Popping to the Top with Elizabeth
Elizabeth Randau - CEO + Owner of Extra Betty
Behind each beautiful installation we have had at our events, there is a powerhouse woman running a ballooning empire. For all of our photo booth and eye-catching decor needs, Elizabeth Randau of Extra Betty is always our gal! We have worked with Extra Betty on almost all of our events and fundraisers so far and it has been incredible to connect with such a unique business since day one and continue to grow alongside each other. Elizabeth is a true gem and pours her heart into each and every project she tackles. Beyond the simple garland, Extra Betty has created breathtaking art for various events around Northeast Ohio and with Elizabeth’s creativity running the show, there truly are no limits to what is possible.
Elizabeth’s journey into ballooning has been one that simply unfolded, almost like fate. After the pandemic began in 2020, like many of us, Elizabeth assumed work would soon resume and there would be opportunities again. As time passed, she was laid off from her job and was, like everyone, spending more time at home. For her family, it became apparent that the fun, themed birthday parties and celebrations that her children had grown used to wouldn’t be possible this year. In an effort to lift spirits and create the entertaining atmosphere that all kids deserve on their special days, Elizabeth made her first balloon creation.
Elizabeth crafted her first creation for someone else after a Facebook post of her work was noticed by a friend of a friend. They shared that they wanted to buy something like the photo for their own children whose birthdays wouldn’t include a party that year. “After that, it was just one after the other,” Elizabeth shared. The orders kept rolling in and despite the pandemic, people were very on board with what Elizabeth could provide for their ‘new normal’ celebrations. After continuing this decor for family, friends, and acquaintances throughout the pandemic, she realized there was a true demand for the service when it came to celebrating and gathering again once events began to return.
Elizabeth went on to create a Facebook page to share her creations and the organic growth of her audience continued from there. As her saving the day mom moment spawned into a real idea, Elizabeth soon started to face new challenges that are all too familiar to someone starting a business, especially as a woman and in a creative field. “I definitely charged twenty dollars and definitely made no money. I was terrified to send the quote. I could barely get the words out that I was going to charge maybe forty dollars for it,” she shared. She became addicted to the feeling of creating something that people were willing to pay for. There can be so much pride in making something yourself that people then can love and support. After pushing past her fears of making this idea public, beginning to charge enough to make money, and even being mistaken for a clown, Elizabeth was able to begin building the balloon empire we all know and love today.
Almost three years later, Extra Betty is booked and busy, has grown into a warehouse space, and has even become a family affair. Her growth is undeniable and isn't slowing down any time soon. We asked Elizabeth a bit about what it has been like to bring her husband Adam on board and truly create a family business as things continue to succeed. “That was my proudest, proudest moment when I was able to tell him, “You know what, just don’t go back to work, tell them you’re done.” It will be a year in September and to know that we have made it a year sustaining ourselves as a family business is insane to me and my proudest achievement ever,” she shared. She also shares that when it comes to work-life balance, as in any relationship, there are plenty of disagreements to go around, but the Extra Betty team certainly has been made even stronger and continues to turn out incredible creations as part of a dual effort.
Over the years, Elizabeth has worked with some fantastic clients and continues to challenge herself to create new and exciting installations. She told us that at the start, the clientele was mostly for family gatherings. Showers, birthday parties, and other personal celebrations were at the forefront of the business and is really where the magic began. Fast forward to the past year and Elizabeth shared that, “The corporate side of our business has skyrocketed. We are doing galas, business anniversaries, picnics and so much more. I like to say that we’ve done everything from first birthday parties to the birthday for the City of Cleveland that we just did with Bedrock where around 15,000 people came through to celebrate.”
Apart from large installs and event decor, Extra Betty also specializes in smaller celebratory creations for various holidays and occasions. They offer a variety of small take-home decor that can perfectly serve as a pop of fun for any holiday or special day. “I always try to have some smaller things that are accessible so that everyone can send a little surprise to someone throughout the year. I love making the little ones just as much as the bigger things,” she shared. It all comes back to celebrating little moments and creating magic for kids and adults alike by celebrating the small things.
Even in an industry powered by fun and dominated by women, unsurprisingly we can still encounter sexism and bias when it comes to business ownership and leadership. Elizabeth shared with us that even when the industry itself feels welcoming and like a safe space, you can ultimately encounter biased behavior in any aspect of the business-owning process. As an example, she shared her experience with encountering sexism when it came to finding ways to manage her money. When opening bank accounts or applying for loans, Elizabeth was often treated like her ‘hobby’ couldn’t possibly be as successful as she was claiming. “I’ve been through more than one conversation where they're like ‘oh this is your little hobby’ until I get to the part where I tell them what my sales are and they’re like ‘woah!’ And no one assumes it’s an amazing business. A landscaper is a self-employed person who may be in a more male-dominated field, and they don't get asked that when they call to say they need insurance. And no one questions how much they make doing that,” Elizabeth said.
She continued on how encountering that treatment has been common for her and how she tries to ignore it moving forward. She shares that although it may have taken a while to realize it, their behavior does not define her worth or that of her business. “There was a time where I would say ‘Oh we just do balloons.’ No, I’ve grown a six-figure business from nothing, using balloons which are awesome and beautiful,” she shared. Luckily Elizabeth knows that she is grateful for the industry and the sisterhood she has experienced within it but also knows there is an importance in acknowledging how it feels to navigate a business in our society.
In addition to imposter syndrome which we are all too familiar with, she cited her mom guilt as an additional layer to the business-owning challenge that doesn’t always extend to working fathers as it does mothers. The feeling that any business success is at the expense of the family and vice versa is an experience that many family business owners must navigate. When it comes down to it, sharing our experiences as women allows for open conversations and understanding among others and ultimately, makes us all stronger. We talked with Elizabeth about the balloon community she has gotten to be a part of and how it has uplifted her in all aspects of her entrepreneurial journey. She said, “It has been such a gift. It took me a while to open myself up to having friends in the industry. But especially in this past year, I have joined and created a group in Cleveland called Balloon Esteem that is for all local balloon artists to share their experiences. That’s been invaluable. We’re better together and better when we have people to talk to and learn from our mistakes.”
Over the past few years, Elizabeth has had the opportunity to create and participate in some incredible projects. As for her favorite experiences, she shared, “My proudest creation right now was balloons on the welcome sign for the Tuftex convention at the Hilton. I was having a bit of a panic moment when the convention was kicking off and I was like what if no one likes me and how do I meet all these people? I was there as everyone was coming in from all over the world and it was such a blessing because every couple minutes someone would come in who I recognized or recognized me which totally broke the ice for me and took all that anxiety away. It marks a moment for me where I let myself let go and enjoy.”
One of the most fun parts of a creative career is the ability to make your dreams a true reality. We asked Elizabeth about her current dream installation or project, and she told us of her incredible vision for a forest of balloon trees. We are firm believers in manifesting and so here is all of us putting it out into the world…if you’re looking for a first of balloon trees, Elizabeth is your girl! With the recent addition of a new space, Elizabeth has been able to dream up some incredible future plans for Extra Betty. The idea of a retail space is at the forefront of her dreams, and she envisions the growth of her team and business eventually leading to a full-service, one-stop shop for all things balloons. She also shared her experiences in marketing in PR and would love to incorporate them into a teaching moment in the future to help share with other artists in the industry to help them grow and curate their marketing.
We complemented their very creative social media content and Elizabeth credited her husband Adam with a lot of the drive and effort to make such a unique reel showing off their projects. The account is always keeping things interesting and we shared our opinion that it is truly just such a fun follow, even if you aren't in the market for balloons or maybe not Cleveland local. There is such a joy that can be found in following an account with beautiful creations to look at and new and unique ways of showing them off. Plus, they just reached 10k so in a very shameless way, we definitely recommend you give @extrabetty a follow!
As for advice, Elizabeth has an incredible mantra, “You just never know what the next thing is going to be down the road, so you just have to focus on the next thing.” This perfectly sums up everything we know and love about her personally, and the Extra Betty Business. Elizabeth is such a kind soul with a deep love for what she does. She has not only an incredible talent for balloon art but also a true drive and dedication to building something special. It is so impressive to continue learning details about her story and how she got to be the balloon queen she is today, and we are honored to have been there since the beginning to cheer her on! We can’t wait to see where Elizabeth and Extra Betty are headed next and can only assume it will be as mind-blowing and one-of-a-kind as everything she has accomplished so far.