Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Have You Ever Thought About Printing Facebook Photos?

PhotoStasherI first did in 2008 and decided to do something about it. My name is Lauren Skidmore and back then I was a student at UNC Chapel Hill studying hard as a chemistry major. I had wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember and never really considered another profession. After wanting to print a Facebook photo to frame and not knowing how or if I could do it, the idea of being able to print Facebook photos kept nagging me. I had this overwhelming desire to start a business that did just that. As a result, PhotoStasher (http://www.photostasher.com) was born. If only it would have been that simple…

The first step was going to speak with a business attorney. I presented my idea, listened to what he had to say about starting a business, and he’s been my attorney ever since. Actually starting the business was a little more difficult. I realized we needed at least two components to make this a reality. The first was a website and the second was someone to print the photos. We began by meeting with a web design and hosting company. The woman we met with was less than cordial. She didn’t seem impressed whatsoever and I knew immediately that I didn’t want to deal with her. That decision made, we contacted another company who took their sweet time giving us any information. A bit of advice that I’ve learned about starting a business, if someone keeps putting you off with excuses about why they haven’t gotten around to your proposal, or something just doesn’t feel right about working with them, then don’t waste your time! I promise you will find someone who is actually excited about working with you and with whom you enjoy collaborating. After finally getting a website proposal, my dad and I flew to the headquarters of a well known photo printing company to pitch our idea. They loved the idea, but we decided to go with a professional photo lab instead. After our first meeting with the photo lab we learned they print professional quality photos as well as host and design websites. It seemed like the perfect solution. Since officially opening our doors in June 2010, I can say it was the best decision I’ve made. Over the past year we hired a freelance developer to develop our Facebook App (http://apps.facebook.com/photostasher) to print photos directly on Facebook. We are now in the process of handing development over to a development company. My goal at this point is to make the ordering process seamless, more user-friendly, and add features to make ordering Facebook photos through PhotoStasher easy, exciting, and fun for my customers.

While I’ve definitely learned a lot so far, I’m the first to admit that there’s always more to learn. Like many businesses, one frustration that I’ve faced is figuring out how to get people to just give PhotoStasher a chance. A few ways I’ve done this is by offering free sample prints to potential customers who visit my website, free shipping for orders over $15, and a free metallic paper upgrade on all orders. I explain that we use professional, Kodak Endura real photo paper and that we expose photos to light rather than inkjet printing. You can read more about this process here http://www.photostasher.com/About-PhotoStasher.htm. This makes a huge difference to the quality of photos that cannot be matched by other methods of photo printing. By the way, this is one of the main reasons I decided to go with a professional photo lab. This quality of photo printing isn’t found in most places including drugstores and other popular store chains that offer photo printing. Besides offering prints and products from Facebook photos, we also print any other digital photos as well http://www.photostasher.com/Print_My_Other_Photos/index.htm.

Financing PhotoStasher has been a little challenging. Up to this point my wonderful parents have helped me out. Starting a business on a shoestring budget can be quite a challenge, especially since there are so many avenues which need funding from advertising and marketing to development of my Facebook App. It’s extremely important when working with a limited budget to prioritize which areas need money the most. Then do everything you can to find ways to promote your business that are free or at least accommodating of a lower budget. I absolutely love Google Adwords and Facebook Ads because both let you set your daily budget and campaign budget, and target specific audiences based on various demographics, interests, and searches. You can also pause your campaigns and turn them back on whenever you want. Social media is another great free tool to use. I use Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/PhotoStasher) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/PhotoStasher/157532307624124?ref=hnav) and while it can be time consuming to use these tools successfully, they have proven to be the most effective way to market a business. Not only do I have a Twitter account and Facebook fanpage, but I also like to personally friend and interact with my customers on Facebook. It puts a face and actual person behind my company and brand and also reminds me that each customer is an individual, not an order number. I really love interacting with them and seeing what’s going on in their lives. I also have a blog (http://blog.photostasher.com) where I write articles about printing Facebook photos and photo printing in general to give useful information to anyone searching for these topics online. MyBlogGuest is a great way to either find articles for your blog or post an article for someone to use on their blog. I also use Wordtracker to research keywords for SEO, SocialMediaExaminer, HubSpot, HARO, and HootSuite. While all these free tools are extremely helpful and an integral part of running my business, I’m not going to say that having a larger budget wouldn’t be a huge relief. As a result, I have entered a few contests and applied for grants. It can be difficult to meet grant requirements, but I found one site, IdeaCafe, that gives away $1,000 grants as well as other prizes and opportunities. I have also entered the Big Break for Small Business contest held by Facebook and American Express. I would encourage entrepreneurs to apply for these and any other sources for funding that you come across.

PhotoStasher is constantly developing and evolving and I don’t believe any good business is ever finished expanding. I will always set new goals to accomplish and there will be challenges to overcome. While it is very easy for me to become frustrated with not having accomplished everything that I wish I would have up to this point, I always make myself stop and realize all that I have achieved since the idea for PhotoStasher first came to me. I would encourage every hardworking entrepreneur who is always focused on the next task to take a minute and reflect on their accomplishments thus far. This is so important for finding encouragement to continue and celebrating your achievements.

Finally, I want to give some advice to other shoestring startups and entrepreneurs. First, DO NOT give up! Yes, it sounds cliché, but I can promise that persistence and dedication are the keys to being successful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed with the way something seemed to be working out, and after reanalyzing the problem and taking a different approach I found the perfect solution. It seems that once you feel like you can’t take one more disappointment, things begin to turn around. After all, it took Edison 10,000 tries to perfect the light bulb. I’m not saying it will take you that long, only that it will happen.

As a young adult who started my business in college, I want to encourage anyone who wants to start a business to go for it. It doesn’t matter your age whether young or old. It really doesn’t. It also doesn’t matter if you have a background in business or even experience in the field you want to pursue. What matters is your willingness to learn, work hard, and find and listen to mentors who believe in you and will offer their expertise.

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