Designer Showcase: Dante Longhi, CBA
“Professional equals successful.” That’s the mantra of Dante Longhi, CBA, of Dream Factory Balloons in New Jersey, USA. Dante said following this guiding principle in every aspect of business has resulted in prosperity doing what he loves. At Dream Factory, a company of seven employees, this commitment applies to all things big and small, which includes:
- Business Cards
- Accurate and attractive customer proposals and estimates
- Well-kept and working tools, such as sizers, bases, and poles
- Appropriate software programs for design, invoicing, payroll, sales analysis, and marketing lists
- Well-designed, colorful, and inviting storefront displays
Dante encourages balloon artists to establish a storefront business as quickly as possible. “Move to a storefront ASAP,” said Dante. “Exposition is the key! When people see you, they believe you, and they buy!” Knowing that’s not always possible early in one’s career, Dante has a few words of advice. “Make sure there are no dogs or babies making noise in the background while you’re on the phone with a potential client. Keep as much professionalism around your job as possible no matter where the office.”
Keys to Growing Your Business
Once you’re up and running, there are two keys to growing your business, according to Dante. These are continuing education and utilizing social media. “Go to balloon classes to learn more and see what’s happening now and network. The world changes so fast and we have to be in touch with everything in the industry and educational. People say, ‘Don’t change a winning team,’ but at least start playing in different fields, update uniforms, etc. You don’t have to change, but at least upgrade,” he advises. Dante estimated 90% of his current business came to him as result of people seeing his work on social media. “Our best investment was to hire a company to run all our social media. It was worth the investment!” Dante said Instagram has proven to be the best social media tool for highlighting his designs and balloon specialties.
From Assistant to Competitor
From his early days helping expand his mother’s birthday decor business, Dante has gone on to win numerous balloon competitions and teach at prestigious industry events such as the World Balloon Convention. His awards include:
- 2017 – FLOAT Convention – 1st Place Large Sculpture, 1st Place Theme Decor, 1st Place Delegates Choice Large Sculpture, 1st Place Delegates Choice Theme Decor, 1st Place Event Design Challenge, 1st Place Floatee Holiday Decor, 1st Place Floatee Deco-twister Decor, and 2nd Place Live Centerpiece
- 2004 – IBAC/Brazil – 1st Place Balloon Bouquet and 1st Place for Giant Sculptures
- 2003 – SIAB/Brazil – 1st Place Christmas Centerpiece
Upgrading From Coach to First Class
Dante’s business, Dream Factory Balloons, is flourishing. What started as a small business in his native country of Brazil is now a thriving and 1600 square foot retail business on the eastern coast of the USA. Dante likens the thrill of moving to retail the same as “upgrading from coach to first class!” Still, there are challenges. Customers often wait until the day they need balloons to visit and they all come at the same time.
You have to treat your business as a business, not like a hobby.
Dante Longhi, CBA
Dante says, “You have to treat your business as a business, not like a hobby. It means even if you work from home you must take it as a company that is to pay rent, phone, car, material, etc. The only payment we have extra with the retail store is an associate to answer the phone and talk to the client coming inside the shop. Everything else is the same costs, but with the retail store we don’t have to wake up with balloons in our living room!”
A Dream Come True
Recently, Dante added a Qualatex® Balloon Boutique™, or QBB, to his retail location. The QBB is a wall display of various Qualatex products and a portfolio of featured designs to encourage and upsell customer purchases. “The Qualatex Balloon Boutique is a dream come true,” according to Dante. “When the client asks me ‘What balloons to you have?’ I just open my arms wide and show them the wall!” Of course, Dante does have favorites: Bubble Balloons and Chrome™ Balloons. “You don’t have to say anything,” he says. “Just show the pictures!”