Whippersnappers, the colorful Bend-based portrait studio, made a big splash at the Bend Venture Conference, as one of the five finalists and runners-up in the competition. Launched in 2006 by local marketing dynamo Lisa Flynn, the family-friendly, digital photo emporium provides an interesting modern twist to the age-old ordeal of getting the family photos taken.
“Portrait studios haven’t changed much in the last 20 years, especially when you look at places like Sears and Wal-Mart, said CEO Flynn, displaying her company’s whimsical, round business cards in retro hues. “So when I went to get pictures taken with my kids I thought, “is this the best you can do.” It was frustrating and I knew there was a better way to do it. And surely if I wanted it then other moms would want it too.”
Flynn grew up under the drizzling skies of the Portland area and moved to Bend in 2000 after a successful career in the marketing world.
Friend and development partner, Renee Davidson of Grassroots PR calls Whippersnappers the coolest children’s photo studios ever seen. “It takes all the pain and stress out of the task of taking those classic portrait photos we all love and need, and make it fun,” she said. “The timing couldn’t be better.”
The research Flynn did of existing options in the marketplace became the skeleton of their first business plans. They picked and chose between established studios, their methods of attracting customers and equipment used, and what they did right and what they did wrong, allowing her team to tailor a new hybrid entity.
“I saw this huge niche in the market that wasn’t being served,” Flynn recalls. “First rate digital photography is very desirable everywhere.”
Whippersnappers offers the ease and convenience of a brick and mortar studio with the high quality and experience of a seasoned, professional photographer all for reasonable value.
“When we started the business in Bend in 2006 there were no other studios like us in operation so there were no guidebooks to follow and that allowed us the freedom to explore and establish a fresh business model for the digital age. By breaking out of the mold, we approached it in a different way, and created something brand new and unique,” said Flynn. “It’s important to parents and relatives to capture all the various ages and stages in their children’s lives and we thought those moments aught to be genuine and authentic rather than staged and posed.
“From the very beginning, we learn what you and your kids are interested in so we can make them comfortable in the studio. Our sessions are 45-minutes long, and you have comfy couches with a beverage of your choice and there’s also a play area for separating siblings between shoots. You’re not in a fishbowl environment and it’s all about making families relaxed and at home. That’s when their personalities really come out and it allows us to capture that magic. All our props and toys are interactive and meant to invoke a natural response, from cool biplanes, a bowl of cherries dropped on the ground, to gumballs, an old-fashioned pedal car, bubbles, anything to elicit a reaction. We take a bunch of shots in the studio and narrow them down to the best 35.”
A big difference between Whippersnappers and traditional studios is that they edit every single image and transfer them onto a disc included in the session fee to share with friends on Facebook and other websites.
“We can also take existing photographs or slides and stylize them for the purpose of display. We have a special showing theater where customers can kick back, have something to drink and watch a slideshow of their pictures set to music. Consultants walk them through the images to create wall galleries and select appropriate mattes, frames and finishes. I compare it to shopping with a good friend,” Flynn jokes. “That process is really fun for everybody.”
“What I was emphasizing in my pitch at BVC was the company’s core strengths in the brand, something people say about your company. Ours is a proprietary workflow process that allows us to sort through large volumes of photo material to achieve a signature Whippersnappers style.”
In addition to the Bend studio, Whippersnappers is franchised in three other cities across the United States: San Francisco, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and Parker Heights, Texas. The future of Whippersnappers seems destined for bright lights and big cities, with global franchise opportunities in a neat, clean package. And those cool circular business cards make for a standout impression!
“We already have our first investor that saw us at the Bend Venture Conference practice pitch, and are in negotiations with several more,” said Flynn with a childish gleam in her eye. “It’s brought us a ton of exposure, and we’ll launch our online editing service the first quarter of next year. There’s wind in the sails for us right now and we’re very excited.”
Through innovative marketing, hard work and tremendous enthusiasm, Whippersnappers Studio is not just a little Mom & Pop operation anymore. It’s one of Central Oregon’s most promising startups with limitless promise. Her willingness to adapt, eagerness for advice and ability to execute have earned Lisa Flynn of Whippersnappers Studios the EDCO 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year!
Whippersnappers Studio is located at 121 NW Greenwood Ave., Suite #103, Bend. www.whippersnappers.com or 541-389-7627.