Businesses Giving Back: Balloons Unlimited

There’s a lot of great things about shopping locally. One of the best things about it is that the money stays in the community. It’s not just that local business owners spend more money within the community, it’s also that local business owners tend to give back more to the communities they’re part of. The next time you go to an event in Lodi, notice how many sponsors are local businesses. Local businesses are invested in our community and that’s why this section is dedicated to recognizing the local businesses that give back to our Lodi community.

Kathy Cassebarth Is the owner of Balloons Unlimited. I came to know her through Leadership Lodi and was immediately in love with her work. You’ve probably seen her creations all over Lodi. Balloons take an event from fun to outstanding, and her work is that special touch at your event that makes guests say, “Wow!” “When we walk in the room, we put the icing on the cake.” says Kathy. “You can’t do that with flowers. I mean you could, but it would be so expensive. We have that ability to do that and that’s what makes it fun.” If you want your event to visually pop, balloons are the way to go (pun intended), and Kathy is the lady for you. I could go on and on about the fun things Kathy creates, but this section is to recognize how much she gives back to Lodi.

When you hire Kathy for an event, you have the satisfaction of knowing your money is doing a lot of good. When she can, Kathy supports a lot of local fundraisers. For example, when I was interviewing Kathy for this piece, she had to take a call from a Lodi High FFA teacher. A 15 year old girl in this teacher’s class has ovarian cancer and Kathy was helping them with a fundraiser the following Saturday. That’s the type of thing you can expect your money to be going toward when you work with Kathy. Yes, you’ll get a beautiful balloon masterpiece (I really cannot say enough about the fun her balloon work brings), but you also allow her to support things she’s passionate about.

Kathy has been bringing people smiles with balloon for 25 years. So how does someone get into the balloon making industry? According to Kathy, it’s by using her imagination. She does a great job telling her story so I’m just going to let her do that:

“So I was a secretary. Then I got married and moved to Lodi and went to work for California Tomato Growers Association. I was doing clerical work there. Then Zack (her son) came along and it was like, why am I doing this? I’m spending all of my money on daycare and clothes. Greg (her husband) was self employed as a general contractor and he said well go ahead and quit your job. So I cam home and now I’m just a mom and I was like okay, what can I do to contribute but stay home with my kid? So we had a van, because everybody had a van, and I got a hair brained idea, how about if I got a tank of helium and a bag of balloons, and Zack and I could go around Lodi delivering bouquets of smiles. I told Greg and he thought I was absolutely nuts. So I was like, maybe it is a dumb idea, because who does that? So I sort of dismissed the idea. Well Greg reads the paper every day religiously and he reads the whole newspaper, and here in the classifieds it says, ‘At home balloon business selling for $500.’ He was like, oh my god, how often do you see a balloon business for sale, and two weeks earlier Kathy had suggested that! So he said, ‘Here’s $500’ and we went over to the woman’s house and bought it. I had no knowledge about balloons. I had only gotten about one balloon bouquet in my life and parties balloons were something you blew up, rubbed against your head, then stuck to the wall. So that was my whole experience with balloons. But she had a couple of things, she didn’t have any helium tanks, she didn’t have any real stock, but she had these industry magazines that I had no idea existed. From there she suggested going to the balloonery in Stockton, which I had never been to, with Ann Johnston, who was the owner and also became Mayor of Stockton for a little while, and she educated me for a little while and I took a few classes and the rest is history.”

Recently, Kathy was featured in one of those international industry magazines, under “The best of the best” for a fun ice cream inspired number two. From having no balloon knowledge to being featured in an international magazine, it’s a pretty impressive feat. There’s a reason why so many families, local businesses, from F&M to Adventist Health, and big businesses like Amazon and Facebook, love working with Kathy.

Giving back is important to Kathy. According to her, if she was independently wealthy, could give everything away, and be a full time philanthropist, she would. Obviously, she can’t do that all the time, but on the occasions when she can, and something is important to her and her husband, they do their best to make that happen. “It’s the little things to be able to give back.” she says. “I think the reason anyone gives anything away is because it makes them feel good. It’s sort of a selfish act in a way. It gives us a lot of satisfaction being able to help.”  One of the events that stands out to her, was helping a child with cancer a couple of years ago. “One that we did was a donation for a little girl who was fighting cancer. I think she’s cancer free now. We came in and I did not know the family was having this fundraiser, and it turned out the aunt who was doing this fundraiser, her daughter had gone to Tiny Tots with my son so it came around full circle. There it was fun to go in, practice new things, and put a whole new spin on that room. So we’re able to do that, it makes everybody warm and fuzzy, and then they give more. It’s a whole series of stuff.”

To wrap our interview up, I asked Kathy what the one thing is she wants people to know about her business. “One day I’m going to retire and I need to find a replacement.” she says “I think this is a valuable product  for Lodi. You know, not many towns have a balloon artist. I’m constantly thinking I need to find somebody who’s willing to learn the business and take it forward.” So if you have an event coming up, a birthday party, a fundraiser, a retirement, whatever, call Kathy. You’ll have an event that your friends are talking about and sharing all over social media. You’ll also be able to feel good about your purchase, because you’ll know that money you spent helps Kathy give back to important causes around town. And last, if you love balloons and have a big heart, reach out to Kathy, because she might have a great job for you.