This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We ask readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories.
Introducing Daina Makinson, founder of Snap Shot Solutions, a photo organizing business based in Puslinch, Ont.
Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?
Snap Shot Solutions was founded in 2012 with the help of the Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre, and is based in the rural community of Puslinch, Ont., just south of Guelph. While I physically operate in Southwestern Ontario, including the GTA, I can service clients globally. I recently made a photo book of an artist's work from Bainbridge Island, Washington, in the U.S. Likewise, digital photo organizing can be done remotely.
So, what is it that I do? I'm a certified photo organizer and I help people who are overwhelmed with all the photos they have, both digital and print. I sort, edit out the duplicates and help my clients organize their photos in one place so they can be easily found. I create maintenance plans for their digital photos so they never get snowed under again by the volume of photos on all their devices.
I also help back them up properly so their photos can never be lost. I have heard too many times from people young and old that they have lost all their photos because a power surge fried their computer and/or their external hard drive. A young woman lost all of her young daughter's photos up to the age of six because something happened to her phone and they were all on that one device. A lost phone, theft, a power surge – no one ever thinks it's going to happen to them, but it does all the time. Then their thousands of photos are gone forever.
I help people share their stories with their photos by creating photo books and video slideshows, passing on their legacy to generations to come.
There is a short video on my website that shows what it is that I do exactly and how my clients feel about what I do for them.
What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?
I was a buyer for 30 years and when I left the corporation in 2010 I was very disillusioned with the retail industry. For many retailers it is not so much about the customer anymore and my love of the business waned. I am a people person so I wanted to find something to do where I would be in direct contact with my customer that way I could ensure I do a good job and meet their needs.
I took some time off and found myself volunteering with a number of groups. I fell in love with spending time with seniors. So I started a business helping seniors downsize, but shortly after I injured my knee and couldn't do the physical part of it any longer.
At a Company of Women event I met a representative from the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO), and discovered that there are methods of helping people with the onslaught of digital photos as well as dealing with the shoeboxes of old photographs in the basement or even inherited photos.
How sad that we have this opportunity to pass on our stories and yet I hear all the time that a family member has passed away and no one knows what to do with their photos. So many stories untold. I felt this was a perfect way to help seniors in the downsizing process – going through their photos and sharing their stories would minimize the stress of moving.
I very quickly learned that I would not only be helping seniors, but that there is a vast population that do not have control of their photographs and need help.
Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
The people who need my help the most are young mothers with more than one child – they don't have the time to chronicle their children's lives and the artwork they bring home from school – but are deeply motivated to do so. Digital cameras have made it easy to take thousands of photos all the time, but have created a problem as the photos pile up everywhere making them hard to find.
Baby Boomers are also keen to use my services. They have piles of home movies on VHS tapes and film that need to be digitized so those memories can still be enjoyed. I get a lot of women who still want to watch their daughter's first dance recital or enjoy the moments of their wedding again!
Then there are seniors who are anxious to preserve their history and pass it on to their families in the form of a Heritage Book. I recently made a book for a gentleman who is now 92. The book is titled "The Six Generations of Tom McMaster" and starts with a family portrait from the late 1800s. You know, one of those portraits where everyone is dressed to the nines and glaring stoically at the camera? It includes some spectacular photos he took while in the Canadian Army in World War II. There is one of him standing in front of a sign (in English) that states: "This is Germany. You have been warned." And ends with photos of his great-grandchildren. I have permission from the client to share the book here.
My business has grown simply by word of mouth and advertising in my local paper The Puslinch Pioneer. Through my volunteer work I am well-known in the community and people here know they can trust me. I have worked with clients from Kitchener to Collingwood, Oakville and Toronto so word has spread.
No one knows there is this kind of help out there or that the photo organizing industry even exists. It's growing rapidly in the U.S., but does not have legs here yet. As digital photos become more and more of a problem there will be a more urgent need for help.
What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?
I am the founding owner, chief cook and bottle washer. I meet with clients, work with them one-on-one and do all the creative work as well. I do have a plan in place to hire and train staff to do the digital organizing as well as create photo books, video slideshows and do the scanning work.
I will continue to be the face of the company and work personally with the print photo organizing clients. I love the time we spend together and hearing them share their stories as we go through the photos. I never want to give that up.
I do have a bookkeeper though – not my favourite thing to do. I'd rather talk to people!
You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
The reasons for my success are multiple. It starts with the need for this service and the uniqueness of it. I'm tapped into a need that people don't even realize they have yet. The ones that do are already dealing with 10,000-plus digital photos. If people don't get a hold of this now, then in five years we will be talking 50,000-plus photos. The demand for help in the future is only going to grow – and at a rapid pace.
I am a people person and genuinely want to hear my clients stories and help find ways to tell them. I make it the best experience possible and, in the end, their dream comes true with their very own photos. And I get to see how happy they are each and every time and I love that. It's extremely rewarding.