Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the podcast this week. Today I have a special guest, my husband, Roger. Roger, do you wanna say hi?
Roger: Hello, everyone.
Julia: Roger and I are here today to talk about something new and fun that we did. We bought a new business. The reason that I’m bringing Roger on is because this business is hopefully gonna make us money, but it’s also kind of a marketing experiment. And so I wanted to do a check in right now before we’ve officially launched everything. I think we’ve actually only owned this business for maybe two and a half weeks. Before we get talking about the marketing experience side of it, Roger, can you tell us about the business?
Roger: Sure. This all came about from my incessant hobby of perusing the local classifieds, which I have a section for businesses. I was just looking to see what people are selling, what people aren’t. One night, I found this business and I showed it to Julia. I should have known better because instantly, she was like, “We gotta do this, we gotta buy this.”
Julia: I’ll just say right now, if you are ever on the line, tutoring between whether starting a business or not, I will always tell you to do it. So if you’re looking for someone to tell you no, go to someone else.
Roger: Like I said, I should have known better, but here we are. Anyways, this business is a photo booth, like you would go to a wedding, any kind of event, and get the little strip of photos. However, it is in a 1968 travel trailer camper. It’s called The Photocamper, and it’s been pretty much completely restored. It looks awesome, and essentially, you can roll up with this travel trailer camper, and you’ve got this unique venue for a photo booth. If you know anything, we are in Utah, it is a very Utah thing. However, they are all over the US, and so it’s not as unique to Utah as you would think, but Utahans do love this kind of thing.
Julia: They love it because one, people are getting married left and right here. And then two, because of the camping vibes. That’s what we’re kind of leaning into
Roger: For sure! Basically, this business was listed for a pretty reasonable price, essentially, one that we could very easily afford to jump into without too much effort. And so, I reached out to the guy, and it turns out it’s a young individual who bought the business maybe a year or two ago from someone else that had started it, that had done the complete renovation on the camper.
Julia: So we’re the third owners.
Roger: We’re the third owners! Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to really devote any effort into the business. Still did a considerable amount of revenue in his first year without any real marketing, just kind of throwing it together by word of mouth and getting a few bookings here and there. He got a feature spot in a Utah magazine, so I think that probably helped. But he did a lot of free events for his friends too. Essentially, he has a “real job”.
Julia: It’s a real job! Wyatt, if you listen to this!
Roger: No, I’m not dogging his job as not being real. I’m just saying that I think it’s hard to say that a photo booth is a real job.
Julia: Right! It would be hard to build a whole income off of just the photo camper, and I agree with that. So just to give people perspective, how much or so did we pay for it?
Roger: I think he was asking 14 grand for the whole thing. I know we got a little bit less than that. We worked on it a little bit, but I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 14, honestly. Sadly, I don’t remember exactly how much we put in, because we’ve put in a lot more since then with a lot of other things.
Julia: We’ll talk about that in a second.
Roger: But basically, we paid around probably 12 to 14 grand for the camper, for his equipment, Sam’s laptop, that was part of the negotiation. But the printer, the camera, the camper, his website, all of his social media sites were all included. So those all transferred with us. No client list, he didn’t have a client list, but it did come with one booking request. So we got a booking right off the gate.
Julia: Yeah. We had a booking before we actually even owned it, which was awesome! And then another thing for just perspective, is he made around eight to nine grand last year without any marketing. So that was our thought, was, hey, if he did this without marketing, lo and behold, Julia has a marketing company, so let’s see what we can do with marketing. That’s why we made the decision. What were some of your biggest hesitancies?
Roger: I would say our biggest hesitancies is time. I work a full-time job.
Julia: A real job!
Roger: A real job! I work at least 40 hours a week. Julia has her own business to run, working also 40 hours plus a week.
Julia: Yeah. And then also we have a kid, and we wanna have a life!
Roger: We wanna have a life and all the prime booking times are right around the times like weekends, Friday, Saturday, maybe some Thursdays in there. But those are the times we want to have our time to travel and do whatever we want to do. And so I think those were the big hurdles that were in our way.
Julia: I’ve always said if I was ever gonna start another business, it would never be in the wedding industry, and here we are.
Roger: That’s true!
Julia: What were you most excited about?
Roger: I think for me, I am excited about seeing where honestly you can take this, where your team can take this, but also the camper needs quite a bit of work. And so anyone that’s ever owned a vintage camper trailer, anything vintage knows that there are problems that come along the way. And so this camper was fully restored several years ago. However, it leaks. And there’s been some water damage that was not detected, some of the original restorations didn’t hold up as well as maybe planned, and so we get this and then –
Julia: Roger does his full inspection.
Roger: Right! I go start looking to see what all the problems are, which I was really excited about, the aspect of, oh, I get to work on this camper and do all these creative things with my hands, tag team, with Julia and her team. She tells me what to make it look like, and I have the task of doing that.
Julia: And Roger has a woodworking restoration background, so he kind of knows what to do minus the camper part. You’ve researched a lot of that stuff.
Roger: I’ve spent way more time than I’d like to admit watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, reading what not to do, don’t ever use silicone cork on an RV. You’ll think it’s a good idea, but it’s actually a terrible idea, and whoever has to clean it up will loathe you for using it.
Julia: And so I think that’s one of the things that got us both excited about it, is that right now, I have my marketing business and Roger helps out here and there, but he has his job in aerospace, and so now this is something that we can both work on together. And while we don’t wanna be working on weekends, our first booking is actually for a family friendly city festival, and so we’re actually excited because we’ll be able to take Maddie with us. And so don’t worry if you book us for a wedding, we won’t bring our kid, but we’re hoping that we can make it a family endeavor as well.
Roger: For sure! And I think that we also really appreciate the challenge. I think both Julia and I are a little bit crazy in that way, that we’re like, what? We can’t just have this huge mountain to climb? Why not? I think we’re looking forward to it. I think Julia is looking forward to the challenge of, how do we transform what is into what it could be? And I think I’m with her there, of like, oh, let’s try this. Let’s see if it can make money. Let’s see if we can make it work. Do either one of us have a true passion for the photo booth industry? Absolutely not. No question there, but it is fun.
Julia: I think that also is gonna help us be able to look at it much more objectively because yes, we’re having fun, but also, we’re making really important monetary decisions based on the fact that we want to profit.
Roger: For sure!
Julia: And that’s just because we’re passionate about it.
Roger: Correct! And for us, it’s an investment opportunity of like, here’s this business, we have a fixed amount of cost and overhead that’s associated with it, and how can we turn those dollars into more dollars for us? Ultimately, I think that’s the point of most businesses, is to turn a profit. Sometimes you’re passionate about it, and that’s okay. There are plenty of businesses that don’t make money because the person is passionate about it. Unfortunately for the photo camper, that’s not gonna be the case.
Julia: So you’re kind of looking at the physical aspect of the RV camper, and then I’m looking more at the marketing and the digital side, what are some things that you’re doing right now to make this successful?
Roger: So tear it apart. I got that part down, now it’s the time to restore it. So inside, there were a couple of pretty noticeably damaged panels. I’ve removed those, removed any of that damage, discovered some more damage as far as the wooden substructure. And so right now, the entire half of the skeleton on the inside is exposed. And basically in doing that, I can see where all the water is coming in and work to clean up those leaks so that we don’t get future water damage, so that hopefully in the future we never have to do this again. So essentially, that’s the main goal right now, is to make the camper structurally sound, and make sure it doesn’t leak, and then followed up with that, we will make it cute again, because right now, it is very far from cute.
Julia: Why do you care?
Roger: Because you care.
Julia: No, no. Why do you care? We could have left it as is.
Roger: I think if we are wanting to get into the wedding industry or any of these venues that are gonna have a photo camper, they’re paying for an experience, and I really don’t want to show up with a janky trailer because they’re never gonna ask you to come back again. But I think if we can roll up with a very premier, restored, clean experience, one, they’re gonna tell their friends, they’re gonna be like, “Wow, this was something that we’ve never experienced.” So I think that’s really the ultimate goal, is we have to have a quality product.
Julia: The bottom line is you don’t notice when things don’t have water damage, you only notice when they do.
Roger: Correct! When someone walks in, they see a buckled panel or something like that, or paint or chips. Those are the things I notice because that’s what I’m looking for. But if someone’s looking close, they might be like, “Oh, this is kind of nasty.” Or if there is a soft spot, or there is a wet spot, they’re gonna be like, “Oh, this is really gross.” Even though functionally the picture would look fine. I think that we could have got by for a little bit, but I think our problems would’ve only gotten worse.
Julia: I think we’re also looking into the future. One of the possibilities that we’ve thought about is selling this again, and so let’s make sure that we do what we need now so that we can sell almost a healthy camper later on.
Roger: For sure! And I think that’s, I think I would say one of the end goals. And as far as business strategy, our main goal right now is to get bookings and book out. But I think in an ideal world, unless we absolutely love it, we could probably book this out, and if we could resell the business with two years of bookings, we should be able to make our money back manyfold, I would think, especially if we can show a lively business that has got a good foundation, good principles, good marketing. It’s much more attractive than one that’s an idle side hobby.
Julia: For sure! And then on the marketing side, those of you who have been around and know marketing, what we’re gonna be doing is we’re gonna have a great lead gen strategy. We’ve already got one cooked up. We don’t have a working title, I will say that. But our title is something around five things that you can do to make your party a little bit more extra or a little bit more bougie, because that’s kind of what this camper will be, is just that extra feature. We’re also gonna be doing social media, email, we’re redoing the website. We just got a brand refresh done, and it looks awesome. We’re kind of leaning into this campy vibe/a retro vibe that comes along with the camper being from the ‘60s.
Roger: I would say on that too, kind of a side benefit, is we will have a firsthand case study of Julia’s methods and the strategies that she uses for her clients and her business. We will have a firsthand strategy that we can directly have full access to all of the results, all that we put in, and really get us a chance to proof out some of those things and refine what works, what doesn’t work, because sometimes whenever Julia’s on the provider side, you don’t always get to see or have control of everything, and so it’s really hard to determine what didn’t work, what did work. And so with her having the agency, she has full reign, and we really have a way to experiment. I think that that’s part of this whole craziness that we have, is this grand experiment.
Julia: I think it’ll be really cool because even some new and upcoming strategies, I’ll get to test them out on the photo camper and then roll them out to our clients, which will be really fun. So now that we’ve talked a little bit about our hesitancies, what we’re excited about, we’ve also talked about the strategies that we’re employing, what has it been like for you so far to work on this business together?
Roger: That is a very risky question. I should probably pause this and make sure we have a therapy appointment coming up.
Julia: We do! Tomorrow!
Roger: That’s perfect! I’m going to be fully honest then. It’s been good. I think that there are obviously challenges, and for me, I have my own ideas of the way things should go, and Julia, of course, has her own as well. And so I think that coming together and figuring out who we have to trust, that she can lean on me to trust on the actual physical renovation, and I can trust her with the marketing. I know we were looking at the brand refresh this morning, and I like some things and she was like, “Well, I don’t know if that works.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine.” I don’t really care that much on that side of things. I trust her and I trust her team. They’re gonna give me something that is good. And so that’s kind of, I think, where we are at. I think it’s been difficult to work it into our lives as far as time goes. Honestly, part of the big problem right now is just the weather. We’ve still got snow on the ground, we don’t have a parking spot at our house to park this thing, so we’re having to park it on the curve.
Julia: It doesn’t have windows in it.
Roger: Right. I’ve taken out windows, we’ve done windows. So dealing with all this leaking while we’re still getting snow, while also having to move it back and forth to the storage lot, has been a big challenge. I think that it has impacted our lives, but we also know we’re on a short timetable. If we are gonna get bookings, primetime is coming up this year, it’s pretty quick, and so we’ve gotta really kick it into overdrive and have it ready to go, even if it is gonna set there for a few weeks, because you never know when you’re gonna get a news station wanting to book you in four weeks. So that does happen.
Julia: No pressure! It happened this weekend. And so now Roger has a time table. I think one of the other things that I really like about this is that we’ve talked a lot about going into business together. So this gives us an opportunity, first of all, like you were saying, to experiment with some of these strategies we use so that then we can either replicate them, but also we both have thought about starting businesses or buying businesses before that if we figure out the strategy, then we can replicate it again the two of us. My dream is to become a serial entrepreneur. I think that means we already are, but we get to practice and to figure out what are your strengths, what are my strengths and how we work together.
Roger: No, absolutely! Spot on! I think that is our goal, and I think that together we have really good business sense, and we have the ability to think through problems. We’ve talked in the future about doing consulting work and basically evaluating efficiencies in businesses and giving them a recovery plan. A year ago, two years ago, a year and a half ago, I can’t remember exactly when.
Julia: A year ago right now!
Roger: A year ago right now, we almost bought a different business.
Julia: It was the worst idea of our lives.
Roger: Yeah. Complete train wreck.
Julia: It was losing 10 grand every month, and we were like, we can turn this around. I still confidently believe that we would’ve turned it around, but this is way easier. At least we’re not already starting in debt.
Roger: Right. The other one was a much bigger endeavor, much bigger risk, and also owners that really didn’t want to sell. But that’s a whole different issue.
Julia: And if those owners are listening to this, you know who you are.
Roger: And we’re still bitter.
Julia: So you’ve talked a little bit about a few of our goals, one of our goals is possibly to turn around and sell it, book it all up, sell it for a profit. Another one of our goals is to maybe do more of this in the future. Try it out now, do it again. What goal are you most excited about?
Roger: I think for me, a big goal would be to get our money back first so that we don’t just have this money hanging out there. And not that that’s really a huge thing. I just think that once we’ve broken even, I’m like, okay, this was a good idea. And I think we all knew that beforehand.
Julia: But right now, it’s just the money pit. We’ve made $0 so far.
Roger: Right! We are putting money in, putting money in, which again, is fine. I’m not really worried about that. That’s part of the deal. But as far as what is good enough, I don’t really know. I’ll be happy if we can get a few bookings. Obviously it’s a pretty small amount of money, so if we can get on a plan where we can make the money back plus profit in three to five years, that’s honestly a success for me. There’s not very many businesses that you’re gonna make initial investment back the same year. So that’s probably the benchmark that I would say I would shoot for as far as success, is a three to five-year, breakeven, turn complete profit on it. Who knows?
Julia: I think shorter term, I will feel like we’re “successful” the month that we have something booked every weekend. I think that’ll feel really good.
Roger: So what would you say will make you feel good about the marketing? When will you call the marketing a success?
Julia: Oh, gosh! I’ll call the marketing a success once I can see a direct result from somebody who has downloaded our lead generator and then has booked an event. That’s what I’m gonna feel really, really good about. Anyway, if you wanna follow our adventures, we’re on Instagram at @photo_camper, https://www.instagram.com/photo_camper/?hl=en.
Roger: I actually don’t have an Instagram, and so this is gonna be an adventure, so I have no idea how that works.
Julia: Anyway, follow us on all of your favorite social medias.
Roger: Or you go to our website, photocamper.com.
Julia: Also, you could go to our website photocamper.com. Come and support us even if you live out of state. If you live in Salt Lake City or the surrounding area, come and book us for your event. We’re also gonna be doing popups, so figure out when we’re gonna do a popup in your area and come and visit us and say hi. Any last words?
Roger: I don’t think so.
Julia: Sweet! Everybody, thanks for joining us. Again, follow us on @photo_camper https://www.instagram.com/photo_camper/?hl=en. This episode is gonna be coming out in April. We’re recording it in February, so we’ll already have launched our brand by then, and we’ll have the new site and everything, so come and give us some love over there. You look like you’re about to say something.
Roger: I was thinking about it, but that’s fine.
Julia: Also, go find Roger on Facebook. He’ll be your friend.
Roger: I don’t exist on the internet. Sorry.
Julia: All right, we’ll see you next week.
Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you’ve loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.
Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys.
Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.