TWP UNI. – A teacher at Avondale Elementary wanted to experiment with balloon creations to cheer up her students. Now she has her own business.
Abby Messner of Plain Township owns Inspired Balloon Designs, a personalized balloon decorating company in Canton. She balances her passion for balloon design with her full-time job teaching third and fourth grades with the local Plain School District.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced classrooms online in the spring of 2020 and kept people indoors for most of this year, Messner began thinking of ways to put a smile on his students’ faces when ‘they’ve gone back to in-person learning. In her search, she turned to YouTube.
After falling down a “rabbit hole” balloon, as she described it, she ran to a local store to buy supplies. She tried to create a simple design and found that she had a natural interest in decorating balloons.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that was easy. I can do it,'” Messner said. “So gradually I found more videos and more networks of people and started researching and learning.”
Once back at school, Messner began creating balloon animals and other designs for student birthday parties. She allowed students to ask for what they wanted and worked tirelessly to make it happen.
It was an instant hit.
“They look forward to it when it’s their birthday,” Messner said. “It’s really funny because sometimes I have kids in the hallway saying, ‘I want to be in your class next year so I can have a balloon for my birthday’, and that makes me feel good. “
Teachers love balloons too
Messner did not reserve his creations solely for his students. She also created balloons for some of her colleagues.
Lori Eckelberry, an Avondale teacher and founder of a nonprofit called Katie’s Kids, tapped Messner’s talents for a recent golf outing at Paradise Lakes Country Club in Suffield. For the past two years, Messner has provided his work to the association free of charge.
“It’s really neat to have,” Eckelberry said. “What I love is that it gives our release an extra edge. I think our audience is pretty special on its own, but it just adds an extra edge where people come together and have fun.”
Eckelberry said Messner’s designs have been hugely popular on outings and have done a lot to spread awareness of Katie’s Kids’ mission. She said she often sees people posting Messner’s balloon creations on social media.
Turning passion into profit
As his balloon designs grew in popularity, Messner began to consider the possibilities of earning money from his newfound passion.
She launched Inspired Balloon Designs in the fall of 2020 and found most of her first clients through friends.
One such friend is Kristin Selby of North Canton, who has repeatedly ordered gift balloons from Messner. She bought her nieces balloon decorations for holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween, and her nieces love Messner’s balloon creations, Selby said.
Growing up with Messner, Selby said she wasn’t at all surprised that Messner turned her talents into a viable business.
“She definitely has an entrepreneurial spirit, she has this entrepreneurial bug,” Selby said. “She’s really good at what she does. She loves doing it and she cares about all her clients. I just saw a different side of her, from mom and friend and teacher Abby to business woman Abby.”
Selby added that Messner is always trying to think of new ideas and different ways to create balloon designs.
In mid-July, Messner traveled to Orlando, Florida for a week to collaborate with 300 balloon designers on a “Balloon Wonderland”. Wonderland featured half a million balloons arranged to look like many different creations.
Teaching is the top priority
During the school year, Messner’s ability to focus on decorating the balloons diminishes, she said. This fall, she plans to set aside one weekend a month to work in her small business, as she will have to juggle other responsibilities, such as working full time and raising her three children with her husband.
If she wanted to, Messner could run her business full time. She said she knew of other balloon artists who were making six-figure profits or more from their businesses, and although her operation was relatively small, she could see it had potential.
However, she doesn’t want to. She started creating balloon art as a side gig, and she wants it to stay that way.
“My co-workers ask me that all the time at school. They’re like, ‘Are you going to quit your job and do balloons full time?'” she said. “And I’m like, ‘No, I love my job, I love the kids.'”