Hotel décor is boring. So, Sandy did something about it.
Say hello to one of the newest partners to join the Balloon Planet family, Sandra Fiore. She is the owner of Hampton Balloon located on Long Island, where they service Southampton and the surrounding areas. She’s a New York native and grew up in Westchester County.
Sandy, meet Sandy.
Sandy Fiore moved to Southampton in 2012. The same year, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the island and much of the East Coast.
“I had the unfortunate luck of relocating the week the hurricane hit,” she laughs, “That was different. ‘Welcome to the East end!'”
Hurricanes, even historically destructive and deadly ones, couldn’t keep her from setting down roots and persevering. In her move, Sandy brought over her balloons and décor business Small Indulgences. The business got it’s start in 1987 in a very unlikely place: A Westchester County Ramada Inn.
An island oasis.
In the late 1980s, it was common for Sandy’s friend group to throw hotel parties. They would book adjoining rooms and do what teenagers like to do, hang out. At one of these hotel parties, she told a friend, “I’m so sick of the hotel décor. It’s so boring. It’s always the same thing every weekend.” This thought stayed with her into her senior year of high school.
Close to graduation, Sandy found out that a friend was moving 1,000 miles away to Florida. An idea sparked in her head. They need to throw a going away party at the hotel and transform the “boring” hotel room into a tropical oasis. So, Sandy and her friends got to work.
Firstly, they laid garbage bags on the floor of the hotel room, dumped 100 pounds of play sand on top of the bags, and put an umbrella and lawn chair on top of the sand. Secondly, as a backdrop, they put together a “very, very crude” sunset balloon arch. Sandy laughs now at just how makeshift her creation was, but her friends loved it. The themed décor was a hit.
Fake it till’ you make it.
It wasn’t just Sandy’s friends who thought the decorations were great. Her friend’s mother, who worked in marketing for General Foods, saw photos of the going away party. The balloon oasis caught her eye. Not long after the party, Sandy received a call.
“Would you like to put in a bid? We need a decorator to handle all of the parties for General Foods.”
Sandy didn’t hesitate. She was taking business classes in high school and figured she would need to write up a business plan for college anyway. She slapped together her proposal, not thinking she would win. Two months later, Sandy received another fateful call.
“Congratulations! You won!”
Incredibly, at 18 years old, Sandy had secured a 4-year corporate contract with General Foods. And, what was her reply to this exceptional news?
“I’m sorry, what?”
Today, Sandy is an extremely busy woman. She runs Small Indulgences, has a brick and mortar store in Southampton, became owner of Hampton Balloon in 2019, and joined Balloon Planet in 2022. As a female entrepreneur, Sandy knows the importance of hard work.
After the General Foods contract was up and she graduated college, Small Indulgences remained as a side gig. She worked as a manager and loss prevention specialist for a construction company for many years. Though the job was enjoyable, her passion remained in her balloon and décor work. She took on weekend gigs like floating 400 balloons onto a ceiling for New Year’s Eve for some of her mother’s friends. The New Year’s Eve gig caught an attendee’s eye and they asked Sandy, ”Can you make a cross [out of balloons]?” Sandy’s answer was always, “Yes.” Even if she’d never made a specific balloon arrangement, she knew she could figure it out.
Sandy had a lot of corporate work while running Small Indulgences. These big gigs really paved the way for her expansion as an entrepreneur in the balloon industry. She notes that one of her proudest moments came from acquiring and successfully executing a contract with Burger King. She was hired to run the campaign for the 45th anniversary of the Whopper Burger. At the time, her business was home based, and just part time.
A year and a half later, she acquired another big-time contract. This time, with Giant Foods and Stop-N-Shop grocery stores. Sandy looks back at these successes in awe.
“I started this because my friends and I had a hotel party.” she says, ”It’s crazy. I turned a party into a business.”
Moving to the Hamptons.
“All the people from Manhattan have homes out here. Celebrities. A lot of famous people. It’s really a premium, beautiful spot on Long Island.”
The helium shortage.
A global helium shortage was announced in the beginning of 2022. Unfortunately, the shortage is ongoing and balloon businesses have had to learn how to adjust.
Though not ideal, Sandy sees the helium shortage as an opportunity for herself and others in the industry to get creative.
Luckily, because of TikTok and other social sites, air-filled arrangements like balloon garlands and columns have become extremely popular over the past few years.
“We’re up for a challenge,” says Sandy, ”What do they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Right? Or if it doesn’t kill somebody else it makes you strong? I never remember what the phrase is,” she laughs.
Joining Balloon Planet
With all of the success with Small Indulgences and her newest endeavor with Hampton Balloon, it’s amazing there’s any time left to join a national balloon delivery service like Balloon Planet. But there’s no obstacle too large for Sandy to tackle. She takes on new challenges with enthusiasm, rather than fear.
Sandy met the owner of Balloon Planet, Jim Parker, years ago at a QBN (Qualatex Balloon Network) event. Over the years, she’ always been aware of the website, but didn’t seriously consider joining until recent years.
“I just think it’s amazing just how big Balloon Planet is and the reach you guys have. It’s unbelievable to me and I’m happy to be a part of that.”
Even when her colleagues have hesitations about adding new responsibilities to the list, Sandy always responds with her infectious can-do attitude. “Have faith! Just say yes!”
The benefits of keeping at it.
Saying “Yes” is a motto that has worked exceptionally well for Sandy. Her confidence, built by years of practice, learning from setbacks, and never giving up, have proven to be the bread and butter of what makes an entrepreneur thrive in any industry.
“It legitimately is just second nature. I still love it. Of course, any job is a job some days. But, I really love what I do. I get to be creative. I work with good people and I work with friends. It’s such a nice avenue and it’s a happy industry.”
Goals for the future.
Sandy doesn’t have plans to retire any time soon. Though, when asked about goals for the future, she does say she’d like to finish out her career doing more movie and tv work.
She’s already completed work for the Bravo Network. For example, the reality series Summer House, based in the Hamptons, used Hampton Balloon’s services for a cast member’s birthday. This was a job that Sandy couldn’t hold back her excitement about. She really loves the show and got a major kick out of seeing her balloons on one of their episodes. They even posted on Instagram with the balloons in the background.
“I’m so happy about that,” she says, “My staff laughs [at me]. They think I’ve lost my mind. I might have, but I’m still happy about it.”
Sandy does see room for improvement. This year, with the addition of Balloon Planet, and the busy summer months, she wants to tighten up the company’s delivery scheduling. This means starting earlier and running more trucks. Traffic in the Hamptons can be awful. This is just another obstacle that Sandy sees as a fun challenge.
“We always try every year to look back on our failures. On what didn’t work and where we could’ve made that a little bit better. It’s only a failure if you didn’t learn something from it.”
At the end of our conversation, I was concerned that Sandy doesn’t get any time off. Her work is her passion and she genuinely sounded like work was play for her, but I had to ask:
“Is there anything you do for fun outside of work?”
She answered with her favorite word, “Yes.”
Much like her high school years, Sandy gets together with 15 or so long-time friends and instead of renting hotel rooms, they’ve upgraded to renting nice houses. She has a passion for entertaining and in the summer they have an annual big party. They hang out and have dinner and just enjoy each other’s company.
Luckily, Sandy and her friends no longer have to carry in bags of sand for their parties. They live on an island, the sand is already at their feet. Life has a funny way of coming full circle. Sandy started her career with an island oasis and when she finally decides to retire, she’ll end her career with an island oasis, but this time it’s called Long Island. ∎