Press: Manahawkin balloon business Celebration Creations makes inflation a good thing

new jersey balloon décor

by Susan Bloom, originally posted here: Asbury Park Press

STAFFORD – Growing up in the Union County town of Elizabeth, Stephanie Cofield-Mixon loved parties, balloons, and all things associated with celebrations. And she ultimately channeled those passions into her launch of Celebration Creations, a provider of creative balloon décor that’s been elevating private parties, corporate events, and more for 35 years.

“As a kid, I always enjoyed parties and balloons,” recalled Cofield-Mixon, a resident of the Manahawkin section of Stafford. “Growing up in a large family, our house was always a central gathering place for other families, and I lived for all of the celebrations we used to have. Our family motto was that there was always a reason for cake and balloons!”

Following her graduation from Towson University in Towson, Maryland, with a degree in business, Cofield-Mixon began working in the accounting department at Secaucus-based furniture store Scandinavian Gallery, where she rose to the position of operations manager.

“That company loved to throw parties for their staff and I and another colleague used to plan them, which was a great fit for me,” she said. As word got around about her event-planning expertise, “people started asking me if I would plan their parties, and when my role eventually ended because the store closed down, I decided to pursue my dream and become a party planner.”

Together with an older sibling, Cofield-Mixon wrote a business plan and they started an event planning company called Affair Dynamics in 1989.
Selling retail party supplies on the weekends, “every customer who came in would ask me to decorate their event with balloons, so I’d go to their homes and create different designs,” said Cofield-Mixon, who soon completed classes to become a certified balloon artist through the Qualatex Balloon Network and spun off from her sibling to officially launch her own business, Celebration Creations, in the early 1990s.

“I started working out of a nook in my house in Elizabeth and then out of my basement and garage when I moved to the Shore area,” she said. “But I’d always dreamed about having a professional setting where I could meet with customers to discuss their event, so I was excited to open my retail shop in Manahawkin in 2021.”

Today, in her cozy 1,200-square-foot shop, “I create amazing balloon arrangements for any occasion, from birthday parties, proms, communions and sweet 16 celebrations to corporate business events, school functions, and even funerals and celebration of life gatherings,” Cofield-Mixon said.
“Over the years, we’ve created a variety of large and small balloon sculptures for different themed events, including ships, mermaids, butterflies, characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and baby blocks (for a baby shower), and 15 years ago, I built three huge 747 airplanes out of balloons for an FAA convention in Atlantic City,” Cofield-Mixon said.

Barnegat High School’s Entrepreneurs Club
nj balloon décor at their winter formal

“More recently, I created a 12-foot-by-12-foot balloon wall for Barnegat High School’s Entrepreneurs Club, which they were able to use again as part of the décor at their winter formal, as well as a cherry blossom tree out of balloons for a recent career fair at Ocean County College and various sculptures for Rutgers University’s Student Activities Department.”

A 25-foot wall of balloons

Her most expensive job? “I recently created a $7,000, 25-foot wall of balloons that said ‘Chesapeake Strong’ for the grand reopening of a Walmart store in Virginia,” she said. “But balloon sculptures start at $250, the average small party host spends $1,000 to $3,000 on balloon displays for their event, and we have a ‘grab-and-go’ wall in the shop with beautiful everyday balloon bouquets, marquees and mosaics that start as low as $50, so there’s truly something for every budget here.”

25-foot wall of balloons

“People like to gather around creative focal points or centerpieces, so we’re about delivering smiles and helping to create memories that last a lifetime,” said Cofield-Mixon, who serves clients throughout the state and whose business turned out to be especially critical during the pandemic.

“Delivering balloons to people who were unable to see their friends and loved ones in person was the greatest thing in the world because we were helping people stay connected,” she explained.

Among trends, “animal shapes are always popular, and free-form, different-sized balloons are currently trending for backdrops,” she said. “We can add so many types of embellishments these days, like shimmer walls for bling and custom-themed designs with overlays.”

For environmental reasons, Cofield-Mixon noted that Celebration Creations has gotten away from using certain balloon materials as well as from releasing balloons into the air.

biodegradable latex balloons

“We’ve joined a couple of organizations, including the Pro Environment Balloon Alliance, to advocate for the responsible recycling of latex, which will break down, as well as for the proper disposal of foil balloons, which don’t degrade, and I only work with balloon manufacturers whose products are fully or at least partially biodegradable,” she said. “We support the environment and do our best to be responsible and to encourage our customers to do the same.”

Among challenges, Cofield-Mixon said that inclement weather and balloons don’t mix well and that material shortages still exist in her industry post-COVID, a reality which was ironically driven by the heightened demand for balloons that arose during the pandemic.

“In addition, social media posts often photoshop balloon arrangements and lead customers to think that we can easily recreate them, so we work hard to educate customers and manage their expectations,” she said. At the same time, she confirmed that experts in her industry often feel underappreciated and less valued than caterers, deejays, and other party-related providers.

“People may say that what we do is ‘just balloons,’” she said, “but we’re actually creating commissioned pieces of art that can range from free-form designs to thematic balloon sculptures that require specialized expertise and the skilled use of equations, math, and measurements.”

‘Wow’ moments

Tied in with many area banquet halls, chambers of commerce, schools and houses of worship, Celebration Creations is also committed to giving back in many ways.

Among them, “we repurpose balloons by donating them to nursing homes and assisted living facilities as they break down so that they get more life and brighten someone else’s day, and we also help with fundraisers for charities we support, including BW NICE, a statewide women’s networking organization,” Cofield-Mixon said.

As one of 70 elite balloon artists selected to participate, Celebration Creations owner Stephanie Cofield-Mixon poses with the Ferris wheel she created in support of Ronald McDonald House at the recent “Big Balloon Build”‘ in Indiana in April 2024.

This year, Cofield-Mixon was also one of 70 professional balloon artists selected to participate in the “Big Balloon Build,” an annual event which brings together charities and balloon artists to create larger-than-life experiences for children.

“We traveled to Elkhart, Indiana, in late April and built an incredible immersive setting complete with pirate ships, candy carts, sun backdrops, and more to support Ronald McDonald House,” she said.

With help from her two full-time team members (and her beloved family members, husband and kids all along the way), “we prepare most designs in our shop and bring in our on-call staff to deliver sculptures and set them up onsite,” she said.

Big Balloon Build ferris wheel

Looking ahead for her business, “I’d love to create a huge local hub of different types of decorators and party designers whom we can send out appropriately,” said Cofield-Mixon, who also hopes to pursue a different type of studio that will enable her to build balloon sculptures free of the confines of her current shop’s space and retail hours.

As for her favorite part of the business, “I love the creative process and the opportunity to take an idea and come up with something for any budget, and I also love our customers and the hugs I get when they walk in and see their creation for the first time,” said Cofield-Mixon. “There’s nothing like creating those ‘wow’ moments for people!”

Celebration Creations

Location: 420 N. Main St. (Route 9), Stafford
Phone: 732-378-9922
Owner: Stephanie Cofield-Mixon
Founded: 1989