Becoming a Certified Balloon Artist
Breaking down Qualatex's CBA program and what it could mean for you
By Peter Mussatto | Special to Party & Paper Retailer
There’s an old proverb from Chinese philosopher Laozi that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The Qualatex Balloon Network (QBN) and Certified Balloon Artist (CBA) programs are a great way to begin your journey. Some of the major benefits of becoming a CBA include:
- Value. Add value to your company and prestige to your name with the only certification program for balloon professionals in the world.
- Priority Listing. Receive priority listing in the Balloon Pro Finder and you’ll be one of the first businesses that customers see.
- Special Pricing. Membership has its benefits including discounts and special pricing for materials, back issues of “Balloon Images,” and select Qualatex events including the World Balloon Convention.
There are a few steps one must take in their journey to earn the only professional designation in the balloon industry. The process to become a CBA can be broadly divided into two parts: before the practical exam; and the practical exam itself. Here are four steps that need to be completed before the practical exam:
- Take and pass all three online QBN exams with a score of 80 percent or more.
- Submit the CBA Practical Exam Sign-Up Form, which can be found on qualatex.com.
- Submit four photos of “Classic Balloon Decor” (Arch, Column, Garland, and Swag) that you have created along with Job Cost Forms accompanying each photo.
- Study the Guide To Taking the Practical Test.
After successfully completing these four steps, the real challenge of the CBA practical exam begins. The exam takes roughly four hours. Qualified balloon professionals score test-takers on the following:
- A social expression bouquet and table centerpiece of their choice
- A duplicated bouquet and balloon flower
- A five-balloon cluster Garland
- A temporary knot and permanent knot
- A panel interview with six questions
- A mock sales call or delivery presentation
Some people reading this might think, “I can’t handle this – it’s too much pressure!” There’s no need to panic. With the right amount of preparation and practice, the CBA practical exam won’t be as daunting as it appears on paper.
Unlocking the secret to CBA exam success
Test anxiety is perfectly normal, and it’s something many CBAs experienced when they took their practical exam. Here are four steps to take in order to plan for the CBA practical exam as well as reduce any test day jitters:
- Practice. There may be those who are naturally talented at working with balloons, but when it comes time for test day, those who have practiced day in and day out will have a distinct advantage.
- Study. Whether it’s with a friend, a mentor, or by yourself, it’s important to take time out to study the materials and concepts presented in the QBN booklets you received before the exam.
- Prepare. Preparation is half the battle for earning your CBA. In addition to diligent practice and study, arrive 20 minutes before your exam begins bring all the materials you need to make your centerpiece and social expression bouquet.
- Relax. Most importantly, have fun and relax! Even if you don’t pass the CBA the first time, there are other opportunities to take the exam at a future date. This also means more time to prepare for the next time you take the CBA practical exam.
For more information about becoming a CBA, visit www.qualatex.com and check out the “Guide to Taking the CBA Practical Exam.” And remember, once you have completed your journey to earning your CBA, the journey to growing your business begins.
— Peter Mussatto is the copywriter for Pioneer Balloon Company in Wichita, Kansas.
Making the most of your CBA
Once you earn your CBA, you want to put it to the best use possible. Randy Harbin, of Funtastic Balloon Creations in Grain Valley, Missouri, and Christine Maentz, of Volunteer Balloon Decor in Knoxville, Tennessee — two new CBAs — share how earning their CBA designation enhanced their businesses.
Q: What ways can new CBAs make the most of the designation?
Randy: People seem to think that balloons are just balloons. Being a CBA allows you to speak as an expert on balloons. Do press releases, try to get local papers to do human interest stories on your business — be that expert.
Christine: The first thing I did was get new business cards and my email signature to reflect my CBA certification. I also wrote a blog post for my website to explain to my readers what the designation means.
Q: Since earning you CBA, how have you used it to promote your business?
Randy: We put our designation on our website and business cards, written press releases, used it in all advertisements, and we’ve spoken about balloons at Chamber of Commerce meetings and networking events as balloon experts.
Christine: I haven’t necessarily used it for promotion. I figured that if I was going to pursue a business in balloon decor, I wanted to have all the chances of success on my side and I needed to be recognized as a professional.
Q: What are some opportunities for networking that came out of the CBA program and exam?
Randy: There have been many great networking opportunities that came from the process. I am now friends with countless other CBAs, Qualatex instructors, Pioneer employees, and various other balloon professionals around the world. One message and we get as much help as we need on a project!
Christine: My fellow test attendees and I keep in touch online. Most networking and bond-building is done when you attend various conferences or classes. But for those of us who are unable to attend, Facebook is a great way to communicate and network with others. The comments, suggestions, and designs are all very helpful when I need inspiration.