When I went along to the Puff and Pop launch at their Seaton location in September last year, I was particularly intrigued by co-owners Ivy Bui and Johnny Nguyen's ethos around the business and decided to dig a bit deeper.
Bui is a 23-year-old director and stylist at Puff and Pop, whose previous achievements include being an ex-Youth Olympian (Table Tennis) and a social worker, where she primarily looked after individuals with special needs. She is currently pursuing a double degree in the Bachelor of Education (Primary R-7) and Bachelor of Special Education.
Nguyen is a 30-year old director and manager of accounts and marketing at Puff and Pop, whose previous work involved being a graphic designer and illustrator, in addition to being a Sales Associate in real estate. He has successfully completed a Bachelor of Visual Communications, majoring in Illustration.
So, how did Ivy and Johnny decide to start up a business together, having been involved in completely different careers prior? Keep reading to learn their story:
Tema: How did you decide to go into business together? Ivy: After deciding to quit playing Table Tennis professionally, I began studying Teaching as well as working part-time as a social worker for clients with special needs. During this time, I experimented with selling women products such as make-up and handbags on websites such as eBay and Carousell. Being 19 at the time, I was doing it for extra pocket money. However, as I continued, I started to enjoy the process of working for myself and talking to clients. I started it out as a hobby/experiment and noticed that Adelaide was still behind on-trend, when it came to creating balloons that appealed to myself and my age group. So with no hesitation, little knowledge, and $500 in the bank account, I dived straight into ordering stocks and equipment and practiced creating balloons for family and friends. It was an amazing feeling to see your family and friends appreciating your craft after receiving your balloons. Once I was confident enough, I created an Instagram account and began posting my work, which is how I was able to land my first ever client! During this time, Johnny was supportive of me and even joined in on this crazy experiment during his free time, but eventually, it became his passion too. I would also handle the client inquiries and social media posts, whilst Johnny worked on branding as well as set up the business structure and the foundation of what Puff & Pop is today.
Johnny: Working in a real estate agency for 5 years as an all-round marketer (specialise in graphic design, social media and digital), I had extended my role to include the day-to-day tasks to cover all areas of the company. Additionally, I also worked very closely with my previous employer, which provided me hands-on experience and a glimpse into the regular operations of a small business. Puff & Pop began as Ivy's vision of using balloons as a medium for creating modern designs that appeal to young women. As of August 2017, we both were in it together, so besides working at our day jobs, and juggling Ivy's study commitments, we would spend hours, late nights, and weekends creating balloons and building up the business to become what it is today.
Tema: What made you want to set up your own business? Johnny: I have started multiple businesses on my own over the years, but it never got to the point of fruition. However, working with Ivy helped in reigniting this sense of belief and hope in the business. She has the determination and perseverance to push an idea through and through. One of the reasons why we kept on going and expanded the idea from a hobby to a small business was because we wanted to provide Adelaide with personalised balloons that would not only be trendy, but simply be amazing to have in your space! It's also exhilarating when we receive positive feedback from our clients and how much they love our work. It just pushes us to keep going, test our limits, and keep yearning to be as creative as possible. Ivy: I think we are both motivated and goal-driven individuals. I still remember one time we brought along business and motivational books to read while having waffles in the City (laughs!). But, setting up a proper business from a hobby seems to have had a natural progression, because when I first had the idea, I wasn't sure of where it was going, and when it picked momentum, we just went along with it.
Tema: How did you decide on the name of your business? Ivy and Johnny: We wanted something fun and catchy for our clients to remember us by, as well as something that would easily roll off the tongue. It would also have to be a title that would perfectly encapsulate the essence of our business. So it took us a while to brainstorm different names, before we came up with Puff and Pop. We thought it's quite catchy and describes what balloons are made to do, such as inflate and pop (e.g. gender reveals).
Tema: How long has Puff and Pop been in business for and how have you found the journey so far? Ivy and Johnny: Puff and Pop started out as an online business in July 2017. At first, we only worked with helium balloons, grasping a niche audience of young women by redesigning the balloons to be elegant and classy. After 6 months, the business expanded its customer base to other demographics and that's when we started doing jobs that involved balloon installation projects. It wasn't until after our 1st year mark that we started to introduce furniture and acrylic signage due to a high demand from our clients. The journey has been a challenging yet fulfilling experience. With all the overtime hours and sacrifices that we have made, it feels amazing to see how far the business has come. It wouldn't be where it is today, if it weren't for the support of our loyal and local clients along the way.
Tema: What are some services that are offered via Puff and Pop that you'd like to highlight? Ivy and Johnny: Puff and Pop aims to deliver a range of services, including signage, elegant furniture and prop hires (this applies for backdrops, candy carts, plinths, and cake swings), user-friendly online store showcases, personalized balloons (available for next-day pick up and/or delivery), and of course, unique balloon Installations such as Balloon Garland and Walls to add that WOW factor to your upcoming event.
Tema: What are some memorable events that you have provided your services for, so far? Ivy and Johnny: With each one different to the other, it is really hard to say as there have been so many memorable events that we have provided our services for. However, if we were to choose one, we would say it would be one of our very first balloon installation jobs we did. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary but it was a memorable one for us.
Tema: What made you take the leap from being exclusively online to getting a shop front for your business? Johnny: We knew that operating online could only take us so far and that we'd eventually need to establish a space for our clients. We had plans in place to open it at least 3 years in operation, but with the demand for our business rising, we decided to bring this goal forward and open up our very own studio. The extended space allows us to showcase our products, build a personal relationship with our clients, provide 1:1 consultation with our clients, follow structured hours for organized pick-ups and delivery, seize the opportunity to grow and expand our range of products, and unleash a bigger sense of creativity and installation designs for our prospective clients.
Tema: How did you score your current space on Tapleys Hill Road? What about the space attracted you to set up your business there? Johnny: We weren't really looking for a location. However, we would check out random listings online such as cars, houses, and commercial properties. As our current space was on the main street, I noticed there was a 'For Lease' sign but it wasn't being advertised online. So I convinced Ivy to have a look at it with me and once we attended the inspection, we both felt that it was the perfect start for Puff and Pop. What attracted us to this space, in particular, was its size - it offers us with ample room to store our equipment. It also boasts of modern features, it is located on a fairly busy road, it has parking around the back, and it's super close to home!
Tema: What do you hope for your customers to experience, through your services? Ivy and Johnny: We hope to continue to improve our service and creativity as we progress and for our clients to trust in our service and products for their special events.
Tema: What are some essential supplies that you require regular stock of, to keep your business afloat? Ivy and Johnny: One of our popular items online is the Elegance Trio, so we find ourselves stocking up plenty of latex balloons, metallic orbs and bubbles, which essentially makes up more than 50% of our products.
Puff and Pop only open their store by appointment. However, they are available for queries and bookings via their website 24x7. They have also recently launched their signature floral boxes by collaborating with local business Stem Haus - full details here.