Mar 23, 2018
A Super Party
New owner enjoys learning curve of being balloon-focused party retailer
Sharon McClellan’s career has gone from helping keep smiles healthy to giving people reason to smile. Barely a year ago, McClellan, a longtime dental hygienist, and husband, Joe, purchased A Super Party in their hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee.
“My husband has always wanted us to have a small business and he knew I wanted a change from dental hygiene,” McClellan said. “He saw this store for sale and thought it was the perfect opportunity. After much prayer, we felt this was the direction the Lord was leading our family.”
The business includes 2,000 square feet of retail space, 600 square feet of storage and office space plus a 10-by-20-foot rented storage area that is primarily used for off-season Halloween merchandise. A Super Party’s wheelhouse is balloons, including design and setup, with balloons accounting for more than half of total revenue.
In addition to legal and financial research of becoming a business owner, McClellan had to learn how to be a party and balloon retail manager. “It was quite a change to go from a science/medical field to so many numbers,” she said. “It has been continual learning from taxes to QuickBooks to a POS system to ordering, and that’s just behind the scenes. I also had to learn the balloon art and more training to be on the floor.”
A Super Party has six employees, including a full-time manager, plus the McClellans’ three daughters, Macy, Lily and Josey, will occasionally help with large balloon setups. A Super Party is a member of Party Club of America.
PHR: Do you do the balloon design yourself or have someone on staff that does it?
I do the balloon design myself, especially with new requests, but half of the employees know the basics of balloon art. Everyone is really good at arranging and general bouquets.
PHR: How did you get up to speed on balloon design?
I bought the store Feb. 1, 2017, and the previous owner trained with me for six weeks. She had been to a balloon class and taught me the basics. Thankfully, I’ve been able to take it from there. Pinterest has been a great tool for our business. I didn’t realize all that could be done with balloons until I looked into buying this store. … We take pictures of our art and display them on social media and in a balloon book on the counter. Many customers come in showing us something they have found and asking if we can make it happen. So far, I’m happy to say, we have made it happen! … This is overall my favorite part of the business, but being new, pricing for such a variety of things has been very challenging. I have underpriced many projects this first year, but through that, have learned and developed more specific ways of breaking it down to price more accurately.
PHR: How much of your revenue comes from rental and what do you offer for rental?
Rentals are a small part of our business. I would say 90 percent of revenue is from sales. Machinery that we rent is our cotton candy, popcorn and sno kone. We also have a large lit Eiffel Tower and small centerpieces we rent for a Paris theme, and some large lampposts and decor for Mardi Gras.
PHR: What’s your customer service philosophy?
Customer service for sure sets us apart from big-box stores – we hear that again and again. That is my No. 1 quality I look for when interviewing is a friendly personality with a happy, upbeat attitude and this has been successful. We greet every customer when they enter our store and offer help if needed. Whether it’s after a customer has been shopping and getting ideas, or if it’s a customer that has found us through our website or social media, we often get to be a part of their event planning. Some know exactly what they want, but many need help bringing all their ideas together and we enjoy that aspect. By doing delivery and setups, we have become familiar with most venues and can offer advice about the spacing when customers are planning bigger events.
PHR: Do you work with any local organizations?
We did sponsor some local organizations this year, and are just starting to reach out to more in our community. We plan to work with churches, schools and bars this year to present to them what we can order for upcoming events.
PHR: How have you balanced the business with being a mother of three?
There have been many sacrifices and challenges in this first year, but God has provided exactly what we need just when we need it and my faith has grown tremendously. Planning and organization is critical to balancing everything. Each staff member has strengths that help our business and I’m learning to delegate some of my work based on each person’s particular strengths.
My husband and daughters have taken on a lot more responsibilities at home. I’m enjoying the business and it’s exciting to see it grow, but I often remind myself of my priorities. God first, then my wonderful, supportive family.