Desiree Ontiveros is the brains and founder of Badass Balloon Co. As any New Orleans transplant, she fell in love with the city while visiting and decided to plant her roots here. With her fashion and marketing experience, she built the fun, creative and sassy balloon and decor company known as Badass Balloon Co. We reached out to her to learn more about how she got started, what she is doing to keep her business thriving and what advice she has for young entrepreneurs who are just starting out or trying to pivot their business during the pandemic.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Before making the French Quarter my home, I worked with brands such as Royal Asscher Diamonds, Romona Keveza and Spanx to create high impact, high visibility influencer driven marketing and publicity campaigns. My early career was spent in London, where I worked on international visibility strategies focused on celebrity and entertainment, marketing and product placement. In 2015, I visited New Orleans and could not bring myself to get on the flight home. A year later, Badass Balloon Co. was born. New Orleans is the source of inspiration for the bon vivant nature of these sassy party balloons. Like the city itself, at the core, my company is in the business of taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary.
You started Badass Balloon Co. in 2016. What inspired you start a balloon company?
I was in charge of merch for a friend’s bachelorette party. While doing some research on all the things you could customize, I found out that balloons were one of those things that had insanely high minimums to order. The problem was that there was nothing on the market that was not a licenced Disney character. The industry just automatically assumed adults weren’t interested in balloons and aged you out. So as a joke I had some balloons printed. I never thought it would be an actual balloon business. I never had an actual business plan. I just kind of winged it. To be fair, this wasn’t my first rodeo. As a seasoned entrepreneur, I ran it like a fashion brand and applied all those rules to this and it worked.
As you know, the pandemic changed everything. From how we do business to how we interact. What are some the struggles Badass Balloon Co. faced?
The main struggle we faced was timing. The world has been in crisis mode. We struggled because as a small business, we needed to continue to make money, but at what cost? It was important for people to take care of themselves and their hierarchy of needs first. I decided that we needed to be sure that our employees and community were fed, had PPE and were going to survive the early months when everything was scarce. So for the first couple of months we hibernated and reorganized and focused on the community. While we were hanging back we saw other businesses pushing hard in survival mode and it had us questioning whether we were doing the right thing to stay focused on our core values and offerings as a company and not pivot to a completely different category.
How have you adapted business operations during this difficult time?
As you know from social media, people are still celebrating the little wins in life, we are just getting a little creative now. So while our company is not designing these huge brand activations and 3,000 person events we are used to, our website has become the go-to resource for micro party aficionados. We have everything you need for a small at home or backyard bash with your immediate family or 5 best friends. It’s a no brainer. Our shipping is lightning fast and we have a great selection of elevated designs to lighten up the mood for the 2020 apocalypse.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are trying to start a business or are trying to pivot in 2020?
Listen to your customers. Don’t try to invent what you think they want. Fill the demand for what they actually need.
We cannot tell what is going to happen in 6 months so do not plan for “when things go back to normal”. Society has been functioning on a new frequency for 6 months now, new habits have formed and some are here to stay permanently.
Why do you think that hospitality and tourism is important to a city like NOLA?
No matter where you go, everyone has a great story or memory about New Orleans. I love that this city makes such an impression on everyone through the hospitality and generational recipes that local business owners share with tourists. Locally, small businesses have the ability to thrive and live the dream of entrepreneurship because of this solid base of customers that NOLA tourism produces. So I look forward to New Orleans welcoming people again when it is safe to do so without negatively impacting the health of our community.