Shop Talk: Balloon Construction Co.
Spotlight On: Jacksonville, Fla.
Big and small, they do it all
There are only a miniscule number of people on the planet that can lay claim to launching 10,000 balloons in an NFL stadium, and Blenda Berrier, owner of The Balloon Construction Company in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of them.
They had worked with the Jacksonville Jaguars for years, and the first release they did for the team was for 3,000 balloons on Military Appreciation game day. It was a success, so the organization ordered 6,000 for the next year.
“Then on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, they wanted to release 10,000 balloons,” Berrier said. “I used my staff to inflate and prepare the balloons and the net, and then volunteers helped carry the balloons onto the field to release on the given cue. Waiting for that cue is always a stressful moment for me, but once it’s over I’m proud and happy. I was honored the Jaguars trusted my team and me on such a special occasion.”
Everyone from corporate clients and schools to people celebrating a birthday have come to trust The Balloon Construction Company for a variety of special occasions and décor, and thanks to the Internet and a passion for parties, Berrier can (literally) deliver.
The Main Event
Berrier became a 1-800-PARTYSHOP consultant in 2000 and joined forces with several other consultants for a booth at the Jacksonville Southern Women’s show. They decided to decorate the booth with a jungle theme, and Berrier made a balloon palm tree.
“It was at this show someone asked if I could make a cactus out of balloons for an upcoming Cisco food show,” she said. “Of course I said yes”.
With the help of the Internet, she was introduced to the world of balloon decorating, attended the International Balloon Arts Convention (IBAC) in 2001 and then founded The Balloon Construction Company.
“The IBAC coincided with the Halloween and Party Show and was where I was first introduced to Party and Paper magazine,” Berrier said. “The Sourcebook issue was a great tool I referenced on a regular basis; I couldn’t get enough information. I immediately joined the Qualatex Balloon Network and took received my certified balloon artist certification. I credit the success of my business with the education and networking I gained from attending many conventions over the years.”
A large portion of the business is onsite decorating and they don’t operate a retail store. Instead they work out of a 1,200-square-foot warehouse and use a cargo van and box trailer for the décor they make at the warehouse. That warehouse is constantly evolving because over the years they’ve have purchased inventory and equipment from a gift shop, gift baskets store and several others balloon companies that were going out of business.
“We are primarily an event decorator,” Berrier said. “If our client is in need of paper goods or party supplies, we will provide them. We have a great relationship with Jacksonville’s largest privately owned party store, The Party Shop, and if we need supplies, they sell them to me at wholesale prices.
“We have also partnered with them on negotiating helium prices,” Berrier continued. “They do very little on site decorating, so if they have a customer in need of décor they refer them to us. We never say ‘no.’ If you take care of your customer they will take care of you.”
Over the past year they have learned they need to offer more services to stay competitive and have begun decorating with fabric, up-lighting and including props like red, pink and purple carpets.
“Our business is so varied and every day is different,” Berrier said. “Today we might be running a balloonplanet.com Get Well bouquet to the hospital for a delivery, delivering a helium tank rental, servicing a car dealership showroom, prepping for a weekend event, ordering inventory, invoicing or trying to stay on the social media train that’s moving fast.
“We recently installed 28 8-foot balloon columns at 5a.m.,” she continued. “We didn’t have access to the building, so we made all 28 and delivered them early. Our client was going through a huge re-branding and wanted the columns outside the building doors before their employees arrived.”
New and Old
After all these years, classic décor — arches, columns and bouquet — is still the most popular, with an increased use of Betallic Link-a-Loons and Party Dot lights. Mardi Gras and Hollywood are the most requested themes year round, and Berrier said those events lend themselves to a fun party atmosphere with just the theme itself. They often use a purple carpet entrance with a Bourbon Street sign, add beads and masks and you have a party.
“For Hollywood it’s all about the red carpet,” Berrier said. “Everyone likes to dress up and have their picture taken on the carpet. We decorated a Hollywood themed prom this year at a busy hotel, and it was fun watching all the hotel guests stop and take a picture on the red carpet under the balloons. These themes are popular for high school proms, homecomings, church events, award ceremonies and social events and Sweet 16.”
Berrier said that whether you’re in a brick and mortar party store or meeting your customer at an event location, the best advice is to show what you want to sell. Most customers aren’t sure what they are looking for, and an inflated balloon will sell much faster them an un-inflated balloon in a package.
“Helium is our biggest obstacle these days,” Berrier said. “I have re-introduced the 60-40 helium valve to my staff. The 60-40 helium air mix will not work for every event, but it’s helpful for the events it will work. I’m also offering more air filled designs and trying to educate my customers in the helium shortage.”
While she’s always looking for new clients, Berrier also understands the importance of retaining their current customers. The week before Valentine’s Day she delivered balloons and cookies to their clients, something she said they loved and talked about for days.
It was a very simple gesture — not exactly 10,000 balloons released at an NFL stadium — but it was effective and something that helps The Balloon Construction Company rise above the rest.
By Abby Heugel