Hi, Introduce yourself to us:
Hello! I’m Nicole Pauling and I own Razzle Dazzle Balloons and Décor. Some of you may recognize me already because you knew me from my 12 years as one of the owners of Atomic Bounce. I suppose some of you may know me from the foster care community or from the fairy festival community. There is also a possibility that you know me from my teaching on outschool.com or maybe I painted a mural for you or was your face painter or your balloon twister. I have done a lot of different things in the past 20 years and honestly I have loved each one in different ways.
So what do you do now?
Now I create balloon décor like arches, garlands and custom designs for events and of course I still balloon twist as well. I also teach history, art, and balloons on outschool.com. I still have one son under 18 at home and have had the honor of watching the rest of my brood become grown and flown.
How did you go from Atomic Bounce to what you’re doing now?
Really, this was a series of events. Just prior to Covid I started having some issues with my heart and blood pressure. We would be out working 12 hour days, in the heat, moving thousands of pounds, and on some days I literally worried I would die. It was a running joke that if I died on the job my partner would just have to keep working with my dead body in the truck because we never cancel on customers no matter what the situation. She probably would have pulled that off too. I talked it over with my husband though and we realized it was ridiculous. I loved my business. I loved my business partner. I loved what we had built together but it wasn’t worth dying for. It wasn’t worth leaving my kids for. I really started to think about what else I might want to do. When Covid hit I had no real choice, my partner and I both had to pivot in order to continue helping our families and pay bills. I started teaching online and was so excited and happy to be working with students that I realized that here was my answer. I could just keep teaching. I had also been doing balloons in various ways for the past 10 years and knew that was something I could easily continue without overly taxing myself and it was something that I enjoyed doing. Selling Atomic Bounce to my partner was a no-brainer. She is doing an amazing job growing and expanding the business and I’m so proud of her. It also freed me up to keep doing what I love. I still get to help people create special memories and moments through balloons.
And you’re teaching as well, how did that happen?
I have a couple of degrees that have been sitting quietly in the background unused for over a decade. When I pivoted to online teaching I thought about the things that I loved and enjoyed learning about and those are the things I teach online. Art wise I teach drawing to preschoolers, elementary aged students, and advanced elementary students. I also teach balloon twisting to teenagers. I have a couple of social clubs that I run on Outschool. The main thing that I teach though is History. I specifically love an interesting history story, a mystery, or something that’s a little spooky or creepy. That is really my niche market online. Somehow I am the queen of a good story. I love to talk about someone you may think you know a lot about only to get you to realize there is so much more to it. I love introducing students to people forgotten in history like Nellie Bly. One of my proudest moments in the past year is the number of students who opted into my classes and then took the things they learned from me and did reports on them for their regular school classes. You can truly love history when it is taught well.
What is one thing you’ve learned in the past year?
I suppose it is that life can change, you can change, and that’s ok. I’m starting into a Master’s Program for teachers starting next week and I’m 44 years old. I have wanted my Master’s degree since I got pregnant at 24. I was enrolled to go away to school when I found out I was expecting and changed all my plans to raise her and give her a good life. I don’t regret a moment of it but I’m also just excited to be able to do something for me again. I’m excited to reinvent myself and see myself in a new way. I think that who you are, who people see you as, that doesn’t have to stay the same. I think that sometimes the ability to change your life just starts with the decision that says, “I am going to do something new.” The hardest part for me was just doing it and really walking away from the company I had poured so much love and time into and worse than that was feeling like I was abandoning my friend. My partner Katie has been one of my best friends for almost 14 years. It was hard to try and have an identity separate from hers and to walk a path that was not with her.
What is the best advice you have received?
It’s ok to put your own needs first. You don’t have to kill yourself in order to make anyone else happy. As moms we are constantly pulled in a million and one directions. As wives we have another shift when our workdays are done. As business owners you don’t really set your own schedule but have it set for you by customer needs. Sometimes it is ok to say “No, I’m sorry I can’t help you with that.” You can turn down business. You can take a day off. You can let the dishes sit. You can take a nap or read a book. I realized recently that I hadn’t read a book cover to cover in almost 12 years. I used to read 3 or 4 books a week. I just finished 2 with no guilt and no thinking about all the things I could have been doing instead. Really rediscovering my own needs and wants for the first time in a long time has been exhilarating.
What is one thing you like about York County?
There are a lot of things I love about York County. I know a lot of people are afraid of the city but when I think about the city I think about the people who are there lifting each other up and helping each other. I think of community leaders, churches, city employees and really I could sit here and rattle of the names of 30 or 40 people who I think make this county function well. And I’m not being insincere when I say that they are some of my favorite people. I love the people who help their neighbors. The people who plan events and connect communities. I like the people who volunteer week in and week out to supply food and clothing and shelter. Those are the people that I most admire in the world and there are so many of them in York County. I don’t think we realize what a microcosm of goodness we have here.