We are all becoming a little organic crazy! And it would appear that in Australia, they are pretty good at it!
Shannon Kilford's ballooning career started when she applied for a job to manage a little party shop called Born To Party, in Sydney, Australia. Little did she realise that on her first day that she was going to be learning how to make balloon Topiary Balls and that one day the shop would be hers!
I recently met Shannon through working on one of my blogs, A Look At Colour Trends for Spring 2017. Whilst doing my research, I discovered some of Shannon's fabulous designs on Instagram, and I was very inspired by her style.
"My very first organic design was to decorate a stand at one of Sydney's largest makers markets that happens twice a year. I inflated way too many balloons, so I took them back to the shop and made them into Garlands for our table and to float off a giant balloon. This was two years ago. It took off from there!"
"Eighteen fabulous years ago I first started working with balloons. I did the beginners workshop through Qualatex® Balloon Company in Australia and got to attend my first Australian Balloon Convention in the first year of being employed at Born To Party. Once I knew the basics and a few advanced techniques, I was able to figure out a lot of the designs for myself and I grew from there by experimenting and taking time to 'play' with balloons. I always try out new designs and ideas and use them in our shop window displays. There is so much education happening this year in Australia. It's super exciting! After so long in the industry, it's exciting to be still learning and enjoying all the new trends in balloon world!"I asked Shannon to tell me a little about her business.
"Born to Party is a brick and mortar store that has been open for twenty eight years this year! The shop specialises in boutique partyware and modern balloon styling. We still do classic decor, but we have chosen to focus on the modern goodies for now. I am the shop's fifth owner and have now owned it for nearly twelve of those twenty eight years. I have five employees. One is my newbie and is full-time. The other four are permanent part-time, and all have been with Born To Party for the long haul. We are a family-run store and our staff are like family, too. My dear Mum works with me, as well as helping in the shop, helping look after my little ones. She also does the admin side of things for me as it is not one of my hidden talents. She is my godsend! I couldn't do this without her or my other staff members for that matter, either."
"We worked hard at getting the word out that we specialise in the more modern type of balloon decor that is sending Pinterest and Instagram crazy! We do expos, work on collaborations with some of Sydney's most loved stylists on styled shoots, and got involved with an influencer/blogger. We are currently working on a complete makeover. We've just launched our new logo. We are also having all of our stationary re-designed and our new sparkly website is currently under construction. I want our new website to take us to the next level, so watch this space!
I am also a passionate Instagram user! This social media platform has literally changed my life and my business! 90% of our customers use it and come to us with pictures off our Instagram account requesting a particular design. I also find it useful for instant messaging and sending images back and forth to my clients. Not many days go by when I'm not using direct messages to communicate with my clients this way! As our account grows, so does our business. It's definitely not a coincidence. You are welcome to check out our Instagram here; www.instagram.com/borntopartyshop
We also use Facebook, and in the beginning it was a great tool for growing our business. But since Facebook made changes to its reach for business pages, it is not nearly as good as it used to be so we don't focus on it as much as we used to."
What do you believe are the essential tools for running and marketing your business?
"Running essentials; that would be my Conwin machines! We get twice the work done than in old days when we used tanks, regulators, basic air inflators, and hand sized everything. We also use top quality balloons, Qualatex of course! If we try a new product and it's not up to scratch, we simply won't use it no matter how much money we save.
Marketing essentials; for me, it's social media and our commitment to producing good quality beautiful work with a smile! The best type of marketing is free! Provide an amazing service with an equally amazing product and your customers will spread the word for you — and they will return time and time again! We don't pay for any advertising except for on kids party vendor websites. We literally get the majority of clientele from repeat business, word of mouth, and Instagram!"
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
"Educate yourself! Not only in the fundamentals of balloon art, but educate yourself on how to price your work. You don't want to work for free! Only use 'The Very Best Balloons' and associated products. Don't be tempted to cut corners to save a penny; the end result and possible disaster most definitely isn't worth it. Find yourself a network within the industry. Having friends in the industry is invaluable. You never know when you might need a friend or two to come to your rescue, give you advice or just listen to you rant. I could go on and on, but my other piece of advice is don't be afraid of competition. Use it to your advantage to hone your craft, come up with new amazing designs, and up the ante on your customer service skills! Rise above it and become a savvier business person at the same time."What types of balloon decor, colours, or themes are most often requested?
"Giant balloons, Confetti Balloons, tassels, and organic decor are all by far our most requested designs. It's still all about pinks and gold, and we are seeing navy, gold, and white becoming popular for our boys. Burgundy and pinks are also starting to trend! We go through twice as many pink balloons as any other colour and a tonne of gold confetti. Gold confetti is everywhere. It even comes home in my pockets!"Organic style decor is really popular at the moment, and you do it very well.
" I love the freedom and creativity of blending the colours and sizes to make it perfect and have that beautiful organic flow. Every piece is so unique. It is beautiful watching them take shape."
Do you have any tips that you would share when creating an organic style design?
"Select your colours carefully. Make sure they are complimentary.
Make sure your balloons are nice and round. They tend to stick out if they are inflated to their true size.
Use many sizes! We tend to use 8 - 10 different sizes in our garlands. For us, this seems to produce our nicer looking garlands.
Where possible, use different types of balloons to create different textures in your colours. In a lot of mine and other artist's Garlands, you will notice we use a combination of Pearl, Fashion, and Standard balloons. I do this to create depth, texture, and interest in a design. It doesn't always work, but that sometimes comes down to colour choice."
"I love the 3ft balloons, especially Diamond Clear. I love any opportunity to dress them up with confetti. We have over 60 different types: all the colours, different sizes and shapes. I love adding flowers, tassels, honeycombs — anything to make them super special and fun."
I would like to thank Shannon for sharing her wonderful ballooning story and for certainly inspiring me and hopefully many others with her modern balloon styling!