GLOSSY FINISH COMBINES ON-SITE SPORT AND EVENT PRINTING WITH RETAIL KIOSK ENVIRONMENT
By Larry Thall
In the olden days of brick-and-mortar labs only, an owner took pride in saying that he built his business from the ground up.
In the new world of digital technology and e-commerce, Haim Ariav, takes pride in saying he’s building his sports and event photography business from the wheels up. Founder and President of Glossy Finish, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., Ariav arrives at an event with his 32-foot-long Mobile Photo Lab (MPL) in tow.
“We didn’t buy a trailer from a dealer and then take it to a third-party to retrofit it for our specific needs,” Ariav says. “We worked closely with our internal team and a custom trailer manufacturer to create a unique vehicle designed exclusively for our onsite needs.”
Ariav doesn’t claim to be the first sports and event photographer to do onsite printing, but he is taking the industry to a new level of service and customer satisfaction.
Ariav has taken the concept and benefits of an onsite delivery system to a higher playing field. Gone is the tent. Gone are the proof books. Gone is the inefficiency of labor required to not only setup the tent and keep resupplying the proof books as prints are sold, but also to unpack and repack delicate equipment to prevent shifting and possible damage while on the road.
“By custom building our MPL from the wheels up, we have been able to incorporate safety and convenience into the design, so much so that there is no need for the expensive, heavy and space-glutton shipping cases that others might need,” Ariav says.
Indeed it’s not too dissimilar from the procedure used each day to open a brick-and-mortar lab, except that the Glossy Finish MPL is equipped with state of the art Dell servers, a Kodak 9810 dye-sub printer and an Epson R1800 inkjet printer. No need for water or chemistry in this lab!
“We like to say that our MPL is truly a business in a box,” Ariav says. “All we need to do at an event is ease into a parking space, open the door and turn on our electrical power, which comes from our commercial-grade gas powered generator”
Rather than having customers standing in a tent searching proof books or looking at a glare filled laptop screen, his customers come inside the Glossy Finish MPL between games or during breaks at an event and use one of the 16 ergonomically designed flat-screen viewing stations to view and select the photos they would like to purchase. “Since early 2007, we estimate somewhere between 170,000 and 180,000 customers have been inside our MPL,” Ariav says.
“After an order is sent to checkout and then to the printers, it usually takes no more than five minutes to complete and have ready. Glossy Finish uses wireless technology to verify credit cards and debit cards. It also has high-speed broadband onboard so their proprietary software can communicate directly with their corporate office.
Except for the 13-by-19-inch posters and collages, which are printed on the Epson R1800, all other prints are made on the Kodak 9810 on 8-by-10 sheets, whether it’s an 8-by-10 individual portrait or an action package with each sheet featuring several sizes of images.
He also carefully picks his products and services. Ariav has shied away from offering photo novelty items onsite because they take too much room to keep in inventory. He finds collages and posters have a nice enough profit margin.
The entire Glossy Finish workflow process and business system is patent-pending and the software that powers the system was created by Ariav working with a software developer.
Glossy Finish currently has a five-person full-time staff and a tight freelance network that allows it to cover all types of events in varying sizes. At a small tournament, Ariav might be able to handle the shooting with just one photographer, one customer service person and one graphics person handling the printers, graphics and technology. At larger events, the team has been augmented with as many as eight to 10 freelance photographers, several customer service people and two dedicated graphic artists.
Given the talent and experience required for the discriminating quality and professional- action shots he expects, Ariav says he only uses professional photographers that own and know how to use the right equipment for the assignment.
He is an advocate of super-long telephoto lenses with large maximum apertures for their focal-length range. Given the large investment that such optics require from a freelancer, it implies a commitment to doing great work, while also making it virtually impossible for parents and friends with a digital SLR and a short telephoto to match. “We pride ourselves on the work we produce and how we deliver it,” Ariav says.
Not only a businessman, Ariav is a photographer at heart and a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara, Calif. He moved to New York City after graduation to pursue his ambition to become a professional fashion and glamour photographer. After assisting several well-known photographers he moved to Milan, Italy for a couple of years to launch his own career as a shooter.
When talking to Ariav about his career, however, it doesn’t take long to realize that his temperament not only contains a passion for professional photography, but for entrepreneurship too. Perhaps more important, he views each as being equally creative. In the real world the two must be entwined.
Ariav returned to the states in time to create a niche in the new-and-burgeoning world of the Internet, where he saw the opportunity to meet not only the photographic needs of his high fashion clients, but also their growing need to create a presence online.
His solution was founding Muffin-Head Productions, an award winning website Development Company, in 1994. “Compared to contemporary standards, my original designs are what I‘d now call online brochures, but they were considered sophisticated for the mid 1990s.,” he says with a laugh.
Having successfully grown Muffin-Head, he sold it in late 1998 to DVC, a marketing and promotions company. Three years later, in early 2001, he left to help start a21, a leading digital content marketplace for the professional creative community.
“Today a21 is the parent company of several image-based companies, including SuperStock, based in the Jacksonville area,” Ariav explains. “I moved down from New York to become president and Chief Creative Officer.”
If there is a common thread throughout Ariav’s career, it’s his desire to create a successful image-based company that can become an avenue for photographers around the country to profit from, while also creating a network of talent and passion that can remain profitable in virtually any economy or change of technology.
Though Glossy Finish is nearly two years old, Ariav is recognizing that by combining high-quality sports photography with the efficiency a MPL creates, the potential is there to realize his dream.
In a state where there is no shortage of sports photographers, the appeal of the MPL combined with the quality of the images and immediate order fulfillment, Glossy Finish has already been a vendor for the Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.
At present, the company is currently building additional MPLs, which will be placed in key geographic regions throughout the Southeast allowing Glossy Finish to reach beyond northern Florida and southern Georgia.
Ariav believes the opportunity is ripe and a mobile photography lab and retail environment, using state of the art technology with good old fashioned customer service, is a perfect business model. “We truly have a business in a box that we have custom built from the ‘wheels up’, he says with a smile. “I think we might even be creating a new franchise business.”
Company: Glossy Finish, Inc.
Headquarters: Jacksonville, Fla.
Business: Amateur Sports and Event Photography
Fulltime Staff: 5
Contact: [email protected] or 800.630.1022