29 Mar, 2011
EBA Business In The Spotlight: Legend Photography
Posted by: Bev James In: Branding|Business In The Spotlight|Business Mentoring|Business Tips|EBA Experts|Interviews|Marketing|Mentoring|Millionaire Mentors|Personal Branding|Public Relations|Tips For Success
An interview with Bev James and EBA Member Oliver McNeil of Legend Photography.
Tell me about your business
Legend Photography is based in the Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex. We specialise in fantasy photography that puts children of all ages into fairy tale scenes using props, backgrounds, costumes and a modicum of digital magic.
The prints are sent all around the world and have been sort after by families from all over the UK, some who book their holidays just to have them done. Most of our clients come by recommendation or from walk by from the front of our tucked away cave-like studios next to the funicular lift in the Old Town.
When did you set up your original business?
In 2003 I had just left my job at a large photography studio franchise, with the intention of setting up as a freelance photographer and designer. After doing a free shoot for a local business owner’s family, I was offered some space at the back of her new children’s clothing store. It was called “The Magic Wardrobe.’ This set me thinking about doing something a bit different and utilising my passion for fantasy and the theatrical.
Since I had very little money to start the business with, (about £300), I bought a green cloth, borrowed some fairy dresses and shot some woodland backgrounds. My lucky stroke was to have an article printed in the local paper, with sample images. The response was amazing. I booked 30 sessions into the first week and I haven’t stopped since!
I reinvested in the props and equipment, slowly built a client base and now I have two studios and shoot around 500 clients a year.
How did you come up with your BIG business idea?
My background has been theatre design and set building, but also photography and magic, so this is a culmination of all of my passions. I spotted a niche in the market for fairy photography and realised that my background would give me an advantage to create something very different.
Fairy tales are timeless and most parents love to see their little girls dressed as fairies; conversely Dads get as much a thrill to see their boys dressed up as knights, wizards and pirates.
If you think about the top ten most loved family films, most of them are fantasy, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Pirates of the Caribbean; all I’m doing is fulfilling that need.
What is your unique selling point (USP)?
I have a strong background in theatre design, so my studio and shots reflect this. Customers have said it’s the experience of coming to Legend Photography as well as the finished prints that make them come back and also tell their friends.
The quality of the props and costumes, sourced from around the world, and it’s the detail in the designs that make me stand out from other family and fairy photographers.
What has been your biggest business challenge to date?
Coming from an arts background, I have had to learn every aspect of running a business based on trial and error. Starting off with no capital was a challenge, but it made me think laterally and do things that properly would not be taught at business school.
For example, when I wanted to draw more people to my studio, instead of paying for advertising, I built a full sized Doctor Who tardis and popped it outside. Not only did I get lots of word of mouth and free press but I ended up catching the attention of Tom Baker, who I ended up doing publicity shots for.
What element of the business do you enjoy the most?
I love what I do so much, since I get to create worlds of my childhood and bring them to life for the next generation of children. Seeing my families come into the studio and hearing them gasp as they step through the red curtains into my fairy tale set, makes me smile every time.
What is your favourite motivational quote?
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” by J. K. Rowling, pretty much sums up my outlook on business.
What personal attributes do you think contributes to success in business?
It’s so important to me that I enjoy what I do, so that I can bring that excitement through in to my shooting and products. I was once told that I was too happy and hyper while working, but I think that in my particular field it helps me see how children think.
I have a very inquisitive creative mind that is always learning new things via audiobooks, instructional DVDs and reading. Now combined with my new business skills, which is one area I have always run from, it’s helping me spot gaps in the market that I would have missed before.
How important is social media to your business?
In the last few months since joining the EBA, I have started to realise the immense potential of social media and how valuable it is to a photographer. I have taken the rather radical step of giving away free digital copies of all my clients’ prints for them to put on Facebook and other social media sites. If they do this, it tells their friends and family that they love the photos, where they got them and that maybe they should have them too. I am getting a one in ten referral booking, rather than the one click per thousand that I was getting through adwords.
What one piece of advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business for the first time?
So often you see people set up a business that is doomed to fail because they do not know what the customer wants. If it’s a new thing, the customer doesn’t know that they want it either, but they must have some kind of primal need for it, but more importantly the money to buy it.
Test the market before you invest your house on an idea that only you are passionate about. Hopefully you will find people who share that passion.
I used to let my passion for a niche idea cloud any business sense and I ended up finding out that the tiny amount of people who shared my passion would never be enough to make any kind of profit.
Why did you join the EBA?
Although I can make babies fly, wizards real and make fairies appear out of thin air, I have only just realised the money making potential of what I do. I wanted to learn the best way to maximise what I do and learn to see the business opportunities that I would otherwise not be aware of.
The track record of the mentors and guest speakers is of such a high calibre that joining was a no brainer.
Where did you hear about the EBA?
I listened to James Caan’s audio book last year, which I found incredibly inspiring. I then started to find out more about business people I admire and saw how they built up their empires from nothing; this gave me the thirst to find out more. While doing this I came across the EBA advertised on one of the websites.
What have been the core benefits so far?
The main benefit so far has been to make me re-examine every aspect of my business.
Reviewing how I have been running it so far was a little painful but I swallowed my pride and focusing on its exciting potential keeps me keen to absorb the knowledge imparted.
What would be the main reason you could recommend the EBA to date?
The calibre of speakers and advice that you get is incredible; their advice and teachings is from actual experience which is why they can really cut to the bones of the problems facing many businesses.
I feel that I have enrolled in the finest business university in the world, with the all the benefits and none of the inconvenience. The coaches are brilliant too!
Bev James says “I was totally blown away when Oliver showed me his fantasy photography. I think he is a wizard behind a camera and has a totally unique offering. The magical experience he offers to families can be enjoyed for generations.”
James Caan says “This is the first time I have seen Oliver’s work and based on my first impressions of his work and proposition, Oliver has got a great niche here in the photography sector. I agree that social media is a great tool here for Oliver and I’d hope to see this business flourish as it really deserves it. Perhaps Oliver might need to think about how he can put Legend Photography on a mobile platform so that the rest of the UK can benefit if they can’t get to Hastings!”