Starting a Photographic Supplies Company

Interview with David M. Stone, Founder of Photographic Solutions, Inc.

A big accident resulted in a great idea. Nature photographer David Stone shares his story about how a spill in the lab led to the invention of a great product.

David Stone founded Photographic Solutions in 1983 in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

Photographic Solutions is a wholesale distributor of photographic cleaning products. Our products are used to clean digital camera sensors and lenses. Photographic Solutions is a global company and our products are being sold through national camera retailers and internet sellers, as well as international distributors.

When did you start the business?

Photographic Solutions, Inc. was founded in 1983. It started when I invented my first photographic cleaning product, PEC-12 Photographic Emulsion Cleaner. My company was initially built on this product; however, throughout the years, we listened to our customers and new products were created. Every one of our current products is a result of our attentiveness to customer needs.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

I was a nature photographer.

How did you come up with your business idea?

It was an accident. I was a photographer developing film in my lab when I spilled a bunch of chemicals and household cleaning products on some wedding negatives. I immediately panicked, but then noticed something amazing. Permanent pen marks and adhesive labels began to float off the film. This was stuff that was always impossible to remove. I was amazed. I then spent hours and hours trying to figure out which of the combined chemicals created this magic liquid. Once I figured it out, I knew I had something I needed to market.

Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers ...? Would you suggest others do the same?

In the beginning I did it all myself, everything from sales to shipping. That concept may sound insane but it helped me build my business. Doing it all by myself, allowed me to understand the skills needed to fill various positions as my business grew. I would highly recommend that all new business owners follow in those same steps. It definitely helps you minimize payroll expenses, but more importantly it teaches you all about your business.

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

Yes, I started my company out of my home. Challenges: Space was an issue, especially when it came to storing inventory. I also worked all the time; it was hard to turn work off. Benefits: An easy commute, low overhead and ability to set my own schedule.

Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?

Yes, I've hired additional staff over the years. The greatest HR challenge is finding employees that share your passion. You build this company and you want your team to feel the same way you do. Over time you learn that no one will care as much as you, but you also realize that if you treat people with respect you can build a loyal and dedicated team.

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?

When I started Photographic Solutions I did it all, but now I realize that there's not enough hours in a day and outsourcing is necessary. We started working with an outside creative designer and a PR company. Although it may be too soon to report results, I know we need to be creative to remain competitive and increasing brand awareness in a global market is key.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a business?

Make sure you love what you're doing. Being passionate about what you sell will allow your business to flourish.

What a story! Some times accidents lead to great products. Thanks for your time, David.

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