Focus On: The Ballooney Bin
It’s all about balloons and the blues for Cindy Fuller
Cindy Fuller’s first career was dedicated to helping people. The dual career she enjoys now just helps people smile.
A former social worker, Fuller rather abruptly left the field 10 years ago to open The Ballooney Bin in Jackson, Michigan, which consists of a brick-and-mortar retail store and a balloon design and delivery business. Fuller also doubles as the lead singer of the Mojo Phoenix Blues Band — husband Tom Fuller is the bass player — and the two are organizers of the annual Jackson Blues Fest.
Ironically, blues had a direct influence on balloons for Fuller. “Our band has been together almost 20 years … and it’s the 15th year of the blues fest,” Cindy Fuller said. “I kind of went to something like it in Memphis; it was a big convention. We competed, and I came home with a whole new vision. I quit my job and said, ‘I want this event in our town.’ That’s how much it moved me.”
Although she was “really scared to quit my day job,” the move toward music also inspired Fuller to get back into business for herself, as she had run a small balloon retail business prior to getting married and finishing her degree in social work. “It was called Cindy’s Ba-Lou-ns because my middle name is Lou,” Fuller said, shaking her head. “It was stupid.”
The Ballooney Bin essentially has two employees — Cindy and Tom Fuller. The two rotate duties, with one manning the store while the other handles the delivery. The Fullers also offer event planning, and Cindy often works parties as a balloon twister.
In April 2016, she became a Certified Balloon Artist during the World Balloon Convention.
Starting from scratch
The Ballooney Bin has a steady clientele, many of which are corporations, colleges, schools or other businesses that often utilize the service for on-site parties and events. The success is a result, thanks in no small part, to Cindy’s naturally outgoing personality and persistence.
“My dad was a car dealer and an auctioneer,” she said. “I think people tend to have that sales person in them or they don’t.”
Fuller attended any and every event she could to meet new people, a habit that she continues. At events, meetings or seminars, Fuller always seeks a new face to sit by. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, I don’t know you! (Laughs). Some people are scared to do that, but with me, I never shut up.’”
Fuller also joined several nearby chambers of commerce, which she has found to be quite helpful. “You can lean on the ambassadors to introduce you to people. You have to do the rest yourself, but at least you have an in,” she said.
While meeting new people is great for business, it’s the subsequent interaction that makes them customers. “You have to follow up,” she said. “We try to do a lot of handwritten notes.” As example of Fuller’s persistence, she retold a story from The Ballooney Bin’s early days when she sent a balloon bouquet to her contact from a business she was a courting 11 straight days.
“She said, ‘Cindy, would you stop!’” Fuller recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll stop when you give me a yes.’ She’s been a loyal customer ever since.”
Like a good neighbor
The Ballooney Bin is located next door to Jackson Rental, a party equipment rental operation that formerly sold balloons. When the Fullers were checking into moving into the location, they didn’t see Jackson Rental as potential competition but as a possible partner.
“I said, ‘How would you feel about me moving next door?’ They said, ‘We would love it. We hate balloons,’” Cindy said. “So I bought all their balloons and all their equipment. We have a verbal agreement that we won’t sell canopies and they won’t sell balloons. We go hand-in-hand because people will come here for graduation and I’ll say, “Do you have your canopy yet?” They do the same for me.”
While Fuller knows there are some people that can’t be pleased, she takes every customer interaction and every order personally. This philosophy has made her more than just a retailer to her customers.
“People can always go somewhere else, but they chose to come here. That makes me feel really good, that they trust me with their (celebration),” she said. “(For gender-reveal parties) I’ve had moms who just had their ultrasound done, who have brought me the results before they’ve even looked at it. Then I’ll put whatever color of confetti inside a black balloon so they can’t see it. I know the sex of their baby before they do. It’s crazy.”
- WHAT: The Ballooney Bin
- WHERE: 3465 Ann Arbor Road, Jackson, Michigan
- STAFF: Owners Cindy and Tom Fuller, plus an occasional part-time employee
- WHAT THEY SELL: Balloons and accessories, decorations and plush; other services include delivery, singing telegrams, lighting rental and balloon twisting at events
- ONLINE: theballooneybin.biz and Facebook
Quick Q&A with Cindy Fuller
The Ballooney Bin owner Cindy Fuller attended the 2016 World Balloon Convention in New Orleans in April, where she became a Certified Balloon Artist through Qualatex’s program.
Q: What was the best thing about WBC?
For me, my CBA was super important. That was my goal. We’ve been in business for 10 years and I never really cared about doing it (before). I studied for it, I took the three tests online to be able to go and I got it.
Q: What was the vibe like?
It was about meeting new people. There were so many great people down there. I saw so many great designs and techniques, some of which I knew how to do. But if you didn’t, people will always show you how to do it. It’s just all balloon people.
Q: English was not the first language of many attendees, did that make communication an issue?
One lady — her class was amazing, but she only speaks Japanese — she had an interpreter there, but the interpreter didn’t know balloon lingo. … In the end, we got all the knowledge, and it was so cool what she taught us. That was the thing, we may not speak the same language, but we all know balloon language.