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This 32-year-old S’porean sells balloons for a living – biz turns profitable in under 2 years

Funlah Singapore

32-year-old Dora Lee set up party business Funlah almost three years ago with only a few bottles of paint, packets of balloons, and a helium gas tank.

This ‘gung-ho’ mannerism is not an uncommon sight seen for Dora. She’s a serial entrepreneur who has seen her fair share of ups, and downs. From handmade clay jewellery to customised phone casing to yoga fitness wear, the entrepreneur was selling various things for eight years until she chanced upon party items, which turned out to be her long-lost love.

“I decided to look for a new business that could allow my creativity to flourish and something that would bring happiness to consumers when they receive their orders. The first thing that struck my mind was birthdays, which are always happy occasions. Hence, Funlah was born to bring fun and laughter to every special celebration,” said Dora.

Today, Funlah is profitable and has grown from a handful of customers to thousands of frequent customers, Dora said.

From cancellations to jump in orders

But the pandemic certainly threw a spanner in the works for the business. 

“At the beginning of 2020, the sales were down as the holiday season ended and Funlah also took a short break during the Chinese New Year period. Thereafter, sales were not very optimistic as Singapore started to see new cases of Covid-19 and many people were very concerned about it. We started receiving calls and emails to postpone their celebration and some chose to cancel their parties.”

However, after the Circuit Breaker, things started taking a turn for the better and it took Dora by surprise.

Image Credit: Funlah

Even though people aren’t allowed to celebrate their birthdays or graduation in a big group with their friends and families, gifting of balloons became very popular. “We have grandparents sending balloons to grandchildren and celebrations through Zoom calls, teachers sending graduation balloons to their students, and people doing small celebrations at home,” she said.

“E-commerce gifting became an ‘in thing’ and the demand for home celebrations increased too. This helped us gain brand awareness which eventually led to more orders of our party balloons.”

Online presence, wide variety of balloons attract customers

The jump in orders could not have been possible without the business’ e-commerce presence and Google search traffic, where a bulk of the customers found Funlah via organic searches.

The wide variety of balloons and competitive pricing also helped the business attract new customers.

Image Credit: Funlah

The business’ most popular products are balloons, followed by party supplies like banners, tassels, backdrop curtains, and pinatas for children to play with.  The collection ranges from generic balloons to animals, sports, and superheroes. There are even themes like Disney princesses, cars, Pokemon, and Paw Patrol.

“Generally, most of our customers will order online and some prefer to chat with us via WhatsApp or Messenger before placing an order online as it is their first-time getting balloons,” shared Dora.

The majority of customers usually make their orders in advance, but Funlah also does same-day delivery. However, the same-day delivery often depends on schedule and manpower, she said.

Up, up, and away

Dora revealed that Funlah is making more profits than last year, but the entrepreneur has taken the earnings to reinvest into the business.

“More than 50 per cent were reinvested into the business for future growth to support a greater variety of party items and new members joining our team,” she said.

Image Credit: Funlah

As Christmas celebrations kick into full swing, she adds that demand and enquiries for Funlah’s party items have risen by 20 to 30 per cent and are expected to continue until Chinese New Year next year, which is on Feb 1.

2022, come what may

If anything the pandemic has taught her, it’s to be resilient to changes and Dora says she is ready to handle 2022, come what may.

“In 2020, we had to deal with a lot of anxiety and frustration as more parties and events were cancelled. A lot of products were out of stock and shipping was delayed. I had to look for alternatives and other new suppliers to source for the items.”

“It was a challenging experience as the supply chain was affected, especially the balloons from the United States and a few of our suppliers were having limited manpower to fulfill our orders,” she said.

Image Credit: Funlah

In spite of the boost in sales, Funlah is not taking a break and going full swing into sourcing and providing a wider variety of products for customers. Last month, it released its personalised hand-painted helium balloons series so that customers who plan to gift friends and family these party items can craft personal messages.

Featured Image Credit: Funlah

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