Christina Cartagena founded Brooklyn Balloon Girls eight months ago, after seeing a balloon garland at a friend’s baby shower. She had previously been studying for her second try at the LSAT, but felt like she needed a change of pace.
“I was looking at [her garland] and thought ‘that looks so simple to make.’ So, I went home and ordered supplies and tried it out. I started an Instagram and a website and it kind of just took off from there,” Cartagena said. Despite the plural “Girls” in her business name, she is the sole owner and operator— the plural comes from her two young daughters, who at four and two years old, are still a bit young to help with operations.
Her business originally designed balloon garlands, backdrops, and art for parties and other events, things that have now been canceled due to the virus. Shortly after the stay-at-home order went into place, she knew she wanted to do something to cheer up her neighbors, and with the extra supplies she knew she wouldn’t need for events for a while, she started Project Balloon Bomb. The project places rainbow-colored balloon installations on various shuttered businesses and other areas, free of charge.
“I was walking around after being indoors for almost a week, and I really thought I was going to lose it. I saw all these [businesses’] gates were down, and I was looking at them thinking, ‘these are definitely magnetic, they have holes in them, they are perfect for balloon installations.’ I took a couple pictures of the ones I liked the most and reached out to them and one of them came right back and said ‘yes, definitely!’ I got so excited,” Cartagena said. Her first Balloon Bomb was at Fferrins, a candy shop in Park Slope, where she also lives.
So far, she’s hit three businesses, but was recently contacted by the North Flatbush BID to do some installations there in exchange for a materials donation, which she desperately needs.
“[Supplies] would be amazing, because that would prolong it by a few more installations at least. I went to Flatbush this morning and looked at a couple places, and we’ll see where we go from there,” she said.
While the idea originated as a way to show that businesses were still offering delivery or other methods of service despite having their gates down, Cartagena is open to doing installations on completely closed businesses as well.
“It’s a really hard time and I know a lot of people are suffering, especially with mental health, at this point. Everyone handles pressure differently, and not everyone wants to talk about it or even admit that they’re down. Hopefully just seeing balloons out of their window or as they’re driving by, or going to the store for essential items, maybe that’ll just cheer them up a little bit and let them know that they aren’t alone,” she said. “Especially now with the face masks and nobody speaking to each other in the stores, it just feels very isolating, even when you’re around other people. I just felt maybe [the balloons] could bring us together a little bit.”
Cartagena is also changing the way she conducts her for-hire business, with a completely non-contact model and stoop delivery on garlands for those who want to brighten up a birthday or the homecoming of a new baby during these times.
She chose rainbows for her Balloon Bomb project because of the joyous message they send.
“Rainbows seem to make people the happiest, kind of a universal light at the end of the tunnel, or a symbolic gesture,” Cartagena said. “My main message for the whole project is just to always believe that something wonderful is about to happen. That’s helpful to get through the day, especially in times like this.”