By NATALIE DEVLIN
Balloons are a part of everyday life for Joan Hahn. She owns and operates a home business called It’s a Party.
Hahn first opened her business, located in Bernadette Square near Columbia Mall, as a full-service party store in 1986. She relocated the store to her house in Woodridge and reduced the services to just balloon decorations in 1997. Now, she mainly designs and sets up ballon bouquets, arches and centerpieces using both latex and mylar — or metallic — balloons.
It’s a Party caters primarily to corporate and university events, but also retains a clientele base from the full-service store was open. Hahn has a graduation party and a baby shower that she’s working on now in addition to a corporate event that she does every year.
Hahn said she enjoys the business because of the people with whom she works.
“Having a balloon business, you know you’re working with people who are happy,” she said. “You’re helping them plan a special day.”
Sometimes Hahn works four or five hours filling up balloons for a large party and a couple more hours to set everything up. Her husband, Allen Hahn, and her daughter, Becki Hahn, sometimes help her deliver the balloons, but other than that, the business is a one-woman operation. Becki Hahn used to manage the business before moving to Florida to open her own business. She lives in St. Louis now, and sometimes comes to Columbia to help her mother with big jobs.
The mother and daughter team was established before It’s a Party opened. They taught a class together at a “Ballooniversity” in Athens, Ga., that focused on designing the weights used to hold helium balloons down, and interacted with people from all over the world at the Ballooniversity for about five years. Burton and Burton, a balloon distributor, set up the Ballooniversity to help their clients, mostly balloon and party store owners, learn more about how to do their jobs.
Hahn relies mostly on word of mouth to promote her business, and people also find out about It’s a Party through Google and Yellow Pages. And because she is a member of its network, Hahn’s business is also linked to the website of the largest balloon distributor in the country, Pioneer Balloon Company. She said more clients were referred to her through that website than she expected.