Bradley Dixon, owner of The FlashBar | Photo Booth Co., guest posts today, answering the question, “why the photo booth business?” and explains how he got his first gigs on a “shoe string budget.”
I’ve found myself responding to, “Why a photo booth business?”, all too often lately. Aside from being out of breath, the bright side is that I get to rehearse my elevator pitch on, what seems like, a daily basis.
I created The FlashBar | Photo Booth Co. after a vacation to the Gulf in late September, just weeks after leaving my full-time job. When the idea came to me, it fluttered around in my head long enough for me to seriously pursue the notion of owning my own business. Upon returning home, I continued my deep dive research into the industry and my market. I watched videos, read blogs, and scoured social media profiles; you name it, I found it! This is how I found Chris and read every – single – word of every – single – blog on PhotoBoothTraining.com. I also purchased a wide-ruled notebook for $1 that I used to jot down my ideas, goals, pricing strategies, and just about anything that came to mind. It became my brain dump journal.
As money wasn’t falling from the sky and time was of the essence, I gave myself a very short goal of the first week of October to jump or sit. I unexpectedly, but eagerly jumped with my shoestring budget, on October 4, 2016. Near my home is an outdoor mall with a licensing office that I would pass every day, twice a day, on my previous commute. While running errands that day, I glanced over at the license office and quite actually swerved into the parking lot. I walked in having very little clue as to what I was doing, but my research and my gut suggested that I get serious and obtain a business license. I was ushered to the correct line, spoke to a representative at the counter for about 15 minutes, and walked out with a business license in hand. It was officially official. My first purchase, after my $1 notebook, was my business license.
Now, in January 2017, just a few short months and many FedEx and UPS deliveries later, I am a fully-functioning, licensed and insured, beautifully branded, and already well-respected business in my community.
As a new photo booth owner, I won’t have this particular perspective for much longer, so I wanted to share a few words of advice of what I’m actively doing to gain traction and momentum in my business.
Start with the basics and know your WHY.
When you ask yourself IF you should do this, I would suggest reframing your question to WHY should you do this. I highly recommend the book, Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It may not provide the answers to your challenges, but it will certainly bring a sense of clarity and direction.
After leaving my job, my financial safety net was dissolved by my own hand. Part of my WHY was to build my own safety net on my terms, as well as having the ability to free myself from the burden of student loan debt. My WHY is intrinsic and moves me steadily towards my goals while remaining true to myself. Permanently relieving financial burdens that hold me back from contributing to things that matter most to me is a significant piece of my WHY.
Will owning a photo booth magically eliminate my student loans, solve all of my problems, and make me handsomely rich overnight? Who knows? I do know that my WHY will sustain my focus even in the toughest moments of this business and, with consistency, pay huge dividends. This shift in mindset made all the difference. Your WHY could be that you want to put your children through college loan-free or maybe to enjoy the freedom of creating your own schedule so that you can volunteer in your community. These are WHYs that will propel you towards success.
There’s no one way to do this, but you must keep moving forward.
Remember that $1 notebook? I wrote all over those pages as I worked through what was essential to start my business and what was frill and could wait. Here’s where you may get caught up in a little analysis paralysis. Legitimately so as you’re making decisions for purchases you’ve likely never made before and it can be nerve racking. This can also lead to being perpetually stuck in the comfortable, “building a business” mode, without actively moving your business forward. Your WHY and a healthy dose of self-discipline can keep this decision-making process simple, within budget, and on timeline. Set a goal post date for a soft opening and subsequent launch, and you’ll suddenly feel like your fifth-grade book report is due. You’ll move!
Ask for help when things get heavy.
I’d like to think I’m a pretty snazzy guy with trendy taste. Designing a logo and choosing colors for my brand would be a breeze, right? Not quite. I was just too close to all of the decisions and the task of branding felt like a 100-ton brick on my shoulders. A brick that would hinder my success if I didn’t offload that somewhere.
Knowing that branding was one of the more important decisions I’d make in my business, I had to shelf my pride and consult an expert. Use your $1 notebook to brain dump what you’re good at and what you’re not, or simply what you like to do versus what you don’t like to do. If you have a desire to learn a skill quickly, go for it. But if it weighs 100-tons and it’s truly that important, ask for help. Cross check with your budget and start making decisions towards getting it done. Additionally, a significant portion of my resources I used were free and readily accessible to anyone.
Freely give and expect nothing in return.
It was my second month of building and I was swimming in fancy backdrops, prop supplies (I hand-create my own), high-tech booth equipment, and gaffers tape when I started realizing no one knew about my business. Wait – the UPS and FedEx folks certainly knew I was up to something, but my ideal customers didn’t know I existed. It was scary, but it was time to make a necessary pivot in my business.
I shifted my time spent primarily on research and preparing to actually running the business and building relationships. I secured my first gig in November, four events in December and one in January. Of these six events, four were pro bono and two were paid. Of the two paid events, neither of them paid my full price. It also bears mentioning that with my first gig I paid them for two tickets to get in. Where did I find these amazing new clients you ask? Facebook and Instagram.
You’ve invested money and thought into this business and pride can easily get the best of you while manifesting itself in unattractive ways through your business. Alternatively, you can attract your ideal customer to your product by thoughtfully providing it to them pro bono and think instead of how every one of these moments is a win-win.
I use a studio management software to manage my leads, contracts, payments, tasks, and expenses amongst other things. I knew that in starting this business there would be a learning curve and that no matter how much research and knowledge I acquired, I would still make mistakes. A studio management software gives me the confidence to function like a real business and make less of those oversights that I may not be able to foresee as a new business owner.
Plus, it’s just beautiful when everything is synced and you get an email that your client accepted your quote, signed their contract, and paid their bill online. I pay roughly 80 cents a day for my system and I can’t imagine my business without it.
Getting organized doesn’t always mean buying software, downloading apps, and putting your whole operation on auto pilot. When I had moments of overwhelm and exhaustion, I would pause, clean up the clutter, make task lists, and get organized before I continued. Your organization strategy could be a tabbed binder, a brain dump notebook, or a combination of various tools.
It’s absolutely possible to start your business on a shoestring budget, with limited time, and with zero experience in the industry, but you absolutely, positively must have a deeper reason for accepting the journey. Give yourself a well-thought-out timeline that works for you, a WHY statement that would knock the socks off of Simon Sinek, attainable goals, and with some grace and grit buy your first piece of equipment: a $1 notebook.