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Alumni spotlight: Maxine Burton

Although Burton (B.S.Ed. '72, M.Ed. '78) has a degree in early elementary education, she quickly learned that her teaching skills could come in handy beyond the fourth-grade class she taught after graduation. After two years in the classroom, Burton changed gears to help her husband in the wholesale flower industry and was soon introducing a new concept to small floral business owners — balloons, designed with words and pictures, as an add-on to a flower arrangement.

Maxine Burton

"Back in the early '80s, foil balloons were very new to the market and mainly came in solid colors or with very basic messages, such as 'get well' or 'happy birthday,' or with simple characters printed on the face of the balloon," says Burton. These foil balloons were sold mainly through fairs or carnivals or to accompany a singing telegram, and soon began to be sold in bouquets, directly competing with the floral industry.

Burton saw these foil balloons as natural extensions to floral arrangements and began to educate flower shops on how they could capitalize on the concept of a "floating greeting card" attached to a floral arrangement. This concept took off quickly and burton + BURTON, a family-owned business founded in 1982, has since grown into one of the largest balloon and gift companies in the world.

"Some people said that balloons were just a fad, but balloons have always made people happy," she adds. "There are certainly no fewer balloons sold today than were sold in the 1980s, they are just marketed in different ways, and (they) continue to be a natural accompaniment to floral arrangements."

Today, burton + BURTON continues to value education, employing a full-time training manager to educate staff members, not only in sales and product knowledge, but in quality customer service.

This year will also see the return of Ballooniversity, a company-sponsored event held every five years that draws hundreds of industry professionals from around the world. Classes at the event include balloon art, décor ideas, innovative trends, and good business practices, as well as networking opportunities and career development.

"You have to look for opportunities, and that's what I did," Burton says. "Our business evolved while teaching others about how their business could evolve. I could not have accomplished any of these goals without my educational background and my experience teaching others."