Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Josh Pather, I am the founder and CEO of Photo Booth International. We manufacture photo booths and sell them to people who want to start a successful photo booth rental business.
We specialize in a variety of different photo booths to suit every different need however, our flagship photo booth is our Miami Mirror Booth. It is an incredibly sleek-looking portable mirror booth. It comes in a heavy-duty travel case with wheels which makes it easy to transport. It also includes all of the components such as a DSLR camera, high-speed computer, printer, and software needed to work an event the moment our customers receive it. It's truly a turnkey system ready to go. Along with the booth our customers get exclusive access to free marketing and business training materials that will help them fast-track their new business.
The majority of our customers are brand new to being entrepreneurs. Many of them are working a regular 9-5 during the week and want to make extra income doing something fun but that will be a great return on investment. We do also have customers that are already in the entertainment and wedding industry looking to add more services to generate even more revenue for their business.
I launched Photo Booth International in 2015 and since then, we have helped over 5,000 entrepreneurs and made over $18M in revenue. We were also named #63rd fastest growing company in Texas and #1239 fastest growing company in the country by INC 5000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Photo Booth International exists thanks to my first business, Photo Booth Dallas - a photo booth rental company that I began in December of 2012. During this time I worked at a call center during the week but I also used to DJ on the weekends. One day, a friend and I went to a wedding and saw a photo booth for the first time and thought it would be a great addition to my DJ services so we decided to make our own.
After some brief research, we drove to Home Depot and spent $300 on all the materials. We made our first photo booth out of wood, made the cutouts to fit the monitor, sanded it down, painted it black, and spray-painted the words “Photo Booth” in white on the side of it.
I learned that you don’t need to go to school to be successful. You just need to be willing to learn from other successful people and invest in courses and programs that will help you grow your business.
We didn’t have a lot of money to invest in professional high-end electronics so we went to Walmart to get our printer, computer, and monitor. That first photo booth wasn’t perfect by any means. It was slow to print, the software was difficult to use, and the monitor wasn’t even a touch screen but it made us our first ten thousand dollars. We knew we were onto something so we did even more research and optimized our photo booth with better equipment and a better outer shell.
Fast forward one year later, our fleet of photo booths quickly grew to 15 booths and we were booked out every single weekend. At this point, I had already left my 9-5 job and was 100% invested in my photo booth rental business. My wife Jazmine even left her job to help me because I couldn’t handle all the bookings myself. Within the first two years of business, Photo Booth Dallas made over 1M dollars. It was so awesome to see that this was a profitable and high-demand business.
Every time we went out to work the events, people always asked us “how can I get started doing this? It looks like a lot of fun”. This is when I realized that there was a demand for turnkey photo booth packages and that’s how Photo Booth International was born.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
After our first handmade photo booth in 2012, we knew that there needed to be better material and better components for a photo booth. Our original booth sat on top of a tripod which wasn’t that stable and because the head unit was made of wood, it was too heavy. Our original booth also didn’t have a transporting case and it made it very difficult to transport the booth to and from each event. So we began to research the best type of materials for the shell that would be lightweight but also extremely durable.
Since I had experience with my DJ equipment, I had the idea to use the same type of road case material that my DJ equipment cases were made of. It was not only lightweight but it had a heavy-duty aluminum frame that protected the equipment from any damage. Our next prototype was what we called our Model A photo booth which was made up of two road cases that would latch onto each other and it had wheels that would help us easily move it around during transportation.
Once we mastered the shell of the booth, we sourced the right components. We knew we needed to pick high-quality electronics that would withstand all of the events that we had on our calendars. We tested several different computers, touch-screen monitors, and cameras until we found the perfect combination. At this time, DSLR photo booths were not that common so we used an HD high definition Logitech webcam and a DNP brand professional printer. The new printer printed in 10 seconds compared to almost 45 seconds with the old printer! Amazing!
The last thing that we needed to pick was the right software that runs the photo booth. The first software that we chose was called SocialBooth and it worked pretty well for a while but we found that our customers were experiencing several technical issues so in time we switched to Darkroom Booth software which is what we still use today.
As trends and booth styles have changed, the principles of a photo booth remain the same. We now have over 10 different styles of photo booth options to suit every need and style and when we need to develop a new one the process is pretty streamlined.
We take trends, and customer feedback and draw out what we think it should look like. From there, our engineer comes up with a prototype. We thoroughly test the prototype before launching and then we perfect and push it to our customer base.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch of Photo Booth International was pretty effortless. There was already a high demand for the products as mentioned earlier. It was easy to sell the business model because we were already doing it and knew what it took to grow it into a million-dollar business.
I didn’t crowdfund or take out any credit cards to get PBI started thanks to PBD. I took out $200K to start PBI and the rest is history. I used that money to buy booth components and got to work on the models that we would sell to the new entrepreneurs.
I created my website and already had some experience in SEO and marketing from my rental business so I applied everything to PBI that I learned while running PBD. I knew the importance of being omnipresent with this new business so I began our YouTube Channel and started to document my customer’s success stories. Within my first year in business with PBI, we made over $156K, definitely a huge success for a brand new business.
One of my biggest lessons from starting this business is that just because someone is a family member, it doesn't mean you should hire them. I made the mistake of hiring a family member and their partner and it ended pretty badly. Mixing family and business is not something I recommend; it complicates things. It’s hard for them to understand that decisions for the business are never personal but in the best interest of growing the business. It makes it difficult to address their performance issues without hurting their feelings. Some entrepreneurs say the opposite but I say don’t mix business and family.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
YouTube has been a huge way that we have been able to bring in new customers. We currently have over 25k subscribers on our YouTube channel. We are constantly bringing out new educational videos in the photo booth industry. It's a great way for people to also get to know us as a company and decide if they want to do business with us. We are one of the few teaching people how to use the product. We don’t just want to sell them the equipment, we want to also give them the knowledge to scale it so that hopefully they can come back and buy their 2nd photo booth from us.
This also helps retain the customers because we also follow their journey and document it every step of the way to show people that it can be done.
One of our most popular YouTube series to date was Photo Booth Boss where I took one of our customers, Innoscent Malik, from $0-$100K in only 10 months! I recorded the mentor calls with him and posted them to our YouTube channel.
My goal with this series was to show people that a photo booth business has the potential to be a full-time gig that is capable of making thousands within the first year. This was a HUGE deal for us and another example of us going above and beyond to make sure our customers are successful. I broke down what he needed to do to be successful. From setting up his LLC to creating partnerships with vendors to how to market himself. I shared it all on our YouTube channel for FREE!
Photo Booth Boss Intro:
Since Photo Booth Boss was such a hit, we decided to launch Photo Booth Boss Babe. My wife Jazmine took on the challenge to try to beat our record with one of our customers Leslie Ruelas. We turned it into a friendly competition to see if they can achieve the same goal in 10 months or less. It is already showing to be a great hit as well while delivering invaluable content. We are truly passionate about showing people that this is a real and simple business that doesn’t require previous entrepreneurial experience.
Aside from YouTube, SEO and Google Ads also play a big part in our marketing. We are constantly working on how we can further grow our business by taking advantage of these tools and services. The technology available today is pretty amazing, it allows us to reach so many more people that are considering a side hustle. I love marketing and SEO so I manage this side of the business, I don’t believe in hiring a 3rd party company to market your business. Nobody knows your business as well as you do after all.
Lastly, we also have a huge email list after all these years in business so we do send out weekly nurture emails to continue to build relationships with past and future clients. It’s all about delivering value so that they stay engaged with your business and think of you if they decide to buy a photo booth. We constantly rotate the type of content that goes out to our list so that we don’t get marked as spam or lose subscribers. It’s a great way to nurture relationships.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Photo Booth International is doing fantastic today. We are continuing to grow and scale the business year after year. We didn’t know how we would come out of 2020 but in 2021 everything came back stronger than ever before. More and more people are wanting to start a new business or side hustle and this is the perfect time to do it. We are currently on target to hit our revenue goal of 2x what we did in 2021.
We are always looking for new trends to incorporate into our new photo booth models. Technology is also constantly evolving so we must stay up to date on the latest trends and features that the photo booth industry has to offer.
Yes, we are profitable after being in business for ten years you hear many stories and witness others go out of business. Most of the time the founders are not paying attention to the numbers and just want to do the fun part of running a business. This eventually leads them to go out of business or never get their head above water.
- Margins - Our margins are around 40%
- We spend about $250 to acquire a customer
- Average return on ad spend 10x
- Lifetime Custome Value ~$10,000
- Monthly traffic is - 16000 visitors
- Time on site 1:55
- Conversion rate - 19%
- Emails subs 20,089
- Social Media following ~100000
- YOY growth of 50%
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of my biggest mistakes at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey was not putting enough time into learning how to read my financial statements. I didn’t know enough to pick the right CPA and ask the right questions. It wasn’t until years later that I would learn that my old CPA had completely messed up my bookkeeping. I had to pay a new CPA to go back and redo 4 years' worth of books. I’ve learned that you don’t need to know everything about the subject, just need to know enough to not get screwed and to be able to recognize any red flags.
I also learned that you don’t need to go to school to be successful. You just need to be willing to learn from other successful people and invest in courses and programs that will help you grow your business. The wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented, you just need to model what’s worked for other people.
I will say though, that nothing matters if action is not taken immediately. It’s of no benefit for you to invest $15,000 to attend a Mastermind event if you don’t follow through on what you learn. Tomorrow is never promised, things change rapidly. It's important to take action right away to make the biggest impact on your business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I am all about tools and apps that can make business simple. Some of the most used tools are Slack, Voxer, Monday, Google Drive, Asana, Copper and UpWork. However, out of all of the tools, my favorites are Voxer and Monday.
Voxer has been a game changer for me. I am always on the go and sometimes a Slack conversation is not possible. This is where Voxer allows me to communicate in real time with my team. Voxer works just like a walkie-talkie and when I send someone a Voxer, they can listen to it in real-time - they can also play it back as many times as possible. This is especially useful in scenarios where there is a large project or a long list of things that I need help with.
Normally it would take so much more energy for me to type it all out and explain why it's important if I send it on Slack vs Voxer. I’ve been told I speak too fast so my staff loves Voxer simply for the fact they can play my message back as many times as they need to ensure they cover everything.
Monday is a project management tool that has truly optimized our company in a way that is easy and extremely effective. I have a base for each of our departments where we keep track of their daily, weekly, and monthly duties, keep track of projects, track KPIs, and so much more. I have tried many project management tools but Monday has been the best one out of the bunch.
It does have many capabilities and customization features so I recommend buying a course on Udemy.com to learn how to maximize it for your own business. I learned how to use it in one weekend with a course. That’s the beauty of the internet, you have all the resources you need to thrive at your fingertips.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Grant Cardone has been a huge influence on how I was able to scale my business. I’ve read all of his books but the first one I ever read, The 10x Rule was a total game changer for me and my team. His book talks about how to be successful, it will take 10x the effort to achieve any of your goals. It’s about setting crazy goals and taking massive action towards achieving them. I run my whole business by this philosophy.
Every new employee is required to read this book within their first week of employment - that’s how much of an impact this book has had on my personal and professional life. I’ve found that people that don’t align with what the book says are not the right fit for my team. Business is more of a mental game than anything else. If you don’t have the right mindset you won’t be able to take risks and aim for big goals.
Aside from reading all of his books, I have also invested in many of his training programs and live events. Self-development is a huge part of why I think my wife and I are successful and on the same page.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I’ve seen many entrepreneurs start one business and jump into another and they don’t succeed at either one. It makes no sense when they can just put all of their efforts into one business and see it all the way through. Stick to one thing. Don’t dabble. Even when you are tempted by shiny objects, stick to one thing. Once you master whatever it is you are focused on then you can expand and work on something else.
Unless it’s in the same field as what you are already doing; for example, some of our customers start as DJ’s just like I did and then they decide to add a photo booth because it makes sense. After all, they have the customer base. All they need to do at that point is promote it.
But if you are chasing two different types of customers it doesn't make sense. You are wasting your time and money chasing two different ventures. Stick to one thing and be great at it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we are always looking for driven and talented people to join our team. We are currently looking to grow our sales team. If you are looking to join a company that is making a difference in people’s lives daily, send us your resume to [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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