The Balloon Book 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 www.heliumtanks.com Table of Contents 1 The Making of a Balloon Artist 2 The Meeting- from phones to personal meetings 3 All Balloons Go to Heaven- the make up of balloons 4 Equipment that Blows 5 Basic Design 6 Indoor Décor 7 Outdoor Décor 8 Money 9 Marketing 10 Budgeting Your Costs/Pricing Your Product 11 Making your Business “REAL” 12 Should I Reinvest? 13 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 www.heliumtanks.com to turn to if you need tips, advice, or equipment and supplies. Chapter 1 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 Heaven.” 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). Chapter The Meeting 2 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 conversations: Order Sheet Bill To: Company Name: ___________________________________________________________ Name: ___________________________________________________________________ Address: _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________ Phone: ___________________________________________________________________ Email: ___________________________________________________________________ Fax: _____________________________________________________________________ Terms: Credit Card Account Check 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: _____________________ Theme/Colors 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 appointment. 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. Chapter 3 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 pours. 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 body. 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. Balloon Type 5” 9” 11” 14” 16” 17” 3’ 5’ Avg. Flying Time NA 12-16 hrs 18-24 hrs 26-32 hrs 30+ hrs 36+ hrs 3-5 days 5-7 days Gas Capacity 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 1800 420 200 100 80 60 11 3 3600 870 425 200 160 130 26 6 *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. Chapter 4 Equipment 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. Basic Helium 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 occur. 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 hydrotests. 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 DEPARTMENT IF THESE NECESSARY STEPS ARE NOT TAKEN! 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. Regulator THE BALLOON REGULATOR OR FILLER is the next most 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 www.heliumtanks.com 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. Expert 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 with. 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. Chapter Basic Design 5 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. INFLATION 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. TYING 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. DESIGNS 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 Directions: 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 weight. Task 7: Duplet Supplies and Equipment Latex Balloons Hand Pump, Air Machine, or Helium Tank Directions: 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 Directions: 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 Weights Line Helium Tank and Regulator Directions: 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 Directions: 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 Ribbon Directions: 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. Chapter Indoor Decor 6 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: PREPARATION #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. THE LAYOUT Exits/Entryways Electrical Outlets Cake Table Stage Emergency Exits Windows Dance Floor Band/DJ Kitchen/Bathrooms 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. FUN DESIGNS 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 Ribbon Directions 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 Directions 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) Directions 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 column) Directions 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 create. Task 5: Swag Connected Dance Floor Supplies and Equipment Latex balloons Line Air Machine Dowel, nail, wood glue (for balloon pop) Drapery Zip ties Time: 2 hours (average dance floor) Directions 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) Directions 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) Directions 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) Directions 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) Directions 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) Directions 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 Directions 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 Directions: 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. Heart 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. Chapter Outdoor Decor 7 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. A NOTE ABOUT CITY and AIRPORT CODES 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 Directions: 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 lightpole. Task 2: Streamer Supplies and Equipment 17” and 36” Latex balloons Clear Line Helium Tank and Balloon Filler Directions: 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 Directions: 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. Chapter Money 8 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: Necessary Phone (Answering Machine) Might Need Computer Vehicle Recordbook Printer Inventory 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 had.) 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: Assets: Liabilities: Car- purchase price $15,000 Student Loans: $2000 Jewelry- $500 Car: $10,000 Office Equipment- $1000 Credit Cards: $500 Total……………$16,500 Total………..$12,500 *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 information. 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 away. 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 www.onlinewbc.org or www.sba.gov 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? 1)__________________________________________________________. 2)__________________________________________________________. 3)__________________________________________________________. 4)__________________________________________________________. 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 water. Expenses and Income Expenses Rent/Mortg. Elec./Gas Phone Water Trash Cable Child Care Health Furnishings Grocery Dining Out Credit Card Education Pets Automobile Insurance Savings Fun/Gifts Business Total Exp Income Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Chapter 9 Marketing 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. Newspaper 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 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. EYE to EYE 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. Internet 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 www.homestead.com. 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 www.balloonsandhelium.net. The secret to owning a successful website is all in the name you choose. When we started our balloon company, we purchased the name www.heliumtanks.com from a site called www.networksolutions.com. We could have bought the name of our companywww.itsagasinc.com (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 www.heliumtanks.com 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 www.networksolutions.com 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 Submit-It.com. 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 www.partypop.com 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 www.constantcontact.com. 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 product. 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. Chapter 10 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: Accounting Insurance Sales Tax Gas/Miles Advertising Interest Social Security Automobile Lease Payments Laundry Medicare Equipment Legal Expenses Shipping Materials Other Taxes Uniforms Contributions Licenses Selling Expenses Software Delivery Expenses Miscellaneous Supplies Cell Phone Electricity Office Expenses Telephone Pager Entertainment Postage Trade Dues Computer Freight Rent Travel Wages Water Office Furniture Bank Charges Materials 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 accounting. 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. Chapter 11 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. Zoning Even before beginning your home business, you should check the Laws 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 Incorporated? your 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 involved. Employees Deciding to hire extra help may come later in your business ? venture, 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 done Chapter Should I Reinvest? 12 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 www.vanguard.com. 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 planning. 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. 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 JanFebMarApr Ma Jun Jul Au Se Oct Nov De 1996 1997 1998 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? Chapter 13 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.
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