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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Jo Amess of Lusso Styling on getting her confidence back by appearing on the BBC programme ‘The Fixer’ alongside business mentor Alex Polizzi

Jo-Amess of Lusso Styling with Alex Polizzi

Jo Amess recently appeared on the BBC programme The Fixer with Alex Polizzi alongside her husband Giuseppe as they rebranded their family business Balloonin Marvellous into a new high end events styling company now known as Lusso Styling, at Alex’s recommendation. The Wakefield-based company is now repositioned and busier than ever as Jo has found a new vision for the company and new confidence in her own creative skills and abilities. Jo is optimistic for the future and ready for anything, bolstered by an overwhelming public reaction to the show.

Alex-Polizzi with Jo Amess of Lusso Styling
Alex Polizzi with Jo Amess

“…Never doubt what you can do and don’t sit back on your laurels. Now we’ve been given this incredible opportunity we need to keep going, keep pushing and constantly update our designs, keep following the trends to show that we’re always fresh and present in people’s minds. You’ve got to be out there. You have to be forward thinking…”

Background to the business – Balloonin Marvellous

When I first started my business it was purely balloon décor. I still had a ‘proper’ job that I was salaried for so just started messing about with balloons as a hobby. I’ve always liked crafty things. When I made the decision that balloon decorating would work as a business I came up with the name Balloonin Marvellous which was a play on the balloon inside a balloon effect. Everybody thought, “That’s a great name!” as did I.

As the business grew people started asking for a bit more to go with the balloons to enhance them. Supplying balloon bouquets for a wedding they may have asked, “Do you have a mirror that we can stand the balloon weight on?” or “Do you have some tea lights that can go round it?” or “Can we have these balloons coming out of a bowl?”… And that’s how the business began to grow.

Balloonin’ Marvellous ‘the old brand’ didn’t tell anyone about the business we were in and what we supplied other than we did balloons. People were confused about who we were and what services we provided.

Getting involved with the BBC programme The Fixer

I’m a member of NABAS, which is the national balloon association. They send monthly newsletters out to all their members. I always read their information because it has lots of technical information you need to know and keep up to date with.

The production company Twofour who produce The Fixer on behalf of the BBC were looking for a business in the party / events sector that needed help. They got in touch with NABAS who sent their email out to all its members and I replied.

Premise of the show – helping small family businesses who’d lost their way

The show The Fixer headed by Alex Polizzi (who comes from a family business herself) work with and advise small family businesses that are struggling to manage their business and finances. When a small business feel they have lost their way a little for one reason or another the general day to day running of the business becomes very daunting. The Fixer team came in, looked how we ran the business and what services we provided and how we’d got ourselves into our situation.

They didn’t linger over how we got there. They were positive from the moment they arrived suggesting how they were going to help us keep our business, grow the business and develop it. They took us on an incredible journey pointing out areas where we should be looking to develop ourselves and how we were going to grow. They showed us other avenues to go down, ones that I considered out of our reach.

Realising I had the ability all along

Lusso Styling Art Deco at Castle HowardFrom the outset it was a case of, what were we doing, what they thought we should be doing – a lot of it was me and the fact that I didn’t think I had the abilities to do certain things. Alex insisted I used fresh flowers. That was one of the areas I wasn’t very confident with so tended to shy away from.

The market for fresh flowers is rather lucrative and Alex believed I had the ability and skill to work with them. My introduction to fresh flowers came in the form of top London florist Nikki Tibbles, owner of Wild at Heart. We spent a day in London working with Nikki and gaining great snippets of design inspiration and knowledge from her.

I came back from London and was asked to create some designs based on fresh flowers. Unbeknown to me, The Fixer had arranged a photo shoot of my designs at stunning Castle Howard. The beautiful shoot was captured by Ally Byrom Photography and the images used to develop a new website and business literature.

The Fixer called in the services of award winning web designers Carbon Creative who created the stunning luxury brand you now see in Lusso Styling. People may not realise that ‘Lusso’ is Italian for ‘luxury’ but the way in which the website and literature have been styled, the logo and all the imagery that supports it, the brand simply oozes luxury styling.

You can definitely see the moment you click on to the website that we are a luxury event styling company. Whether it’s for a wedding, a corporate event, birthday celebrations, anything – it just sings to everyone. It’s a serious brand and a quality brand and one that as owners of the business emulate.

From Balloonin Marvellous to Lusso Styling

Lusso Styling Rustic Sicilian Wedding-The confusion about the old brand which I mentioned earlier was highlighted in the programme when Martin from Carbon Creative who rebranded the business couldn’t even understand what I was saying with “Balloonin” or “Blooming” – he didn’t know if it was balloons or flowers I was supplying.  The name was confusing for people to understand what we did.

My son Jay, who you saw on the programme, built the old website from nothing. He got a book, read it and that’s what he produced which I thought was very good as he didn’t know anything about building websites.

Since the programme came out we have been inundated with emails congratulating us and saying how we’ve inspired other people. One email we received was from a lady who didn’t know anything about the programme – she’d happened upon it – but previously she’d looked on our old website looking for someone to style her wedding.  She’d gone on to it and gone straight off it because she thought we were a balloon company and that wasn’t what she was looking for.

The look of the old website obviously didn’t encourage her to use us as a business to decorate her wedding. She happened across The Fixer, watched it, went onto our new Lusso Styling website and we’re now speaking to her at present with a view to decorating her wedding. There is simply no comparison between the two websites.

Having a confident brand we are now target a more affluent clientele. When you’re showing Balloonin Marvellous, that’s not going to get you the luxury end of the market. The new website has opened new and exciting door for us.

Lusso Styling: A new, luxury brand

Lusso Styling Sweet Sixteen BirthdayThe look of Lusso Styling, is a luxury brand and this is the area we’re looking at as it’s more lucrative. If you’re going out to decorate for an event, rather than doing a few balloons and a few chair covers or a few centrepieces, we are creating a look and theme and with the new branding we have been able to promote our business more easily and without confusion of who we are and what we stand for. We are a luxury item and we cater for luxury events.

People are using our services because they demand quality in their promotional events and celebrations and see that Lusso Styling is a company that will deliver for them. Offering whole décor rather than single elements has worked really well for us and grown our business beyond all recognition.

Showing old clients how much we’ve changed and developed

With the design of our new branding it enabled us to go back to our old corporate clients who perhaps only saw us as doing balloon décor of perhaps just bobbing a few chair covers on for them. We have shown them how we’ve developed over the years since they last used us and reintroduce ourselves and our styling. We’ve regained some clients and they’ve been very good in supporting us again and surprised at how much we’ve changed and developed.

It’s quality products that we use as well. If you want the higher end of the market then your products have to be high end. If you just want to sell a bunch of three balloons at £8, then show a bunch of balloons at £8. If you want to be providing luxury events, doing table set ups for £100s plus per table then that’s what you need to be showing.

I know that’s come across from the photo shoots that we’ve done that we are a quality brand and all the table displays that we did there are aimed purely at the higher end but that doesn’t mean we’re going to say “no” if your budget is lower. We can hopefully fit in with your budget but the idea is that we’re aiming high because it makes sense to.

Alex Polizzi as a mentor – “This isn’t real!”

Lusso Styling White WeddingI have Alex’s number which she very kindly gave to me and told me to ring her whenever I liked and get in touch if I have any questions at any time. She dropped me an email just before the show went out to wish us luck with it and then she rang us after to find out what we thought of how it had all come across. She congratulated us as she thought it was a great program. She said she loved working with us which was really wonderful to hear.

I’d always watched the programme and even when the production company and Alex were here throughout the whole process of the filming I kept thinking, “This isn’t real. Alex Polizzi in my house!” I’d watched her for years. “This can’t be real!”

Keep pinching yourself

Even after we did the business launch at The Tetley in Leeds and then Alex and the crew left I kept thinking, “Has this all really happened?” It was that ‘keeping pinching yourself’ moment. It seemed very surreal for the whole of the filming process. They were a great bunch of people and the whole of the production company were very supportive from the moment of meeting them.

Alex was exactly as I thought she would be. She’s a genuinely lovely person but she doesn’t, as you know, hold back and she does give it to you as she sees it as well, which is what you need.

Constructive criticism

Lusso-Styling-Blue-WeddingAnyone can be critical of someone else but you need to do it in a constructive manner. If you’ve got something to say, say it but also offer support and resolutions to the criticism? What ideas have you got to fix the problem?

Alex was just so good from the moment of meeting her. I was captivated by what she had to say and cannot thank her and the production team Twofour enough for taking the time to mentor us in all things business. As I said on the programme, not only did they give us back a worthwhile business they have given back my confidence which means more than I can put into words.

I had a lack of confidence in myself. Alex kept saying, “You’re doing really well,” and things like that and I thought, “She’s just saying that. She’s got to lift you up.”

When you’re in the mist of the programme it’s all a bit of a whirlwind and you miss a lot of things that are going on because you’re actually in the moment but then watching the programme when it came out I thought she did mean it and she did like us which is a big thing, especially for your confidence when you’re not a particularly confident person. She built us all up.

Never doubt what you can do and don’t sit back on your laurels

Alex’s best advice to me was to believe in yourself and your abilities because I would keep thinking, “I’m not that good,” and “Nobody will want to buy that.”

Never doubt what you can do and don’t sit back on your laurels. Now we’ve been given this wonderful opportunity and exposure we need to keep up the momentum. We have to constantly update our designs and keep following trends to show that we’re always fresh and present in people’s minds. You have to be out there constantly watching for the next best look and trend.

The Brits have just been on. What were people wearing? What are the new colours coming in? What jewellery and handbags were they carrying? You have to keep up there and show people that you are watching what’s going on in the marketplace.

Confidence comes from using your passion in your business

Jo and the Lusso Styling team

When I had a ‘proper’ job, it was so demoralising sat in front of a computer all day long plonking away and moving stock from here to there. There was nothing in it that I enjoyed at all. When you feel like that it brings you down and it’s hard to motivate yourself in anything but when you have a passion and you can use your passion in business then it gives you so much more confidence when you can see that business growing.

If you get bogged down in the day to day running of things you can lose sight of your dreams especially if you’re in a job you don’t have a passion for and you are a creative person. We create dreams for other people every day – that’s what we do.

When we design for a wedding that’s their big dream day and in the old business we got to the point where we just felt as though we were battered down so much that we lost sight of the fact that creating other people’s dreams was our dream. When you lose sight of what you’re doing as a job, when you start doubting why do you what you do you remember ‘in the beginning’ what was YOUR dream? Why did you go into business?

I believe that a lot of small businesses fall into the same trap. We start from a hobby, a passion for an interest. We develop this interest and think it would make a good business and that is where we sometimes fall down. Before we buy a few bits here and a few bits there and then realise we have spent money we didn’t have or need to, stop, think, seek advice before you go ANY further. If you don’t have solid business foundations how is your business going to stand the test of time or weather even the lightest of storm? Because it will happen – something will come along unexpectedly and you need to have to correct tools to deal with it.

The programme brought us back to the fact that we do create dreams and we create wonderful dreams for people but as we create their dreams we haven’t to forget why we’re in the business. We have to make sure we keep hold of our own dreams alongside creating dreams for others.

Plans for the future for Lusso Styling

The plan is to keep developing the business for both our wedding clients and corporate business. As much I enjoy doing weddings I do enjoy the corporate sector because they are very different. At one point there was talk of whether I should just concentrate on one or the other but I said “no”. If I had to do just weddings I’d miss corporate and I don’t just want to do corporate either because I love weddings.

We want to grow the business as a whole and establish Lusso Styling as a place to go to for new and exciting ideas. We want people to know us as a forward thinking business that’s always on and ahead of the trend.

What a few people have said about us is that we’re not only on trend but we’re creating trends as well from the ideas that we develop. We are receiving enquiries from all over the country and we aspire to be up there with the big boys!

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