Five Questions with Fig Balloon Co.’s Katie Figueroa
The 23-year-old balloon installation artist creates pieces for celebrations at top venues in and around the city.
In 2018, then-21-year-old Katie Figueroa was a recent college graduate doing data entry in a cubicle from nine to five. “Only a few months into that job, I was just kind of itching,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I need to do something creative. I need to find my next idea.’” She wanted to start a business of her own, which wasn’t particularly surprising considering the New York native grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs. Her parents both owned their own companies, and her grandmother owned a party supply store for years, too.
While brainstorming ideas and doing research online, she came across photos of chic, sophisticated balloon installations that were unlike anything she’d seen before. She decided to try her hand at designing one herself. After a few trial runs, she debuted her first big creation at her own Halloween party. “At that time, I didn’t even know an electric balloon blower existed, so I had anyone I could get blowing up balloons with me by mouth,” she says with a laugh. Still, the design was a hit, so Figueroa began cold emailing local businesses that were celebrating upcoming anniversaries or grand openings to ask if they’d be interested in displaying her work. To her delight, they were—and they wanted to pay for it, too.
So last September, after a year of juggling a full-time desk job and an expanding business, she decided to make Fig Balloon Co. her main gig. “Whenever anyone would ask me ‘What do you want to do when you grow older?’ I always would say, ‘I want to have my own business.’ But I definitely didn’t know it was going to be balloons,” Figueroa recalls. These days the North Shore resident fashions dazzling, playful pieces for everything from corporate events to baby showers to wedding receptions in and around greater Boston. “I can’t deny that it’s pretty easy to be a part of one of the most exciting days of someone’s life,” she says. “And I like to think that you just can’t not be smiling or be happy when you see balloons.”
Read on for a peek inside Fig Balloon Co.
What is it like running your own business at such a young age?
It’s interesting. A lot of the clients I work with are much more experienced than I am or have had their businesses quite a bit longer. But I try not to think about my age when I’m in those scenarios. I just try to remember what I have accomplished and know that I don’t know everything [and am] learning. Yes, not all of my 23-year-old friends have businesses, but it’s fun to share this with them and for them be excited for me. And it’s fun to think about where I will be when I’m 25, or 30, and what will my business look like then.
What types of installations are you most commonly commissioned to create for weddings?
We do a lot of pieces for the reception area or the cocktail hour, whether it be something hanging above a bar or at an entrance to the cocktail area. Another popular request we get is creating something that will become a natural photo backdrop for guests—not necessarily at a photo booth or behind a camera, but something that people feel drawn to take photos of or next to.
Can you walk us through your design process?
We love to start by seeing the space that we’re working with. We get inspired by its unique architecture, whether that’s exposed beams or staircases. And then from there, we usually do a digital mockup for the client so they have an idea of what it will look like day-of. We’ll then talk colors. We have a very wide array of colors and also offer custom colors where we can take two different shades and blend them together. From there, we blow up as many balloons as we can and head to the site. [Transporting the balloons] is a fun thing to figure out sometimes. We have a large SUV that we use, so we fit as much as we can in that and then a lot of the building will actually happen onsite. That allows us to build [the installation] according to the size of the space and add touch ups to make sure that the balloons look gorgeous from every single angle.
Are there any weddings you’ve worked on over the past two years that are particularly memorable for you?
The first wedding we worked on was at the Innovation and Design Building, which is a beautiful industrial space. It’s kind of the dream because there’s a lot of opportunity to hang and install balloons. I remember getting that client and thinking, “Okay, this is our time to shine. It’s our time to prove that balloons can fit your day seamlessly.” We were so excited to work with them on their color palette and what they wanted to feel in the space. It was nerve wracking, but it went very well. We also recently did an installation at the ICA. They have a big glass elevator that the couple wanted balloons in. It was a unique installation experience because I was on a ladder in the elevator while it was going up and down. It was fun to add an element of design to an elevator, which not many people think of doing.
What’s next for Fig Balloon Co.?
We actually just tried out something this past weekend at the MFA where we made an installation not out of balloons but out of paper honeycomb balls, which are similar to paper lanterns but with a bit of a different design. We stepped out of our comfort zone and it was very successful. So adding to our repertoire of offerings is something we’re looking forward to in the future.
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