Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Why Supporting Charities Can be Good For Business

Design by Tope Abulude, CBA
For the past five years, a group of excited balloon professionals have gathered at a London hotel to decorate a party. This a very special party. It is for children who are being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). GOSH is a very special hospital, the children treated there are mostly referred there by other U.K. hospitals offering care to children and young people with rare, complex, and difficult-to-treat conditions. The balloon professionals that attend travel from all over the U.K. and would not miss this day for the world! So why do they do it?

Daffodil Sculpture by
Chris Adamo for
Cancer Council.
Working for a charity and non-profit organisations can be very rewarding. Apart from the feel-good factor of supporting charities, working with non-profits could help boost your business' network and company image.

Companies can do this in so many ways: offering to raise income, gifts in kind, pro bono support, and volunteers for a cause. 

As a balloon company, we can offer balloons or decorate an event. 

When I first started my balloon business, I found it very difficult to know how to work with all the charity requests that I was getting. I am sure that many of you have found yourself in a similar situation.

I asked a few fellow balloon professionals their thoughts on working with charities and non-profit organisations.

"We support local charities and anything that I personally have an affinity with. To be more precise if a local school or charity wants something —less than a few hundred Australian dollars at retail price — I will often say 'Yes.' I feel good about helping, and that investment ALWAYS pays off. Locals want to support local — especially if they know we support them, said Chris Adamo, CBA, of Balloons Online, Sydney, Australia. 

"When I say local, that has to be within a few minutes drive — Sydney is a big place.  Anyone more distant, I will offer DIY materials at cost price. I don't want to make a profit from a 'not-for-profit' organisation. I personally do one large project for one of Australia's larger charities, Cancer Council. I have been doing it for years. It feels great being able to help, and in return, they have put me in touch with the corporate sector. Business is all about relationships and trust. Working with charities is a fast track to that process. It also gives you a blank canvas to try a new product, style, or technique."

When I ran my home-based balloon business, I also supported one main charity each year by decorating their big fund-raising event. As a small business, I was unable to give the decor for free as my funds would not permit this. However, my solution was to sell the decor at cost. For anyone who uses a Job Cost Form, you will know that your cost includes materials, labour costs, and expenses. Therefore, I did not make any profit from the event, but it meant that I could afford the materials and to pay those helping me on the day. I felt that it was important that the charity knew the true value of decor that they were receiving. When I sent the invoice, I would show the full cost of the decor, and then I would show how much discount they would be getting. It is important that they understand the full value of the decor that you are providing for their event.

Joette Giardina of Balloon Coach says, "In a previous career as a social worker for a non-profit organization, I knew how much we counted on the generosity of others to provide services to our clients. So when I started my balloon business, I felt it important to offer a discount to non-profits for our services to be able to still make a profit for the company and to help the community.

As business owners, we can give back to the community in several ways. One is to serve on the board of a local charity to give of our time to help plan and promote a fundraiser
This did two things for me. It got me in a room with other business leaders from my area that I would have not met otherwise. They appreciated that I gave up my time to help the organization and in return, referred people to me to purchase decor for other events outside of the event we worked on.

I see a lot of talk on balloon groups that say giving "FREE" decor to a company just brings more free work, and from my experience, I disagree with that. It's all about how you set it up. I am of the mindset that it is important to be a part of my community and to give back as I can to those who need it. When deciding to give my time or work, I think it's  key that my heart needs to be in it, and not to do it just because someone asked for something free. Support a charity that you can really support because it's a cause or organization you care about.

As a business owner, you can choose one charity a year that you support — or multiple —based on your finances. That way I can say, 'We are a small business, and as such, we have a charity that we give to annually.'  But we like to help the other wonderful non-profits, so we can extend a 10% discount for your event."

Joette has written a great article on this subject: 5 Tips to Creating Sales When Non-Profits Call Your Balloon Company Asking For Donations. 

Turning a Freebee into Free Publicity — Samuel Stamp-Dod, CBA, of VIP Balloons in Ipswich, U.K.

"I’m sure I’m not alone in constantly being asked to support charities with free balloons for their events, and, while we cannot always afford to do so, sometimes these opportunities can be used to our advantage as well as the charities.

If you think about how much it would cost to place an advert in your local paper, it can often be hundreds of pounds and have little effect.  However, all newspapers want stories and pictures. So turning a charitable donation into a story, everyone wins: the charity, the newspaper, and you!

I find if you provide the photos and write the editorial for them, they are much more likely to publish the story.  Think about the stories that the paper will be interested in. Often this is by keeping it local: the charity, the event, and you - the local balloon company.  Read the stories that your paper publishes and write in their style. This way you are much more likely to get it published.

I found a great post written by Nelson James, CEO of - 6 Ways to Promote Your Company’s Charitable Works. Rather than re-post the whole article, I have selected some of his top tips.

Giving back to the community means benefits for both charities and the businesses that support them. Using marketing to promote charitable works can work well for companies. But it’s important that this kind of marketing doesn’t come across as self-serving. 

Promote through Social Media Channels

You can use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to promote your company’s charitable works and engage the community at the same time. 

Your social media profiles already create a sense of shared experience with your customers, you’ll be able to show customers that you truly care about the charities you support.

Put articles on your blog and website
Write an article for your company’s blog, or create a “community” section on your site that provides details about your favorite causes. Instead of splashing your latest good deed all over your homepage, simply draw site visitors to those pages through a small banner that says, “We support This Charity… click here to find out how you can help, too!” Provide a specific call to action that allows customers to join you in your efforts.

Post in-store signage

Use signage to remind customers about the causes you support. But instead of loudly proclaiming, “Look What We’re Doing!” create signs that give customers a way to help. You might develop a campaign that provides a specific donation for every sale, or asks customers to donate directly.

Volunteer time and effort
They say actions speak louder than words. So get out there and act already! Volunteer time in addition to money. Include employees and customers for a day of charitable giving by issuing invitations and putting up signage to advertise the event. Don’t forget to include signage at the volunteer location, too.

Choose just a few charities and participate in a meaningful way
Some companies mistakenly think that if one charity makes them look good, a dozen will make them look even better. This method can backfire—it appears that you’re just collecting as many charities as you can in order to promote yourself. Instead, choose just two or three charities that you truly care about, and participate in meaningful way. Instead of giving twelve charities $100, give one charity $1200.

Marketing shouldn’t be the impetus for giving; your customers see right through your ulterior motives and are turned away by your insincerity. A true, sincere desire to help people in need comes first; capitalizing on the market value of charity is a secondary perk. Promote your company’s good works in a way that is designed to help the charity more than the company, and you’ll do both.

Wow, what a fabulous article, I wish I had some of Nelson James' advice when I started my business!

There is some truly great advice in this post for those of you who are unsure how to work with charities and non-profit organisations. You might decide that in 2018 you will find a wonderful local charity and drive all your efforts in their direction rather than waiting for them to find you.

A huge thank you to Chris, Joette, and Samuel for their invaluable advice.

Happy Ballooning!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Balloons by Number: How Mike Hurst's Journey to WBC Inspired Him to Create Quick Link Numbers.

Designing a party is exciting but can also be challenging. Next week, I will be decorating a big corporate event with a fabulous team of balloon artists working with me. This year's theme is DISCO, and I am looking forward to us creating a room filled with "Mirror Balls" — 3' giant confetti-filled balloons that will reflect the coloured lighting within the room. In addition to this, the client wanted us to create decor for the stage. Last year, we made musical notes that we suspended against the star cloth backdrop. This year, I thought it would be great to make the word "disco" using Quick Link Balloons®. So, here is where my challenge really started. I am not a Quick Link expert. In fact, I am still very much a learner when it comes to designing with Quick Links! It was time for me to find a Quick Link expert! 

Earlier this year Mike Hurst, CBA from Reds in Brackley, U.K., ran an introductory webinar with BAPIA* showing viewers how to make a number "One" and to talk about the art of creating numbers using Quick Link Balloons. Due to great feedback and demand, he ran a one-day hands-on course, teaching delegates how to create all the numbers. Sadly I missed it! Mike is not someone that you would normally see on the teaching circuit. He only started working with balloons in 2013 when he attended the Qualatex® Fundamentals course

So when I visited Mike earlier this week, I asked what inspired him to learn how to design the numbers. This was something Mike did not have to think about, his response was quick - "The World Balloon Convention 2016 in New Orleans." Mike only decided to attend WBC at the last minute. He knew that he wanted to go, but Mike and his wife Jane were just about to move their business — Party with Reds — to a new location, and the timing was not great for him to be jetting off to the USA. 

By chance, Mike made a connection with Ziv Raviv, host of Balloon Artist Podcast and founder of balloon artist collegewho was running a WBC referral scheme at that time. Although the cost was a huge consideration, he knew deep down that attending WBC would benefit him and his business greatly. I asked Mike what he felt he gained.

"Firstly and very importantly, it was building new relationships and contacts that would and since have opened new doors and opportunities. Then, of course, the classes, learning new styles and techniques have proved invaluable. Plus it boosted my confidence greatly! I truly loved the networking. It's not something that you consider before you go, but you meet so many like-minded people from all around the world. Plus you get the opportunity to spend time with the instructors who generously offered advice and support." On return, Mike went into full-scale production making and selling designs that he had learned during his time at WBC. His newfound skills and art were received very well by his customers, and the designs were literally "flying off the shelf" before he had even had a chance to price them! I asked Mike how quickly he made a return on his WBC investment. "About a year. However, it would have been quicker if I had not also invested in great new equipment, a Premium Twin Air Sizer, that I knew would benefit me and the business greatly. Plus I also attended the Qualatex Event in Slovenia where I took my CBA exam!"

Mike's interest in making the numbers was through networking conversation at WBC and talking to David Mahoney about the yard numbers that he makes. Mike felt that this would be something that he could potentially sell in the U.K. On his return, he made a number "Three" for his godson's third birthday, but decided that working with Quick Links might be easier. Mike had learned how to work with Quick Links and how to make fabulous arches when he attended the Qualatex Magical Party Design course. "This has to be one of my favourite classes, it really gave me the spark to design and create the numbers."

For me, Mike was the perfect person to ask for help, and thankfully, he agreed and set about designing the word "DISCO" for the party. It was important for me to learn how to make the letters, so I spent an action-packed afternoon with Mike earlier this week, where we made the "I," which would be our template for height and then the "S," to ensure that the proportions where correct.

This was somewhat of a challenge as the space in Mike's shop was limited, so we ended up taking the letters outside to see how they looked and we received some great comments from passers-by who were intrigued by what we were doing.

I asked Mike if he would be going to WBC next year in San Diego? "Absolutely! I would not miss it for the world! Once again, I want to gain as much as possible from my investment. This time, I have set myself a new challenge by entering three of the competitions with a fellow Brit, Samuel Stamp-Dod. I entered the Mystery Box competition when I attended the UK leg of the Qualatex World Tour with Aimee Smith and we won! It really gave me the push that I needed."

For those of you who are wondering how you can learn how to make Mike's Quick Link numbers, you will be excited to know that there will be an online course available next year, so watch this space. I will keep you posted! 

Mike has very kindly offered to share his first online webinar demonstration that he did with BAPIA showing how to make his number "One." It was an interactive class where the viewers made a number "One" at the same time. Cool idea! 

Other than attending WBC 2018 and entering competitions, Mike's next challenge will be to design the whole alphabet, which he will also make available online — he's designed five letters already. 😉

A huge thank you to Mike for helping me with my "Disco" dilemma, and for being such a great teacher! I wish him every success with his competitions at WBC and with his exciting ballooning journey!

I will report back after our event next week and show you how Mike's letters and the party decor looked!

Have a great week, and happy Ballooning!

*BAPIA - Balloon and Party Industry Alliance


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Small Snowflake Design by Luc Bertrand, CBA.

Every year, Luc Bertrand, CBA, of wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium, very kindly shares one of his festive designs. This year, he shares his lovely small snowflake!

Material List:

11 -  5" White balloons
12 -  6" White Quick Link balloons


Step 1.

Inflate each of the 5" White balloons with two pumps on a hand pump and tie the balloons as close as you can to the nozzle end.

Step 2. 

Squeeze the air from the balloon so that it inflates the whole balloon, including the neck. 
Now, make two small bubbles (see photo).

Step 3.

Bring the neck of the balloon up below the larger bubble and twist. Pull the neck of the balloon through the middle of the two smaller bubbles to hold these in place.

Step 4.

Twist each of the smaller bubbles into a Pinch Twist. 

Step 5.

Repeat this process with all eleven balloons.

Step 6.

Now inflate the twelve 6" Quick Links with five pumps of a hand pump and tie these into duplets.

Step 7.

Twist all the duplets together to form a Topiary.

Step 8.

Attach the 5" balloons to the tips of each of the Quick Link balloons with the exception of the top balloon. This will enable you to hang it easily.

Thank you once again, Luc, for sharing a wonderful design that we can use this festive season!

Happy Ballooning!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Are You Ready For The Festive Season?

Make the most of the festive season with these top tips.

1. Get prepared

You may feel like Christmas is still a long time away, but before you know it, it will be mid-December! For some small businesses, Christmas can be the busiest time of the year, while others may find that things quiet down in the run-up to the new year. Whichever it is for yours, you need to plan accordingly — especially when it comes to finances. If you’re expecting Christmas to be one of your busiest periods, you’ll need to make sure you have the resources to meet demand — whether that’s time, staff members, products, or anything else.

How fabulous is this festive wreath designed by Tope Abulude, CBA and Dominic Cassidy, CBA! It would look stunning as part of a Christmas display. Did you know that if you are a QBN member you can download the recipe? Just visit, log in,  click on Inspiration, then click on Explore Decor. It's quick to find if you refine your search to "Christmas" in Occasions.
2. Think about your festive marketing
Christmas provides plenty of opportunities for themed marketing events, no matter what kind of business you run. Pick something that works for you and your target audience to make the most of the festive season. Write a festive email newsletter to keep your customers up-to-date with any offers that you are promoting during the Christmas period. It is the best way to get hold of as many of your customers as possible without investing too much money.
For those of you who have a die-cutting machine such as a Silhouette Cameo, consider making window vinyls to display a message or special offers. Snowflakes and a message looks fabulous!

You can download some great files for free from, like this Merry and Bright design that would make a great window decal. When you download from FontBundles and DesignBundles, you will get the image in several formats including jpg, png, ai, and svg.

And don't forget to add a festive element to your website! It's amazing how many people forget to update their websites for seasonal events! 
Smilin Snowman by Cam Woody, CBA,
Pioneer Balloon Company
3. Arrange a Christmas Event

Everyone is going to be on the lookout for a great deal this Christmas, so consider arranging a Christmas event where you offer free gifts or special discounts. Offering a free gift when your customer spends over a certain amount in your store will have the power to increase your customers' average spend, as many people will spend over the threshold to get a free gift.

Quick Link Friendly Reindeer
by Cam Woody

4. Be on-trend!

Think about what's hot right now! Giant balloons and giant balloons filled with confetti are one of this year's hottest trends! Make sure that your customers are aware that this is something you offer, along with confetti-filled Deco Bubbles, too! 

The NEW 24" "Frosty Snowflake" Deco Bubble will be a sure hit this winter!

24" "Frosty Snowflakes"
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,675

It's time to get creative and ready for a fabulous festive season! 

Happy Ballooning!



Friday, November 3, 2017

Will it be Pink or Blue? A Little Inspiration for Baby Gender Reveal Events.

Gender reveal parties are relatively new. Over the past few years, these have become increasingly popular around the world.
Photo Credit: The Story of Five
Wedding Banner Love

Gender reveal parties are a great way to celebrate and share the news of the baby's gender with family and friends before the baby is born. There are several ways that this can be done, either through cleverly staged photos or by throwing a memorable gender reveal party.

Here are some great ideas that I have found when researching through various social media channels. 

Box of Balloons

This seems to be one of the most popular ways to announce the gender of a baby. It's fun and very visual and gives you the opportunity to decorate and present the box in your own way! 

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit -

Photo Credit: Deborah Nagai Photography

Photo Credit: Mandy Kay Photography - Wow, this lady takes awesome photographs!

Please consider Smart Balloon Practices when filling a box with helium-filled balloons. Rather than releasing and allowing the balloons to float away, keep the balloons tethered to a weight. 

To find large cardboard boxes, check your balloon distributor as many will carry boxes for balloon deliveries or use your friendly search engine and type the following keywords:

Where can I buy extra large boxes
XXL boxes 
Really big cardboard boxes

Popping Balloons

This also appears to be a very popular choice! Filling a 3' Black balloon with coloured confetti and 5" balloons to reveal if it's a girl or boy!

This is a fabulous video very kindly shared by Tope Abulude, CBA, of Balloon Inspirations Design Studio in Brentwood, Essex, U.K. This shows the fun and excitement a popping balloon can bring.

Photo Credit:

This fabulous Qualatex® 3' "Question Marks" balloon # 43400 is perfect for gender reveal popping balloons! 

A popping balloon can be either helium-filled and secured to a ribbon and weight, or air-filled and suspended from the ceiling. Rather than just giving the couple a pin to pop the balloon, why not make a "wand"? This can be easily made by securing a pin to the end of a short wooden stick (protect the pin by placing a cork on it whilst it's not in use) This is also for health and safety reasons, too! Decorate the stick with ribbons and a bow.

Pregnant Balloon Sculpture

And finally, here is another great idea! This fabulous pregnant balloon sculpture is the work of Abby London of Abby London Magic and Balloons in Lansdown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Abby makes one of her fabulous balloon dolls, fills the belly with pink or blue silk flowers and once it's popped, the sculpture remains intact and gets her figure back! 

Here are some great balloons that would be perfect for baby gender reveal party decor.

11" "Baby Footprint & Hearts"

11" "He? Or She?"
18" "He Or She? Footprints"

11" Mustache & Bow Tie
11" Mustache & Ribbon 

Remember, this could be the start of a fabulous relationship with your client. After the gender reveal there is the baby shower, the Christening or naming ceremony, the baby's first birthday, and so it goes on. This could be a customer for a very long time, so make sure that you build a great relationship with them.

Happy ballooning!