GLOSSY FINISH FEATURES
THE ACTION SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY DIVISION OF LIFETOUCH NATIONAL SCHOOL STUDIOS IS PURCHASED
Glossy Finish has repurchased itself from Lifetouch National School Studios, the very company that acquired it in 2013. The Florida based company will continue to revolutionize action sports photography and order fulfillment through its proprietary process that allows it to deliver high quality printed posters and digital photos on-site for customers to take home from the prestigious events it photographs.
Jacksonville Beach, FL – November 1, 2017: Glossy Finish is pleased to announce the acquisition of its company back from Lifetouch National School Studios who purchased it in December 2013. The acquisition was made by an investment group spearheaded by Mr. Haim Ariav, the founder and CEO and Mr. Matt Winer, a senior employee and now CTO.
“We are thrilled and excited to take Glossy Finish to the next level. Our new independence will allow us the opportunity to again focus on the people, process and product that has proven to be a successful strategy and poises us for continued success”, stated Mr. Ariav.
Glossy Finish is a state of the art youth sports photography company. As a professional photographer, Ariav launched the company in 2006 with the aim of revolutionizing the conventional method of action photography and order fulfillment through a proprietary process he developed. Unlike traditional action photography companies that are limited to post-event photo sales and delivery, Glossy Finish specializes in on-site printing of action photography through its breakthrough Mobile Photo Labs and Photo Stores by enabling its customers to take home their high quality printed posters and digital photos directly from the events it photographs.
This on-demand production model, super-fast quality service, as well as high-tech sales tools, has rendered a unique competitive edge to the company. At present, Glossy Finish boasts an extremely prestigious list of clientele, including the likes of American Youth Football National Championships, Cal Ripken World Series, Offense-Defense Bowl Week, Babe Ruth League World Series, USA Football International Bowl, The Ripken Experience and many other esteemed organizations.
Speaking further on the success of Glossy Finish, Mr. Ariav mentioned their process of only photographing those players who register ahead of their games to be photographed. Customers can book the service with a nominal deposit and provide the game information of their athlete to the Glossy Finish team. Based on that data, photographers are assigned specific players to photograph, thus allowing the families many more quality photos to select.
“The process and technology we built, and continue to enhance, offers us a unique and stable platform to further grow our business. Our average order value is currently the highest in the industry and we continue to see increases year over year. We view the opportunity to get Glossy Finish back as one we simply could not pass on.” added Mr. Winer.
For more information about Glossy Finish, please visit the official website at www.glossyfinish.com
EXCLUSIVE: GLOSSY FINISH RETURNS TO ORIGINAL OWNERS
Glossy Finish, formerly the action sports division of Lifetouch National School Studios, was repurchased by an investment group led by founder and CEO Haim Ariav and Matt Winer, senior employee and CTO. Ariav launched the business in 2006, and sold it to Lifetouch in 2013, where it operated as a division of the company. Glossy Finish is based in Jacksonville Beach, Fla,, and operates in 20 states.
“We are thrilled and excited to take Glossy Finish to the next level. Our new independence will allow us the opportunity to again focus on the people, process and product that has proven to be a successful strategy and poises us for continued success”, says Ariav.
“I’ll take that niche,” he declares. “Parents want what we do. Our first steps will be to stabilize what we have and then grow the business.”
GLOSSY FINISH BEGAN A STARTUP… AND IS ONE AGAIN
Glossy Finish is a state-of-the-art youth sports photography company, derived from a proprietary process Ariav developed. Unlike traditional action photography companies that are limited to post-event photo sales and delivery, Glossy Finish specializes in on-site printing of action photography through its Mobile Photo Labs and Photo Stores by enabling its customers to take home their high-quality printed posters and digital photos directly from the events it photographs.
Ariav adds the company is looking to expand other ways to monetize events, including use of digital technology and apps.
Glossy Finish already has prestigious client list, including American Youth Football National Championships, Cal Ripken World Series, Offense-Defense Bowl Week, Babe Ruth League World Series, USA Football International Bowl, The Ripken Experience and many other organizations.
Speaking further on the success of Glossy Finish, Ariav mentions their process of only photographing those players who register ahead of their games to be photographed. Customers can book the service with a nominal deposit and provide the game information of their athlete to the Glossy Finish team. Based on that data, photographers are assigned specific players to photograph, thus allowing the families many more quality photos to select.
“The process and technology we built, and continue to enhance, offers us a unique and stable platform to further grow our business. Our average order value is currently the highest in the industry and we continue to see increases year over year. We view the opportunity to get Glossy Finish back as one we simply could not pass on.” adds Winer.
In July, Lifetouch announced it was closing the location-based sports business, which accounted for less than 1% of estimated $1.5 billion in sales, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Earlier in the year, Lifetouch closed 136 Target store studios, saying it would concentrate on its core JCPenney studios and school-portrait businesses.
HAIM ARIAV DELIVERS IMMEDIATE MEMORIES
In 2006, photographer and entrepreneur Haim Ariav launched a product aimed at the youth sports photography market. Looking to revolutionize the traditional model for action photography and onsite order fulfillment, he opened Glossy Finish. The Florida-based company specializes in action photography with fast onsite product delivery facilitated through Ariav’s Mobile Photo Lab. With fast service, some high-tech sales tools, and an on-demand production model, Ariav has taken the youth sports market by storm, and on the strength of some valuable lessons learned, he’s looking to expand.
Though Ariav jokingly refers to the Mobile Photo Lab as “a tent with a printer converted into a tin box on wheels,” it’s much more. The trailer holds multiple image viewing stations, a sales center, and a print production area. Inside the Mobile Photo Lab, customers can select images, order products (prints, collages, posters, and image CDs), and pick them up minutes later. Ariav had a mobile app developed to streamline the ordering process. His team sets up a Wi-Fi hotspot around the trailer, and when customers log in using the app, a browser opens to the Glossy Finish viewing site. When they’re ready to place an order with a sales associate in the trailer, the system can quickly pull up the photos they’ve viewed. This system has shaved the average order time to less than 10 minutes, down from nearly half an hour before the mobile app was introduced. Parents get in and out faster, so they can go back to watching their kids’ games.
“I started Glossy Finish to fill a void in instant gratification in the youth sports photography market, particularly on the action photography side,” says Ariav. “I wasn’t seeing anything at tournaments that efficiently allowed onsite product delivery. I had no desire to set up a tent at every event, pull computer cables, and unload cases of hardware. Allowing our customers to come inside a mobile store and shop using our system seemed like a much better way.”
Parents love youth sports action photography, but photographers have struggled for years to make a profit doing it. The problem, says Ariav, is shooting on spec and trying to compete with the legions of amateurs photographing the kids for free. Glossy Finish has found its success through a combination of advance bookings and the onsite delivery of high-quality, professional products. When Ariav started the business, he had his photographers combing events to capture spec images in hopes of luring impulse buyers. It didn’t work. “Only about 20 percent of the people at any event were remotely interested in what we were doing, so we changed the process,” he says. “Now we photograph only the players whose parents sign up in advance for our services.”
Ariav’s team shows the interested parents galleries and product examples on iPads in the bleachers and on other display devices in the Mobile Photo Lab. Parents put down a $20 deposit and give Glossy Finish their child’s game information. Ariav then dispatches the photographers.
“Instead of digging through hundreds of images to find half a dozen shots of their child, parents now look at 100 to 150 shots specifically focusing on their child.”
As a result, the average package sale from Glossy Finish has gone from $25 to $115. “That increase saved the company,” says Ariav. “It also saved us from wasting resources on images that would never see the light of day. We are still selling to about 20 percent of the people at an event but at much higher sales levels.”
Since Glossy Finish is oriented around onsite sales and instant gratification, the company communicates primarily via text messaging while at the event. The Glossy Finish team sends texts to parents’ mobile phones letting them know when their orders are ready. They also send promotional messages with special onsite offers. And with the aid of the mobile app Ariav developed, the team can track the images parents are viewing and communicate with them about their preferences. If the initial image selection doesn’t inspire, their feedback will send out the photographers to capture images that do.
PLASTIC VS. PRESTIGE
Another key to success in this business model is choosing the right events. First, the event needs to take place over multiple days (usually three or more), so parents have an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the process. And it needs to be an event that people truly care about. Ariav divides youth sports tournaments into two categories: “plastic” and “prestige.” Plastic events are local tournaments during which kids play for a plastic trophy. Little status, little emotional investment. Prestige tournaments require a qualification to get in and are well regarded. They command a larger investment of time and energy from the teams and emotional involvement from the parents. The sales potential is far greater. “Capturing memories is critical in this business, just like in a lot of other kinds of photography,” points out Ariav. “In fact, I’ve trained our sales team not to use the words picture or photo but to talk about the images exclusively as memories.”
Ariav says that prestige tournament organizers often help Glossy Finish and other vendors with pre-event promotion, sharing email lists or sending messages to parents about the photography service that will be available. “Because our process is clear and easy to understand, we’ve had great success in encouraging parents to sign up and pay deposits in advance of the tournament,” says Ariav. “For a recent event in Knoxville, we had pre-orders for 415 kids before we even arrived.”
Ariav notes the importance of spreading out services among different sports and events. If you repeat the same tournaments for the same leagues, you’re hitting the same customer base over and over. In the spirit of diversification, Ariav finds that multi-day gymnastics events and weeklong dance recitals work well.
“Think about events where your sales can be positively affected by onsite, real-time viewing,” says Ariav. “Don’t think of this system as just a delivery method for onsite printing. What makes this model work is the viewing system that allows parents to have an immediate connection with the memories that we’re creating. We’ve tanked with post-event online sales because it’s out of sight, out of mind. People want instant gratification. It can take a little experimentation to get it right. There’s not an exact science to it, but there is a well-defined art that if you perform well, your chances of success are good.”
FHSAA WELCOMES GLOSSY FINISH AS OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER
GLOSSY FINISH MOBILE LAB
January 27, 2011
GAINESVILLE – The Florida High School Athletic Association has reached an agreement with Glossy Finish, a photography company in Jacksonville, to provide the official photography services for the Association.
Glossy Finish specializes in youth sport photography, and uses a combination of onsite and online sales to provide top-quality images and outstanding service to student-athletes and parents.
“The Florida High School Athletic Association is very pleased to announce a partnership with Glossy Finish,” said Executive Director Roger Dearing. “We were very impressed with their work and their creative approach to sport photography.”
“All of us here at Glossy Finish are thrilled to be associated with the FHSAA and have the opportunity to be involved in the lives of so many student-athletes,” said Haim Ariav, President of Glossy Finish. “We look forward to capturing moments and creating memories for them, their families and all the schools participating in these prestigious events.”
The new agreement will run through the 2011-12 school year.
ABOUT THE FHSAA
The Florida High School Athletic Association is the governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida. It has a membership of more than 770 middle and senior high schools, and sponsors postseason competitions to determine the official state high school champions in 30 different sports. The 16-member FHSAA Board of Directors is the executive authority of the Association.
ABOUT GLOSSY FINISH
Glossy Finish, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., is an award-winning sports photography company utilizing a U.S. Patent Pending Mobile Photo Lab. Glossy Finish has partnered with elite sports organizations such as AAU, Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Pop Warner, United Soccer Leagues, USSSA and numerous other organizations to deliver high-quality sports photography that is immediately available onsite at the event location. Glossy Finish is privately held and was founded in 2007.
FROM CLICK TO CARRY
ADAPTING TO DEMAND IS HOW GLOSSY FINISH CREATES PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORIES WITH INSTANT GRATIFICATION
By Wendy Bautista
Glossy Finish Mobile Photo Lab What began as an idea for an online portal has turned into a mobile photo lab with a retail environment.
And that is just the patent Haim Ariav, president of Glossy Finish (www.GlossyFinish.com) and professional photographer, has applied for — mostly to protect the intellectual property, but also to add value to the Glossy Finish enterprise.
APPLICATION IS THE TRUE BEAUTY
When Ariav did analyses of northeast Florida and sports, he found it ideal with its year-round abilities and felt the “evergreen” youth sports market, which is a $2 billion industry, was a large enough pie to get a slice of—then he built the two-part Glossy Finish model based on it. The first part is the traditional team picture day, and the second part is attending events with the trailer.
“We’re not the first people to shoot sports photography,” says Ariav, “but we’re probably the first company in the country to bring it to this level—meaning that we’ve built a business model specifically for the youth sports industry that allows instant gratification.”
That instant gratification and success comes from the application—all photos are shot, viewed, ordered, customized, printed, and delivered before a customer leaves any given event.
Part of that success is due to its proprietary software’s capabilities to run the entire operation. The software collects the customer’s cell phone number and e-mail address to allow their favorite photos to be collected and stored, thus alleviating “window shoppers” and giving those customers complete and fast access to their photos during the event.
From there, the customer can choose from a number of different packages including collages, posters, and digital CDs full of all the high-resolution images, and customizable options such as name, event, player number, etc. Then after just a few administrative steps, they cash out in the system. “It’s all shot there, processed there, and delivered right there,” says Ariav.
CHANGE IS GOOD
He used to hire photographers to photograph 100% of every athlete and get five or six shots of each one, but he soon realized that at any event they never sold to more than 20% of the families attending.
From this realization, he created a model of only photographing kids with a reservation. So now when a tournament begins, the brand ambassadors (salespeople) walk around with samples and inform everyone that if they want their child photographed, they need to sign up because we don’t do random photographs.
If they sign up, a $20 deposit is required, which is a credit toward anything they purchase. If they don’t like any of the photos, they receive their money back.
EVOLVING WITH YOUR MARKET
“From our first event to where we are today has evolved so much. We know what sells, we know how to sell it, and we know what parents are looking for,” says Ariav, recalling their first 3,000 player tournament event on President’s Day weekend 2007 where they made $3,000, “but now we go to tournaments with less players and we can make $35,000 to $45,000 for the same time.”
In the beginning, they would attend any event they were invited to, mostly because they were happy to get a job and they were still testing the idea. But as he knows now, not every event is successful—so he looks at the return on investment and weighs it against the cost of towing the trailer and hiring photographers, salespeople, and graphic designers.
“We are an equal opportunity photographer,” says Ariav. “We’ll go out and shoot any sport as long as there’s an opportunity for us to sell a critical mass of images.”
Knowing his target audience is very narrow, that is an important factor. “It’s not like we are creating one picture and selling it to a million people. No, we are creating one picture and selling it to one person.”
KEEPING OVERHEAD LOW
While at an event they may look bigger than life, Glossy Finish is actually a small business. Ariav says to manage his expenses and keep overhead low, they “inflate” on weekends and “deflate” on weekdays.
“I’m not going to deny that from an image capture perspective, we really are probably the best at what we do and it’s because of the people we hire—but I can’t have a staff of photographers sitting around with no event,” says Ariav, “so I have a pool of about 100 professional photographers from different areas of the Southeast U.S. that I call on.”
The minimum amount of people needed to run an event is three; one graphic, one sales, and one photographer. During the week, it is usually himself and two others running the office, but on weekends or depending on the event, they could have anywhere from 10 to 20 people working at a time.
The staff and all contractors are there from the first day of an event to the last day of an event and are required to wear a custom-made bib complete with the Glossy Finish logo on both sides, pockets for brochures and cards, and a lanyard for a walkie talkie. This helps assure the look of professionalism and the brand that Ariav is building.
EXPANSION IS IN THE AIR
“The initial thought was to build a business and then become a franchisor,” says Ariav, who already has another trailer built but not outfitted. “But with the economy taking a turn as it did and the startup costs of something like this, we decided to just keep building, pushing, and tweaking what we already established—and we’ve been fortunate to have some great events.”
For a while, he thought he pulled the trigger too soon on that second trailer, but he now has serious interest from another photographer based in south Florida who he has worked with for over a year and already understands the Glossy Finish marketing, photography, and computer system, and can really “own it.”
Ariav is structuring a relationship/partnership with the photographer for a possible first of the year launch where he will become a Glossy Finish division under Ariav’s umbrella and will be supported with software, computers, the trailer, and other intellectual properties that will allow him to spread his wings and build the Glossy Finish brand.
Ariav says he has been fortunate to have the success he’s had and plans to continue growing by changing up his products and creating partnerships and considering expansion plans that allow the brand and brand equity to be seen in other parts of the Southeast.
Ariav says, “It’s all about quality, service, and product mix, and at the end of the day you hope that when you get that triangle figured out, you can start generating money as well.”
Wendy Bautista is editor of Advantage: The Resource for Small Business. She can be reached atWendy@advantagebizmag.com or 904-536-2234.
Haim Ariav, president of Glossy Finish (www.GlossyFinish.com) and professional photographer, figured out how to leverage the parents who like what his company does, but don’t want what they do, and he approached Shutterfly Inc., a $250 million company and one of the leading solutions for photo sharing and publishing on the Internet, with his idea.
Parents at events with digital cameras and the recent upswing in sales of his CD product got him thinking about how many people don’t do anything with these images—they stick the CD in a drawer or download the images off their camera and forget about them. But with Shutterfly they can do something.
Shutterfly liked the idea and believes in what Glossy Finish is doing and agreed to the deal. Glossy Finish will pass out $20 Shutterfly gift cards to its customers that contain a unique code. Once it is activated and the customer signs in, a customer acquisition fee will be given to Glossy Finish for generating a new customer for Shutterfly.
“I don’t want to build what Shutterfly already has,” says Ariav. “Let’s give them the opportunity to use their product line, and if I get a little something back in residual, great.”
Haim Ariav, president of Glossy Finish and professional photographer, occasionally puts on photo workshops at various events for photographers interested in shooting sports photography. He doesn’t charge for this, but does limit it to about five or six “students” for the half day course.
“It’s part of my way of giving back and embracing the Business 2.0 model of thinking—be open and show others as it will breed success,” says Ariav.
IN YOUTH SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY, IT’S PROS VS. PARENTS
By Daryl Lang
For ten years, John Harte had a streak going. Every Friday during football season, he had at least one client for his business, Shooting Star Sports Photography, which shoots pictures of high school athletes in action.
But the streak ended last week when Harte, a retired newspaper photographer in Bakersfield, California, had a Friday with no jobs. He’s watched his client list of football clients plunge to just 5 players this season, from an average of 15 to 20.
The reason? Harte says fans with DSLR cameras are offering photos for a much lower price than he can charge, or giving them away. “People in this age are just used to having pictures handed to them for free,” he says.
Youth action sports photography is a niche business, but it’s a source of extra income for many beginning, part-time and retired sports shooters. In some markets, photographers like Harte have made a full-time business out of it.
These photographers’ main products are prints, posters and CDs or DVDs of images of specific players, whose parents are willing to pay a pro to shoot their kids in a photojournalistic style.
But as in all sorts of professional photography segments, amateurs are disrupting the market. Harte says a teacher at one of his schools recently bought some good camera gear and is selling disks of game images for $395 each, undercutting the $500 Harte charges for the labor-intensive product. “I have no idea how he’s going to do it,” Harte says.
Pro photographers grumble that amateurs don’t know how to use their gear, crowd the sidelines, and have equipment ill-suited for challenging environments like night games.
“We call it the GWC, guy with camera, or the MWC, mom with camera,” says Haim Ariav, owner of Glossy Finish, a sports photo business based near Jacksonville, Florida.
Ariav says one parent at a local high school recently got a Canon Mark III and is posting sports images on Smugmug, where everyone on the team can access the photos for free. “I’ve got to give her credit. Her stuff looks good,” Ariav says. “I can’t compete with that.”
But Ariav doesn’t sound worried, since he has an edge. A former web developer and stock photo agency manager, Ariav started his sports business in 2006 by outfitting a trailer with computer stations. Parents who put down a deposit can enter the Glossy Finish trailer after the games and buy professional prints on the spot.
This unique service is a hit. At large tournaments, Glossy Finish may send nine or 10 photographers to cover games. Ariav’s advice is, “You’ve got to be able to adapt to survive.”
Other photographers say there’s still plenty of business out there, but they’ve had to adjust their marketing to get it.
Harte, for his part, is trying to broaden his business by reaching out to other schools in the Los Angeles area.
Rush has taken to promoting his pictures on Facebook and community message boards, inviting parents to visit his site for photos of their team. He’s also being choosy about which teams he covers. Select baseball—a league that students have to pay to be part of—tends to be good for business, since it attracts families willing to spend money on sports. Rush, who’s been doing this for about three years, says his business is still growing.
In Texas, the situation is similar. Jason Jump runs the Lone Star Christian Sports Network, a Web site that covers private school athletics. The site dispatches photographers to games around the state and parts of Oklahoma, and offers prints and other products for sale online.
Jump, who has been in the business about seven years, says the number of people on the sidelines has increased at many schools. One high school has even started issuing sideline passes, which is unusual.
Jump’s photographers can cover as many as 15 games on a Friday night, but they’ve stopped staffing some schools that are aggressively photographed by parents.
“If we have a parent or a fan… that is out there taking photos, and we know they’re burning a disk and giving it away to everyone on the team, those are the schools we’re really struggling with,” Jump says. At one school where that happened, he says, sales went from “decent” to “absolutely zero.”
Despite the competition, Jump says he and his photographers are cordial with the parents working the sidelines—who sometimes ask for camera advice. “We get a lot of parents coming up to us and asking how to operate their machinery,” he says.
BUSINESS IN A BOX
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”
HAIM ARIAV – BRINGING NEW RETAIL EXPERIENCE TO ACTION SPORTS
By MARY KAY STEIN, SEP’s Action News
An exterior shot of the Glossy Finish TrailerFor Haim Ariav, founder of Glossy Finish Inc. in Ponte Vedra, FL, a background in fine art photography, web development and stock photography has led to a novel approach in covering action sports.
On a typical picture day for Glossy Finish, you might notice something a little different. Yes, there are photographers, but where is the tent where you place your order? There is no tent. Instead, there is a 32-foot, fully equipped trailer housing a state-of-the-art digital photo studio.
Ariav, a 1985 graduate of Brooks Institute, was a fashion photographer in New York, Milan and Paris. After working abroad for a while, he came back to New York and took editorial and advertising assignments with companies such as Revlon and Estée Lauder. As the Internet Age gained speed in the mid 1990s, Ariav developed a Web site development company, Muffin-Head Productions, to keep up with his clients’ interactive needs. He would sell the company in 1998, moving into a creative director role for three years until he left to help start a21, a digital content marketplace for the creative community. a21 would eventually become the parent company of several image-based operations, including SuperStock.
In June 2004, Ariav moved to Ponte Vedra, FL. After seeing the so-so photographs that his children brought home from their sports league picture days, he came up with the idea for a new sports photo business, Glossy Finish. His goal was to produce a better method for photographing youth sports, something that went beyond the overly posed group shots and amateur images captured by other parents.
So Ariav created Glossy Finish to be a full-service, on-location sports photography operation. Glossy Finish uses a network of freelance photographers to capture action photos as well as team and individual portraits. All images are immediately processed and displayed in the digital photo trailer, which acts as a mobile retail store. Parents can view images on a bank of computer monitors, make orders and walk away with prints. Everything is self contained and everything is sold on spec. It costs leagues and organizers nothing to have Glossy Finish photograph an event.
A relatively new member of SEP, Ariav enjoys the open communication of the society, especially on the online message boards. “It’s important for photographers to share their knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work,” he says.
What’s ahead? Ariav is now weighing the benefits of franchising or keeping the corporate structure but developing his company in different parts of the country.
MORE PEOPLE, MORE NEW BUSINESSES…
AS THE COUNTY GROWS, SO DO THE WAYS TO CREATE CASH
By Chuck Day, Special Assignments Writer
Haim Ariav (right) and Partner, Chris MacEwan are proud of what they’ve created in Glossy FinishInspiration started percolating inside Haim Ariav’s head in the spring of 2006, as he stood amid parents scrambling to snap photos of their children romping about the athletic fields at Davis Park.
What their cameras might capture was anyone’s guess, but Ariav, a professional photographer with a degree from the Brooks Institute in California, had a pretty good idea.
There’s gotta be a better way to get better pictures, he found himself thinking.
As the kids kept roaming, Ariav kept thinking. In no time at all, he was meshing his years of photography knowledge with the business savvy he had honed, both from building companies from scratch and by fine-tuning more mature enterprises such as SuperStock, a Jacksonville photography house.
In early February, Ariav put his better way to do work.
“It all worked flawlessly, too,” he beams.
Glossy Finish Inc, has been working just about flawlessly ever since. “It’s literally a business in a box,” its founder says, alluding to his custom-designed, 32-foot trailer that serves as the command center of the business.
Well, not quite. It begins with some thinking outside that box.
First, Ariav deploys professional-quality photographers to cover youth sports tournaments–baseball, softball, soccer … you name it–where-legions of families are eager to catch their youngsters’ finest moments.
Armed with digital cameras, the photographers shoot game action and, periodically, hand discs with the photos to runners, who rush them to the trailer adorned with the splashy, can’t-miss Glossy Finish logo.
Inside the trailer are banks of computer screens, sample photos, price lists, a service counter and, in a small cubicle at the trailer’s opposite end, proprietary software that organizes the action photos, game by game, and a color printer.
Wielding the software, Ariav can display the photos quickly on computer screens for families to inspect on-site, then the purchases and pick up within minutes. With prices starting at $16, there’s been lots and lots of purchasing.
An unorthodox way to turn a profit? Yes, indeed. To date, thought, Glossy Finish has been profitable enough that Ariav is now intent on building franchises. It’s a proven idea ready to roll, he believes. Moreover, it’s hardly the only unorthodox business one can discover in St. John’s County.
Consider, for instance, Young Rembrandts. It’s in the picture business, too: teaching elementary-age students to draw in after-school classes conducted in public and private school buildings. Look it up in either the St. Johns County Chambers of Commerce and you’ll find a business address on County Road 210, west of Interstate 95.
“But that’s really only a post office box,” explains Sharon Murawski, a transplanted former human resources director form northeastern Ohio who owns Young Rembrandts along with her husband Wayne and their son.
Don’t snicker about that post office box. It opens onto what is a four-year-old business that brings quality art instruction into St. John’s County elementary schools.
Last year it served 1,600 students between the ages of six and 12. The Murawskis hire professional artists to teach each class and provide materials and a standard curriculum.
“Young Rembrandts teaches fundamental drawing to children, and uses only fry media like colored pencils and colored markers. So there’s no mess,” Murawski says.
“We help the younger children work on fine motor skills and spatial relationships, and help all the children develop their drawing talent. We include some portrait drawing, too”
Her staff of 27 professionals includes retired teachers “who still want to teach, but not every day,” Murawski also says.
“One of our instructors recently retired from Orange Park High School. It’s a great part-time opportunity and, since we provide the lesson plans, the teachers can spend all their time with the students, which is what they enjoy most.
“We’re fussy about the quality of teachers and check backgrounds ,” she adds, “because quality is what makes our program successful.
As they would for any after-school activity, student’s parents pay for the classes, which also includes an art history course. The per-student cost is $10.50 per week. Classes are scheduled in six- to eight-week sessions that begin in September and continue throughout the school year.
Young Rembrandts returns a good 20 percent of its revenues to the participating schools. In 2006-07 that amounted to approximately $20,000, Murawski said.
Upon retiring from careers in the industrial manufacturing world, she and her husband “were looking for what to do next,” Murawski explains. “Young Rembrandts is a franchise business created in Chicago, and we fell in love with it immediately when the business broker mentioned it, almost by accident.”
It also represented an opportunity to move to the First Coast, which the couple did sight unseen. It was a giant leap of faith, she notes, and one that has been rewarded.
Young Rembrandts has also conducted summer classes at Jacksonville Golf & Country Club and, this year, is expanding into the Clay and Nassau County school districts.
COME FLY WITH ME
Bjorn Ottesen and his colleagues are teachers, too. But they do their teaching in the skies, instructing students of all ages how to fly.
As Ottesen spoke, for example, he was also saying goodbye to a 16-year-old aspiring pilot taking lessons at the Florida Aviation Career Training, Inc.
“We also have had a few students in their 70’s,” Ottesen notes. In truth, he continues, it’s relatively easy to learn to fly, “much like driving, and you don’t have to worry about people next to you who aren’t paying attention.”
Admittedly, however, “it seems easier looking back once you’ve learned to fly than it seems when you’re just learning,” he allows.
A fixture at the St. Augustine and St. Johns County Airport since 1968, the flight school has been owned and operated by Ottesen since October 1993. While the company also offers sightseeing, its focus is training, Business is all but booming, says the Norwegian native.
“Pilots are in high demand today, and flight instructors themselves are even harder to find and keep,” Ottesen says, “because as soon as a pilot is trained, they get snatched up, most often by a commuter airline.”
For a little more than $100, Florida Aviation will provide an initial lesson.
“And one lesson is probably all it takes to get hooked,” advises Ben Brandt, on of the school’s instructors. As Michigan native, he came to Florida to learn to fly and, apart from a brief return north, stayed for good. “It’s just great being in the skies,” he adds.
Obtaining a private pilot’s certification requires far more time—and dollars, too. There is also exhaustive background checking that includes being fingerprinted by the St. Johns County sheriff’s office. It’s all part of the aftermath of 9/11, Ottensen says.
About half of Florida Aviation’s students are from Europe and many of those are from Germany—so much so that the school’s website features a German-language version.
“It’s much cheaper to learn to fly here,” Ottensen says, “by a good 50 percent, especially with the exchange rates being what they are. And out weather is much better, too.”
Northeast Florida is a ideal locale for both Young Rembrandts and Glossy Finish, too—if for different reasons,
There’s been a gradual cutback in arts teaching in the state’s public schools, Murawski explains, due in large part to the mandates of FCAT testing. It’s easier to test proficiency objectively in more technical subjects than art, she says. While a lamentable consequence, it also has provided and opportunity for entrepreneurial ideas like hers.
“We’re complementing what the schools do, not competing,” Muawski stresses. “And the younger children especially love it,” she adds, even if they have a hard time with pronunciations. One first-grader, for instance, was overheard inquiring about “young rug rats.”
It’s important to teach art skills early on, Murawski adds, because, by the time students reach third grade, they’re inclined to say “I can’t. But this past year a six-year old proudly told me, ‘Miss Sharon, my brain just told me this was fun!'”
Young Rembrandts is also looking into providing services to senior citizens and Alzheimer’s patients, to help them maintain fine motor skills.
Along with the weather, Florida’s ever-increasing population should help Glossy Finish grow and reach its potential, Ariav says.
“For instance, I heard a baseball umpire say he had worked games for 38 consecutive months,” he says. That suggests to Ariav that he has the critical economies of scale to expand dramatically, primarily by establishing franchises.
Predominantly a weekend service now, “I’m looking to begin booking the truck Monday through Thursday,” he continues. The youth sports marker could be just a stalking horse. “Corporate events represent a big opportunity,” he notes.
“Any kind of event that draws big numbers is ideal. We’re an impulse buy, and an appealing one,” Ariav says with glee. “Johnny just hit a home run to win his game. Is that worth a $16 or $18 photo to the family?”
It sure is, which is why Ariav thinks he has hit a home run of his own. Tournament officials are happy to help promote Glossy Finish with PA announcements, for instance. And its photographers have “official” T-shirts, hats and badges, just like they do at major college and professional sports games.
Ariav is also more than willing to share a portion of this proceeds with even organizers, and finding quality photographers is not hard at all, he says.
Indeed, Glossy Finish’s founder sounds so convincing that, as he winds up his message, one is inclined to expect to hear an age-old expression: “Get the picture?”
An exterior shot of the Glossy Finish Trailer NORTHEAST FLORIDA — Haim Ariav built it, and so far they’ve come. And if they keep coming, it could change the way large youth sports events are photographed.
Ariav, president of Glossy Finish Inc., has outfitted a 32-foot trailer as a mobile kiosk and photo print lab, able to be set up in 30 minutes at events such as soccer tournaments, football jamborees and swim meets. Powered by a commercial-grade generator and custom-designed network and software, it has 16 flat screens where customers can search for action shots taken of themselves or loved ones and order prints that are ready in minutes.
“We built the business to be a franchise from the start,” Ariav said.
He is starting to get help writing a universal franchise offering circular, a document required in the highly regulated franchising industry. Although the franchise fee hasn’t been set, he expects it will cost $100,000 to $150,000 to buy a Glossy Finish franchise, including fees and startup equipment.
Customers inside the Glossy Finish Trailer using the custom applicationInstant, on-site printing was among the critical capabilities Craig Petroff, Florida baseball director for Triple Crown Sports, was looking for in an event photographer when Ariav contacted him.
Triple Crown, a Colorado-based company that produces youth tournaments, will do 15 events this year in Florida, with most involving 80 to 90 teams, mostly from out of town, in various age groups. For each event, Petroff needs a vendor to offer parents, coaches and players pictures to remember their exploits. And they prefer to be able to take them home.
Nationwide, Triple Crown does about 200 events of various sports. And Petroff believes that if Ariav succeeds in franchising his business, Triple Crown sports directors in other states will be interested in booking Glossy Finish trailers at their events.
Mike Millay’s interest in Glossy Finish is personal, having seen the trailer at a soccer tournament his son was playing in. But as director of Disney’s Wide World of Sports, a multisports complex in Orlando where amateur and professional events are staged year-round, Millay can appreciate the concept and its execution.
“As a business model, it has real merit,” Millay said. “The product is the image itself. You have to have photographers with an eye for action and a delivery system.”
Millay said Ariav has called him for advice a few times, and “I’ve given him my insight.”
A Glossy Finish photographer during a recent football jamboreePhotographer Mike Jacobs learned about Glossy Finish while listening to a podcast featuring Ariav being interviewed by Shutterbug Magazine Radio.
Having shot several events as an individual contractor for Glossy Finish, Jacobs sees the trailer as reshaping the market for professional photographers.
Doing a large event requires up to nine contract photographers shooting constantly, as well as two graphic designers and three people helping customers.
Photographers who have shot for Glossy Finish like that the trailer brings a presence and generates excitement that reinforces the photographer’s value.
The main challenge for professional photographers, Jacobs said, is to show consumers why their rates are worth the cost.
“Amateurs take pictures. Professional photographers make pictures,” Jacobs said. “Haim is always working to find new ways to improve on our product.”
Technology has made it possible for amateur photographers, who professionals often call “weekend warriors,” to shoot quickly and often. Many do it to follow their own children, but a large number offer their services at cut-rate prices.
Although Glossy Finish is growing and earning a strong reputation, other sports photography companies in Northeast Florida continue to thrive largely because they’re mining a different part of the
youth sports market.
Jeff Gump, owner of Gump’s Sports Photography in Jacksonville, depends primarily on picture days to make a profit while doing action photography during local leagues’ games predominantly to serve loyal customers and market the company’s brand.
Gump tried about three years ago to assemble a computer system for people to view and order prints. But he abandoned the idea as a result of frequent comments from customers that they liked being able to hold the prints.
Whether hard copies of pictures are provided or they’re viewable on a monitor, the key to success in photographing events is making immediate sales. And the system Ariav has built is the most advanced Gump has seen during his roughly 20 years in the industry.
“What Haim is doing is spectacular,” Gump said. “He’s going after something there aren’t a lot of people in Florida doing.”
And he’s busy doing it. “Every weekend there’s two to three events that we give up because we only have one trailer,” Ariav said.
Shooting game action is essentially an on-spec proposition, but Ariav finds that working with event organizers in advance can significantly increase sales. Triple Crown’s Web site, for example, informs teams registering for the company’s upcoming Clearwater Last Chance Slugfest that Glossy Finish is the official photographer and explains the trailer’s capabilities.
For many events, parents can send a deposit toward their future orders to ensure a photographer spends time tracking their children. Also, teams can have several hundred pictures taken at one or more games written on a compact disc. The price depends on the event’s scope; at the upcoming event in Clearwater, one-game CDs are $250 and two-game CDs are $400.
Ariav is hoping the CDs will be big sellers. The pitch is that each player’s parents can contribute less to buy their team’s CD and then print as many copies of as many different pictures as they want, either at home or a retail store.
The PMA study found that 42 percent of U.S. households that got reprints did so using home computing equipment, while only 30 percent ordered them from the photographer’s studio. Also, 22 percent made reprints at retail photo kiosks and 20 percent got help at retail stores’ photo departments (multiple responses were allowed).
Although selling more CDs would eliminate some individual sales, it would increase Glossy Finish’s revenue. At a large event, Glossy Finish sells about 300 orders totaling $12,000 to $15,000 in sales. But if half the teams at an 80-team event buy CDs, that could generate about $12,000, while many will still order specialty items such as calendars and posters.
About 3 percent to 5 percent of the 150,000 photos Glossy Finish has taken at events have been bought, Ariav said.
“We’re still changing the buying behavior of customers.”
SELLING THE ACTION
GLOSSY FINISH USES A PORTABLE PRINT SHOP TO STREAMLINE ITS ON-SITE PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS
By MARK BASCH, The Florida Times-Union
Ariav last August started a company called Glossy Finish, which focuses on taking professional photographs of youth sporting events.
“It’s that instant gratification you don’t get when you use the Internet as your delivery system,” Ariav said.
“We can turn it around in five or 10 minutes.”
The company does also make photos available after the tournament through its Web site (www.glossyfinish.com). In fact, Ariav started the company as a portal for sports photographers to sell their images.
“I said there has to be a better way. Our set-up time [with the trailer ready to go] is literally 30 minutes.”
Glossy Finish can print the photos in a variety of ways at a range of prices. For example, an 8-by-10-inch photo costs $18.
Ariav is a former fashion and beauty photographer who was recruited to a21 in 2000 when it was a start-up company looking for acquisition opportunities. The company three years ago acquired Jacksonville-based SuperStock, which provides photos and other images to the creative opportunity.
Ariav resigned from a21 last June with the intent of starting a new business.
“I’m more of the landscape architect than the groundskeeper,” he said. “I wanted to go back to a start-up mode.”
With the one trailer, Glossy Finish right now is somewhat limited in what it can cover. But Ariav thinks he has a unique business model that can be expanded to other cities.
“What we have is a potential franchise,” he said. “If it’s successful, we will start franchising.”
Read the article on Jacksonville.com.