SnapSeat provides cutting edge photo booths to weddings, corporate events, and parties. We spoke with co-founders Jonathan Johnson and Dustin Schultz about why they started the business and how it's going so far.
Tell us about SnapSeat
SnapSeat is a company that provides cutting edge photo booths to weddings, corporate events, and parties. We combine the classic fun photo booth with cutting edge technology and social media integration. SnapSeat provides corporate events with live social media marketing and email list captures in a custom-branded photo opp. For all of our clients, we always provide the photo booth that is the hit of the party!
I have been working on this idea since 2010, when I launched a business called Photos At Events. I was seeking to provide fun family memories at festivals with on-site printing. Then I landed a full-time job and the idea went to the back burner.
Three and a half years later, in late 2013, I relaunched the idea after a layoff from a corporate job. Dustin came on board as my business partner pre-launch, and I had asked him as a friend to help me work the idea. He was super excited about the concept, and brought all of his branding, design, and creative genius to our company. This is how SnapSeat was founded.
Why did you decide to start your business in Hartford?
Jonathan- For us, Hartford is the perfect location for an events company. Hartford is a major business hub in CT, and it is a great central location in our region, being equidistant to Boston and NYC. Now that we have founded our business in Hartford, I am discovering this incredible landscape of startups and entrepreneurs. There is a great small business culture in Hartford, with people excited about small businesses, helping each other, and supporting each other.
Dustin- I started in Hartford because of the proximity to several key clients, but I mainly feel that I do business in Connecticut because I was born and raised here and therefore I am surrounded by family and friends. I work in Hartford not because it's currently a good place for business, but because I'm interested in making it one!
How does your business impact the community?
We have a two-fold impact on our community. It's incredible partnering and providing photo booths for other local businesses. We are giving them powerful social marketing opportunities at fairs, festivals, trade shows, grand openings, and parties, where they can have guests interact with their brand in a unique way by getting a photo taken in a brand-saturated photo environment. Guests are sharing and posting branded photos with our client's web address, hashtags, and brand taglines from our social media kiosks. It's creates instant Return On Investment (ROI).
Plus, we have the unique ability to help people capture and share memories from their special events. That is the idea that our business was founded with, and it's our mission today. There is something magical and nostalgic about a photo strip from a photo booth, it's an instant happy memory.
What words of wisdom would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who may be hesitant to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?
Jonathan- My advice is be prepared to work incredibly hard to succeed and start with the bare minimums. Do not suffer from "analysis paralysis" and do not tell yourself you can't do something because you don't have enough money or skills or connections. If you are serious about your idea, then scrape up the resources, work an extra job for the money, and just get your bare-minimum proof of concept going. Get the minimum license, insurances, state and local registrations, equipment, website, and get it off the ground.
A fancy business plan and all the funding in the world won't help you if you don't know how to start, to sell, and to produce. But if you are able to start from nothing and make a concept work at a very low level, everything else will start growing, like revenue, capital, and referrals. I can't stress enough how you just have to take baby steps and start somewhere. In reality, we all have nothing to lose in life. If your micro-startup fails, then you will have valuable knowledge to apply to future endeavors.
What is it like being an entrepreneur in Hartford? What difficulties or challenges have you faced?
Dustin- I think the taxes and mandates created by the state are overwhelming for businesses, in both cost and confusion. The phrase which works the best here is, "It's not easy to own your own business, but it can be worth it to be your own boss." I think it's because of the regulations on top of businesses already being the most challenging. Our income tax is always one of my biggest expenses.
What is your vision for your business over the next five years?
Jonathan- Our vision for SnapSeat is that we will become a national brand of photo booth entertainment services, with multiple franchise locations in major cities throughout the US. We currently have opportunities in the Charleston, SC and West Palm Beach, FL markets to open additional locations, with the Charleston office opening by the end of 2015. I also would like to take the experience and capital earned in one successful business and invest in other startups in the future.
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This blog series, posted in partnership between HYPE and reSET, offers a platform to showcase the commitment that Hartford Entrepreneurs have for their work and this City. It will examine how young entrepreneurs have chosen their work, and give examples of the ways in which they are having an impact in Hartford.