Question: Where is your business located (city & state)? Who are the customers you serve? What products or services does you company provide?
Your Answer: We are located in Baltimore, Maryland and serve the wedding industry with the best wedding photography and video available.
Question: When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start your own business?
Your Answer: The business is ten years old but only in the last three years have we pursued this as becoming our only source of income. I started this business as a side job helping people with CAD Design and Drafting and Graphic Design. Photography was more of a hobby with a piece of art selling on occasion. We progressed into web design and my photography and video started becoming an integral part of the business. then came the day when a friend approached me and said' "Can you photograph my daughters wedding?" I told him I didn't have any experience and he said, "That's OK! I don't have any money." I had the camera skills to understand how to work in low light situations and was surprised at how well we did. Everyone was. So it started. Seminars, online training, hours and hours on the internet doing research. the business was growing rapidly. We added Video and the training started all over again! We love this! We decided that this si what we wanted to do so Graphical Media services, LLC is doing business as GMS Photo and Video.
Question: Did you quit your "day job" to start your business? How did you initially fund your business?
Your Answer: It was impossible to quit my day job to start my business because we were funding the business from my day job and we needed the insurance. We grew the business in small pieces using the money we made and some small personal loans from some family members. The business was growing faster then expected so we were able to dump money back into the business rapidly.
Question: What has been the biggest challenge in running your company?
Your Answer: Marketing was and still is. We get phone calls everyday from people who want us to give them our money so they can improve our marketing. Also websites where you "pay for leads", specialty websites that you must be present in to be among your competition, magazines, etc...It is hard to find the balance of what is enough or not enough and then to get actual numbers to see where not only leads are coming from, but where QUALITY leads are coming from. Its frustrating and expensive... 25 - 30% of my business is spent on marketing!
Question: What’s been the biggest opportunity that came from owning your business?
Your Answer: On our website we have created the "GMS Network". This is a network of wedding vendors that we have worked with, saw their work, and recommend their services. In turn they now recommend us and we plan to grow this network over the next year.
Question: What has surprised you most about being your own boss?
Your Answer: Legal and accounting expenses were one surprise but the biggest surprise is how much time is lost just managing the day to day tasks of owning a business.
Question: Is there a success tactic you’d like to share that could help other business owners (i.e. implementing new software, tactic to grow sales, etc.)?
Your Answer: Develop a marketing plan and stick to it. No matter how tempting it may be, stick with your plan. Come up with a system to gather information and use that information as a measuring tool. Give your marketing entities time to mature. We had one that for 3-4 months did nothing. Six months later it is out performing all of the others!
Question: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other small business owners?
Your Answer: Our sales has grown exponentially in the last three years and I attribute this to our marketing decisions and our high quality of service. Marketing is still a challenge but we take it head on and really have developed a way to measure where our leads are coming from, where the most leads that turn into sales are generated, and what marketing entity drives the most traffic to our website. Our website is what I believe sells our business better then anything else. I am not saying your business should have a website, but in today's internet centered world, you NEED a website.