“Clients appreciate that we can handle any request that they throw at us, and that we NEVER say no.”
Let me introduce you to Mark Ufland, owner of Memories In An Instant, one of our oldest and dearest customers. Located in Boston, Memories In An Instant has been around for over twenty-six years.
Tell me about yourself
I started Memories In An Instant while I was managing my family business, a photo lab for professional wedding and portrait photographers. I was always amazed that most photographers had ZERO business sense but were amazing artists. So, when I heard from my Kodak rep about a new technology; a “digital camera system with printer,” I decided I was going to use my business background to change the photography industry. I bought my first setup for $80,000 and Memories In An Instant was born. It was brutal back then the camera could only take one photo at a time, big storage and photoshop didn’t exist for consumers yet. But I had a 5 year head start on the industry and there were only a handful of other people with this tech. Eventually, as the industry shifted to digital, we closed the lab and I made the jump to full time.
Tell Me About Your Business
I started out doing golf tournaments and reunions, taking advantage of the onsite printing capabilities. I eventually partnered with another operator and we owned Santa photo operations in 26 malls around the U.S. We had 140 seasonal employees and 52 real, bearded Santa’s on staff. It was a good learning experience but eventually the partnership ran its course. I went back to working on my own in 2010 and never looked back. Our clients are roughly 60% corporate and 40% social. We have worked with some of the biggest companies in the U.S. including Salesforce, Disney, Twitter, and Facebook. In 2019, we executed more than 300 events, our best year. A bunch of events were for other photo booth companies as we became a trusted white label partner for many top photo companies. This allowed us to grow our network of partners around the U.S. to help with our clients.
On the surface, we are not that different from any other photo booth company. We all have similar equipment, software, staffing issues, etc. But if you dig a little deeper, there are not a lot of operators that have been doing this for close to thirty years. Our experience level separates us from the masses. The technological hurdles we had to surmount when the industry was in its infancy prepared us for just about anything. Clients appreciate that we can handle any request that they throw at us, and that we NEVER say no, and that’s how we landed our biggest client. We were working a tech event in Boston and the client asked if we worked in other markets. They needed 21 photo booths in 21 markets later that week. We said yes and filled the order in 30 minutes. We already had a network of vetted partners in all of the markets, including London!
I could not have survived this long without the help of other photo booth pros that I respect. There are too many to mention names but I highly encourage new operators to listen to these pros when they give advice. It sometimes feels like they are attacking, but they have been through everything that a new operator is facing, and they are trying to show you that there is a better way to do things if you want to be successful.
Tell Me About a Particular Event You’re Proud Of
Honestly, I am most proud of how I handled the pandemic with regards to our Santa photo operation here in Boston. We normally run the booth from mid-November until Christmas Eve, 10 hours a day. It is a huge event for us. In October, we were informed by the mall that they were unable to have a Santa in-person for safety reasons. We decided to pivot, very quickly, to a virtual Santa experience. I quickly turned my basement into a Zoom studio with green screen. The goal was to make it look like Santa was still at the mall when in reality he was hanging out in my basement. Calls were free to mall customers for two weekends, then we filled the remaining time slots using Google and Facebook ads. We completed over 600 zoom calls over four weekends. After the call guests were sent a link to a virtual photo booth where they could take a photo “with” Santa. It was a huge success!
How Have You Weathered the Pandemic
The pandemic has been a major blow to our industry and we too have taken a big hit during this time. In 2019, we did over 300 events. It was one of our best years. That said, we quickly pivoted into virtual photo booths and virtual tours for real estate. These services allowed us to stay afloat during a very difficult time. One thing that helped us is that we used the time away from events to refine our marketing, work on our equipment, and get ready for when we could start up again. Boston re-opened in May of 2021. It was a pretty busy year and we are hopeful that we are past the worst of the pandemic.
How is it Working with Imaging Spectrum and Darkroom Software
We started working with Darkroom Software back in 1998 when it was known as Express Digital. I believe I was customer #5 for them. At the time, there was no other software that allowed tethered or untethered capture, graphics, and printing. Now, 26 years later, we still use Darkroom Core or Booth for a majority of our events.
Imaging Spectrum is one of our most important industry partners. Steve Behen and the IS team have always had my back through the years. Steve and I had mutual friends when he was working at Eastman Kodak, and we immediately hit it off. He has remained a valuable source not only for supplies, but also as a source for industry insights and trends that I might not otherwise know. He is a true pro and a better friend. -thanks, man.
What Printers do You Use
We exclusively use DNP 620 printers for our booths. I have found that my employees and I appreciate the light weight and reliability of the printer. The DNP 620 outputs a solid print at a fast speed. Also, (I’m sure I’m going to regret saying this) they are virtually maintenance free.
What Else Would You Like Readers to Know
I recently started a new company with Rich Lincoln, my friend and biggest local competitor. We have really taken “collaboration over competition” to heart with our company. Rather than beat each other up on pricing or product, we combined our efforts to bring next-level event experiences to the market. It helps that we both have completely different strengths that we bring to the table. It has allowed us to do things that we might not have been able to do individually.
Mark, thanks for taking the time to chat. I appreciate your friendship and it’s great to have you as a customer. You’ve created a great business. Here’s to your continued success!