By Cathi Nelson
Starting a business is all about seeing a need, finding solutions, then taking a deep breath, and plunging in. Four years ago, I began to recognize that people were taking pictures at a record pace but they lacked the time and expertise to sort, organize and print those images! In my market research, I also discovered the prevailing emotions for people, particularly women, was guilt and anxiety that they were losing touch with their visual heritage. I quickly found people were more than willing to pay me an hourly fee if I was willing to help them.
Today this problem has continued to grow exponentially; in fact, we will take over 880 billion photos this year alone. That is A LOT of photos. That wasn’t the only need I uncovered.
Can you help with my old family movies, what about my children’s artwork? Here is a box of my great grandparent's photos, can you restore them, scan them, frame them and make photo albums? Can you create a video montage, how about birthday invitations?
I soon realized I could not be the expert in all of these areas, but there were others in the marketplace that are. Thus, I began my quest to create a network of business owners whom I could collaborate with and create a win – win partnership. And it worked. I have made connections, new friends, and learned a lot from other small business owners — just like me. I realized a secret to my continued success was collaboration and I have created numerous successful partnerships.
You can do the same for your business, here are 5 tips to help you get started:
Identify Your Potential Partners:
Once you identify potential partners, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone, introduce yourself and suggest a meeting to get to know one another. Make sure you stress your desire to create a win-win partnership. If a person isn’t interested, try someone else.
Do Your Homework:
Be prepared with suggestions of how you can work together. If you are looking to share referrals, consider a referral fee or shared revenue. For example, I went to our local framing shop and when I told him I could bring him artwork to frame, he offered me a 15% commission. The client pays retail but I pay wholesale. This way we both win!
Terms and Conditions:
Once you have agreed on terms, type up a memorandum of understanding. There is no need to create a legal document, but it is important to put your agreement in writing.
Put a time limit on your agreement. I start all agreements for 6 months with a note that we will reevaluate. This allows you both to back out graciously if there is any misunderstanding or the arrangement is one sided.
Look for parallel businesses, there are many possible combinations of people you can work with. A personal trainer can team up with a massage therapist or a stylist for before and after help. Professional organizers can work with their local computer repair technician for help with digital management. Professional photographers can help Real Estate agents create images of a new home as a gift.
I believe this is the business model for the future. As work at home moms, we all need multiple streams of income. If you are starting a business or struggling to keep up, look around and think outside the box. There are many people just like you, with an idea or dream and there is a lot more power in many than one. Helen Keller says it best, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
In 2009, Cathi had her “light bulb” moment when she recognized that consumers were becoming increasingly overwhelmed with the exploding number of photos, media and memorabilia they were accumulating. She created Appo to support a new and emerging profession of photo managers by providing training, support and collaboration for people interested in adding photo management services to their existing business or as a new business. Since its inception, Appo has grown to over 650 members throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and United Kingdom.