When Molly Balloons walks in to a room, she’s a whirling dervish of energy—virtually impossible to miss. And not just because she’s likely wearing a handmade balloon dress, either. That’s completely secondary. No, Molly Balloons has an exponential life force that’s 14 times bigger than anyone in that room. It has served her well as a comedic performance artist and Kansas City’s resident Balloon Queen.
“My backstory? I was a creative and theatrical child—and my parents were always awesome at giving me creative outlets. When I was 9 or 10, my mom bought me a book on how to make balloons,” says Molly. “Be careful what you buy your kids,” she laughs.
She kept that book in her back pocket until her freshman year of high school and started making balloons for folks. People started asking her if she did balloon parties. “So, my freshman year, it became a side schtick,” says Molly.
Like any business-savvy, teenage entrepreneur, Molly tried hard to rustle up business. She called Chik-Fil-A and offered her services as a “professional balloon artist.” They hired her on the spot. While she wasn’t very fast at making balloons and didn’t know many creations yet, she found she had a knack for—what she calls—“exceptional 3-D art.” “I got business cards, a Facebook page, my outfit, an apron—all at age 15,” says Molly. “I got paid … to learn.”
And how did it go? “They asked for a cat—I gave them a dog,” she laughs. “It was helpful to be in a forgiving environment starting out.”
Her side schtick grew into a full-blown side hustle in high school. She nurtured her talents, honed her skills, and really started experimenting in the largely untapped realm of balloon fashion. And that’s when her balloon business really blew up.
“Senior year, I wanted to be homecoming queen, so I taught myself how to make balloon dresses,” says Molly. “I taught myself over the summer and wore a balloon dress to the homecoming dance. And then I won! FYI, balloons have no sweat absorption on the dance floor.” After graduation, her hyper-detailed balloon creations became Molly’s meal ticket and claim to fame. “After high school, I started to pour my soul into Molly Balloons. I kept doing parties—which led to more parties,” says Molly. “I realized nothing was going to be that fun or lucrative. Especially not both!”
She quickly went from passing out her business cards at First Fridays in the Crossroads District to being hired to perform at various galleries. She hired assistants along the way to help a sister out. And then, as fate would have it, the baseball gods smiled down upon her just as she started to flourish. “When the Royals went to the World Series is when things really picked up. I made a balloon dress for every game of the World Series. Because who needs to sleep, right?” she jokes. “I started getting recognized. Pseudo-local celebrity? Yes, please!” Then came the Royals World Series parade. Molly quickly got to know all 255,000 of her newfound fans. “The balloon dress has traction,” says Molly. “In the Royals parade, all I did was get my picture taken. I made it like 35 feet. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pictures were taken of that dress. Random people still come up to me and show me they have a pic of me on their phone.”
Since then, business (read that: “fun ruckus”) has been booming. Molly is insanely busy. All. The. Time. She’s been known to jet-set all over the world showing off talented creations. Her specialty? Abstract décor and fashion-based entertainment. “It’s my jam. My specialty is high-end, abstract balloons—some fashion-based and performance fashion-based. Now I’ve corned a balloon dress market. It’s a blast to be able to say that.” (PS. No, she hasn’t had any “scandalous” balloon wardrobe malfunctions. Yes, she’s learned how to sit down in her balloon dresses—kinda sorta.)
Her niche is paying off—as is her dedication to her craft. Oh, and her Chatty Cathy, spitfire personality doesn’t hurt either. “Either be the best or the cheapest. Well, I’m the best,” says Molly. “The best thing about being a niche is that no one else can do what you do. I’m expensive. Every event is lucrative enough that I’m living very comfortably.”
How expensive? (Y’all better sit down for this.)
“I’ve charged $300 and I’ve charged $30,000,” she says. “We can make magic at any price point—which is an exciting challenge and opportunity.”
In November, Molly will be holding her third balloon-centric fashion show. She’s also on a mission to have her balloon-wear featured on a red carpet. Movie premiere? Grammys? Emmys? She’s not picky. Well, maybe a little picky. She’s already gunning for what celeb she wants to wear one of her famed balloon dresses. “I want to make Rhianna a balloon dress—a red-carpet balloon dress. That will be the zenith of my nadir. Oh, and I’ve always had the goal to be on Ellen and make her a balloon vest. Wouldn’t that be charming?”
And just like that, Molly had to go. She had to pack for a work sojourn to Australia which she was leaving for in less than 18 hours—because, natch! As we were wrapping things up, Molly waxed nostalgic and a bit sentimental. “I am infinitely grateful to everyone and anyone who has ever celebrated me. I would absolutely not be here if I didn’t have parents who were completely supportive of who I am and wanted to foster that,” she says. “I have such a giggle that my life is what it is. My life is absurd and jolly AF.”