It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.
That is exactly the case for 27-year-old balloon artiste Andrea Howell.
Andrea left a career in the financial industry to follow her dreams.
“I studied accounting at university, and I was working at a financial institution as an accounts clerk and I left. I probably was there for about two years. I left in January this year to follow my dream,” she revealed.
It is a dream Andrea never realised she had.
She admits though that she always loved balloons even though she isn’t sure when her desire to become a balloon artist started.
“A few years ago, I would have seen a young lady online doing décor with balloons. I always had a love for balloons and I would always decorate the church for events. She was about my age and she had about 25 000 followers and I was blown away with the work that she was doing.”
“I always knew I wanted to own my own business but I thought it would have been a restaurant or something. Never thought it would have been balloons. But I got started as a hobby. It was something that I was just trying my hand at but then I realised I was getting a lot of support and people wanted a lot of stuff done for events all the time so it really kicked off from then,” she said, adding that it’s been five years since she started her business.
It took her some time, though, before she took the leap of faith to run her business Creative Balloon Designs and Event Décor full-time.
Andrea told Easy she wanted the timing to be perfect. But when that still small voice said to do it, she took the plunge.
“I was always praying and asking God when would be the time to go out and do it full-time. On December 31 I went to an Old Year’s service and I got the confirmation I needed. We actually went to a new church, so the preacher didn’t know me and I got confirmation that I should step out and do this full-time.
“I was uncomfortable at work and I know I had to go. I have no regrets from January to now,” she said.
Andrea said there were still days when she would do the occasional job hunting but admitted it just didn’t feel right.
“Sometimes I would job-hunt, sometimes I would do interviews but I would always feel awkward because I’m doing what I love now and it feels so normal and natural to me. It feels like what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said.
Andrea said having a nine-to-five job was stifling her creativity.
“My nine to five was really stifling me. You can do a full-time job and your business – people do it. I did it for about four years but it was stifling me. It was really difficult because I wasn’t getting to really flex and show what I could do. I love to do new things and creative new figures with balloon art. I love what I do,” Andrea said.
However, stepping out on her new journey didn’t come without the naysayers, but she paid them no attention.
“It’s not the average thing that people do, but a lot of people are getting into the industry now. When I first began, I had a lot of naysayers and people who didn’t understand. People never understood where I was going but once you have the love you just have to push through. A few told me it’s not going to work; a few asked me why would I leave my job to blow up balloons. But I had a vision,” she stressed. The love and appreciation she now receives from her clients help to keep her going.
“People love it, especially children. When you go to parties, they always want to have balloons. I love setting up for baby showers. When a pregnant woman walks through and she’s so ecstatic about it, that warms my heart every time. It’s really a warm feeling getting reviews from clients.”
“Every customer is different. Sometimes you have a lot of people saying something is not possible only because it’s never been done before. You shouldn’t focus on that; you just have to get it done,” she added.
While she’s happy and contented with where she’s at now, she intends to go further and even help other aspiring balloon artists along the way.
“I really would like to become a certified balloon artist, so I want to travel in order to become certified. After that, then I would teach. I want to share my knowledge with people. I want people to give their best in whatever they do. So I would like to help out with that,” Andrea said.
She cautioned those aspiring balloon artists or entrepreneurs though: “Never do it for just the money.
“Stepping out on your own is going to be a hard decision to make but once you know that it’s something you’re passionate about, then you will get through. Don’t just do it for the money. If your heart beats for it every day, if you go to sleep thinking about it and wake up with it on your mind, then take the leap. You have to be passionate about it. Jump and figure out the logistics afterwards.”
“Some people won’t believe in you but you have to believe in yourself. Build a brand. You can’t do everything yourself, so you have to build a team. You always have to have a backup plan,” Andrea advised.
“I’m so thankful for all the support. I’m thankful for everything. It’s been a long journey and I know we have a longer way to go. But I’m ready for the journey.” (DB)