Deb Newman creates photo magic at her business, Photo Magic Events. You will find her event photos proudly displayed in both corporate and nonprofit offices throughout Southwest Florida: Some have CEOs standing in front of the Cheers bar in Boston, others feature 40 Under 40 winners wearing crowns, boas and fake mustaches. It’s all about combining good fun with great branding.
Downsized from her nonprofit job in 2009, Newman decided to help her husband grow his business that featured inflatable rentals like bounce houses. Together they attended a trade show, where they had a promotional photo taken against the backdrop of People magazine. When the show was over, Newman observed how the attendees “dumped the literature [they had collected], but kept their photos, pens and chip clips,” she says.
This observation prompted her to investigate photo branding as a marketing strategy, which inspired her to create Photo Magic Events. “We create an engaging experience for guests at an event, and give them a branded, take-home gift [their photo at the event] tied to their identity and the company’s brand,” says Newman.
In the spring of 2010, she met with Dan Regelski, regional director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). “I wanted to make sure that all the elements [of her business] were in place from the start,” says Newman. Regelski helped her to solidify her business plan; choose the LLC business classification; understand the W-2 and independent contractor distinctions for employees; review credit card processing requirements; and to work with the right software programs like QuickBooks. But Regelski did much more than that.
“I feel like Dan is my biggest fan,” says Newman. “He’s always encouraging me and looking out for opportunities for me.” Regelski gave her the opportunity to have Photo Magic Events at SBDC-hosted events, like the annual golf tournament and the Distinguished Entrepreneur Award and Dinner event. She explains how people showcase these photos with the SBDC logo in their offices, and this creates top-of-mind brand awareness for the organization.
Regelski also helped Newman decide to move forward simply by talking the idea through.
Newman jokes about how her three sons have always told her, “You have so many ideas, why don’t you just do one of them?” She cautions, however, that not every good idea is a good business idea. “It’s important to talk about a business idea, get comfortable with the idea, and to get feedback from people,” she says. “Exciting things come out of these discussions that make you want to pursue it or not.” In the case of Photo Magic Events, discussing the idea made it “snowball” and seem more viable.
Newman decided to move forward and capitalize on her many connections in the community, and the marketing and development skills she had honed in the nonprofit world. She used her severance money to invest in the initial infrastructure, like an arcade-style photo booth, a guppyPOD photo booth, and green screen technology. She refers to her photo booth technology as her “fleet,” which she drives to various corporate and nonprofit events in her Jeep Grand Cherokee, depending on what the client’s needs require.
Newman is proud of the fact that Photo Magic Events is a 100-percent woman-owned business, that revenues have increased steadily year after year, and that all of the required equipment has been purchased debt-free through cash flow. That is until recently. In 2014, the Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida awarded her a Kiva Zip loan for $5,000 at zero-percent interest. “I used the money to purchase additional equipment in time for season, which will differentiate me from the competition,” says Newman.
Photo Magic Events currently does about four events each week throughout Southwest Florida, capturing those magic moments for nonprofits like Susan G. Komen and corporations like Saks Fifth Avenue, all managed with the help of six part-time employees.
“Dan’s experience, patience and wisdom have been instrumental in keeping me focused on my goals,” says Newman. She is also grateful for the breadth of networking events and seminars offered through the SBDC, which have empowered her to continuously learn and to grow her business.
Written by Jackie Aaron
The Wordsmith Company
"Putting Your Business into Words"