Worth just under €800m the balloon market contributes to the governments revenues and employs over 7,000 people in Europe. Thousands of people are able to make a better living harvesting latex, instead of deforesting land to raise cattle.
Made of natural rubber latex (tapped from the rubber tree Hevea Brasiliensis which produces milky sap), latex a natural substance not to be confused with plastic. Rubber threes are supporting the ecosystem, as they grow in plantations, not in natural rainforest, which make the rubber production industry is recognised as a ‘green industry’.
Each year, the balloon industry requires 16 million trees which take up over 363 million kilograms of CO2 gases from the Earth’s atmosphere.
If you are concerned with the way people discard their balloons after celebrations, 84% of consumers do not release balloons into the atmosphere but add them to household waste. We learned about the balloon market from Tanja Ochsner, Founder of Ochsner Balloons from Switzerland who created stunning balloon arrangements and decorations for Expat Expo in Zug. An expat herself, Tanja grew up in Moscow, Russia, graduating from the Finance University, and working for a few years in the financial sector and subsequently moved to Stockholm, Sweden where she lived for 15 years. Now she resides in Zug, Switzerland.
“We focus on design and quality, with the highest attention to detail, and strive to approach every project as uniquely as possible. Our designs and creations provide the “wow factor” for our customers, delighting them and their guests.” Tanja says.
While balloons transform any event venue into something spectacular and extraordinary, there is a lot going on behind the scenes to create a desirable atmosphere that brings joy and happiness into a room or a venue . “Our customers often come to us wanting to add something truly unique and special to their occasion or event, and we are able to come up with ideas and solutions that deliver exactly that.”
While it is rare that people attempt to start their own business in an area which is totally different to the one in which they are formally educated, trained and experienced, I decided to be one of those few exceptions to the rule. Back in 2010, while I was on maternity leave with my second child, I visited a party where I saw what I thought at the time, were amazing balloon decorations. I felt inspired to decorate my little boy’s 1st birthday party with some advanced balloon creations of my own.
I did some Internet research and found the ideas and examples of what I would like to do, and bought the necessary tools and accessories. I found the supplier of the best quality balloons (Qualatex, which I still use in my work today), and I was confident that I would be able to produce everything exactly as planned. After all, these were “just balloons”.
Needless to say, not everything turned out as planned, and when I look back now at what I produced, I can see just how far my professional skills and creations have progressed since then! I demand the highest standards of myself. I became a professional qualification for balloon professionals, Certified Balloon Artist (CBA). I started practicing with balloons, learning the techniques and basics of design etc, and then, at the end of 2010, I passed a tough test, written, oral and practical exams leading to my CBA qualification and designation.
All that I did just to prove to myself that I could learn to do the basics of balloon décor to a professional standard. At that point I started to think that I could use my new skills to generate additional income, and so I created a company, whilst still employed at PwC in Stockholm.
In 2013 our family moved to Zug in Switzerland, planning to stay for one year, while I took a year-long sabbatical from PwC, aiming to return to Stockholm afterwards. I started working with balloons here to keep myself busy, and a year later it transpired that we decided to remain in Switzerland. At that point I decided to run my own business instead of going back into the financial sector, where I was desk-bound working for someone else, and this is how Ochsner Balloons was born!
The biggest challenge was certainly to start everything from scratch in a new country (new friends, new routines, new language, things working differently to how I was used to in Sweden etc). Not to mention, at the same time launching a start-up business – creating awareness of the business and our offerings, and educating the market about the concept of balloon décor (which back in 2014 was pretty much an unknown concept here, and I do not mean simple helium filled balloons or classical balloon décor like garlands that one often sees at Migos / Coop).
The balloon industry is a very innovative and creative field, and ideas and inspiration are shared through various professional balloon artist groups. I attend balloon festivals and seminars, as well as read industry magazines. Instagram and Pinterest are very powerful resources when it comes to getting inspiration.
Chris Adamo, CBA from Australia, an internationally-known balloon artist and trend-setter, who creates stunning balloon installations. His designs are amazing and he is constantly looking for and developing new ideas. Most importantly, he is a very down-to-earth and humble person who gladly and freely shares his innovations, secrets, recipes, and in-house created software for balloon design with other balloon artists. I highly appreciate his advice and feedback on my work.