Categorized | Business Authors

Cashing in on the $50 Billion Pet Industry While Making a Difference

A short authors bio:

Bark Pet Photography, co-founded by Kim Rodgers and Sarah Sypniewski in February 2009, is a Los Angeles-based pet photography business with an underlying mission of giving back to local animal rescue organizations. Their work has been seen in the Wall Street Journal, PEOPLEPets.com, LAist.com, TMZ, PEOPLE Style Watch Maga­zine, and Dogs Today Magazine. Bark has become one of the premier pet photographers in Los Angeles and was voted Los Angeles’ Best Pet Photographer in 2011 by CityVoter.com.

 

Cashing in on the $50 Billion Pet Industry While Making a Difference

Kim Rodgers

 

Kim is the photographer behind Bark.She graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Studio Arts. Kim’s images are described as modern, bold, and graphic – a style influ­enced by her years of working as a graphic designer. She was a founding board member of Lu Parker Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving conditions at the Los Angeles Animal Shelters while enlisting the help of local at-risk youth looking to give back to their community.

Cashing in on the $50 Billion Pet Industry While Making a Difference

Sarah Sypniewski

Sarah is the marketing force behind Bark. When she’s not waxing poetic in the Bark newsletter or treat-dangling during shoots, she’s running her lost dog business, NinjaDog Concepts. Sarah holds a BA in Psychology from DePaul University, which she calls upon when writing emotionally manipulative adoption pages for her homeless animal friends and keeping dogs and humans alike calm during photo shoots.

 

A book synopsis / Key Ideas:

Dog Photography For Dummies offers techniques that amateurs and intermediates alike can use to improve their photography skills. This hands-on guide gives you practical and fun guidance for capturing your dog’s personality and turning ordinary shots into priceless memories that will last a lifetime. Dog Photography For Dummies covers the latest and greatest gadgets and accessories available to capture and alter photos of your favorite pooch. Additionally, this book offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the authors built a lucrative business out of this hobby–and how you can, too.

Why did you write this book?

The short answer is we wrote this book because the publisher asked us to. Well, technically, they asked us if we would enter the vetting process, competing against several other pet photographers, whose identity was unknown to us. In the end, only one of us would win the contract–and it turned out to be us. From a business standpoint, we wroteDog Photography For Dummies because we saw it as an opportunity to build our brand. It adds another credential to our already strong reputation; it’s essentially a 320-page business card. It allows us to introduce ourselves directly to readers who may not know us yet, as well as pursue media opportunities that come as a result of the book.From a non-business angle, we wroteDog Photography For Dummies to help people capture amazing images of their dogs before it’s time to say goodbye. But more than any of that, we hope this book helps the tireless animal rescuers out there take photos that will lead to finding permanent, loving homes for the millions of homeless dogs in this world. That mission is at the heart of everything we do at Bark Pet Photography–including writing this book.

Write a paragraph stating why readers should buy your book and what they will get out of it after reading it?

Though written for consumers, it reveals secrets of our
entrepreneurial success throughout, culminating in a full chapter on how to
turn pet photography into a lucrative business. Our topic is dog
photography, but our practices are applicable to any industry. In 3 years, we’ve found success. We tell you how to do
it, too.

Do you have a blog, what is the link, what do you talk about in your blog?

We keep a Bark Pet Photography blog, where we post funny or interesting stories about our shoots, helpful photography equipment reviews, and some sneak peeks at our work, and that’s at http://blog.barkpetphotography.com/. Sarah writes a blog called Sarah Leaps, which is all about how she left her career in the middle of the recession to pursue her dream of entrepreneurship and writing. It’s on the humorous side, complete with illustrations: http://sarahsypniewski.wordpress.com. Kim maintains a blog called I Think You Have the Wrong Kim Rodgers, where she documents all of the accidental email correspondence she has as a result of having a common name, which is also pretty hilarious.

Do you do your own marketing or PR? What is a good marketing / PR stratgey for a budding author?

One of our biggest points of pride is that we spend virtually nothing on marketing, PR, and advertising (no seriously–in our three and a half years, we’ve spent about $500). We do all of our own work here and our success in this area is proof that anyone can learn! We keep it simple: we leverage every free opportunity we can get, we build relationships, and we are tireless hustlers.

As for our book, our publisher supplements our marketing efforts, but to be honest, all of the best coverage we get is a result of the work we do on it. We are on social media a lot, we attend free webinars and read whatever we can get our eyes on to keep up with new trends and technology, and then we just work insanely hard. We establish quality partnerships with other entrepreneurs, organizations, and individuals, and then go to great lengths to preserve them, which means looking for ways to work together from which we both benefit. And it also means passing things along when we think our partners might be interested, even if it’s not necessarily a fit for us.

For budding authors (or really anyone selling anything in general), it’s all about taking stock of everyone you know. Everyone. And then figuring out the angle that would appeal to them. This article is a prime example of that. Even though our title is Dog Photography For Dummies, we have great stuff in it that would be of interest to entrepreneurs of all types, so we have to be able to highlight that and bring out those aspects here. In our coverage in pet-related media outlets, we obviously accentuate the dog angle. So as you’re writing your book, you kind of have to think about this stuff–like how many different audiences you can appeal to and how you would sell it to them. And then you sell it.

Do you tweet, facebook fan page, myspace friend or use any other social media to get the word out? (Please provide links)

Yes, we’re definitely into social media. It’s a huge part of our marketing and brand cultivation strategy. Our company sites are: www.facebook.com/barkpetphotography and www.twitter.com/barkpetphoto. Sarah also maintains a Facebook page for NinjaDog Concepts at www.facebook.com/ninjadogconcepts.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

There are only two of us, which means we both do as much as we can. The only thing Sarah doesn’t touch is the camera. Kim shoots and does the primary editing, while Sarah concentrates on marketing, client and partner relations, and business development. But every now and then, you’ll catch Sarah in Lightroom doing first round touchups or Kim helping a new partner brainstorm a project idea. One of the keys to our success is that we both bring different skills to the table, but also learn quickly. We have to be versatile and continue to evolve, or we will die. Having only two people can sometimes be a challenge when it comes to handling our workload, but it also keeps us very nimble. Because we don’t have stockholders or a dozen executives to run things through, we can easily adapt to client and industry needs.

What is the best advice you never got?

It’s okay to give people a deal, but never sell yourself short.

Sarah is turning all of the advice we have learned into a letterpress endeavor. You can see more here: www.facebook.com/sarahleapsletterpress

What is the one thing that you did right?

Los Angeles has a very saturated market when it comes to pet photography, and the profession is becoming more widespread, rapidly. In order to set ourselves apart, we created a very consumer-friendly, industry-bucking model of including prints and digital files with all of our photo sessions. Everyone thought we were nuts, but now we see the same model popping up in other places. It’s a nice thing to see.

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