When people ask Karen R. Ford, CBA, (aka The Balloon Lady) owner of BalloonWorks what she does for a living, she nonchalantly tells them she blows up balloons. If you have seen her work, clearly, you know it is much more than that. What she does is an art-form all in itself, transforming venues from simple spaces to magnificent places and creating one-of-kind pieces to deliver to clients for all of life’s milestones… birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc.
If you’ve attended functions with fabulous balloon decor, you’ve probably seen their work all over the Valley and beyond. BalloonWorks has long-standing relationships with many businesses, schools, colleges and non-profit organizations.
“For years, we have been involved with the GLVADA Auto show at Lehigh, Lafayette College, the FACT SnowBall, PRIDE in the Park, Easton’s Heritage Day, The BEST Scholarships, the State Theatre, SteelStacks, the Sands casino, Blue, Melt, Corked, Broadway Social, Wave, many local school proms and homecomings, runs and walks, galas and, of course, Lehigh Valley Style events not to mention all the private events we do at the Valley’s best venues! Our partnerships with non-profits, schools and businesses have enabled BalloonWorks to be one of the most recognized event decor companies in the Valley. Collaborating with other event professionals is also key to success. As a well-respected and highly sought after team, we are able to offer our clients a cohesive look and vibe for their events. The recent very successful Lehigh Valley Style Best Of event at the airport is a testament to this”
Karen inherited her entrepreneurial spirit from her dad. As a young girl in the late 1960’s, her family left Long Island for the Pocono. After owning a commercial print photography studio in Manhattan for 2 decades, her father sold that to buy Manitou Cottages, a family resort with 18 cottages on 15 acres. Karen worked there as a young girl as well as all of her dads other Pocono-based ventures, including HouseWarmers (a coal/woodstove business), Spa Factory Outlet, Tire Discount Center and several local publications, including the Pocono Shopper, Slate Belt Shopper and a few tourist publications. She has done everything from running activities for their resort guests to working with dozens of contractors, scheduling installations of wood stoves and fireplaces to typesetting and designing ads.
More than 2 decades ago, at 29 and pregnant with her first child (she has 5!), she wanted cloth diaper service but found there was none available so, in that entrepreneurial style, she started her own, Baby Natures Diaper Service, which she ran successfully for many years with her now former husband, at it’s peak, building up to a customer base of over 350. When doing a Mom-and-Baby show at the Lehigh Valley Mall to promote her new business, she noticed another vendor selling fresh roses inside of clear, heart-shaped balloons and got curious. After speaking with the woman running that booth, another business was born… She started supplementing the household income by vending in malls and at festivals. Sand art, glow necklaces, ice cream… and roses in balloons! When she met that lady in the mall that day, she was also shown a copy of Images, a balloon-industry trade publication. She was amazed at what she saw. Page after page of creations she had no idea could be made from balloons. It was probably a year later, when vending roses in balloons at a Bridal Show at the Oxford Valley Mall, a woman approached her and asked if she could make centerpieces for her wedding. Karen replied that she only does vending. She recalls, “As she walked away from me, I thought maybe I could make centerpieces for her wedding”.
Following that show, while sitting in her friend Larry’s floral shop a few weeks later, she came across a newsletter he had received. On the cover was a story about a woman, Grace Kirkwood, who had a floral and balloon decorating business in Norristown. In the article, it mentioned that she is also a balloon industry instructor, teaching balloon decor. “I called Grace to ask her about where I could take a seminar and, coincidentally, she had a three-day class coming up within a few weeks”, Karen tells us. And so it began.
BalloonWorks is celebrating their 25th year! Karen attributes her success to lots of hard work and being really passionate about what she does.
“I am fortunate that I happen to be able to make a living doing something I am passionate about. I love what I do and it shows. At BalloonWorks we are committed to providing outstanding customer service with innovative designs, understanding and catering to our clients needs, providing the best decor, product and value. ”
Everyone always wants to know what does the CBA stand for. Certified Balloon Artist. The CBA designation is earned through an extensive industry specific education and accreditation program, awarded after the recipient has demonstrated a clear knowledge of the curriculum through written tests and a 4 hour practical exam. Fewer than 3000 people worldwide have attained this professional level and Karen is proud to be the only CBA in the Lehigh Valley.
Watch for some awesome new stuff soon! Even after 25 years, Karen tries to attend as many industry conventions and seminars as she can. “Our industry continues to evolve and education is very important to keep coming up with fresh and exciting new ideas”.
Phone: 610.253.1441 • Mobile: 610.417.7417
When the decor looks good, YOU look good!