by Donna Sealy
A hunt a few years ago to find birthday party supplies was the start of something big for Cheridan Parris.
That search also unearthed and unleashed a talent she did not know she had.
For the owner of Party Xpress Inc. there is something magical about balloons.
Seeing a bunch of them, or even one, makes most children happy.
For some adults it takes them back to childhood evoking pleasant memories.
Parris loves balloons.
It would be accurate to say she is passionate about them.
While that might be hard for some of you reading this to believe, ask her.
She was not always into balloon decorating. In fact she did nothing related to arts at secondary school in St. Lucia or any other time until she started working at Party Land which supplied mainly party supplies.
“That’s where I first started off in 2001. Moving here after I got married, I made Barbados my home. It was my ex-husband’s 37th birthday and I was planning a surprise party for him and I went looking around for party supplies and I could find nothing to fit an adult theme and when I got something it was some cups, some plates, no full themes. So I said that was something I had to do, open a party supplies store but with full themes,” she said.
That was the beginning of her business, which is located in Newton Industrial Estate, Christ Church.
That was 2011.
Sitting in Barbados TODAY’s Warrens, St. Michael offices earlier this week, Parris said when the recession “really hit” people began to cut back on party supplies.
“People were not doing full party supplies like they used to but they were not cutting back on decor especially on balloons. If you have an empty space and you put two or three clusters of balloons in that space, it transforms it. On realising that I started to capitalise using balloons and got more into balloon decor.
“In December I became the regional distributor of Qualatex (brand) for Barbados and the region. Party Xpress is getting deeper and deeper into balloons. I get a lot of calls for decor for balloons. Coming up schools and calling for [their colours] for graduation.
“Balloons are cost effective and they are an inexpensive way of adding great value to what ever it is you’re having whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding or just because. Balloons do so much for people. You can create so many thing with them, there’re so many animals you can do. My favourite part of the decor is to do sculptures, the arches, the columns,” she said with a smile.
Listening to her as she spoke and watching as she did, her face was transformed.
Parris shared that she is creating a Crop-Over sculpture in a mall outside of the City which she would be unveiling as soon as next weekend.
“I want people to look at balloons as not just what you used to do when they were younger. Blow it with your mouth, tie it and that’s it. We don’t do that anymore we have electrical pumps, we don’t blow balloons because by the time you’re done, you’re winded,” she chuckled.
In this recession Parris has a plan to help companies market their products and services. Her strategy is simple. Use more balloons.
She said that with the trend towards balloons, she would use them to draw attention to the product, for example a car.
“I did two for Simpson Motors… I did balloons on a car and a balloons in a car. There is so much you can do with balloons and I can go on and on and on about what you can do with balloons,” she said her face lighting up.
Parris know balloons and wants to share that knowledge with others who are interested.
She said there will be a workshop in collaboration with the BIDC, with someone from Belgium to teach some of those people who have been asking for lessons, the A to Z of balloons from beginners right up.
She does not mind passing on her knowledge because there are some people who could do with the extra cash to supplement their income.
How does she decide on what to do?
“I’m a very visual person. If I can see something I could recreate it. I’m blessed and gifted that way, no formal training but I will be getting my training next year in March in Ohio,” she noted.
She usually works with her clients to come up with an idea and she always bears in mind the focus area and works from there. She noted that girls prefer pinks and yellows and boys blue and most children prefer themes.
She wanted to create a rally car using balloons but was too late to do work on it.
“As part of my marketing campaign, I want to do different things. I want to show Barbados that there’s so much you can do with balloons and there’s a lot more to it. Balloons are wonderful I get so excited when it comes to balloons. When you give a child one helium balloon, you light up their face. The response that you get is absolutely priceless,” said the 37-year-old business woman.
“If you give somebody something different they will come back. My customers want something different and that is what I do… I want people to expect more. I want the decorators to give more not just the same thing, give [customers] something extra. The customers will come back and that is my goal, to change the face of balloon decor.
“With time, my business will improve. A lot of the work I do now is pro bono, to give people an idea of what I do. I want to do that… Sometimes to gain more you have to give. It’s not all about getting the money. I love what I do and I’m not just doing it and going to work… The passion and talent for this just came naturally.
“What I want to do is find different companies who want to reward employees. I want to deliver a balloon bouquet. I want to call a couple of places to find out who’s having a birthday or an anniversary and surprise them at no cost to the company. I want to say ‘thank you’ and we ‘appreciate you’. Too often we wait too late. I want to be part of that and not just cost, cost, cost, I want to do something at no cost to anyone. I love my company and I have to bring awareness to my products,” the decorator said.
Oh, and to prevent those balloons from popping, Parris said if you blow them too big they will pop. If they begin to take on a pear shape when you are blowing them they will pop, so go easy and enjoy them.