Peer Perspective: Tiffany Burley, CBA, A Pop of Color Balloons
Tiffany Burley, CBA
As a 10-year professional balloon artist, Tiffany Burley has experienced more than a few customers who think what she creates isn’t all that tough. Burley embraces the public education part of things, however.
Could you share a little about your background and why you got into balloon design?
My love for balloons started when working at my mother’s gift shop back in the ‘90s. She had a very simple balloon counter and my favorite thing to do while at work was inflating balloons. In fact, I still have a few copies of Balloon Images from back then. I never thought that I could create something as amazing as the designs in those magazines. After working for Mom, I entered the corporate world of oil and gas, and one of my close friends at work was expecting her first baby. For her shower, I purchased a few balloons, made some cute bouquets and requests from coworkers started flowing. It seemed like the right time to explore balloons in a different way, so I attended Euro Design in 2008 and was blown away. Since then I have attended several World Balloon Conventions as well as FLOAT and some smaller training events. After two layoffs in two years, I decided it was time to work my balloon business on a full-time basis. At the moment, my business is still home-based, but you never know what the future holds!
About how much of your work comes from corporate events in relation to private events?
Currently about 40 percent of my business is corporate events and growing! The rest is private parties and bouquet deliveries. Over the past few months, the number of calls received from out-of-state for balloon décor at local events has increased for both corporate and private events.
What are typically the first questions you ask a client to help make their vision a reality?
Many of my customers get décor ideas from Pinterest. Seeing images they like is very helpful since their terminology in describing décor pieces can be very different from the terms used by a pro. We then talk about the event venue, if the balloon décor will be used indoors or outdoors and then determine if a site visit is needed. Once I have better understanding of what décor they have in mind and where it will be used, we talk about the décor options they are interested in and how it will fit in the venue or in their budget. Customers see balloon décor photos online and think it will not cost much because it is only a bag of balloons. Or they see beautiful outdoor photos of balloons and want a similar design in August when the Houston heat index is 114 degrees. Educating the customer on the value in the price along with details like environmental concerns is key in providing the right décor for their event.
What would you say are the biggest changes in customer wants since you’ve been in business?
In addition to the normal price shopping inquiries, I have also received calls from potential customers that want to know how to make décor items and what supplies are used. There are a lot of customers out there that want to DIY without really considering their cost of all materials and the amount of their time to “figure out” how to make the design versus supporting a small business that is experienced in creating balloon décor. Along with my pricing, I wrap up the conversation with the availability on my calendar for their party date and that I may be available if they decide to spend their time focusing on other party preparations. The last thing I want for a potential customer is to feel uncomfortable about calling back when they need my services.
What question do you hear most from other balloon artists or people interested in doing what you do?
The most common questions asked are “How did you get started working with balloons?” or “how did you make that?” The web is overloaded with how-to videos for making balloon décor. It is surprising to hear how many either don’t know that formal training is available or don’t see the value in the cost of hands-on learning from the industry leaders.