“So which colour wedding balloons would you like for your big day?” we asked our bride-to-be for her swanky Stanford Hall nuptials in Leicestershire.
“Oh, there's no theme,” she said. “My wedding theme is no-theme. We want lots of different colours.”
After we'd picked ourselves off the floor, we set about trying to work out how to make giant balloons in random colours work together. “It could look like a right load of Jackson Pollocks,” worried Jo, scratching her head.
There's a good reason why many brides-to-be choose ivory and white, with maybe one other colour like gold or silver, for their wedding theme – it's simple and chic and goes with everything (including the tablecloths!).
But you know what, all credit to the lovely bride and groom Lucy and Rhys, they were absolutely bang on the money.
And as these photos show, Jo did an amazing job creating a no-theme wedding balloons theme for the after-party in the stable block of Stanford Hall.
Just hope no-one heard Jo squealing with delight when she got a peak at the bridemaids during set-up, and realised all our balloons matched their dresses.
Who'd have thought we were the Jackson Pollocks of balloon art after all?
One half of The Feather Balloon Company (Jo) informed the other half (me) today that it was our two-year anniversary. I just hope Jo wasn't expecting a feather balloon or something…
Actually I was suprised it was only two years because it feels like we've been growing this business for yonks. What started as a moan about tacky balloons between a couple of mum friends has become a small but thriving company within just 24 months. Although if you counted all the late nights and weekends we've put in since those heady start-up days, it probably adds up to another year at least.
We weren't the only ones starting up in 2016. According to Companies House, 650,000 new firms opened for business that same year – and those were just the ones who registered. There must be thousands of partnerships and sole traders out there who have given up their comfortable life as wage slaves – only to find that instead of having one boss, they now have hundreds!
Napoleon was quoted as saying that we English were “a nation of shopkeepers”. Of course he had plenty of time to rethink that insult while he spent the last six years of his life as a British prisoner on a remote island. But he had a point – we have always been an island nation of traders. Our medieval wool traders were today's tech start-ups, but just a bit less smelly.
Like many people who start up a business, or go freelance, neither me nor Jo had the foggiest of what this would really entail, or how tough it would be to keep ourselves afloat (no pun intended), make our customers happy, and pull in real, actual money to pay the bills. But along the way we were inspired by the grit and determination of the other small biz people we met, or connected with on social media.
We also didn't expect to get so much support or encouragement from our clients and customers, who – we were happily surprised to find – loved what we do and enjoyed doing business with us. So we kept our eyes on the ball, worked hard, and supported eachother when the other one had a wobble.
We're not out of the woods yet, of course. As everyone gleefully tells us, one in three new businesses fail in their first three years. But we're quietly confident that we'll continue to grow, and one day we'll be a decent and responsible employer of many staff, and owner of lots of vans (this was our first one in the photo below).
But what I'm most proud about our little company is that we did it single-handedly. Me and Jo are both lone parents and don't have the luxury of a second income, free childcare or a even a sympathetic ear at home. As I told my eight-year-old daughter Jesse this week, “Little Mix might sing about Girl Power, while dressed only in their pants. But real Girl Power happens when women get-together and build their own future, brick by brick.”
Or feather balloon by feather balloon in our case – I can't see brick balloons taking off… (arf!)