Lessoned Learned from Running this Business (Part 1)
I have a rep in the furry fandom as a fanatical capitalist by people who have known me for the 15+ years I’ve been in the fandom, whether that’s really deserving or not. Even my fursona name is a joke relating to economics and inflation. Anyway, I figured I’d sit down and write out my thoughts and feelings about the business and talk about what I’ve learned. I’ve always found it ironic that the most avid anti-capitalist manufacturers in the furry fandom are the tightest lipped and paranoid about sharing any details about their business. This is because their one and only competitive advantage comes from a couple hours of research or randomly stumbling onto a reliable manufacturer, because they know any artist with a couple grand (or even a few hundred dollars) could instantly make a better product than them using the exact same manufacturer. I’ve always been pretty open when people DM me asking how to get into this business, because honestly, I’d rather see more prints out there in the fandom for people to sell or share. So here it is, my experience selling balloons.
Quick history, about 6 years ago, I essentially said, “Why not Zoidberg?” and printed some 12inch balloons with some old art: a headshot of my fursona. I used a company called BalloonsFast, and I think at the time it cost me about $300 for 1000. They sold okay but wasn’t really the main motivator; it was cool to have something with my character on it. Shortly after in 10 days’ time, I simultaneously got my ass beat by 2 bad trades in the stock market, paid off my college debt in a lump sum payment, and got laid off from my dream 9 to 5 job…and that kinda slowed down my motivation to do anything else. While I was unemployed, I dropped some money to make the Aimi Black with Pink ink Tuftex 24in “BlowMe” prints, as well as fail epically at selling unprinted balloons and various inflatables under an unofficial business website.
Fast forward 2 years, I had a stable govt job and some money to mess around. This is where I got lucky. I commissioned BlooDoodles to make art for a 2-sided pool toy husky. I went through a company called BalloonHome and it was $275 for 1000 16in balloons. This print was on fire! It sold blazingly fast and I began to wonder if I could try this with other prints. I cut a deal with Bloo that I’d pay a royalty of $50 for every 1000 balloons I printed or $50 for every 250 2ft+ balloons. I soon made a fennec and dragon print and those…didn’t do as well. I did a reprint of the husky balloons and those as well slowed in sales. I left the website to linger for about a year as the balloons slowly sold out, after which I decided “Screw it…let’s keep playing this game until I utterly fail” and got an official business license and name: Big Balloon Animal, something simple and having multiple meanings.
Over the next 3 years, I continued using BalloonHome, distributors with Maple City Rubber (Hico STL: Tuftex) and Pioneer (AmericanBalloonFacotry: Qualatex) as well as directly with Cattex. BalloonHome had cheap rates on U16s. Tuftex only did one sided printing, but their 24in balloons were under $1.30 each after printing. Qualatex was able to handle 2-sided printing on things over 2ft, though expensive ($6.80 per Q36). I did business with Cattex because NOBODY imports their stuff to the USA. Their printing was also a little pricey, but worked in a pinch, though often VERY inconsistent in quality (along with a lot of their products). I also tried out a few printers inside the furry fandom who were printing as a hobby. Just as I was getting off the ground in 2020, the madness started, which I’ll break down as to why I’m shutting down in part 2...