This is a follow up story for Photobooth Supply Co.. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey! I’m Brandon and I’m one part of the husband and wife team who started Photobooth Supply Co.
Starting a business is complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. We make the process easy by providing a photo booth as a turnkey, affordable, and fun business opportunity. My wife, Katrina, and I created our business from scratch because we love two things: photography and personal freedom. Running PBSCO helps us provide both to us and to our customers!
After many lessons learned along the way, we found a way to make the process much, much easier.
Getting a photo booth business started is a turnkey, affordable, and fun business to run. To this day, we’ve helped over 3,000 customers make on average $71,000 a year, 55% of those customers grow their businesses so much that they go on to purchase a second booth!
Our best selling product is Salsa, which is an iPad based photo booth. The app works on a subscription basis, which allows us to continually update the software with useful, attractive features that help our clients make more money... while working less.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Photobooths are increasing in demand, and therefore so has our growth. It’s only been halfway through 2019 and we’ve already hit our gross revenue from last year!
Weddings, birthday parties, festivals, galas, corporate events, conferences, and expos all need a photo booth. In fact, any gathering is pretty much requiring one and are allotting for them in the budget! With rental rates averaging at $800 per event and operating costs being so low it’s no wonder why so entrepreneurs are jumping in this industry.
The best of the best fail hundreds of times, and that is how they become masters of their craft.
One of our continued efforts has been to try and break the status quo that only those who run photo booth businesses will benefit from owning a photo booth. In fact, we now have owners in countless different industries that are growing their business using our photo booths. DJs and photographers are adding photo booths to their services, small business owners are creating experiences for their guests, and even large corporate clients are starting to use our booths as a way of offline marketing and collecting leads.
Due to the influx of new owners and leads, we’ve also had to double down on our workforce. Since we were last interviewed, we hired nearly ten more people to scale our Customer Success, Sales, and Marketing departments.
The most important department though has to be our R&D. To get our product up and running on a quick timeline we had to use software agencies that could bring on dozens of developers in an instant. This was great initially but was obviously expensive. Now that we’re in maintenance mode we’ve brought on a solid team of full-time developers that are working on better infrastructure and stability of the app. This is crucial as our app capturing memories at life’s most precious moments.
Photo booths are blowing up the small business scene, and our growth is exploding right along with it. It’s only been halfway through 2019, and we’ve seen tremendous growth since last year!
Weddings, birthday parties, festivals, galas, corporate events, conferences, and expos all need a photo booth. The demand for photo booths at all kinds of events is increasing with no signs of slowing down.
Most rental rates average at $800 per event, and with the demand so high, it’s no wonder so many would-be entrepreneurs are jumping at the shot (so to speak) to run their own thriving businesses.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve got to run a photography business, or at least know how to use a camera that’s not doubling as your smartphone, to start a photo booth business.
One of our big missions at PBSCO is to spread the word that not only do you not need to be a professional photographer, but you also don’t even need to know how to use a fancy camera to be an incredibly successful booth owner.
We have owners in countless different industries who have started adding booths to their services. DJs, stay at home parents, retail shops, and yes, professional photographers too - they’re all adding photo booths to their services.
These small business owners are creating memorable experiences for their customers - and outstanding, memorable experiences are what generate serious customer loyalty.
Even large corporate clients are getting in on photo booths as a fun, interactive way to reach huge numbers of leads with original marketing, both online and off. Business has never been better!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Hire a CTO
As mentioned above, we hired agencies initially to develop the app. Here’s the issue with that. They’re running a business, so it’s crucial to them to bill you for hours. Because of that, it’s difficult to judge whether or not their estimates are accurate without having a trusted advisor or a CTO. Due to the nature of their business, it’s always better to overestimate -- which causes higher invoices.
On the other end of the spectrum, the agencies could be optimistic and present a lower estimate. While this sounds great, they could cut corners and develop your app with poor infrastructure. So while it might work great for 100 users it might fall apart for 10,000.
In retrospect, I would have had a CTO or a technical advisor review all your estimates and code along the way to ensure accuracy and quality.
Today, we have a brilliant team of in house developers that are dedicated to the quality of our code and the goals of the company.
We Hired… In Every Department!
You know what they say - with great profit comes great responsibility. (Or something like that.)
With so many new owners and leads, we’ve had to double down on our workforce. We pride ourselves on being a lean business - but we’ve learned that to scale well, you have to hire well, too.
We hired fantastic new team members in Customer Success, Logistics, and Marketing. The most expansive and influential growth we’ve seen internally has been on our development team.
We shifted from agency development teams - which are not exactly cost saving - to our own in-house team of developers. Agencies are great, but they’re also expensive. They bill by the hour, which makes it tough to know whether or not an estimate is anything close to accurate. It also makes it a challenge to know which work to prioritize in order to stay on budget, or to budget in advance at all.
With a new CTO and a fleet of new developers working with us, not for us, we’ve created better processes, stronger infrastructure, more stability, and incredible performance improvement in the app. We’ve also learned the importance of having people on your team that is dedicated exclusively to you, your team, and your product.
Our app is designed to capture memories at life’s most precious moments, so knowing our team can deliver a strong product that people can count on really matters to us.
Understand the PROs and CONs of a pre-order
We launched Salsa on Kickstarter, which was great for both creating a sizable cash investment as well as creating a reasonable forecast for an initial factory order.
What we didn’t account for was the amount of time needed for proper order management.
People changed addresses, put in the wrong ones, didn’t fill out crucial survey data… the number of issues seemed endless. These problems created a significant time suck, taking the team away from other important daily operations.
While we’re ultimately pleased with our decision to run a Kickstarter pre-order campaign, understanding the pros and cons ahead of time probably would have let us better plan for any hiccups, and saved us a lot of time.
When it comes to factories, don’t assume anything
Our Salsa photo booth is an incredible piece of engineering, involving several manufacturing methods and factories. We researched and took each recommended step to try and ensure a quality product:
- Visiting all the factories in person,
- Creating detailed quality control documents and SOPs, and
- Hiring an inspection agency.
In the end, we had high acceptance rates for all our parts, but there were still things that would have benefited from extra quality control documentation, and some clarification on some of our manufacturing SOPs.
For example, our booth comes with a base plate. Our CAD drawings and docs indicated that this part should be built to lay flat, completely level to the ground.
Factories should have a process for this, right? That’s what we figured… until we started receiving some decidedly curved base plates.
Lesson learned: don’t assume anything, and document everything. We make sure to be as clear and explicit as possible about how to test for straight, level design. We include videos, photos, even instructions on purchasing blocks of granite - every measure we can take to make sure our specifications are followed to the letter - or in this case, to the line!
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
The future is looking better than ever! Here are four things we want to focus on in the next five years:
Software is the future of this company. We’re heavily investing in a web portal to make it easy for our customers to manage their photo booth events from anywhere - even on a phone!
Let’s just say that we are loving the iOS platform, and all of the amazing things Apple is doing with their iPads and iPhones.
Apple’s ARKIT3 is opening up a whole new world for capturing shareable experiences. We’re hoping to fully integrate it into our upcoming updates.
Photo booths are growing in popularity all over the globe. We’re working with international distributors to get us in the hands of more entrepreneurs eager to start booth businesses of their own!
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Willpower Doesn’t Work - Benjamin Hardy
Huge perspective change here on how to easily quit bad habits and acquire desired ones.
Principles - Ray Dalio
Peek into the logic of billionaire Ray Dalio. His approach to life and business will empower you in so many ways.
Rework - Jason Fried
In this book, Jason flips everything you know about running a business upside down and challenges the status quo.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Just go out and do it.
You’re probably going to fail, and that’s okay. The best of the best fail hundreds of times, and that is how they become masters of their craft.
Kind of a shameless plug here, but if you’re not sure what kind of business you want to run, there’s nothing wrong with getting a turnkey business or a franchise. There’s a reason why these are so popular and profitable. You get a proven roadmap to success, and plenty of support and resources to grow.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes! You can see the updated listings here.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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