Taking the Leap from Part-time to Full-time Balloon Business Owner!
When I started in the Balloon Industry in 2003, I purchased an existing business that had been a store front in Lakeland, Florida and the owner moved the business into her home when her lease on the retail store doubled. At the time I was looking for a way to work from home to be an at-home mom to my 4-year old daughter and I was burnt out serving as a social worker and jumped into the balloon business with two feet as my full time job. I had to make it work if I did not want to return to “corporate world”. My husband is a teacher in Florida so I have to bring in income into our family to help pay our bills, so this had to be a money income producing venture. My first job was to let people know that Party People was still a business, even though no longer operating a store front. I got active in the local chamber and business networking groups. I was motivated to face my fears, and do new things daily to make the balloon business profitable as I did not like the idea of returning to a job I did not like, so I grew my home based business to over $150,000 a year in sales. Now I serve as the Marketing Manager of Party People Events and it is exciting to be a part of a team that does over half a million dollars in sales a year, operating from a warehouse with a team!
Over the last 16 years I have met a lot of amazing people in the balloon industry. The ones that I find that have full time income from balloons face challenges on a daily bases and don’t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. They take action daily to grow their business. BalloonCoach.com was created to help you have the resources you need to learn from others successes and failures so that you can grow your business quicker knowing a path that will lead you to success.
Meet today’s Guest Blogger Melissa Vega, Owner of Jujabel, LLC, Raleigh, North Carolina.
I first met Melissa at a hands on training I held in Orlando called Bridge the Gap to Success, I taught a full day of Setting Goals and how to Network and grow your business, and David Mahoney taught the 2nd day on how to build framing and overlay design. That workshop is what lead me to create Promotions & Profits Retreat Orlando. I have followed Melissa on social media and watched her business blossom and asked her to share her journey with you.
I got my start in balloons many years ago as a teen in New York City. I attended a performing arts school and instead of selecting a major in drama or chorus like everyone else, I chose Circus Arts sponsored by the Big Apple Circus. We were taught juggling, trapeze, tumbling, Spanish web and many other cool circus related skills. Being in the program afforded many of us the opportunity to perform with our instructors around the city. This was my first experience in learning that you can get paid very well for a 1 or 2 hour “gig”. At 14, I realized you didn’t have to work a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday to make a living. That stuck with me my entire life.
It was during one of these gigs at a circus themed event I was taught how to make my very first spiral garland balloon arch. Ever since balloons have been apart of my life. I’ve worked for two other balloon company’s in NYC. Gaining more knowledge about balloons, working at some of the most prestigious venues amongst the most prominent clientele in the Tri-state area.
After several years working with balloons and entering into my first serious relationship and having my first child, I found myself in an extremely abusive relationship. After my then boyfriend stalked and embarrassed me on various jobs It took me several more years to gain the strength to leave. By the time I decided to leave, my son was 5 and I packed a bag and headed to Florida. This was March of 2005.
Upon my arrival in Orlando with a child in tow, I stayed with my cousin and landed a receptionist job making $7.00 and hour. I must of cried the entire 3 months I worked there. Office work was never my thing let alone making $7.00 an hour. I made more teaching circus arts in their after-school program, but hey this was new norm at the time and I had to suck it up until I found something better, I was just relieved to be out of the situation I was in.
Fast-forward 10 years later, I’d met my husband at that crappy $7 and hour job, relocated to Raleigh, NC, had 2 more kids and it wasn’t until I had my 3rd child, my daughter Isabella, that I got the creative bug to want to do balloons again. At that moment I decided to create an LLC, and that’s how Jujabel was born. Jujabel is a mashup of my 3 children’s names (Juji, Jayden and Isabella).
I remember when my first order came in from burton + Burton and my husband said let me see what you can make. Up until that day he had never seen me inflate a balloon, but he knew it was a passion of mine and pushed me to start my business. The first thing I made after 10 years was this flower. I think he was relieved when he finally saw my work. He had no clue about the world of balloons and all its glory. Him putting blind faith into me and my dreams is something I’m eternally grateful for.
As I started toying around with my newly founded balloon business, I continued to work at the local hospital in the Emergency Department. A place where I got to see people at their most vulnerable moments. Working there really beefed up my customer service skills, but the job itself, left me with no joy and a great deal of sadness, anxiety and depression. I knew it was a dead-end job, so I used it to help jumpstart my business. I made the conscious decision to cut out any extracurricular activities, vacations, hair and nail salons. Anything extra went on the business.
One of the first things I invested in was the help of Sandi Massori,with her Balloon Business Bootcamp with Caity Byrne & Rachel Porter, I knew how to work with balloons but didn’t know how to run a balloon business. The next training events I invested in was BalloonCoach.com Bridge the Gap to Success in November 2016 in Orlando and Promotions and Profits Retreat Orlando, November 2018. All the trainings have helped me gain new skills, helped with pricing, book-keeping, website & social media presence, networking and an overall feeling of, I can really do this!
This last year at my job I gradually cut back my hours, working less and less so I can focus on my clients and their events. In the beginning it was easy for me to manage both the business and my job because balloon jobs were so far apart that I had time to schedule days off or swap a shift with someone else. At no point did I feel like my business was taking too long to grow or manifest itself into a David Mahoney style balloon shop. I knew that if I continued to tend to my garden so to speak, that the butterflies will come, and so I continued at a slow and steady pace. I knew my numbers were always looking better and doubled from the year before. The only thing I couldn’t master was determining or projecting what the next month would bring.
Each new month starts with 2 or 3 jobs on the books and ends with 15 or 20 by the end of the month. Almost all the balloon jobs I book are last minute. Due to the uptick in last minute jobs it became harder for me to leave work. There were days where I would be at work stressed because there was prep work I could have been doing, quoting/invoicing or sometimes I’d have to go straight to a balloon job after working an overnight shift. When February 2019 rolled around, the jobs that I booked were almost all on Sundays. Sundays were my days to work at the hospital. Previously I rarely booked jobs on Sundays, and this time around I had 2 months of Sunday jobs booked solid. It was almost as if God was telling me it’s now or never. I tried requesting these days off to no avail. My new boss would not give me Sundays off. With that, the decision was pretty much made without me.
I put in my notice and since then my email has been blowing up. The floodgates have officially opened. I’ve even turned down a couple jobs because I’m already booked. I wasn’t worried about losing a job before because I had my “backup job”, so now I have to put new processes in place and look at getting some more help so I don’t turn down anymore balloon jobs. To me these are new and very much welcomed challenges I face. It means I’m doing something right.
To all of you that are still working full-time jobs while working your balloon business and you want to transition into running your business full-time, I recommend slowly weaning yourselves away by going from full-time to part-time or by tightening up your budget at home. Cut out any luxuries and separating your wants from your needs. Learn to be frugal. I did it for a little over 3 years now and I don’t regret it one bit, especially if it means you get to be your own boss!
Thank you Melissa for sharing your story to help encourage and inspire other Balloon Business owners.
When you Dream about having a successful company and take action daily you can create a Thriving Balloon Business the industry is booming!
If you are at a point in your balloon business where you would like extra support, training and encouragement as you take your leap, I invite you to check out the resources at BalloonCoach.com. Looking forward to June and July on the road across the USA! I would love to meet you at one of the classes check out Summer LIVE tour 2019 of 9 Cities!
Have a question about what training would best fit your needs, email Joette@ballooncoach.com
Supporting you in creating a thriving balloon business,
Joette Giardina, CBA
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