Meet Designer of the Year FLOAT 2019 Sara Meyer
I met Sara in 2016 when she attended the BalloonCoach.com first Parade, Promotions & Profits workshop in Chicago, IL. I was so excited for her as I heard her name announced as Designer of the Year at FLOAT 2019. I love it when I see alumni of our programs succeed! I often wonder what motivates a growing balloon business owner to take time to plan and compete at conventions, and thought you might enjoy hearing a bit more about her journey.
How did you get started in Balloon Decor?
I was an art teacher looking for additional work in the summer, so I started working as a face painter. While at a face painting convention in St. Louis two things happened that changed the course of my business: I took a balloon class on a whim and I met Dennis Scott who ended up being one of my best friends. He helped me get started in balloons and once I realized the potential profit in decor I quickly focused my attention in that area. I attended Parade, Promotions & Profits in Chicago organized by BalloonCoach.com, where we made parade decor with Balloons by Tommy. It was the first time I had ever used a sizer, met any balloon people, or considered balloons as a business. I was so proud in that photo. The workshop gave me a new set of skills and the confidence I needed to ramp up my business!
Do you work a full time job outside of balloons?
Yes, I work full time for a college arts department. I’m the events and promotions manager so I get to work around creative people every day and plan and market fun events!
What do you like most about your balloon business?
I love so many things! I like the freedom it gives me; I choose what jobs I take and I dictate my own schedule. It’s also an awesome creative outlet. It’s connected me with so many small business owners and other balloon decorators that have become real friends. I also love the business side of it. I LOVE branding and marketing so that part is really fun for me.
What is a challenge you face as you grow your balloon business?
Right now, I’m right at the tipping point where I could go full time but I would need to find a larger work space, invest in a delivery van, and maybe an employee. Currently I’m a one woman show and because I run such a lean business I have the luxury of being picky with the jobs I take and that keeps it really fun for me. I’ve only been at it for three years so maybe one day I’ll go full time but right now I’m happy juggling both jobs.
You do some nice size decor installs. Do you have someone that assists you on your installs?
90% of the time I’m alone but my husband helps on huge jobs or on New Year’s Eve when we have 20 deliveries and installs in two days. I’ve gotten better at asking the venue or the coordinator for exactly what I need like a lift or extra hands.
What inspired you to compete at FLOAT 2019?
I went to Float 2017 and I was just a beginner, so seeing the other competition pieces was inspiring. I decided then that I would compete at the next FLOAT and I started telling people so I had some accountability. I also had two years to plan so there really wasn’t any excuse. I seem to work well under pressure and with a deadline so I knew it would be a good opportunity to push myself.
How did it feel when your name was announced as Designer of the Year?
The entire night was so fun and exciting! Not only did I place in each area in which I competed but so did many of my friends! It was like being part of a little tribe of competitors and we were all really happy for each other. I’m sure for everyone watching it seemed like a long awards ceremony, but for me it went really fast and all blurs together. I just remember my heart beating and my cheeks getting hot when they called my name. I’m so glad people took pictures because it was seriously one of the coolest nights of my life.
If someone told you they were considering competing at a balloon convention, but were unsure if they should what would you say to them?
Do it! Just jump in and figure out the details later. And design and edit and then redesign and edit. Never go with any of your first ideas, just keep thinking until you find something really unique and weird. Nothing I created was difficult…nothing was twisted or distorted. I just worked really hard to edit my work ahead of time so I had a sound design concept. Except for the foils competition where I made it up the night before! Sometimes you just run out of prep time :)
One question I like to ask companies is how are your balloons sales? Many starting out in the industry like to know what is possible.
Balloon Sales in 2016 I didn’t even keep track! Maybe 10K in sales, I was still face painting a lot this year and just starting with balloons.
Balloon Sales in 2018 75K in sales, working a full time job outside of balloons.
What are some words of wisdom you would share with someone who is struggling in growing their balloon business?
Spend more time learning how to run a business than on balloons. My first year I could only make columns…so I just sold the heck out of columns! You don’t have to be the best artist to be successful.
What do you think the “magic sauce” is that has helped with the growth of your business?
For me it has been connecting with like-minded business owners, usually other young women in the wedding business, and just being myself. Once I stopped trying to be so professional I connected so much better with other vendors and my target clients. Now I actually socialize on social media and it’s been a total game changer. “Likes” and “followers” don’t matter if no one is buying what you’re selling. Also gifting has become a huge part of my business. I send people tiny gifts when we work together and they remember that! I delivered one three-foot balloon and a hand written note to a coordinator I wanted to work with and she has booked me for 4k worth of work this year. The smallest action is better than the largest intention.