As we've told our readers in our previous post, How to Shop When You Mean Business: Why All Lemons Are Not Equal, (September 19, 2014), Balloon Zoom did one thing when it opened for business in the Fall of 2011: Twist animal balloons.
But then Dr. Roya Pilcher, who runs the friendliest pediatric dentistry practice in D.C., asked us to do somthing new: Decorate her office for Valentine's Day. Until that moment, we had never thought of doing anything beyond entertaining kids at parties. But we said yes, and then we hurried home to figure out what we needed to do to build a balloon column.
Check out this video of Noor, then 5, building our first, simple balloon column frame with supplies purchased from Tenleytown Ace Hardware in February 2012.
Balloon decor is now a cornerstone of our business. In fact, we do more balloon decor than anything else, because balloon decorations can be designed and built ahead of time, which means we can space the work out between homework, music and dance lessons. This is more and more important as our homework and responsibilities have multiplied with middle and high school. While we love working with kids, we are kids, too! We need free time on the weekends!
When thinking about what to add to your business, always, always think about whether it's something that you can reasonably do without neglecting school and other responsibilities. Balloon Zoom, for example, does not make balloon arches during the school year, because they take too much time to build. And, with rare exceptions, we will not schedule more than one party every two weeks, or travel more than thirty minutes for a job during the school year.
Since taking our first decor job, we've done retail window displays, and decorations for formal events at some pretty swanky locations. (Below left: A balloon table centerpiece for a 90th birthday celebration at the Lorien Hotel and Spa in Old Town, Alexandria; Below right: Christmas retail window display for Tenleytown Ace Hardware.)
But we would not do decor at all had we not been open to Dr. Pilcher's first request.
Another key to success: Move slowly. We were thrilled with our first balloon column, but it was far from the polished columns we produce now. Truth? We have a photo, but are unwilling to put it on the website! It takes time to learn a new skill, and to figure out if a "product" or "service" will be a good fit for your business.
We decorated Dr. Pilcher's office for more than a year before we started advertising our decor services, and looking for additional decor clients. While you might be able to move more quickly to add a new product or service to your business, we wanted the extra time to:
Build a portfolio of photos that we could show to potential new customers. Photos sell services. No one wants to buy something without seeing it. Now, customers contact us to ask for specific balloon columns they see on our website. The flower column is one of our most popular delivery items.
Learn how long it took us to build a balloon column or a table centerpiece. This is important because we want to run our business, not feel as if our business is running us! Once we understand how long a project takes, we can schedule only the jobs that work for us.
Research the market, so we could set a fair price. What did other balloon artists charge for building and delivering balloon decor? (How to set a price will be covered in another blog post!)
In summary, your business will change over time, and for the better (!), if you are open to new ideas, and then take your time to add only those ideas that will work with your schedule!