Lisa Meisner is a member of the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, but she's not your run-of-the-mill business owner.
For one thing, she's 24. For another, her business is balloons.
Well, not just balloons. Since she was 19, Meisner has been the sole proprietor of Paperworks, a College Park gift and novelty shop. In the last year, she's gone corporate -- joining business organizations and expanding into custom-designed balloon decorations.
She dropped 1,000 balloons on County Executive Parris Glendening's head at the ceremony where he announced his candidacy for reelection. She twisted balloons into the shape of an airplane for traffic maven Walt Starling. She can do silver and mauve balloons for weddings, balloon arches for fraternity parties.
"Over 1 Million Blown" is the corporate motto.
Meisner, who sports miniskirts and tousled hair, is probably the only P.G. chamber member who describes running her own business as "kinda neat." She says she's wanted to own her own store for as long as she can remember.
First, she thought about clothing, then a Hallmark store. When that franchise proved too expensive, she found a little storefront virtually across the street from the University of Maryland and hit her father up for a $35,000 loan.
"He was like, I'm not buying you a store because it's cute," she says. "He wanted to see a balance sheet and an income statement." The money is almost all repaid, with interest.
Meisner learns her ballooning skills through trips to the annual convention of the National Association of Balloon Artists. Her boyfriend, who runs a construction company, helps with engineering tips, and her mother takes an occasional day off from her job with the federal government to supplement the five-person staff -- last Valentine's Day they didn't leave the store for 36 hours.
What's next for someone who has learned to live with 70-hour weeks and helium tanks rattling around in the back seat? She hopes to hire a manager to give her more time off, but Meisner says she's in the balloon business to stay.
"I love selling things. I just get such a high," she says. And she doesn't mean from all that helium.