Becoming a photography for little people franchisee was a dream come true for Simona Boycheva. Trevor Johnson reports
They are the golden moments every family treasures - the arrival home of a new baby, the antics of toddlers, even the time when a pregnancy becomes apparent. And if not recorded at the time, they’re gone forever.
Someone whose job is to make sure that doesn’t happen is 25-year-old Simona Boycheva, Essex and East London franchisee of Photography for Little People, a mobile studio facility specialising in pictures of pregnant mums, newborn babies and young families. She also takes impressions of children’s hands and feet, which can be included in framed collages.
“There is nothing that brings me greater joy than to see my work displayed on the walls of my clients,” Simona says. “It’s an amazing feeling knowing you have created those memories - something special that will be treasured forever.”
Photography for Little People was the brainchild of mother and daughter team Jan Massey and Melanie Kemp, who started snapping babies in Gateshead in 2005.
They made the decision to franchise the business two years later and now head an international chain, with more than 10 branches across the UK and franchises in Hong Kong and Singapore.
“The business grew very quickly,” Melanie remembers. “The turnover was huge - it was phenomenal. We were very proud and we knew straight away it would be a success.” The company says its secret has been to create an experienced, child-friendly team, which makes sure customers have a memorable, fun experience in their own homes. “We excel at photographing bumps and newborns, little ones and toddlers, as well as family groups, including pets,” Melanie says.
“Doing maternity, newborn and family photography at home makes it so much easier for parents and the little ones are more comfortable and relaxed in their own familiar surroundings.”
SOMETHING I LOVED
For Simona, a graduate in marketing, administration and advertising at the University of Greenwich, finding the franchise was a dream come true: “I heard all my classmates talking about how they had already started applying for jobs with major companies, but I couldn’t imagine myself in a nine-to-five job.
“I wanted to do something with a meaning, something with a purpose to me and, most importantly, something I loved and would enjoy doing day to day.”
Simona had always planned to run her own business, but thought she would probably have to spend five or 10 years working for someone else before she had the chance to go it alone.
“I started looking online for franchises and when I found Photography for Little People I instantly fell in love with it,” she remembers. “I didn’t look for anything else. It just felt right for me and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“I am able to run my own business and do something I’m passionate about and finding the franchise allowed me to do this much sooner than I thought would be possible.
“I was a little bit anxious to start with, but with the help I received from head office, it has been absolutely amazing. I was excited, but at the same time a little fearful and I’m very grateful my family was so supportive
“Photography has been my passion for a long time, so I couldn’t have found a better franchise, but you do need special training, particularly when photographing newborn babies, because safety is by far the most important thing.”
Simona started the business three years ago, but Melanie had no doubts she had found a perfect franchisee. “Simona showed all the drive and determination she would need to make her business a success,” Melanie says.
Simona has ambitious plans to grow the business, but has no intention of giving up photography. “That’s the part I enjoy the most,” she says. “It’s very exciting when all your hard work pays off.
“Being able to see how far I’ve come and all the progress I’ve made only encourages me to push the business to its full potential.
“I love working with mums and young families. It’s nice to see someone smiling, but it’s twice as nice when you are the reason for their smiles. Very often I have photographed pregnant mums and then return to photograph their newborns, probably within two or three days.
“Babies and toddlers are lots of fun to work with and twins and multiples are always extra fun. When I was young, my friends would often make fun of me taking pictures all the time, but I just loved it.
“I came to realise that people take pictures when they are happy, wishing to capture joyful moments, and I can’t imagine a greater joy than doing it for a living.
“I very much appreciate the flexibility the franchise offers. I like to know I can manage my own hours to fit around my family and lifestyle.
“I have a friendly, but professional approach to create a happy atmosphere on shoots, which can last up to two hours and produce up to 100 photographs for parents to choose from.”
A Photography for Little People franchise costs around £15,000 and the start-up package includes a mobile studio, camera and lighting, a training course with practical photo shoots and a thorough grounding in marketing and business strategy.
The company says: “You don’t have to be a great photographer or have any experience in this field. All you need is to enjoy working with little ones and have a desire to succeed. The business is straightforward to learn and can be run from home. There is no boring stuff.”
Jan and Melanie had originally intended to just run the business from a barrow for a month, but the reaction was so favourable that in 2006 they took a shop and finally became a franchise.
“It’s a great business opportunity for women, especially those with young families,” Melanie says. “It allows you to work the hours that suit you. It’s your business, but our back-up organisation ensures you are not alone.
“We have a great brand and have taken the time to test and measure what we do. Our clients come back again and again and recommend us to their friends.”
Melanie recalls that she had no business experience before she joined her mum in the photographic venture: “I wanted us to do something together. As a new mum at the time, I knew we could be on to a winner and I had a good idea what prices people would be willing to pay.
“The plan was always to go international - we’re both very driven and determined - and we hope to branch out into more countries, including France.” Melanie now trains new franchisees and continues to work behind the camera, while Jan specialises in marketing and recruitment. “We both have different strengths and working together has never been a problem,” Melanie says.
Back in Essex and East London, award winning photographer Simona says running a successful franchise with top class back-up has fulfilled all her dreams: “I have the freedom of being my own boss, but if I’m not sure how to handle a certain situation or need help with anything I only have to pick up the phone.”
And one day, when she has her own family, she’s looking forward to recording her own golden moment. “I can tell you one thing,” she smiles. “They’ll probably be the most photographed children on the planet.