Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Janeen Brown! Founder and CEO of Balloon Haus LLC. In February 2018, I started Balloon Haus - the first opulent online and in-store Balloon boutique - where lifestyle and decor enter a "luxury" level of design. Our team consists of dedicated and loyal employees in Toronto, Atlanta, Detroit and South Florida destined to create iconic balloon memories to last a lifetime.
With the launch of Balloon Haus in 2018, the demand has exceeded all expectations with our corporate or personal clients. The Balloon Haus team is at the forefront of creating custom exquisite and trendy balloon installations and decorations. At Balloon Haus, we ensure passion and commitment in all that we do. Balloon decorators have been around for ages, however, the industry has taken quite the peak within the last couple of years due to social media and the picture-perfect moments. Thankfully, this has assisted in the quick growth of the company.
Our notable clients include players from the Miami Heat and Dolphins (due to NDAs, cannot state names), Instagram, Levi’s, Marriott, Hilton, Ruth Chris, American Express, BMW, and many more. Our average sales generate about $20K/monthly.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always had quite the entrepreneurial spirit, always thinking of the next best idea which is how my first business was created - a non-profit focused on helping young women, followed by an employee concierge, I started with my father Jeluxxe Lifestyle Solutions. I was always intrigued to hear about others’ journeys and how they became full-time entrepreneurs but never thought I’d get there but here I am, thanks to Balloon Haus INC. As well as, reading and learning have always been an interest of mine, which is why I was able to start this “little balloon company.”
Balloon Haus was a random idea that turned a successful business. A client from one of my other companies was looking for balloon decor and my assistant agreed to help with finding a vendor. This was much harder than we thought it would be and with no luck, we turned to youtube and figured out how to create the requested installation ourselves and the rest was history. I registered the business the same day, contacted my father and he told me, “this was the best decision you have ever made.” This was the only validation that I needed to know, this was going to be a successful business.
DO NOT TAKE ON A DIFFICULT CUSTOMER. If you notice communicating with the customer from the beginning is not easy - do not continue as you will regret it and most likely end up with an unhappy customer by the end of the transaction.
I had 0 expertise in this industry and everything I’ve learned has been self-taught up until recently. When we first opened, I was still working my full-time job at an Ad agency while operating a non-profit and another business part-time. Although the start-up costs are minimal, it is NOT an easy business especially now that there are A LOT of competitors which include a lot of mom and pop (home-based) companies. Our day to day costs are much more than the average balloon designer as many works alone, don’t charge tax and are willing to negotiate. However, your team’s talent speaks wonders and will attract the right target audience.
As social media continues to gain popularity, people are always looking for the next best backdrop for the perfect picture and talked about the event. This can explain why the balloon industry has spiked and there are so many new balloon companies popping up. This is why attending frequent balloon training is crucial as this will determine the success and revenue generated. We strive to remain different from the type of installations we create which is why we are able to have multiple client installations daily.
At the time of opening, I was in a good place financially as my career was paying me well and my parents were quite supportive, providing any assistance when needed.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When I first started Balloon Haus, I was trying to take the cheap way out and blow all of the balloons up with my mouth for the balloon installations and that didn’t last for long. The process took too long and I realized in an industry like this, we must be efficient with our time. I then started using a hand pump thinking that would make a difference which ended up with my hand aching the following day and us missing out on clients. You can tell by looking at our first few installations the difference between then and now, and how we have become experts in the industry. Thankfully, our starter costs were minimal minus the cost of insurance, company registration, and contractor fees when we got too busy.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The first three months were definitely a learning experience for me as we were still perfecting our craft, we worked on a lot of sponsorship partnerships and pro bono to get our names out to the public. We had customers but it took some time before we snagged corporate clients and public figures.
We launched with our website done, insurance, and company registration however, pre-launch we started posting on Instagram to build up engagement and traffic.
Luckily, the balloon industry has very low start-up costs allowing you to purchase supplies beforehand and practice without losing any money. This is one of those industries that you don’t have to take any type of financing out as the markups are high, you can generate a decent amount of money to use towards equipment by the time your target market is introduced to your company.
One suggestion I would have for anyone starting up, be selective of the sponsorships you agree to as, in the beginning, the ROI may not be what you expect but you will get the needed experience. Do not agree to work with everyone!
When we launched, many of the balloon companies that existed were not up to date with how to’s on garlands, arches, balloon mosaics that we were able to have somewhat of an advantage. We also implemented a consulting program for any prospective clients to understand the needs they had to ensure they received exactly what they wanted. We were also open for 24 hours, which allowed us to take more orders than the majority of our competition (this helped us get our name out faster).
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
To be transparent, these past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time with a mentor learning marketing strategies - segmentation, building storyboards, and all that fun marketing staff to assist with pushing forward a marketing campaign in 2020. Prior to this, I’ve spent money on AdWords, Google Advertising, Facebook and Instagram ads but since I’m not an expert on marketing, it’s hard to target the exact customer you are looking for due to all the algorithms changes.
I also know in order to really see a difference with marketing, you must have at least 5K a minimum set aside and we are not there as of yet. I would rather use this towards hiring a salesperson and get leads the old fashioned way.
We are in a visual industry so posting on social media helps but as we are so busy, we tend to go months without doing so which has gotten us messages asking, “are you even a real company?” since all the known balloon companies post everyday. We are working on hiring a social media coordinator for the new year.
We do offer a VIP discount to customers who have purchased from us repeatedly which is where about 35% of our income is generated.
I think next year, our team will be focused on pop-ups and installation in each city we are in to promote the Balloon Haus brand.
I did see an increase in customer inquiries for about three months after my feature in Voyage Miami Feature, this was great as we received several Quinceañera requests.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The majority of our sales are through our brick and mortar and calls but we would like to see this changed throughout the new year to see an increase in online sales.
As the new year approaches, we anticipate 2020 to be one of the most successful profit-wise. As we have taken many losses these past two years but they have also taught us lessons which we will be sure to never repeat. We know what events balloon decor is a necessity and which ones not to focus on. We have learned our customer avatar and will generate sales from that. We are also focusing on attracting more corporate and notable clients as we are in a space that we can honor larger discounts to do. This would include grand openings, experiential events, brand launches, etc.
Our short-term goal is to snag 10 long-term corporate clients which involve working on all of their events throughout the year. As well as, moving into larger retail spaces to add additional decor services to our clients.
Long term, we would rather not discuss as it’s going to disrupt the industry.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As I wasn’t too familiar with the balloon industry when I started, there were many mistakes that I made and wish I could go back and change but you can’t excel without failure.
I had employees that didn’t show up to installations which left me to deal with upset clients and trying to maintain our reputation which was TOUGH. As we do not answer calls throughout the day on our 1-800 but give callbacks, it has left many old school customers upset that they cannot get a hold of us at their leisure but it has also helped us source through the serious customers.
Creating a competitive analysis has really helped with competition and providing our customers with what our competition doesn’t.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is NOT TO TAKE ON A DIFFICULT CUSTOMER. If you notice communicating with the customer from the beginning is not easy - do not continue as you will regret it and most likely end up with an unhappy customer by the end of the transaction.
At one point, we didn’t want to turn any of our customers away so I would tell my staff to accept everyone but we would outsource the installation to another balloon installer. Let’s just say many of the installers were not as people-friendly and/or didn’t have the same work ethic as my teams.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Currently, I am obsessed with Slack and Airtable - efficient ways of communicating with the team and project management. What makes it even better is you can sync Airtable with Slack. We set up our client process, projects, etc through the airtable.
Google Trends and Analytics can really help you distinguish what is popular in your industry and what your potential customers are looking for.
As for CRMs, we currently use Hubspot to keep track of our current and potential clients - makes things much easier.
Lastly, Buzzsumo is AMAZING for seeing what content your competitors are posting in relation to your industry.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
First thing first, NEVER STOP LEARNING as it is crucial to your success.
I’m such a lover of learning that I could go on about great books, podcasts and resources however, I won’t. I will name the few that have gotten me through tough times and given me the motivation to keep pushing.
Quit Like a Millionaire by Kristy Shen & Bryce Leung, The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You by Lydia Fenet, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma were great books, and I have so many more recommendations but you would be reading all night. I’m quite the advocate of female entrepreneurs as they inspire me to go harder and one day I will be where they are. Podcasts that I enjoy listening to by other entrepreneurs are Girl Ceo - Ronnie Brown and Often Ambitious. Quite insightful and they tend to discuss real-life entrepreneurial issues.
As of lately, I’ve been reading through a lot of Udemy courses on Marketing and Sales as we are growing, I’m looking to be introduced to sales tactics to increase revenue and disrupt the industry. Shockingly enough, Twitter has also taught me A LOT - there are so many business gems and if you are not on there, get on there. There are tribes of entrepreneurs giving out helpful advice discussing on the entrepreneurial journey.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I would recommend not jumping the gun to full entrepreneurship until you are 100% sure financially and emotionally that you are ready as it’s much harder than it looks. Give yourself time and be patient with your journey. No day is the same, especially as you grow your team and clientele. Be prepared to be the owner, installer, accountant, etc for your business until you can financially pay someone else and/or find the right team. I had to take a lot of losses when it came to finding the right employees as no one will believe in your dream as much as you do. I had to learn how to be apologetic when my staff wasn’t returning calls fast enough, missing appointments and choosing to show up late to events. THESE WERE VERY HARD LESSONS TO LEARN. We also grew much faster than anticipated which caused us to contract some of our client work and not every installer is going to be as efficient as your team.
Your entire life will change when you become an entrepreneur because you are no longer in routine; whether it’s your eating, health, mental habits, etc.
Get a mentor who will invest in you, but bring quality to the person you are being mentored by, if it’s as simple as ensuring their coffee is ready for them. Read, read, read. Never stop upgrading yourself.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, we are hiring for our newest location in Atlanta we are looking for part-time balloon installers. Your main task would be to complete balloon installations and possibly, work in the store as well. We are also hiring remotely for 1 Sales Person, 1 Digital Marketer, and A PR Coordinator.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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