On our next trip around the world, we stop in the Caribbean to learn what unique challenges balloon businesses face and what cultural differences they celebrate.
About the Caribbean
- Currency: Across the Caribbean, there are 13 different currencies in use, the US dollar and Euro being the most prevalent.
- Currency Conversion: $1 USD = 2.42 Caribbean dollars
- Language: There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean: Spanish, French, English, Dutch, Haitian Creole, and Papiamento.
- Population: 43,682,990
- Fast fact: The Caribbean region is what's called an archipelago, made up of around 700 islands, islets, reefs, and caves. People inhabit only about 2% of the islands.
Questions and Answers
Would you say balloons are trendy and popular in your country/market?
Zaidismary: Yes, in Puerto Rico, since the pandemic began, decorations and arrangements in balloons have grown a lot. Also, in various local programs, balloons have been seen on television stage arrangements and decorations. Balloon decorations were used in Christmas celebrations in various towns on the island.
Brendalee: Yes, balloons are very popular in my country, and they are mostly used in social and corporate events. It has become a tendency in local and international television.
Cindy & Donna: Balloons are the number one decor used at most or all functions celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago. They are mostly shown in television advertisements.
Dayliane: Yes, I think they're trendy in my country, they're also commonly used at celebration and television shows.
Is balloon popularity growing or decreasing in your country?
Zaidismary: To my understanding, it is increasing.
Brendalee: Yes, as the global situation due to COVID has increased, so too has the opportunity for balloon work.
Cindy & Donna: Increasing. We have many local balloon courses given at random locations every month using Qualatex. The clients visit us to make purchases for the classes before, during, and after their classes.
Dayliane: Right now is growing.
What balloon trend have you noticed in your country?
Zaidismary: Balloon deliveries to homes such as balloon bouquets have increased. On the subject of decoration, organic arches and balloon walls and decorations of rooms in residences or hotels have been seen a lot. In the color theme, chrome colors such as gold and silver are used a lot. In standard colors, black, white, pale blue, pink, dark blue, or pastel are widely used. The different Happy Birthday foil designs are also widely used and the foils in the shape of stars and hearts in all sizes, with large and small metallic numbers. The most requested themes are TikTok, Fortnite or Gamer playing, or baby shower.
Brendalee: The most balloons in my country are Balloon's bouquet, Balloons Walls and Organic Arch. The most requested colors are Chrome, Double stuff. The most requested themes are Unicorns, Farm, Astronauts, Rainbows, and seasonal.
Cindy & Donna: The Chrome Colors have taken the market to the sky/stars! We can't supply enough Gold and Silver. Another popular color is Rose Gold. Microfoil numbers have also taken the market. The clients in Trinidad and Tobago usually go with what's trending, so for instance the movies Frozen, Spiderman, Coco Melon, Avengers, whatever is showing that's the craze, and they purchase the accommodating balloons to accent their functions.
Dayliane: I think the trend is organic arcs and balloon bouquets.
What types of celebrations are popular for balloons in your business?
Zaidismary: There are many orders for birthday decorations and many balloon deliveries with a birthday theme in my business.
Brendalee: My top celebrations are birthdays, engagement parties, and baby showers.
Cindy & Donna: The Caribbean celebrates any and anything. We don't need a function, celebration/holiday to have a party. So, Christmas, New Year, Valentine's, Mother and Father's Day, Graduations, Halloween, Weddings, Birthdays, Showers, Bridal and Baby and even funerals.
Dayliane: The most popular type of celebration in my business are birthdays & anniversaries.
Some of Zaidismary's Work
Zaidismary Gonzalez, CBA
Decorator in Caguas, Puerto Rico
When is your busiest time of year? What about the slowest?
Zaidismary: The Christmas season from December to January is the least selling season for my business.
Brendalee: The busiest time of the year is February and the slowest is November.
Cindy & Donna: My busiest time is the Christmas season, starting from late September straight to year-end. My slowest time is back to school, mainly after all vacation in July and August.
Dayliane: My busiest time is Mother's Day and Valentine’s Day. My slowest time is January and September.
Are there many independent balloon retailers (storefronts) in your country, or are mass retail chains more common?
Zaidismary: There are more independent retailers.
Brendalee: Yes, in Puerto Rico, there are many independent retailers.
Cindy & Donna: I would have to say independent retailer storefronts. We even have a few retail chain stores.
What is the craziest or most bizarre balloon request you have ever received?
Brendalee: The most bizarre balloon I've ever been requested is an artist balloon called “Bad Bunny.”
Cindy & Donna: One customer asked for a cow.
How/where do you do most of your business? Online or in-person?
Zaidismary: Since I started, every request has been online.
Brendalee: Most of my business is due online.
Cindy & Donna: All of our business transaction is done in our stores. We do displays, demonstrations, etc., to sell and promote the market and show off "THE VERY BEST BALLOONS."
Dayliane: I do most of my business online.
Some of Brendalee's Work
Brendalee Rodriguez Torres, CBA
BR Balloons and Events Designer
Decorator in Manatí, Puerto Rico
What about marketing? How/where do you get most of your customers? Word of mouth? Social media? Foot traffic?
Zaidismary: My strategy to attract clients has been by word of mouth, and we use social networks to show our designs.
Brendalee: Most of my customers are recommendations from previous customers and social media.
Cindy & Donna: We are the largest balloon company in the Caribbean. We have been around for over 25 years and counting, so I would say word gets around, and we are known for the Qualatex brand of balloons ONLY. We also have a Facebook page.
Dayliane: Most of my customers are referrals and social media.
Who is your target market/common customer?
Zaidismary: Most of our clients are from Puerto Rico, between Caguas, San Juan, Gurabo, Cayey, and Cidra, which are the closest towns. The majority of our buyers, 91.7%, are women in an age range of 25 to 44 years of age, and their social position is from medium to high society.
Brendalee: My usual clients flows in the age between 20-65 years, most of them being females, high and medium class.
Cindy & Donna: We see no age limit and no gender preference. We get a mixture of females, males, teens, juveniles, and seniors.
Dayliane: Based on my social media statistics, my target customer is women. Most of them are working moms between the ages of 25 to 54. Medium to high economic standing.
How has diversity played a part in your career? What challenges and opportunities have been presented?
Zaidismary: My career as a decorator and balloon artist has led me to communicate more frequently with my clients, understand them more, and not look at other decorators as competition and make alliances with my colleagues. The different challenges that I have run into have been that many clients do not value your time or effort. Decorators, with their sales and discounts, misdirecting customers make customers lose confidence in the balloon community's true professionals.
Brendalee: Diversity has played a significant role in my career because I could give different alternative decorations to my clients. My major challenges have been working outdoor decorations since we have a warm climate and a lot of wind. My biggest opportunity has been to collaborate with the Qualatex convention in Puerto Rico.
Dayliane: My opportunities have been thanks to God. He has put the right people in my path, and they have been just a blessing to my business.
Some of Dayliane's Work
Decorator in Cánovanas, Puerto Rico
What unique challenges do you face in your country?
Zaidismary: As a country, our government is unstable, and in the economic issue, we have been affected by different natural problems such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and recently the pandemic.
Brendalee: My unique challenge has been to compete with economic prices in the industry and the global situation (COVID) to work more with balloon bouquets and less decorations.
Cindy & Donna: I would say BOTH economic and political issues.
What unique cultural customs in your country create challenges or opportunities for you?
Zaidismary: In the Christmas season, the Feast of Kings is celebrated in our country, and sometimes they create opportunities for us to decorate in the different activities that are celebrated, but at the same time, it is a slow season for us. Like the major week or Easter, it is also a very slow week in sales.
Brendalee: My unique cultural customs that have given me opportunities are festivals, festivities, and culturally, Puerto Ricans celebrate everything.
Cindy & Donna: At the moment, what the world is facing--the COVID pandemic. As you are aware, there are no parties, no gatherings, or functions. Social distancing is in effect, and the world has slowed down. We have a decrease in sales.
What is your biggest challenge as a business owner in your country?
Zaidismary: Fighting against the ignorance of their work by clients and, sometimes, other professionals, in addition to contacting potential clients and establishing fluid and trustworthy communication, are just some of the challenges that arise in daily work that, In any case, there are more and more tools especially online to overcome them.
Brendalee: My most difficult challenge is that I don't own a storefront.
Cindy & Donna: So, you know the world of the internet--sometimes a customer views a particular item, and Qualatex does not carry it.
Dayliane: Our biggest challenge is to maintain ourselves in business.
We have found that balloons are a universal language of joy that crosses all socioeconomic, cultural, and religious beliefs.Do you have any stories or anecdotes you'd like to share that support that sentiment?
Zaidismary: Yes, I had a client who contacted me to make a balloon arrangement for her daughter, who was soon to turn fifteen years old and had recently lost several relatives due to the pandemic, and their big party was canceled. She showed a photo of what he wanted to surprise his daughter on her birthday. When she arrived at the door of her home, her daughter took the balloon arrangement by surprise, and she burst into tears. Her mother took the arrangement by surprise since, from the photo she sent us, the arrangement we made was totally surprising. It is one of the most emotional moments we have ever had.
Brendalee: One of the most beautiful stories was to work on the chapter (QBN) in Puerto Rico for Make A Wish foundation drawing joy out of kids with cancer.
Cindy & Donna: Some time ago, a customer walked in. She saw a balloon ART online and wanted the exact REPLICA of it. We didn't have that particular print. A substitute was used, and when she came in, her EXPRESSION WAS PRICELESS, to say the least. She shared the pics on social media. Now that's what I call customer service at its finest.
Dayliane: Balloons are a universal type of language. I have seen many customers cry with joy when we deliver our balloon arrangements. It is so satisfying it makes me think I have made the right decision.
Anything else you think people should know about your country?
Brendalee: People should know that my country is the most festive in the world and that people are characterized for being empathic, help each other and with a big heart of hospitality to people who visit us.
Cindy & Donna: Trinidad and Tobago is a multi-cultural nation with mixes of different races, religions, cultures, traditions, and flavors. Our Company Festive Balloons offers a diversified range that can cater to our customer needs and wants. We welcome suggestions and ideas. With our product knowledge and any literature, we hope to grow and promote our business in the coming years.
Dayliane: Puerto Ricans are partygoers. We celebrate everything. If you haven't visited Puerto Rico, we invite you to come and enjoy this beautiful island.