Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you’re a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
In the age of smartphones snapshots and real-time photo sharing via social media, it would seem that professional family portraiture is a nonstarter. But the success of Little Nest Portraits tells a very different story.
Little Nest Portraits is a luxury, boutique family photography studio with multiple locations throughout the U.S. Founded by photographer Laura Novak in 2009, the studio offers stellar imagery in a relaxed atmosphere, where families can slow down and enjoy the experience. The company, looking to expand and capitalize on the $10 billion per-year photography industry, franchised its brand in 2014 to offer access to owning a photography studio to more entrepreneurial-minded individuals.
Photographer Brittany DeMaio is one of these individuals. After six years balancing a nine-to-five job in project management with her freelance photography business, she took the leap into full-time franchising with Little Nest last year. She says she's finally found her happy place at her comfortable New Jersey studio with a team of photographers, enjoying the tears of joy she often sees over a beautiful family portrait.
Name: Brittany DeMaio
Franchise owned: Little Nest Portraits in Montclair, N.J.
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
My studio opened on Oct. 18, 2015. I signed with Little Nest on Feb. 8, 2015.
Q: Why franchising?
I’ve always believed that I would have the drive and ambition to turn photography into my full-time business, but I struggled with how to make it happen. What would my pricing look like? When I was an independent photographer, no client was ever the same, and I was always afraid I was charging too much. It was scary to think about quitting my full time job and starting a business where everything would be on me.
I looked at all the challenges I faced as a sole proprietor and saw how being part of a franchise would help me get so much further than I ever thought possible. I’d be able to start my studio with proven pricing structures and client processes in place. I’d have a built-in support system. Franchising was the answer to my fear of the unknown.
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
For six years, I balanced a nine-to-five job in project management with my freelance photography business. I felt constantly pulled between my livelihood and my passion. By becoming a Little Nest franchisee, I’m pursuing my love for the arts and putting my management experience to good use.
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
As soon as I walked into Little Nest’s headquarters, I said, “This is it!” I’d followed Little Nest’s progress for a while, but it was the the feeling of the studio that sold me -- a homey vibe, warm people and a real sense of community. At Little Nest, one person is no more important than another. You come into work and it’s fun. You’re making moms feel comforted, their lives easier and creating lifelong family treasures. I knew this was what I wanted for my team and myself.
Now I’m operating the type of luxury boutique studio I've always dreamed of. There are tears of joy over a beautiful baby’s portrait, children playing in the Kid’s Corner, and my team and I are doing it together. We're making the most of every day and enjoying the job. That’s the Little Nest culture. It’s such a happy place.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I’ve learned that buying a Little Nest franchise ranges from $115,000 to $230,000, which includes the franchise fee and three months of expenses. Little Nest has lots of suggestions for ways you can finance your new business, which was super helpful to me.
Q: Where did you get most of your advice / do most of your research?
I did a significant amount of research before signing with Little Nest on my own and with a financial advisor. Leaving my corporate job was a big risk, so I wanted to be confident that this was the right decision. I created a business plan with demographics, scenarios and projections which further defined what was possible.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Construction took so much longer than I expected. Delays had us about four weeks behind schedule for our grand opening.
Knowing that fall was going to be our busiest time, we were under the gun to open in October. I needed my photographers to start training before the studio was finished. I couldn’t just wait. I had to be proactive, so I ended up renting studio space. It was stressful, because it was added cost and inconvenience.
Luckily, the Little Nest franchise team helped me train my staff in the rented space and pull everything together. My grand opening was a huge success! I look back now at how calm and happy I was that day -- which would not have been the case if I had been on my own.
I learned that you have to expect the unexpected, roll up your sleeves and believe in the power of a team. No day is ever the same as an entrepreneur, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do your research and due diligence. Be sure that this is really what you want to do. Owning your own business takes blood, sweat and tears but in the end, it’s so worth it. I’m doing what I love and creating jobs for people that they love as well.
Q: What’s next for you and your business?
We finished our first holiday season, and I could not be more proud of my team. Our goals for this year are to build our client base, get a good groove going in the studio and become more involved in the community. I am starting to meet other business owners in Montclair and learning what a great town this is for small business.