Peer Perspective: Joette Giardina, BalloonCoach.com
BalloonCoach.com pretty much says it all. But how did Joette Giardina become the Balloon Coach? She tells us the story and all about her upcoming Promotions & Profits retreat in Orlando.
Could you share a little bit on what drew you to balloons and why you got into instructing others?
I got a taste of balloon décor back in 2001 when I was at a 1-800-PARTYSHOP convention. We sold party supplies in a box that were shipped around the U.S. I loved seeing how the balloons could make any theme come to life for a celebration and I wanted to create a home-based business to be at home with my daughter and get out of the stressful career in social work. In 2003, I talked to a local balloon decorator in Lakeland, Florida when I rented a helium tank to decorate for a celebration at my church. I told her I would love to work with her, but did not want to compete against her. Two days later she offered to sell me her company, and I bought it.
She encouraged me to attend as much training in the industry as possible to grow Party People. I heeded her advice and went to Lauderdale Paper for my first training where I met the amazing Peggy Williams, Jill Prakopcyk and Debbie Riechert. I not only learned from them in the classroom, but in the evening after class. I was drawn to their stories of building their businesses and supporting each other over the years. They met at classes and conventions and built a long-standing friendship from that. I took everything that I learned from their classes and started educating my clients on what was possible with balloons. I saw how anything is possible with balloons and was excited to share that with my clients, to transform their venues into memorable celebrations.
I then invested — putting my travel and registration on credit card — for Balloon Camp, FLOAT, World Balloon Convention and Ballooniversity. In addition, I invested in local training when teachers came within four hours of me.
I found something missing in the décor industry: A clear path on how to build a strong business. In many classes, we were told not to discuss pricing, as everyone has different overhead. My thought was if a retail store get MSRP pricing for products, why was there not an MSRP for classic décor pieces?
After posting regularly online from my events and networking meetings, other balloon professionals would email, call and message me asking me how I was growing my business and staying so busy. I found that I enjoyed mentoring others and loved teaching at FLOAT.
My husband encouraged me to charge for serving as a business coach, as my time as a mentor took time away from my family and business.
In 2015, a local balloon professional offered to purchase my décor company. This was an answer to prayer as it allowed me to serve as the marketing director for a growing business – Party People Events, which did over $500,000 in balloon sales in 2017 and on pace to exceed our sales goals for 2018.
I now get to live my passion and serve as a mentor to the balloon industry to connect new and long time balloon pros with my network of amazing balloon professionals around the world while being a part of a growing décor company – I have the best of both worlds!
You have a retreat coming in November. What sort of things can attendees expect?
During Retreat, participants learn the steps we have taken to grow our relationships with key referral sources and increase confidence in how to handle networking situations and how to hire someone to handle that side of their business.
As I study balloon businesses around the U.S., I find that the majority who are making the largest profits and having the most growth focus on classic décor repeated daily. In an industry that is also full of artistic personalities, some say they prefer not to do helium balloons on weights or classic columns. The issue with creating pieces of art: It’s hard to replicate that process as you train staff who work for $10 to $15 an hour.
Building a team is where the larger profits come from. When you attempt to do all the work yourself, you have just created yourself a tough job, not a business model that can grow.
When I sold Party People in 2015 to Johnathon Gerber and became BalloonCoach.com, part of the deal was I remained the marketing director to be a part of the team to stay active in the industry.
I love being a part of the team that has achieved over $500,000 in annual sales and is currently above our goal for 20% growth for 2018. That is exciting.
With the Promotions & Profits Retreat in Orlando, we give attendees the opportunity to experience “behind the scenes” of what has worked well for our company. In addition, we have nine amazing instructors from other parts of the country who have a passion for the business side of our industry and helping others grow.
Learning does not only happen during the hands-on classes. Lunch each day and dinner on Thursday are part of the registration and provide opportunities to network with the instructors outside of class, and the other attendees to assist in building a strong network of support to call on once they leave the retreat.
When attending training many times, the balloons created are over-the-top amazing, but many times not items that are sellable to our everyday client.
At Promotions & Profits, we create décor for four style photo shoots, I have hired a top photographer to capture the décor, so that when attendees go home, they have access to the digital photos to use in their own promotions to sell what they share.
Retreat participants leave with the skills and confidence to recreate the designs and tools to sell them. Many times in real life, lighting is bad when we set up, or other vendors are in the way of us capturing the “perfect photo,” and our photos do not show how wonderful the balloons are.
The four photo shoots include wedding and the trending organic designs, themed event/prom, pool décor and New Years Eve/gala with special effects including balloon drops and exploding balloons.
Over the last 15 years, I have met many people who do not apply what they learn once they return home. I have heard the lack of action for many is because it is easy to become overwhelmed with all the different techniques and information at a training event that we are unsure what we should do first when we return home.
During retreat, each participant writes their own custom action plan to take home- and then we hold a follow-up webinar to touch base and see how people are doing.
Thanks to Betallatex, Qualatex and HI-FLOAT for sponsoring instructors and product. I appreciate that we have manufacturers in the industry that support ongoing education. Anagram, Brody’s 800-4-Balloons, and Clik Clik also are sponsoring items for our attendees to work with to make the event successful.
What is the mistake you see balloon artists and retailers make most often?
Trying to run a business on his or her own or very streamlined without bringing on a support team to create more volume in sales. Today, there is training available online and in person for people anywhere in the world to grow their business. Accessing that training and applying the techniques can assist you in training your team.
Many business owners try to “go it alone” without reaching out to other business owners, that networking, and using the power of a mastermind to problem solve situations that others have been through is a great way to grow your business.