the clusters on
top, middle and bottom. Simply start with a large cluster of four for the
bottom. Blow up the next two duplets to a medium size and pack those
onto the bottom cluster. Blow up two more duplets even smaller and
pack onto the cluster. Blow up 5” for the middle of the pole and pack
those about midway onto the pole. Don’t worry if they don’t straighten
out for now. Blow up 11” for the cluster above the 5”. Blow up one
more cluster of 5” and place on top of the 11”. You should have the
bottom and middle finished now. Now repeat what you did for the
bottom, but do it in reverse, so create a small pack and put it on about
1.5’ below the top of the pole. Make the next bigger pack and put those
on top of the small pack. Now make the bigger cluster and put on top.
You can put a 3’ on top or a floral bouquet or any design you like.
Note- if you would like to have drapery or tulle in-between the balloon sets, hold a piece
of banquet roll or tulle up to the pole and cut it leaving some drapery around the bottom
of the pole. Use a piece of ribbon and bunch up the drapery at the top end. Tie off the
bunch. Place the drapery on top of the pole- the bunch acts to hold it onto the pole. Now
you can tie off the drapery around the bottom of the pole and cluster the balloons onto the
pole as usual.
Draped Column
Drape the column as in the note above. Allow banquet roll to
bunch up around the bottom of the pole. Use a small piece of
ribbon, punch a hole in each bottom end of the drapery and tie
the ribbon thru the holes to secure it. Blow up two clusters of
balloons and pack to the top of the pole. Place a 3’ or star on
top. This would be the most inexpensive column you could
Task 5: Swag Connected Dance Floor
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
Air Machine
Dowel, nail, wood glue (for balloon pop)
Zip ties
Time: 2 hours (average dance floor)
Swags can be created with balloons or drapery and simply means the item is draped. If
you are using balloons, you will make clusters with air and pack them onto the line
(similar to a cluster arch, but this will hang). You can lay out your own style, but
basically this design consists of 4 corner points rigged to the ceiling, and then you can
add the middle 5th point if desired. There are a few special things you can do for the
middle. Start off by blowing up your clusters. Blow up about 4 clusters and pack onto
line. You can add a larger, 17” or 3” balloon to the end. Make 4 of these. Hang them in a
square or rectangle design over the dance floor. Create the middle design. You can make
the same design, or create a “balloon pop.” You will have to line up 5” inside of the 3’
balloon and inflate it and tie it off- the trick is to pull the 5” toward the opening of the 3’
balloon to create a seal. There is a stuffing tool that makes this job very quick and easy,
and if you get a huge demand for balloon pops, I would recommend looking into
investing in one. Fill the 3’ balloon with as many 5” as you can fit inside. You may have
to inflate the 3’ balloon with air as you work. Once it is full with 5”, inflate it fully with
air and tie it off. Add it to the end of your balloon clusters and set it aside if you are going
to add drapery (as hanging the drapery is much easier with this cluster out of the way).
You will need to make a wand for the person or persons to pop the 3’ balloon. Use a 2-3’
piece of wood and drill a small hole into the end. Glue in a nail- pointy side out (to pop
the balloon). Many people like the balloon pop for the first dance at weddings or as a
good luck or birthday pop. Finally you need to drape or connect the tulle, drapery or
balloon swags to each hanging column. Pick one to start at, use zip ties to secure the
drapery to the ceiling. Drape to the middle, zip tie it off, drape to the diagonal end and cut
the drapery and zip tie it off. Then go to the other hanging column, start a new piece of
drapery, ziptie it off, go to middle, ziptie it, and go to end and ziptie. Hang the center
column to the ceiling where the two pieces of drapery cross.
Task 6: Gumball Design
Supplies and Equipment
5” color , 11” color and 3’ Clear Latex balloons
Balloon Covered Weights
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Regulator
Time: 45 minutes (average 3 set-up)
Make 3 or 5 balloon covered weights
depending on how many gumballs you
want. Put an uninflated 11” balloon
inside an uninflated 3’ balloon. Place
the 11” (it’s inside the 3’) onto the
helium inflator and blow it up. Take
both of them off the regulator making
sure to hold off the 11” balloon. Pull the
11” neck thru the neck of the 3’ to
create a seal and tie off the 11” and
poke it into the 3’ balloon. You can
inflate the 3’ with air for now to
continue working. Very carefully put the next 11” balloon into the neck of the 3’. This
will take much practice, and the air will escape out of the 3’ as you are working. Just
keep filling it up as needed. Continue inflating the 11” balloons and tying them off and
poking them into the 3’ until you have about 7-8 11” inside the 3’ balloon. When you are
done inflating the 11”, let all the air out of the 3’ balloon. It will shrivel up around the
11” balloons. Now fill it with helium until it is full. Finally, tie it off. Tie line to the neck
of the 3’ balloon. Add 2-3 balloon clusters underneath by wrapping them onto the line.
Tie this gumball off to a balloon covered weight. Make 2 more of these gumballs. A 3
gumball set-up will have a taller gumball in the middle and the 2 on the sides will be
shorter. You can connect these with tulle or a light drapery or ribbon.
Task 7: Bubble Balloon Arch
Supplies and Equipment
17” clear, 11” color Latex balloons
Balloon Covered Weights
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Regulator
Time: 20 minutes (average arch)
Place the 2 balloon covered weights at the ends of the focal point (for example, on each side of a cake
table). Tie line into one of the weights. Create a bubble balloon, and tie it off onto the line. Create a
second bubble balloon and tie it onto the line leaving bumping room for the balloons. Continue until
you reach the other weight. Tie off the line.
Task 8: Bowtie Arch
Supplies and Equipment
11” and 5” Latex balloons
Balloon Covered Weights
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Regulator
Time: 40 minutes (average bowtie)
Place the 2 balloon covered weights at the end of your focal point (for example, at the two sides of an
entryway). Tie line into one of the weights. Blow up 2 5” balloons to a small size. Tie together to
create a duplet. Blow up a third 5” to a small size and tie it into the duplet (now the duplet is a triplet).
Tuck under your arm. Blow up an 11” balloon. Hold the 5” triplet onto the clear line and tie the 11”
around both the triplet and line. Let go and the 11” should move to the top and the triplet should be
underneath (hence, the bowtie look). Continue making these and tying the 11” onto the triplets right
onto the line. Finally, tie the line off onto the other weight. This is a variation of the string-of-pearl
arch, and once you’ve mastered the string-of-pearl, this is a very fun arch to offer. Many people like
the look of this arch.
Task 9: Fountain Spray
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
1 Base Plate and Pole
4 Balloon Covered Weights
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Regulator
Time: 1.5 hours (average Fountain Spray)
Place the 4 balloon covered weights at the corners of
the dance floor or area to be decorated. Make a
standard balloon column with the pole. Place the
column in the middle of the dance floor or middle of a buffet area. Now tie line into the top of the
column. You’re going to work your way out from the column to the four points of the dance floor.
Create string-of-pearls to “spray” out from the column to the balloon covered weight in each corner.
Task 10: Swags
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
Clear Line
Air Machine
Zip ties, May need Eyehooks
Time: 2-4 hours (depending on size)
Create clusters of balloons with air and pack
them one by one onto the line. You can lay the swag on the floor while you work. Make the swags and
then you will need to rig each one to the ceiling. Zip ties work good on rail ceilings.
If you need to screw in eyehooks, make sure it is okay with the ballroom people or hall coordinator
you will be working with.
Task 11: Balloon Drops
Supplies and Equipment
Latex balloons
Balloon Drop Net
Clear Line
Air Machine
Zip ties
Time: 2-4 hours
Balloon drops are all about preparation. You need to measure the size of the room lengthwise, or the area
where you want the drop rigged. Balloon nets come in very large sizes and we find that we can cut them
into 2 or 3 drops. Remember that the net will shrink up a bit as you fill it with balloons. First, fold the net in
half so you have the “spine” side (which is the folded side) and the open side (the side that will release the
balloons). Zip tie one end of the net, leaving the other end open for stuffing. Use a piece of nylon string to
create a good spine for the drop net. Thread it in and out of the “spine” or top portion of the net. Tie it off in
about 4-5 locations with small pieces of nylon string. Now thread clear line in and out of the bottom
of the net, making sure to go in and out every 7-8 inches. Once you reach the end, make sure the line moves
easily back and forth (this is the rip-cord for the net). Use an empty toilet paper roll to wrap some extra line
onto the roll and secure with an uninflated latex balloon on both sides. Fold up the net and put in a plastic
trash bag to make it easy to transport. When you get to the site, unfold the net and make sure the rip-cord is
still intact. Open the stuffing end and attach it to chairs with metal clips. Blow up balloons with the air
machine and stuff into the net. When net is full, zip tie the stuffing end. Hang the net from 4-5 points on the
spine. Use the metal rail clips provided with the net to hang it. Let out the line on the toilet paper rolls. Find
a wall or area to tape the rip-cord end to. The other end needs to be cut about 1-2 feet from the net. Let this
end dangle freely and untangled. The net is now “hot” meaning it’s ready to be pulled. Instruct the person
who is going to pull the cord to pull it hand-over hand. The nets can be reused, but should be inspected and
replaced over time as they wear down.
Task 12: Focal Point Sculptures- Heart, Tree, Top-Hat Man, Flag
Supplies and Equipment
5” and 11” Latex balloons
Pole with base plate or aluminum rod
Air Machine
Cool Glue Gun
Clear Line
These simple sculptures are all based on a column design, but items may be added or glued in to reflect
the look of the sculpture. Refer to the directions for each item to learn how to make them.
Aluminum rod makes up the frame for the heart. You can purchase
kits that include the frame and balloons to build this sculpture.
Aluminum rod or steel rods can be purchased from any hardware
store or steel manufacturing/supply store. It can be bent very easily if
you buy ¼” size. Use masking tape to tape down the shape of the
heart on a concrete surface. Then you can bend the frame to your
desired shape. Use duct tape to tape pieces together if it is easier to
make 2 pieces and tape together. Blow up 2 duplets of 5” and twist
them onto the frame starting in the top “V” part of the heart. Work
your way around the heart, packing the clusters tightly together. You can rig the heart from the
ceiling, or hang it on the wall, or hang it from a pole/baseplate.
Palm Tree
This is a very popular item for tropical and summer events. Set up a pole
and baseplate. Inflate brown or goldenrod 11” balloons and start with large
clusters on bottom and work your way to the top getting smaller and
smaller. You can change to a 5” balloon as you reach the top, if desired.
There are two types of palm frond tops. One includes building cluster packs
from the top starting with air, and working your way out getting smaller and
smaller on the balloons and fill the last 3 clusters with helium so they lift a
little bit. Make 3-4 palm frond this way, attaching them to the center/top of
the tree and working your way out. The other simpler way to make fronds is
to purchase long balloon animal balloons (also known as 260Q’s) and
create clusters by tying them together and continually twisting them together until you have about 1216. Tie this on top of the tree trunk column with a 260Q uninflated or some clear line.
Christmas Tree
Set up a pole and baseplate. Inflate emerald green 17” balloons for the first 3
clusters. Then 11” balloons and start with large clusters on bottom and work
your way to the top getting smaller and smaller. You can change to a 5”
balloon as you reach the top, if desired. Use clear line to tie on a gold mylar
star to the top of the tree. Inflate 5” balloons in red, silver, gold and white and
glue to the tops of the clusters.
Top Hat Man
Inflate 11" black balloons to full size and pack 2 clusters on bottom of pole. Inflate 11" white balloons
to full size and pack 2 clusters on top of black clusters. Inflate 5" balloons and pack 3 clusters on top of
white 11". Pack 5" white balloons on top of black 5". Inflate a cluster of black
11" and pack next. Then pack a cluster of 11" white. Finally pack 2 clusters of
5" white for the head. Paint a wood dowel with black paint and paint the tips
white for the cane. Fold a piece of black poster board into a cylinder and then
cut out a circle in another piece of black poster board. Place the cylinder on top
of the circle and draw a circle with a pencil to cut out the hole in the flat part of
the hat. Use the cut out part to tape (tape on inside of hat) to top of the hat.
Tape the cylinder to the flat part of hat. Use cool glue to secure the hat and
cane in place. (You can also buy a top-hat to fit the top-hat man from any party
supply store). Add black bows to the sculpture and add a black bow-tie to the
front of the sculpture.
Outdoor Decor
The Great Outdoors is considered one of those places where many balloon artists
prefer not to venture. There are many things that can make outdoor decorating a
challenge: wind, rain, city codes, airport codes, etc. There are some tricks that will help to
make your outdoor decorating experience a better one.
Three important things to remember about outdoor decor is that 1) you should
always go bigger when doing outdoor decor, not only so the balloons last longer
throughout the day, but so things can be seen better. 2) Always leave a good deal of space
between the balloons on arches, streamers, and any other decor you create. Space allows
the wind to cut thru the decor so that it doesn't get pulled down as much. Think of a kitethe bigger the kite, the more wind it will carry. If you clump balloons together on the line,
it will pull more and may even flatten your decor to the ground. 3) Use fishing line
instead of string. Some artists use Dacron Archline to ensure that the decor line won't
break. We've always used fishing line because it cuts the wind better and carries better in
the air. You may want to try both and see which one you prefer.
The worst thing you can do is put up balloon decor and not check with the city
you're decorating in to see if there are any codes against it. Some cities have what we call
"beautifying" codes- codes to keep the city clean of debris and "funky" looking sales
signs and decor. Other cities have strict codes against any type of latex balloons and there
may be hefty fines involved. You'll also want to be very concerned about light poles,
phone and power lines and airport pathways. Most airports have strict codes against
anything being flown in the air to a specific height around the airport. You may be able to
put up shorter decor in this case. Power lines have always been the outdoor artist's worst
enemy. Make sure to tie decor or secure it in a way that if the wind shifts, it will not get
stuck in power lines. Many power companies charge and fine companies in this case
because they have to spend time untangling balloons and archline from the cords.
Task 1: String of Pearl
Supplies and Equipment
17” and 36” Latex balloons
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Balloon Filler
String of Pearl arches are simple designs that
can be put up in less than 10 minutes each if
you practice enough. An entire car lot can be
done in 45 minutes to an hour depending on
how much is needed to cover the lot. Many
balloon decorators schedule outdoor decor on
early mornings on Saturdays and Sundays with
car dealers and other retail stores and make
$200-$250 per lot per day. This type of decor is taxable- many car dealers and other
customers won't understand this and may fight you on it, but State Boards consider
anything you create as taxable. To create the arches you can do it two ways- if working
alone, tie a balloon on the end of the line. Now count the line out by arm-lengths. You
will learn to see how many arm-lengths
will be needed on each side of the arch to
get it higher in the air. Some decorators
like the look of the arch starting from the
ground or cars up. Other decorators like to
let up the line 4-5 arm-lengths or more to
let it secure behind light poles. For now,
let up the line by stretching out both arms
and doing this 5 times. Stop and put your
foot on the line to hold it down. Blow up a
17" balloon and tie it directly on the line.
Space your line to about a foot and a half
and step on the line again. Fill you next balloon and tie it directly on the line. Continue
doing this until you have the number of balloons on the line that you desire. Tie off the
end you're left with to a lightpole or secure location. Pull down the arch, as you have just
a straight line of balloons at this point and need to tie off the end that's in the air. A good
sized outdoor arch should have 24+ balloons on it. You can add a 36" balloon or 17"
balloons clustered to the middle of the arch if you're concerned about the decor lasting
throughout the day. If you have a team of two people, one person can tie off the line to a
lightpole, count out arm-lengths and hold the line while the other decorator blows up the
balloons and ties them onto the line. When finished, simply tie the end off on another
Task 2: Streamer
Supplies and Equipment
17” and 36” Latex balloons
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Balloon Filler
Streamers are excellent for attracting the eye from a far distance. Simply blow up a 36"
balloon and tie it to the end of the line. Blow up a cluster of 17" balloons and pack under
the 36" balloon and wrap the line around the cluster to secure. Blow up 2-5 more clusters
and pack and wrap them onto the line. Let out the line 3 arm-lengths and blow up a single
17" and tie it onto the line. Let out the streamer 3 arm-lengths again and tie another 17"
balloon on. Continue blowing and tying the 17" until you have 8 on the line. Let up the
line 8-10 arm-lengths and tie it to a secure location or pole. You can vary the amount of
clusters on the top pack and the number of spaces between the balloons down the line as
well as the number of balloons down the line to make the streamers bigger or smaller
depending on the location, power lines and city codes.
Task 3: Criss Cross Arches
Supplies and Equipment
17” and 36” Latex balloons
Clear Line
Helium Tank and Balloon Filler
This design is very popular with car dealers as it creates a design for a square lot and
attracts much attention because it appears to encompass the entire lot. Start by eyeing
four points on the lot that outline a square. Make sure there is nothing that will obstruct
the design in the middle of that square. Light poles should not create any type of
obstruction for this design. Create a streamer top (1 36" balloon and a few clusters
packed underneath, cut the line and tie it to something for now- you'll be using this later).
Tie off the line at one point and start creating a large string of pearl arch that will be tied
off to the front or back of the lot (you're not going to go diagonal yet- you'll understand in
a second). Now tie off the other line and create a string of pearl arch that parallels the
first one you made. You should have two arches lined up now. Have two people pull
down the arches until you reach the middle of the arches and come together in the center
of the square. Tie the 2 arches together in the center with line, and tie on a cluster with a
36" balloon and clusters packed underneath. This will hold the 2 arches together in the
center and gives the illusion that the 2 arches are criss-crossing.
Now that you have the basic skills to get you started with your balloon decorating
business, the next step is to get your finances organized so that you can start clean and
become profitable. Begin by doing jobs for family and friends while you continue to
work. Give them many business cards to hand out for you. There will come a point (if
your business is taking off) when you can go full-fledged with your new venture, but be
patient. Invest only what you can into your business (time and money).
I am sure that you have heard of credit before. Well, credit cards are not the only
form of credit. In fact when you hear the words “credit cards” you should shiver. More
Americans have become so swept up in charging on their credit cards that bankruptcy is
at a new high. Credit cards work for you if and only if you pay off the balance each
month. They are a convenient way of spending money, that is all. Even if you do pay off
the balance, make sure that the cards do not become so convenient that you spend more
than what you can truthfully afford. The credit I want to discuss here is “good”
credit. No I am not talking about when you pay everything off and you have
good credit. I am talking about the kind of credit that is beneficial to you.
Think of your new business as a line of credit. Investing money into a home
business is a type of good credit because your business (when up and running)
will be making money for you. When you get bad credit like credit cards, you
may pay 15%, 21%, maybe even higher interest rates. Making minimum monthly
payments will get you further into debt. Your business, however, will be creating profit
for you. In this sense, it is an investment much like an IRA or a mutual fund. The positive
thing about investing your money into a small business for yourself is that not only will
your profits continue to grow as your business grows, but you can be more in charge of
your money and time. Who is more wealthy, a doctor who makes tons of money, drives a
fancy car and is on call every hour often missing his little boy’s soccer games, or a small
business owner who makes a quarter of what the doctor makes and has time to take his
kids to school in the morning and pick them up each day and run a profitable business
that supports his family? We all have a different idea of what “wealth” means to us, but if
you chose to be more like the second man, you will be a happy business owner.
Part 1: You Need the Right Materials to Start Building
After you consider whatSuccessfully
kind of business you would like to have, you
must figure out what materials and supplies you will need to get started.
Again, do not invest all of your savings into materials and advertising. Start
off slowly. Test the market by finding out where there is a demand for
balloon décor in your area. Look into schools, banquet halls, car dealers,
and corporations in your area. Simply ask the managers at these locations if there is a
desire for balloon décor and if so, what kinds of décor (indoor/outdoor, helium filled, or
longer lasting air-filled). You may make some great contacts while doing this. Be
prepared to write down names and addresses so that you can send out a starter packet to
introduce your company and services. Once you have found your market, invest the
money needed to get started. Begin with a small inventory or none at all if possible. What
I mean by “none at all” is that you may want to advertise your product first, then once
you have customers, get the product and supply it to people. Be careful, though. Use
common sense when you are stocking and selling products. Don’t stock very specific
items in the beginning, such as “Happy Easter” mylars. These are a seasonal product and
will have to be stored until the following year if you don’t sell out of them. In order for
you to operate as a business you will need basic supplies in the beginning. Here is a list
of the basics:
Phone (Answering Machine)
Might Need
Invoice Book
Fax Machine
Office Supplies
Helium Tank/Air Machine
Balloon Regulator Valve
Cell Phone
Part 2: Where to Not Get Money
Many eager people who start a new business want to run right out to their friendly
lending institution (the bank) and apply for a business loan. This is a possible source for
large amounts of money (if you need to make a big investment), but hold your horses. A
small business should not and does not require a great amount of money to get started. As
you see, there is a plan to developing your business. Figure out the bare necessities you
must have to build a solid foundation, then learn how you can obtain funds and avoid
getting into debt. Once you have obtained the essential materials to get started, I will take
you step by step through the process of marketing your balloon décor business,
establishing your market and making customers come back for more, making your
business “real,” and investing your earnings.
Before you get too ahead of yourself, stop to consider this one important thing. If
you had $50,000 in a savings account, would you invest it in sick cows? No! Good, you
are learning. Now apply this common sense to your own venture. For example, you
would not invest $50,000 on sick cows, and a bank surely would not allow you to borrow
their funds to do such a foolish thing. Let us say that you did not know that the cows
would get sick. You invested $50,000 of your savings on cattle, hoping the prices would
go up. Unfortunately, they did get sick and they died. You lost $50,000, that is all. Now if
you had borrowed $50,000 from the bank after you convinced them that this was a
winning proposition, and the cows died, you would not only owe them $50,000, but all of
the interest over the 5, 10, or 20 years that you borrowed for. More simply, do not borrow
money on interest unless you have to. You should consult a financial advisor to decide
whether or not borrowing is the best thing for you and your business.
Part 3: Having a Plan in Mind and on Paper
If you have decided to get a loan, consider going to a bank with a good reputation
and one that caters to small businesses. I recommend going to the top five banks in your
area. Before you even enter a bank, you should prepare a business plan and an assets
inventory sheet. This will impress the lenders in the bank, and they may take you more
seriously. The format of the business plan can be simple, but it should include specific
information about you, any partners, and the type of business that you will have. It could
be formatted as follows, but the bank may request a more detailed description of your
business and what you will do with the borrowed money:
Business Plan
Title of Business: Balloons Gone Wild
Business Type: A balloon decorating business
Owner(s): Bob Balloony
Home Address: 123 Helium Way
Floating, CA 00001
Business Address: Same
Phone: (000) 555-1234
Description of Expertise and Business: I have taken lessons in balloon decorating and
have been doing balloon jobs for family and friends for 2 years. I am at a point in my
business where I would like to take the next step in making my business a full time
venture. (List your business experience here, as well as any special training you have
Goals for Business: I would like to invest in my business so that I can have the necessary
equipment to not only help me be more efficient, but so that I can handle the increased
demand of balloon décor in my area. I would also like to better market my business to
help it grow. Current earnings are $3,500 per year. (Give a specific reason why a loan
would help you accomplish a goal. Also give the institution an idea of how much money
you have made so far.)
*You should attach a list of equipment and purchase prices of the items that you will be
buying with the money that you will borrow. Have a total amount in mind.
Assets and Liabilities:
Car- purchase price $15,000
Student Loans: $2000
Jewelry- $500
Car: $10,000
Office Equipment- $1000
Credit Cards: $500
*You will have a much more detailed list. Everything you own is an asset. Remember to
list your bank account information, as well as any investments you have. The bank may
have an asset/liability form you can fill out to help you remember all the necessary
Part 4: Where to Get Money
There are a number of places that you should consider getting money from before
borrowing from a bank. Friends and relatives may be willing to lend you the money you
need to get started. You might want to work longer hours at your current job in order to
make more money (save more money). You could even go as far as getting a second or
third job. A more responsible approach may be to speak with a
representative at a local Small Business Administration office.
Decide which option of obtaining capital is right for you. You
may choose to combine some of the methods, such as working
longer hours and borrowing from a relative. Be excited, yet
patient, “for all good things come to those who wait.”
1) Friends and Relatives: They tend to be more lenient with the repayment
schedule. I am not suggesting that you take advantage of them by borrowing
money and not pay them back. They will understand your financial problems
better than a bank will. Remember to start off slowly with your new business, and
do not spend your relatives’ money extravagantly. They will be watching your
every move, and they will be uncomfortable watching their hard earned funds slip
2) Working longer hours and saving: You cannot believe that I am telling you to
work more at your current job, right! Think about it! If you work overtime, you
could be making time and a half to double-time in money. Some employers even
pay their workers more for working holidays. When you get your paychecks, take
out the extra that you earned in overtime and stick it in your savings account. A
couple of months of working harder is definitely worth a lifetime of being your
own boss. Have a positive mindset when you are working the extra hours. When
you start to get impatient and irritable, think about one thing- I am going to own
my own business, and I am going to doing something fun- balloon decor. That
thought will surely bring a smile.
3) Working a second or third job: While this is a possible source of extra income,
the benefits might not be worth the extra struggle. When you come home from a
long day at work, imagine what it would be like working twice as hard and having
less time to relax. Also your stress level may double, and this could lead to a
number of things like deteriorating health, irritability, and less patience. The
obvious benefit is that if you can handle the extra work, you will be making twice
or three times as much as you were generating before. Your goal will be achieved
much quicker, and you will feel a sense of accomplishment knowing you earned
the money yourself and accumulated enough funds to start your business.
4) The Small Business Administration or SBA was set up to offer technical
assistance on issues such as obtaining capital. They have many new programs,
such as SBA-backed loans, that are available to new business owners. The SBA
now has the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which caters to women
starting businesses. They not only offer support on money matters, but they
discuss issues facing minority business owners, such as how to be taken seriously.
Visiting a local SBA office may be the right decision for anyone interested in
obtaining large amounts of money, but a new business owner may also find the
guidance and support of experienced professionals there. Visit or for more information.
Now list the ways in which you can obtain extra income. Are you more
comfortable with borrowing money or working longer hours? What steps do you need to
take to turn these ideas into a reality? What are some other sources of income that you
may be overlooking?
Whatever you choose to do, keep the following things in mind. First, keep your credit
clean. Second, pay your bills each month and record where the money is going. Finally, do not
spend what you cannot afford. Keeping track of your cash flow will give you a clear
understanding of what you can and cannot afford. On the following page is an example of a
simple expense budget you can use to keep track of expenditures. Go ahead and fill in the
blanks so you can see where your money is going.
Once you have entered your expenses and income, subtract your expenses from
your income to see how much you have left over to invest in your business venture. If it
is a negative number, it is time to start cutting back on spending. The easiest way to do
this is to look at your expenses and take note of the things you spend much of your
money on. What things can you cut back on, or cut out? It’s obvious that some things
can’t be avoided. For instance, you can’t avoid your car payment, but maybe you could
live without cable for a while. Critique each item on the list. For example, you could time
your phone calls and limit yourself. You could eat out less. Also look at your income.
Are you making enough to pay for everything? How could you make more? What
markets might you be overlooking. Whatever you decide to do, keeping close tabs on
where you are spending your hard-earned money can help you stay focused on your
goals. How much money do you need to live comfortably (by your standards)? Everyone
has different images of what comfortable living is. It’s hard to cut back on things you are
used to having, but if you are able to find a happy medium between having everything
and having nothing, you should at least feel satisfied. Be mindful of your finances,
especially when starting a business because it is going to be one of the biggest risks you
have ever taken. When you start spending money on your business, a weekly record book
(bought at any office supply store) will help you keep track of business expenses. Later,
you can total those expenses, and add them to the blank spot on the expense sheet above
the total heading. The total of all expenses combined will tell you how much you are
spending overall. Your business income can be added to your regular income, and you
can subtract once again to see if you are making a profit. Business is a good investment,
but like any investment, if you do not pay attention, it could slip through your hands like
Expenses and Income
Child Care
Dining Out
Credit Card
Total Exp
Learning how to market your balloon business will be an easy task. Once you
have figured out what type of décor you enjoy doing and are best at, you will want to
constantly think about the “market” for your specific product. For example, if you enjoy
doing outdoor decorating and want to work weekends, your focus will be the local car
dealers and retailers who have weekend sales. Once you have figured out who will be
buying your product, the car dealers, it would be silly to buy an ad in the phone book
under weddings and show a picture of an indoor fancy looking column. You would
obviously think very hard about how you can reach that market. At first, I recommend
doing things as cheap and as free as possible. The one item you NEED to invest in is a
nice looking business card. Talk to 2-3 printers (preferably ones that do graphic work as
well). Take a few décor pictures with you when you talk to the printer. Tell him what
type of specific décor you do and create a design together. If he can print photos on the
back, do so. This one item alone may sell your work. Print many- 1000+ (find the best
deal for many cards). Hand out handfuls to family, friends, people you meet everywherethe grocery, the bank, every store you shop at. Hit the pavement and make some contacts
with banquet halls, corporations, and retailers. Once you have secured your business and
have regular clients, start to develop a marketing plan. The following steps will help you
not only figure out the type of décor that fits your schedule and natural skills, but also to
focus in on the market you need to reach and finally to develop a marketing plan that will
keep you busy and your business growing.
Look at Yourself as a Balloon Pro
You may have only started practicing with the balloons and may not be sure what
type of decorating you’re comfortable with yet. Here you can list your current work
schedule, this includes the work schedule of all you mommies and daddies that do full-
time parenting. You need to be realistic here. On the following page, write down the time
you are occupied and the time you can free up (maybe with the support of a loving family
member). Next to each day, write down the time slots you have available; if the entire
day is free, write “FREE”.
Monday _________________________________________________
Tuesday _________________________________________________
Wednesday ______________________________________________
Thursday ________________________________________________
Friday ____________________________________________________
Saturday __________________________________________________
Sunday ___________________________________________________
I am going to break down the business into three possible categories, and I
recommend that you go with the one that best fits your schedule for now. Then once
you’ve become established, maybe you can switch schedules with your loving mate or
actually quit your job and become a full time business owner!
The Weekend Warrior- this type will have their weekends off only. If you schedule is full
during the week, you’ll only have weekends to schedule decorating jobs. This type of
individual should focus on either outdoor decorating for car dealers and retailers who
have sales, or indoor decorating for weddings.
My Kids are in School till 3:00- this type will have days off until the kids come home
from school. This type should focus on bouquet delivery only. Hit up corporations and
see if they could use a bouquet delivery person to send smiles to people have birthdays or
retirements. You can give them discounts if they use you exclusively. Most major
corporate events are held in the evenings and weekends, though. If you have someone to
look after your kids during those times, you can advertise for indoor or outdoor
decorating and take jobs as they come.
I’m Free Around the Clock- this type gets to choose the type of décor they would enjoy
most. You could work weekends only, doing car lots and weddings. Or you could work
during the week only, doing bouquet delivery during the day and corporate events during
the day and evening. Or you can schedule any type of work you can get.
Now think about what type of person you are. Do you mind having to get up early
on weekends? If so, you won’t like getting up a 3 and 4 AM to decorate multiple car
dealer lots. Do you like doing intricate designs? If so, you would do well with wedding
work, as many brides like their wedding decorating to be unique and different from
anything seen before. Do you like meeting new people and making people smile, you
could do balloon bouquet delivery. Many balloon artists offer all types of decorating at
first and then they start to get a large clientele base in one type of decorating, and they
later focus on that type of décor. You may find that you lean towards a specific group
because you know more people who refer you. Or you may be extremely good at a
particular design and people request it over and over. The more you practice, the more
you’ll see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Don’t ever think that your product is perfect for everyone
There is a specific market for your product and that’s where it belongs. People of
different age groups, gender groups, and backgrounds will all buy different products and
may need various services. For example, a seventy-year-old woman may need someone
to do a bouquet for her friend, and a forty-year-old working professional may need a
decorator to create a display in his store for a huge sale. People’s interests come into play
here. We each have unique personalities with differing flavors. Some people like the look
of uniform décor- meaning basic designs such as arches and columns (straight-forward
design); while others like unique décor- meaning “free designs” such as interesting
bouquets and sculptures. You will learn to hone in on key words people use when they’re
describing what “they see” for their event or sale. Showing them a few pictures of
different designs will also help you determine the type of décor they prefer. This leads us
to the most important thing you must determine…
Where is your market?
You can determine who would be in the market for your type of decorating by
doing a number of things. You could…
1) Ask people in different industries if they would buy your product.
2) Ask different age groups and genders of people what types of balloon décor
they would think of needing most- bouquets for family members, decorating
for a wedding, decorating for a sale, holiday décor, corporate events.
3) Test the market with a few types of advertising to see what industries or types
of people call you most often.
Once you have figured out that there is indeed a great demand for a particular type of
balloon décor or design, you must…
Determine the types of marketing that will suit you best…
How you should market all depends on where you live, the size of the city you live in, the
type of service or product you are going to offer, and the group of people who will be
buying your service and products. This section is developed to introduce you to the many
types of marketing strategies that are out there for you to take advantage of. Some of
them are free and others cost money. Obviously take advantage of as many of the free
ones as possible. With the ones that cost money, never be afraid to ask for specials.
Phone Book
The first thing I would suggest to you is to
go get your phone book out and look under a few of the following headings- parties,
balloons, and weddings. How many listings do you see? How are they listed, one line, or
full page color ads. Don’t be scared off by the full page ads. A square inch in-column ad
will have just as much punch if not more because it’s listed in the column and there are
two types of phone book people- “the pretty picture” people and “the read the column for
the most info” people. If there are many businesses under those headings, this indicates
that there is a definite market for that type of business. However, if there are few
businesses listed, it may be because there is not a great enough demand, or in the other
case, you may have found something unique that you can offer in your area. When you
call the phone book company, ask if there are any specials. Sometimes, they offer a
discount when you list in multiple books. Start off small. You may want to only print one
line with your business name and number. In order to get more calls, you may want to
have a one-inch ad or even go bigger. Also ask about adding to their internet listing.
The value of phone books is that they are a resource of
information for people. People refer to them at all hours of the day everyday of the week.
This is the disadvantage with newspapers. They are not meant to be used in the same
way. However, newspapers are read by millions of people everyday. The goal of
advertising with newspapers is to 1) attract attention to your ad, and 2) repeatedly display
the ad so that potential customers are aware of your product or service. Since you are just
starting your business, you may want to use this method in order to introduce the public
to your product. The first step is to write up a press release describing your new business.
Concentrate on the unique aspect of your product or service. Submit the press release to
all local newspapers. Call them a few days later to make sure they received the press
release and see if they will print it for free or do an article on your new business.
Secondly, if you are going to display an ad in a paper, try to obtain a space above the fold
in the paper. Also, remember to have the ad run in the appropriate section. For example,
if you are offering wedding décor, advertise in the travel section of the paper so that
soon-to-be brides and grooms looking for honeymoon spots see your ad for décor.
Flyers are only useful if you present them to people personally (not just
handing them out while people are walking out of stores, but going door to door or
business to business). Many business owners find flyers a waste of time and money. They
often do not produce the desired results- sales. What do you do with the junk mail you get
in the mail everyday? What do you think people are going to do with your flyer that looks
exactly like all that other junk mail? If you have that much time on your hands, use that
valuable time to create a nice looking, simple brochure that you can use to present to
potential clients.
You may have never heard of this type of advertising, but it
can be the most effective and it can produce immediate sales. The one thing it requires of
you is your fighting business instinct. Yes, you have it in you. All of us business owners
have it in us, but for some reason, it gets lost. The reason we lose it is because fear takes
hold. In order for people to know you have started a business you have to tell them. Yeah,
you’ll be bragging, but who doesn’t. Right now, I want you to think of five people you
know really well (who aren’t family members). Write them below.
1) ___________________________
2) ___________________________
3) ___________________________
4) ___________________________
5) ___________________________
When you have printed up your business cards and have prepared a packet of information
containing your prices, I want you to hand them to these five
people and talk about your business with them for at least
five minutes. Ask them if you may have five minutes of
their valuable time first, and then if they say yes, go at it.
This is practice for you. You are going to find that the
first person you talk to is going to be the scariest but best
experience for you (so make it someone you are friends
with). You will trip up, but you will go on, and you will find the second person you chat
with to be easier, and the third easier and so forth. By the fifth person, you should have
your sales pitch down, and you should be ready to confront a total stranger. Don’t be
surprised if the five people you talked to buy your product or service from you. When
you are face to face with a customer, you will make the sale more often than in any other
advertising method. What you are trying to spark is the word-of-mouth effect. You want
your neighbor to tell his neighbor (whom you don’t know) about your product. Eye to eye
and word of mouth make sales more often because they depend on your reputation. If
people see you eye to eye, they will be able to judge your product by your character- how
you present yourself and your service, how you treat them as a customer, etc. With word
of mouth, you are relying on satisfied customers to tell their friends about you. In this
case, satisfying the customer above and beyond the call of duty will ensure that you
develop a good reputation with them.
The internet is not only a great research tool that you
can use to start your business, but it offers many different ways to
advertise your business. You can create a web page that illustrates all of
your products and services to potential customers. I highly recommend
the site builder on Homestead offers personal pages and business
pages for a small fee, and you can design them with simple cut and paste methods, or you
can have someone design them for you for a onetime fee. You also get to choose a web
name, for example The secret to owning a successful
website is all in the name you choose. When we started our balloon company, we
purchased the name from a site called We could have bought the name of our (It’s A Gas), but when we really thought about, we decided that
most people would probably try to type in keywords instead of our company name. Heck,
they probably hadn’t even heard of It’s A Gas. No one would know to type that in to look
for balloons and helium. Buying was the best decision we could
have ever made. Most of our visits come from people who simply typed in that keyword.
They didn’t even find us through a search engine. The challenge today is finding
keywords that are still available for purchase. Visit to type in
keywords that are closely related to the products or services you offer. They also offer
many indispensable tools to making your web-building experience easier. Also, if there
are multiple keywords available, consider purchasing them now. You can always link
them to one site. The reason why the internet is becoming such a popular way of
advertising is because you can reach millions of people around the globe in seconds.
Once you have a web page set up, it is important to advertise the page and to let search
engines know that your page is up and running. You can do this by going to the specific
search engines, such as Yahoo, Google, or Infoseek, and typing in “add url” into the
search box to get more info on entering information about your site. Usually within
weeks, your site will be a part of their database. When people type in a subject related to
your site, your domain name (name of your web site) will be included in a list. There are
also many companies on the internet that provide a service of notifying search engines
and lists of people about your site, but there is usually a fee involved. One site that offers
submission for free for a few major search engines is Some companies,
such as phone book providers, offer a web ad and a web page for a discounted price if
you purchase an ad in their phone book. The price for these offers may be higher than if
you create your own page, but the advantage is that your advertisement is linked to a
popular company that many people already use to search for products and services. If you
have the time and want to save money, create your own page and advertise it yourself by
printing your domain name on your business cards and other ad materials. Also get linked
up to sites that are related to your industry. You may want to contact
to have your profile listed. Once you have established your website, make sure to create
a way for visitors to leave you their email. You may want to start a newsletter through a
site such as You can use one of their buttons to collect visitor
emails from your site and then generate newsletters or email flyers to let customers know
about upcoming holidays or specials.
Other Avoid direct mail, UNLESS you know who your market is. Don’t spend
moneyson mailers to try and find your customers. Some companies sell lists of people
who are bunched together according to similar interests or qualities. For instance, if you
are selling wedding decor, you can buy a mailing list that selects young women between
the ages of 20 and 35. When you send them your brochure, you are more likely to make a
sale more often because they are in the market to buy what you offer. Direct mail can be
costly, however. You may have to purchase the list of names, and then you have to pay
for postage on the mailings. The post office can set up a bulk delivery account for you,
but you should only consider this if you are sending out large quantities of mail. Other
types of advertising that can be costly are radio and television. If you think these types
may be beneficial for you, call a radio station or cable company and always ask about
discounts and ways of cutting costs. Beware of having your ad run at strange hours
though. You may believe you got a good deal with the cable company until you see that
your ad is being run at 2:00 a.m. when no one is watching.
Determining where to market your product
The advertising methods listed above are only suggestions. Go slowly with advertising
and test the waters. See what methods work best for you, and then develop them. Answer
these questions to help you determine how you will market your decorating, where you
will advertise, whom you are trying to attract, and if there is definitely a market for your
1) Where will you be selling your product or providing services?
2) What kind of people will be interested in your product?
3) How big is the market you will be selling to?______________________
4) Which types of marketing will probably work with your business best?
A Secret Tip from It’s A Gas
Many people ask us how we get our business. Most of our customers come from the
internet and then the second best method is word of mouth. These methods work great
once you are already established and the search engines have already listed you. But what
got us business in the very beginning??? We went out and offered our product for FREE
as a demonstration. Once you have figured out who your target audience is, go out and
show them what balloons can do. Go into a car dealership, ask for the sales manager and
then ask him if he would allow you to hang some air balloon clusters from the ceiling for
FREE. Tell him you’ll check back with him in 2 weeks to see what he thinks. When you
go back, ask him engaging questions such as, how did the balloons make the inside of the
showroom feel. Did the staff enjoy seeing the change in colors? Offer him a deal if he’ll
let you come in every two weeks to refresh the balloons and if that doesn’t work, ask him
if you can at least come in on the next big sale holiday, such as July 4th or President’s
day. Put this on your calendar and make sure to call him the week before to verify that
you can still come in to decorate. Always be thinking ahead and offering your services
ahead of time. This way, you are securing work for months to come. You should always
be engaging people in conversation about what THEIR needs are, not yours. Ask them if
they are having trouble getting noticed. If they have a sign outside their store, walk in and
offer to put a handful of helium balloons on their sign and ask them to come out and SEE
what helium balloons can do for the frontage of their location. By asking really engaging
questions, you are going to be able to help them find solutions for their problemstypically, most stores want to use balloons for grand openings, to get noticed, for
holidays and to tell people they are having a sale. By offering a unique design to put out
front for them for each of these occasions, you can generate repeat business and help
them be successful. Make sure to ask them how the balloons worked for them- whether
people mentioned the balloons when they walked in the door or if certain colors worked
better than others. The key is to not be scared to talk to people and have fun with it.
When you offer your service for FREE to a new client, it’s hard for them to say no! And
if they do reject the offer, simply give them your card and tell them that the offer still
stands if they’d ever like to try balloons to get attention.
Budgeting Your Costs
Pricing Your Products
One of the most important tasks that you will take on as a business owner
involves number crunching. The first item you will have to tackle is price structuring.
This involves making sure that you are making enough money to sustain not only your
business but your personal life. The second item involves record keeping. This is
necessary to ensure that you know where your money is going and how much you have
for yourself in the end. Also, the IRS demands that you keep clear records- that in itself is
reason enough to keep excellent records. This section of the book will provide you with
the resources needed to figure out how much you should charge and how to keep track of
your sales and expenses.
Determining Cost
The most important thing to remember about pricing is to make sure that you are making
money. This may sound obvious, but the fact is that most businesses fail within the first
year of start-up because business owners do not carefully go over their pricing
procedures. Owners become more concerned with competitors prices, and they try to
match them. You are not your competitor. You will most likely be
offering a slightly different product with very different service.
Because of these differences you have to price your products
according to what YOUR costs are. Some books will tell you to take your
cost and multiply by two. For example, if you do balloon bouquets and the cost of the
latex and helium is .50 cents, you should charge double- $1.00. How can you possibly
know if you are covering the amount of all the hidden costs associated with your
business, such as your labor, electricity, your vehicle, your business supplies, everything
down to the ribbon on the balloon, not to mention your profit? Each balloon must pay for
itself and then some. The next time you make a bouquet, time yourself. How long did it
take? Then decide on how much is a fair hourly rate for yourself. You will need to fill in
the budget in chapter 8 before you go any further. Filling in this budget will allow you to
find out how much money you need to make to live on. Realistically, how much do you
need to live comfortably? That number is going to be different for everyone. That’s why
a magical number to multiply to will not work. Also, you may work harder than other
balloon decorators if you’re getting up at 3AM to do car dealers, and you should be
charging accordingly. So lets take this step by step, using a model, so you can see how to
properly charge for items:
Your Budget: What was the total of your living expenses? _________ example: $3500
Your Part: How much of these expenses would you like to cover? If you have a partner
who is working, they may be covering some of these expenses, so put down what share
you would like to ultimately help out with? ______________________example: $1750
Other Expenses to Figure Into the Equation: To be honest, you are going to be your own
retirement fund. You need to figure in how much to save per month towards your
retirement. Currently, you can save $3000 a year in an IRA for yourself. That’s $250 a
month. I also like to encourage people to figure in some “new equipment cost” each year
so that as your business grows, you can afford to buy better equipment. About $2000 a
year on equipment should be enough. That’s about $165 a month on new equipment.
Business Cost: Start listing some of the costs associated with your new business venture
to get and idea of what your expenses might be for the products or services you will offer.
Add up the cost of these items on a monthly basis. For example:
Advertising: $300 per month
Licenses: $200 for the year ($17 per month)
Business Insurance: $133 a month
Postage: $37 per month
Office Expenses: $150 per month
Chamber/Commerce Membership: $35 per month
Bank Charges: $15 per month
Vehicle Upkeep: $100 per month
Total: $787 per month
You can create your own expense log on a computer, or you may purchase a record book
from any office supply store. There are daily, weekly, and monthly logbooks. They have
columns for costs directly associated with your product (such as latex balloons for your
bouquets) and columns for costs indirectly associated (such as the stamps you purchased
to send out your bills). Many items you purchase are tax deductible. Others will simply
be considered business expenses when tax time comes around. Some expenditures you
will want to keep track of include:
Sales Tax
Social Security
Lease Payments
Legal Expenses
Shipping Materials
Other Taxes
Selling Expenses
Delivery Expenses
Cell Phone
Office Expenses
Trade Dues
Office Furniture
Bank Charges
Keep every receipt, log every expense, and record every sale. You may decide to hire an
accountant to do the adding and subtracting for you, but if you really want to know where
the money is going and who is buying the most from you, you should be involved in the
Your Hourly Wage
How much you need to make per hour: If you’re going to be going at this full time,
expect about a 40 hour work week. Using the examples above, add:
Living Cost (Your share): $1750
Retirement: $250
New Equipment Fund: $165
Business Cost: $787
Total: $2952
You can divide by 4 weeks to see how much you need to make a week. This would be
about $738 a week. Now divide $738 by 40 hours a week, and you get $18.45 per hour.
Let’s make it easy and round up to $19 per hour that you need to make to cover your
living and future expenses.
Pricing Items
Pricing Items: You need to add up the cost for all the “materials” and “labor time” used
in creating the item. Let’s do an easy one first:
My Cost for a Bouquet of 5 latex/1 mylar on a weight:
5 Latex= .15 cents each x 5 = .75 cents
1 Mylar= $1.05 each
Helium for 6 balloons= $.15 cents per balloons x 6 = .90 cents
Ribbon for 6 balloons= $.02 cents per balloons x 6 = .12 cents
Balloon Weight= .75 cents
Labor Time= (You already figured out that you need to make $19 per
hour, but it’s not going to take you one hour to put together this bouquet.
So divide $19 by 60 minutes to figure out your price per minute. It’s about
.32 cents per minute. It should take about 15 minutes to blow up the
balloons, tie them off and curl the ribbon. So total labor cost is $4.80.)
Total Cost= $8.37
Remember, this is YOUR cost for the item. Now, how much will you mark it up
to make profit? Our company marks up most items 50% or more depending on the items.
If you were to figure out the cost of one latex balloon blown up and tied to ribbon, you’ll
find that it’s around .64 cents depending on what you pay for latex, helium, ribbon and
your labor. When you multiply .64 cents times .50 (for 50%) you’ll get .32 cents. Add .64
cents and .32 cents to get what you should charge (about .96 cents). We charge $1 for a
latex balloon because that’s what we need to make. Here’s another example of how to
charge for a décor item:
My cost for a Column:
Latex: 40 latex x .15 cents = $6.00
36” Latex Topper= $3.25
Air: 40 latex x .15 cents each = $6.00
Pole: $15
Labor: 25 minutes x .32 cents per min. = $8.00
Total Cost = $38.25
Mark up for profit: $38.25 x 50% = $57.38 (we round up to $60)
Pricing Quickly: You will find that many people will call you simply for a price quote on
a particular item, such as a cluster arch, a column or a dance floor design. This is why
you need to spend some time figuring out what basic designs you will offer and how
much you should charge for them. We know for example that most of our helium filled
work runs $1 per balloon. So for a string-of-pearl arch over a head table, we estimate that
it may take about 25 latex to span that head table and we multiply times $1 per balloon,
so the estimate would be $25. Air filled work will run cheaper, usually .75 cents per
balloon for us, so I multiply .75 cents times the number of latex in a column for example
and add any extra work such as the topper or floral work to it (along with labor to put
those items on). Knowing these numbers helps us estimate cost for our customers
quickly. Be careful not to quote for jobs to quickly though. Always remember to ask the
client if you can meet with them at the event location and do up an estimate based on
their specific needs.
Making Your
Business Real
Now that you have finally figured out what type of business you want, and you
have tested the market by doing a little advertising, you are going to find that you must
do some vital things in order to make your business “real.” You may have found that
banks want you to have a “fictitious name” before you can open an account under your
business name. Or maybe you want to avoid paying taxes on the items you are purchasing
to resale to your customers. In that case you will need a “resale license.” What are all
these technical terms being blurted out so casually? We’re going to go step by step
through the process of what you need to do in order to make your business real.
Even before beginning your home business, you should check the
zoning ordinances in your area. You can speak with a zoning administrator at your City
Hall. They will be able to tell you if your city has restrictions. Some cities may be
worried that your business will create unwanted traffic on your street. Other common
concerns are noise and smells.
What’s in a Name?
Everything! The name of your business might be the
most important factor, right alongside how well you manage your funds. You’ll want
your name to be catchy, simple, and say what you do. For example, if you start a balloon
bouquet business, you might call it “Balloons On the Go.” This name clearly explains
your service- that you do balloons, and they are for pick-up or delivery. The one thing to
consider is whether or not you want to go through the process of making the name
“yours.” In other words, you will have to go to the Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s
office to obtain a DBA, or “Doing Business As” certificate. This is also referred to as a
Fictitious Name Statement. You will have to make sure that no one else has your selected
name. The county courthouse may have a search service available for a small fee. They
can tell you whether or not the name is recorded with someone else. Next, you will have
to fill out a form, pay a fee, and have the Registrar-Recorder process your business name.
Once this is accomplished, you may have to publish the Fictitious Name in a recognized
newspaper for a period of time. This can be costly, but call four or five newspapers and
get quotes. The rates can vary greatly. Obviously go for the cheapest rate. There’s no
quality to worry about here.
If however, you think your operation will be small and your customers will pay
you directly in your own name, simply place your name in the title of the business and
you will not have to get a DBA. For example, if you start a professional décor and
entertainment service and opt not to be creative, you may decide on the business name
“Balloons and Entertainment by Julie Klein” or “Julie Klein’s Productions.” As long as
your first and last names are in the title, you shouldn’t have to register the name.
However, if you decide to go with a fancy name, you may want to place a trademark on
it. You may also want to copyright or patent products you have created. In this case, you
must fill out the proper forms with the government office (for example, copyright office
in Washington D.C.). Trademarks, copyrights and patents are guarantees that you created
the product, and no one can use that name or copy your product and make a profit off of
it. If they do, you can fight them in court.
Licenses and Permits
While at City Hall, check to see if you
need to obtain a city license to work out of your home. Be prepared to pay a fee, but
don’t worry. Keep the receipt because when tax time comes up, you will deduct the
license fee. Depending on the type of business you are running, you may need specific
permits to operate. For example, if you are baking items to add to gift baskets, you may
need to obtain specific permits from the state to operate. Good places to get more
information are your local Chamber of Commerce, your local City Hall, or the state and
federal listings in your phone book.
Sole Proprietorship? Partnership?
If you are operating
business alone, you can classify it as a sole proprietorship. If your spouse is helping
you, you may still classify it as a sole proprietorship. This classification simply means
that in the case that someone brings a lawsuit upon you, they may not only come after
your business, but they may come after your own finances as well. A partnership is a
legal agreement between more than one owner that they are sharing in the responsibilities
including financial responsibilities, such as lawsuits. A decision to be incorporated is one
you should speak with a lawyer or accountant about. You can check out a book on this
topic, such as John Kirk’s Incorporating Your Business, TPR Publishing, 1980. In this
case, the financial burden in lawsuits will fall on the company instead of the people
Employees Deciding to hire extra help may come later in your business
but it is something you should think about early on. If you know for sure that
you will need employees down the road, you will need to obtain an Employer’s
Identification Number (EIN). Also you will have to obtain an EIN if you go into a
partnership or are incorporated. This number is acquired through the Internal Revenue
Service. The phone number for the IRS can be found in the federal section (Government
Offices- United States) of any phone book. This section is usually found in the front of
the phone book before the white pages. If you do not need an EIN, you will use your
social security number as your identification number, but only enter your SSN on forms
if it specifically says to. You will also need to call the Employment Commission to get
information on unemployment taxes that you must pay if you have employees.
To Tax or Not to Tax?
Only one office can answer this question for
you, the State Board of Equalization. Their number can be found, guess where? Yep, the
phone book under Government Offices- State. Be prepared to tell them what products or
services you will be offering. They will tell you whether or not you must charge tax on
that item when you sell it to a customer. Then comes the fun part (sarcastically speaking).
You must keep track of how much you collect (they will tell you the rate to charge), and
then on a monthly, quarterly, semiannually or yearly basis, however they decide to collect
from you, you must fill out a form and pay what you collected. The benefit of obtaining a
resale license, which the state board issues, is that you can purchase items at wholesale
cost, meaning you pay no tax because the final customer, in some cases your customer,
will pay the tax. In other cases, your customer may have a resale license as well, and they
may want to purchase a product from you without paying tax. You must have them fill
out a resale certificate card that you keep for your records, and this allows them to
purchase the product with the intent that they are going to resell it as well. The benefit of
the resale license is that you avoid paying tax twice on the product (the first time being
when you purchased the product and the second time being when your customer
purchased the product). Many State Board of Equalization offices have workshops on
proper taxing, and it may benefit you to sign up so that you can be sure that you are doing
things the right way from the start.
Business Banking
You will need to set up a business checking account in
your business name so that you can collect payments from your customers. Banks charge
a variety of fees for things such as maintenance on the account, returned check fees,
overlimit fees, etc. As long as you balance your account each month, you shouldn’t have
to worry about any of the fees except the maintenance fee. This one can get costly with
some banks. Look for a reputable bank with a low maintenance fee on a business
account. You may want to set up a separate savings account for your business as well.
This is a good place to set aside money you collect for sales tax. When tax time comes
up, the money will be waiting in the account collecting a low interest rate.
Business Phone
If you are working out of your home, you don’t have
to get a business line set up. Just start answering your phone with your business name.
Some phone companies offer special rates on toll calls and out-of-state calls if you set up
a business line. As an incentive, you may also receive a free listing (as a part of the
package) in the yellow pages. The listing may only be one line with your company name
and telephone number. In my experience, a one-inch ad is better, and you can avoid the
business line cost by listing your last name and first initial in the ad, and then you may
place your business information in the ad. However, if you are concerned about keeping
your business line and personal line separate, you can always have another phone number
added to your personal line and have a double ring set up on it. This way, when you hear
the special ring come through, you know to answer with your business greeting. If you
are starting out, remember to keep your costs low or better yet, have none at all. Search
out ways to do things for free.
Your Company Image
Your company image emerges through your
business stationary and cards. If you are going to spend money on anything, it should be
business cards. You can use your computer to come up with a few logo designs. Search
through your images in your software and find something related to your type of
business. Once you have created a catchy logo, take it to an office supply store or a print
shop and get quotes on business cards. Some things to remember to have clearly
displayed on your cards are your name, phone number, email address, website, and a few
major keywords describing your products or services. If you have a slogan, also include
that as a part of your image. You may create stationary on your computer by simply
placing your logo on a blank sheet on a document and saving it as a template. When you
save the document in your computer, call it “logotemplate” and when you need to type a
letter, simply go to this document, open it, start typing your letter and then always “save
as” with a different name, such as “letter1.” Other ideas you may want to use to boost
your image are uniforms, magnetic signs for your car, a monthly newsletter made on your
computer, or a website on the internet.
Insurance and Accounting
Speak with your insurance company
representative about obtaining additional insurance to cover business equipment, any
inventory, liability, or to get a commercial policy for your business vehicle. If you are not
familiar with income tax, you may also want to meet with a CPA regarding tax and
accounting issues. You especially want to meet with them if you are unfamiliar with how
to take appropriate deductions. When you start a business, there are also many tax issues
that you must be aware of. You may call the IRS (the number can be found in the white
pages) and obtain booklets on owning a home business or small business. There are also
some helpful computer programs that take you step by step through the process of filing
your federal and state income tax forms. These can be found at most office supply stores
at the beginning of the year.
Keeping Records
Once you start making sales, you will need to keep
complete records of all your sales. You may purchase a two-part invoice book from an
office supply store. When you make a sale, complete the invoice, have the customer sign
the bottom, and give them a copy. Record this sale in a record book. Computer software
that creates invoices and records sales is also available. You should also keep track of
where you spend your money. Keep all receipts from expenses and write these down in
your record book. Log your mileage from your business vehicle and note any expenses
for entertaining customers in separate logbooks.
Complete your checklist
of things to do!
Things to do to make my business real…
Check city zoning laws.
Decide on a business name. Get a “Doing Business As”
Obtain city and state licenses and permits.
Decide if business will be sole proprietor, partnership or Inc.
If employees, call IRS for EIN and call Employment Comm.
Call State Board of Equalization about sales tax.
Obtain a business bank account.
Decide if you need a business phone line.
Develop a company image through business stationary.
Call your insurance carrier and a CPA if needed.
Keep records of sales, expenses and mileage.
Check if
Should I Reinvest?
The answer to the question, should I reinvest in my business, is an easy one. YES!
However, there is something you must do to ensure that you will have enough money to
reinvest. You must price your products or services in such a way that your business is
earning a profit. You can then use this profit to buy more equipment or hire more
employees and invest for your retirement. Profit is important because it allows your
business to grow steadily year by year. Many entrepreneurs do not budget for a profit,
and within one to three years, they go out of business because they are not making
enough money to support the growth of their business.
We already established how to find the cost of your products and services. Now,
simply think of profit as a cost to your business. Always be aware of your goals for your
future. Where do you see your business a year from now? Do you have an established
clientele? How about two years and three years from now? How much money will you
need to support these goals? For example, if you are selling bouquets out of your home,
but perhaps in 2 years, you would like to be able to work out of an office or have a store
front. This is a realistic goal that you can save for on a monthly basis. If you decide later
that working from home suits you, you can always invest the money in other areas to help
grow your business, such as advertising, or your company image.
The profit that you have left over should always be invested wisely. This means
that you owe it to yourself and the livelihood of your business to investigate your
investments. In the example above, you should price different offices or possible store
front sites. Look at your competition (are they right across the street?) Are there larger
stores around the possible site to carry business your way. Search the internet. Make
phone calls. Tell people you know to be on the lookout. Don’t be satisfied with the first
price or location you find. Be picky and choosy. Also, don’t blow your profits on fancy
gadgets that you have no use for. The equipment with the special whatchacallit may seem
enticing, but think about whether this matters. Sometimes it’s hard to see the line between
what you want and what you need for your business. Usually business owners are
imaginative people. In other words, they are dreamers. This quality allows them to see
the potential for their venture and it helps them create a niche for a product and sell it.
But when it comes to money, dreamers can get into BIG trouble. They may believe that
they need this certain item in order to complete the “picture” in their minds. But often,
this item is not necessary. You should allow your savvy business sense to take over in
money matters. Allow you creative juices to flow at other times.
Investing your profits also entails socking away money for specific things, such as
taxes and retirement. Your first year will be your experimental year for taxes. You should
save a portion of your profits into a savings account or other liquid method for taxes. Do
not make risky investments with tax money! Yes, you may make a profit, but a shortterm investment may also lose money quickly, and you don’t want the IRS after you.
Retirement money is different. Depending on your current age, you may have many years
ahead of you to invest for retirement. You may want to consult a company that
specializes in retirement accounts, such as Vanguard. Their toll free number is 1-800447-9413. They also have a website with information at It is a good
idea to take advantage of pretax retirement accounts, such as IRA’s. There are traditional
IRA’s that allow you to invest up to $3000 per year in a mutual fund. The money does
not get taxed at income tax time. This is a great benefit because with other investments,
such as stocks (not in IRA’s), the interest you make gets taxed. The catch to the IRA is
that you must wait until retirement to withdraw the money, or it will be taxed at a higher
rate. The ROTH IRA is similar to a traditional, but it allows you to use your investment
for a medical emergency or for buying a home. The benefit is you don’t get hit hard with
an outrageous tax rate when you withdraw the money. The catch is that the money must
be in the ROTH for 5 years before it may be used in the cases above. For self-employed
individuals, there is a special kind of IRA that may take the place of a company
investment, such as a 401(k). It is called a SEP-IRA. The SEP allows an employer to
invest up to 13% of her income a year. Also, she may invest $3000 per year into her
traditional or ROTH IRA. Of course, you should speak with an investment representative
about all the terms and conditions before doing anything. Ask questions and study fund
prospectuses before making any decisions. There are specific funds to match your desired
level of growth. Vanguard has a good tutorial online that explains about retirement
I shouldn’t have to write this, what with all the talk about saving, but some people
overlook it. First pay down your debts, such as credit cards, and then save, save, save!
Save enough money in a bank savings account for emergencies. Some businesses may
have high earnings and low earnings times during the year. For example, in the balloon
business that my husband and I have, the summer tends to be a low time because there
are few holidays and the weather is very hot, making balloons undesirable. We have to
budget our money carefully to get us smoothly through the summer. A good way of
understanding your business’s high and low times is to chart your earning over the course
of the year. Use graph paper or your computer, and write in the months at the bottom and
earnings along the side. Over the years, you may see a pattern forming. This visual aid
may help you in determining when you should make large purchases.
JanFebMarApr Ma Jun Jul Au Se Oct Nov De
Some things to remember…
Budget in profit as a cost
Keep your goals in mind
Use profits as a means of growth
Investigate investments
Sometimes cheaper is better
Don’t buy what you don’t need
Keep money liquid or readily available for taxes
Invest to the limit in pre-tax investments
Pay down debts and SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!
What will be your savings/retirement plan?
Problems Facing Home
Business Owners
The many benefits to owning a home business include making your own work
hours, being able to spend time with your family, tailoring your business to your lifestyle,
and earning and investing money for yourself, not your boss. While these are positive
things that make owning a business desirable, there are many obstacles that can be both
stressful and down right unfair. It is good to be aware of these business pitfalls from the
start so that you can be prepared when they arise.
Obtaining Finances
This is probably the first major obstacle that will
pop up along entrepreneur road. If you decided early on to get a loan from a bank, and
you have spoken with many representatives, you may have already found that banks are
not very willing to give to people starting new businesses, unless you have collateral. The
Small Business Administration or SBA is also another resource for people trying to
obtain loans, but even they have restrictions. Some organizations want to see that you
have been in business for at least two years (this will start to become a magical number,
as we will soon see). You are probably telling yourself, well if I could get money, maybe
I could start my business so that I could be in business for two years. Yes, I hear you.
And they will hear you, but unfortunately, they don’t care. You are a risk to them (just as
two is your magical number, risk will become a magical word). But that’s okay. You may
have to struggle a little by working at a Just-Over-Broke (JOB) and starting your business
part time. You will probably be tempted to go the easier way though, credit cards, and
that brings us to the next obstacle.
Credit Cards and Debt
Again, what is the number one reason
why new businesses fail within the first year? MONEY. It’s plain and simple. If you get
into debt early on, you are setting yourself up for trouble. That is why I have stressed
purchasing only what you NEED the first year. Many credit cards now offer incredibly
low interest rates for a few months as an introductory rate. While this is helpful if you are
able to pay off the balance before the due date, in many cases, this “special offer” is a
means of getting you to purchase items. The interest rate usually bounces back up to 15%
or even 20% when the trial period is over, and this could mean more and more debt
unless you take care of the balance. Call your credit card company and have your
purchase rate lowered as much as possible. Ask for 9%! It doesn’t hurt to try.
Another area of concern is being able to pay your vendors promptly. They may be
willing to sell you the supplies to start up your shop, but make sure you set up a rigid
payment plan with them. If you neglect paying your vendors, they may stop supplying
you, and no products means no earnings. Be realistic with the payment plan you set up.
Don’t expect to make all your profits by a certain time. Also research many suppliers,
even out-of-state ones. You would be surprised at how low prices can go.
Purchasing a Home
If you own a small business, a mortgage lender
will depend upon your tax forms to see what your income is. The problem that arises for
many self-employed individuals is that they take allowable deductions on the Schedule C
of their federal income taxes, leaving them with a smaller amount of income. If this is the
case for you, and you are in the market to purchase a home, you may have trouble
qualifying for a loan. And even if you do qualify, you may get stuck with outrageously
unfair interest rates. The reason for this is that lenders see the self-employed as a risk.
You have two options in this case, and the magical number 2 fits in here. First, you may
choose to keep working for a company for at least two years to show that you have steady
income. By doing this, the lender will most likely only want to see your recent pay stubs.
Your second option is to not take as many deductions for two years, pay out the yin yang
on your income taxes for deductions you should rightfully be able to take, thus showing a
higher income so that you can qualify at a reasonable interest rate. The whole mortgage
system should take a closer look at how they evaluate the self-employed. We are in a
totally separate group when it comes to income and expenses. It seems like a form of
discrimination in that they scrutinize the self-employed more harshly, but it is a fact of
life to be prepared for. If you can finance for a home before you are totally dependent on
your business, do so. Otherwise, you may have to take a beating at income tax time.
Always consult with an IRS representative or CPA on tax matters.
The Ugly “D” Word
Young people, old people, and women are
increasingly starting their own businesses and are increasingly being faced with
discrimination in their communities and in the business world. Learning how to be taken
seriously comes with time, but you should never take discrimination in stride. The first
form of discrimination many people face is from their own beloved family members, and
this can often be the worst form because we all want support from the people we love.
Always keep an open communication channel with your spouse, parents, or children,
especially if you will need their support. Let them know of your intentions to start a
business. Show them your business plan and give them some business cards to hand out
to friends. The best way to avoid any resentment is to involve your family and friends.
The other form of discrimination you may face will come from society, including
members of your community whom you thought you could count on. You will also face
many situations that seem unjust. My husband and I went on a business trip in another
state to purchase balloons for the upcoming year. When we arrived at the airport, we
proceeded to the rental car booth where we had a rental car waiting for us. The desk man
explained to us that since neither one of us was 25 years of age yet, we were going to
have to pay $20 more per day on top of the already high day rate. We couldn’t believe
what we were hearing. We told the rental company representative that this was a business
trip, and that the car was being used for business purposes, but that didn’t matter. Feeling
discriminated against, we decided to take our business elsewhere, only to find that this
was the case at most of the reputable rental car companies. This is just one example of the
many obstacles we have faced as young business owners. Our greatest feat was trying to
be taken seriously at 20 years old. We had to talk circles around our potential customers
to convince them that we had the knowledge and experience they craved. Please, don’t let
negative people get you down. They only feel threatened by you because you not only
know what your goals are, but you take action to complete them. This takes a lot of hard
work, dedication, and discipline, things that not many people have the you-know-whats
to take control of. This is your time to get fired up. Naturally, you will have to talk about
your new business to community members in order to let them know that your services
are available. Don’t think of this as bragging. No one needs to know how much you make
or how great your life is now that you set your own hours. What they do need to know is
that you are open for business, and you are here for them.
Probably the hardest form of discrimination for the self-employed comes from the
self. People can be highly critical of themselves, and most of this will stem from the
discrimination you faced from society. Society tells you that to be a productive member
of society, you must get married, get a career, have children, put them in pre-school while
you work five days a week, 8-10 hours a day, and take vacations once or twice a year.
Mothers, especially have found it difficult to juggle work, husband, children and herself.
We all have heard about a time when women were praised for staying home with the
children and taking care of the home. Once it became impossible for any family to afford
the overpriced necessities of life, it suddenly became “normal” for a mother to take on the
role of “employee.” Women thought they were liberating themselves by requesting that
they be allowed to work outside of the home, and now, they are desperate to find a way to
be contributing members of society while staying at home. This is why there has been a
sudden flourish of women entering the home business world. What’s really great is when
both men and women take a look at their situations and say that they are going to make a
change. It is not wrong to put family and spouse first. In fact, those people should be
commended. They have taken a huge step in trying to maintain a healthy family
framework that will survive through the harshest of times. You may have heard of a
female writer named Adrienne Rich. In many of her works she writes about her inner
conflict of being a “female” and feeling guilty with the choice of finding time to work
(writing was her form of work). In one essay titled “When We Dead Awaken,” Rich
writes, “I had thought I was choosing a full life: the life available to most men in which
sexuality, work, and parenthood could coexist. But I felt, at twenty-nine, guilt toward the
people closest to me, and guilty toward my own being” (Rich, 174). Rich is not, by any
means, an angry feminist. She is a woman who has had the opportunity to explore her
own life through writing, and she has found her sense of self. She suggests that this was a
difficult and dangerous journey, and is for any woman, because over and over again,
women meet “the image of Woman in books written by men” (Rich, 171). That is to say,
it has not been traditional for women to write their own destinies. This goes for women
and men though. What would your life look like if you could just sit down and start
writing it. Would you be working for that jacka#$ boss you’re currently making oh so
rich? Would you drive in traffic for two hours every day and stay away from your family
members five days a week? Would you get up early and come home late? Would you still
have your same old mundane job? Or would you write it as you see it in your dreams? A
happy family sees the goals ahead of them and accomplishes them together. A home
business can fulfill your love of some hobby or skill that you do so well that people
cannot stop complimenting you on a job well done. I hope you choose your own path. I
hope you write your own destiny. Things will not always be easy. There will be down
times, and there will be tough decisions to make, but if you always remember the reason
why you started your own business and if you surround yourself with people who are
positive, you will become a success.