Start-Up: Picture This! Studios

photo by Julie Fix

Everyone wants to be a photographer, or believes they have photographic talent, right? Now, with the opening of PictureThis!Studios, experts and photographer-wannabes alike can rent a fully-equipped photo studio to refine their art. All they need to bring is a camera.
 

It's the brainchild of local businessman Larry Hooker, president of Retail Sales Solutions, who has partnered with Carla Scholz, owner of Accent Graphix, LLC to launch the Waunakee business. Described as the first photo rental studio in the state with membership options and online scheduling capabilities, Picture This! Studios offers a 1,200-sq.-foot, warehouse space complete with lighting, props — such as chairs and backdrops — a small reception area, changing room, a computer with Wi-Fi, and even a small kitchenette complete with a refrigerator, microwave, sink and drinking glasses. The "faux" studio is available for rent by the hour, the block of time, or the month, and members receive 24/7 key-card access. It is designed for photographers with all degrees of expertise, but it does not offer a dark room or developing equipment.

As for liability issues that could arise with the 24-hour space, Scholz isn't overly concerned. All renters, she explained, will be required to sign an agreement expressly forbidding alcohol on-premise or any salacious use of the space.

PictureThis! evolved from another business the couple recently started called Flat Tatz (flattatz.com), which creates personalized, removable wall art for the home or office. [For those old enough, think large, personalized Colorforms.]

With Flat Tatz, photos of people, pets, and even logos can become larger-than- life, peel-off wall decorations — for a nominal fee. Hooker and Scholz are so excited about the idea, in fact, that they've established a separate, home-based business, Picture to Posters, for people interested in marketing Flat Tatz products from home. A resident photographer is also helping out, trading photography services for the ability to access the studio space.

Hooker and Scholz were each seeking an entrepreneurial opportunity when they were introduced through a mutual friend. After tossing some ideas around, Scholz went to work on a feasibility plan, while Hooker found the Waunakee locale. Their financial outlay was minimal — just $5,000, which they split evenly.

"That's pretty reasonable for a start-up," Scholz admitted, "but most of our investment has been in personal time." After about three months of planning, Picture This! Studios opened its doors on November 3, 2010.

"This studio gives its members the ability to expand their business while keeping their own overhead low and manageable," Scholz said. Membership costs will vary, from $50 per hour for members, with half-day and full-day rates available. Non-members will pay slightly more. Partnerships have also been established with The Camera Company and Middleton Framing, offering Picture This! members special pricing on their services.

Scholz and Hooker say they'll need between 15 and 20 studio rentals each month to cover the $750 monthly rent, but they also anticipate significant commercial potential, meaning half-day rentals, or longer. Hooker has already been approached by companies eyeing the studio for product photography.

For tax purposes, they've established a company name, Creative Concepts, LLC, and they're setting their sights on finding and opening a location in Madison next. It all seems to be a set up for their bigger plan, in the not-too-distant future, to expand into Milwaukee, Janesville, and Chicago.

Asked for advice for other start-ups, Hooker quickly responded: "Don't go into business thinking only about the next six months, and don't spend money where you won't get the return."

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