Designer Showcase: Sara Meyer
As a former art teacher, Sara Meyer sees life as one big lesson plan. Sara charted a course of learning not only for her students but for herself as well. During each summer hiatus, Sara became the student, and worked to hone her craft as an artist and teacher. One summer, she learned face painting and later started her own company. During another summer, she took an entry-level balloon decor class and again, started her own business. That was 3 years ago and she’s never looked back.
The Teacher and The Student
Sara gives lots of credit to her mentor, Dennis Scott, CBA of Incredibly Twisted in Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA, who was “very generous with his knowledge.” She said working with Dennis fast-tracked her skills and gave her the confidence to take on large jobs right from the beginning.
Today, Sara’s business, Wisconsin Balloon Decor, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, USA, is home-based. However, she creates 90% of her work on location.
I have intentionally marketed myself as a 'mobile balloonery,' because it sounds more impressive than 'home-based.' Instead of saying, 'I don't have a storefront,' I say, "Everything is custom and I deliver to you!' So much about how your business is perceived is about the language you use. I've been very intentional about creating a high-end, custom vibe from the beginning.
Sara Meyer, Wisconsin Balloon Decor, Lake Geneva, WI, USA
Located in a small resort town, Sara has mostly corporate clients—resorts, which of course means plenty of brides! Her number one selling item is white three-footers that hang from the ceiling. For her, "It doesn't get any easier or more profitable than that!" These clients also give her plenty of opportunities to create organic decor and fabulous balloon drops. For inspiration, Sara takes cues from other designers and especially from florists. “They do a lot of wedding decor and come up with really interesting arches and centerpieces. It helps me follow the bridal trends.”
Although Sara still enjoys face painting, she’s careful not to mix the two businesses. “I don’t advertise that within my balloon business. That’s a different demographic and as soon as you get too general in your offerings, I think you confuse clients. Even though I am a jack of all trades, I want people to be very clear that I'm a balloon professional when they land on my website, not someone who does a million things including balloons."
Personality and Guts Make the Sale
Though it’s only been three years, Sara has already learned some critical lessons about growing her business. “Having a website and Instagram presence is essential, but networking and getting to know people is the key to growing,” she said. “For every new client I attract, I’m selling 3 times that to my current clients because they come to me over and over. I get to know them, I actually socialize with them on social media, I ask about their personal lives and they become my friends. Then it’s even better to work together!” She adds, “While there are so many great tools in the industry, ultimately you just need a personality and some guts! You can be the best decorator in the world, but if no one wants to work with you or you can’t go after a sale, you won’t have a business.”
For advertising, Sara recommends styled shoots above all else. "I try to organize at least one styled shoot each year with local event vendors. I find a venue, a photographer, and come up with a loose theme, and each industry expert does his or her own thing! In a few hours, we create an awesome photo shoot that showcases each of our talents, and we walk away with high-end photos that we can use forever. We also cross-promote each other's social media platforms."
Be Yourself Above All Else
Even though the lessons have been many, Sara does have one crucial piece of advice for those just starting in the balloon business. “Figure out who you are, then be that person. Early on, I tried really hard to be overly professional and it just wasn't me. Now, I write an email the way I talk, I show behind the scenes projects on Instagram, I post selfies, I send clients gifts, and I run the business the way that feels good to me."
For continued success, the teacher in Sara knows she must constantly look for ways to improve. “I try to go to a convention every year because I always leave energized and excited, and filled with new ideas! I have been to FLOAT twice, FPBA, a BalloonCoach.com workshop, and several other webinars. These training opportunities have been huge in helping me build confidence as a balloon decorator.” All these lessons have paid off—Sara won the coveted title of “Designer of the Year” at FLOAT 2019.
So what’s next for Sara? Evidently, this student of life has found her passion and is sticking to it. “I enjoy the freedom of working for myself. People pay me to be creative and bring joy to their event! There is no better job out there.”