Meet the boother
After experiencing a photo booth at my cousin’s wedding in the US in 2008 my husband Lee and I started one of the first photo booth businesses in the UK.
It was very DIY and we are not good at DIY! We would get “booth injuries” every time we put it up and the inkjet printer would leak all over our hands.
We only intended the photo booth to be a side gig, but the business had other ideas and by 2012 we had both left our jobs to manage it full time alongside a very young family.
In 2015 after too many nights working until 3am then getting up with kids at 6am we decided to franchise the business. By 2019 we had 18 franchisees across the UK, Ireland, France and Cyprus.
Then along came 2020! During the pandemic we created a group video greeting software and did marketing consultancy work for other companies. This led to a completely new venture for my husband and as most of our franchisees had decided to give up on their businesses I had an important decision to make. Do we give up too or do we rebuild?
I decided to take on Smile Events solo and rebuild it my way, but with no staff, equipment or even an office it was literally starting from scratch. 18 whirlwind months later and we now offer a range of different photo booth experiences, a London HQ and a fantastic team.
I manage Smile Events remotely from my home in France, regularly commuting back to our office in London and I’m also building the business in France too where we serve fantastic events in glamorous locations such as Monaco and Cannes.
I love the contrast! One day I can be in the city meeting with clients, my team and venues or on site at a crazy, opulent event; the next I’m enjoying the peace and quiet of our rural farmhouse. It’s a massively different dynamic to the business we operated before the pandemic. Working as a solo director can be tough but I’m really enjoying being in the driving seat and seeing where the next adventure takes me.
Business Name: Smile Events & Media
How long have you been in business? 14 years
What is your favourite booth? LA Photo Party – Venture. Having grappled with enclosed booths for years when we switched to the LAPP booths, first the Infinite then the Venture it was a breath of fresh air, I don’t know how we did it before, LAPP make it very easy.
What is your favourite software? Snappic, closely followed by PBU. We’ve used PBU for years and I was reluctant to try anything else but I found myself in a situation last Christmas season when we needed a solution like Snappic and I’ve got to admit I’m completely blown away. It is so easy and versatile and the support is incredible.
Tell us about the best event you ever did?
Different events mean different things to me, most of my favourites are landmark moments so it’s really hard to pick just one. If a gun was to my head however I’d have to go for a luxury wedding just outside Monaco last summer.
The 80 or so guests we Canadians and Americans and we ran a slow motion video booth for the pre party, followed by a 360 video booth on the afternoon of the wedding followed by a regular photo booth at the after party the same night. No expense was spared and I spent the entire time in awe of everything all the other suppliers were doing around me from A-list musicians to drone and projection shows and incredible floristry everyone there was at the top of their game, it was incredibly inspirational. Having been a little detected after everything covid put us through this event really reignited my love of events. I have 3 more similar weddings with the same event company this year and I can’t wait!
My favourite events in general tend to be longer events – multi day or multi faceted. I like to really get my teeth into something creative and work with the client on a longer basis than just a few hours.
Your 3 Tips for success in the photo booth industry:
#1 Stay in your lane
We compare ourselves to one another far too much and I’m guilty of this too. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, we all do things a little differently and there is room for everyone. We need to stop worrying about everyone else and focus on ourselves, our business and our clients.
#2 Never ever assume
This is my golden rule for my team. In events anything can happen and it often does you can’t ever assume. We have a massive list of checks we complete prior to an event and this is still added to even after 14 years in the business. It’s this kind of detail that sets apart the professional companies from the part time boothers.
#3 You are not your customer
Don’t assume (see above!) that you know what your customer wants, everyone is different. Take props for example, personally I really don’t like them, with one or two exceptions I think they complete spoil photos but our customers and their guests love them. Don’t let your personal preferences be the reason someone decided not to book your services.