Following along with our interview series, we thought you might enjoy getting to know the faces behind Custom Photo Props. This group of incredible ladies behind the doors of Custom Photo Props are dedicated, creative, strong and inspiring!
Today I want you to introduce the driving force behind this amazing company, Kerri Seibert.
At the age of 16, Kerri was given the opportunity to work for, and eventually manage, a restaurant in her hometown in New York. Even at a young age, she was continually filled with ideas on how to change the business and make it grow into something better. She would agree that out of all of the positions she has held during her career, this is the one job she had enjoyed the most because she was in charge. The skills she developed at this job would teach her more than she ever realized; it prepared her for opening and growing her own company.
When Kerri is approached to share her company story, she usually responds with a pretty simple one. Kerri and her husband had a precious baby girl and were having newborn photos taken. She searched the internet for newborn photo props but nothing fit the bill; she wanted props that nobody else had and wanted to put her own personal touch on it. Loving crafts, Kerri set out to make her own. Elizabeth Pellette of Elizabeth Pellette Photography located in Springville, New York arrived at the newborn shoot and loved what she saw. After a lot of encouragement from loved ones, Custom Photo Props was born in 2007.
Custom Photo Props has gone from a one person, one product company to staffing six employees and working out of a 7,000 sq. foot building. Not only are they dedicated to growing the company but giving back to their community and various organizations throughout the world! At the heart of the company is this:
TRUE COMMITMENT BEGINS WITH GIVING BACK
When Custom Photo Props decided that their company was going to be “The Faux Fur Company” they knew that they had to bring awareness to the harming of innocent animals for their pelt. Those animals live in brutal conditions and are faced a very excruciating death due to the fact that there is a need for their pelt. Whether it’s fur or feathers they needed to protect God’s creatures!
In their eyes, they knew that there were plenty of other products on the market that can easily replicate genuine fur; there is no reason for using a natural product. Through the use of their website, social media, and monetary donations, they became dedicated to informing the community about the slaughter of these beautiful animals for their fur.
Among bringing social awareness to the abuse of wild animals and domestic pets, Custom Photo Props also gives back in other ways. The company helps support various programs by donating their time or finances throughout the year. Each faux fur purchased from Custom Photo Props helps drive them closer to their goal: helping animals.
Custom Photo Props regularly donates product and resources to various organizations such as Non-Profit Organizations, Boys and Girls Club of America, St. Columban’s Retirement Home, Salvation Army, ASPCA, Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as several Animal Rescue Groups.
We wanted to find out what drives Kerri in her own words…and here is what she shared with us:
Did you start with a business plan?
Absolutely not! This was hobby that turned into a small business. After we realized that this company could become something much bigger than we envisioned we did formulate a business plan that we update regularly.
What’s kept you going for the past 7 years?
Work, work, and a lot of dedication. The early stages of a business is tough and if you don’t have the tenacity you won’t make it. Plain and simple. Business has a lot of highs and lows and you need to be fully engaged to deal with those. I hear so many friends or family members who say, I want to start a business or how did you get so lucky? It’s not luck, it’s hard work, non-stop. When your friends want you to hang out or it’s your nephew’s first birthday and you have orders to fill, you have to put the business first–always. If all works out, you will pave a clear path to success and when you want to take time off of work to go on vacation you will have the ability to do that.
What tips do you have for those who want to start a business?
You have to have a solid and clear idea of what you want to do. Something that you will LOVE doing day in and day out. Research the market and see if there is a need for your product or service. Research some more and look into anything that might remotely come up because you need to be prepared for those moments. I have a friend who started a business and didn’t fully research every aspect of the business. He purchased expensive equipment without knowing where he is going to run these machines. He finally found a shop that he can work out of but now he is stuck with a very costly commercial electric bill that he wasn’t prepared for. This has now completely changed his profit margins and the amount of time he is putting into making and delivering a product.
Who is your ideal customer?
Our main customer base is primarily female newborn photographers who have their own photography business. They keep the baby’s comfort in mind as well as focusing on simple props that will not outdate the photo in five to seven years.
What would you say your strengths and weakness are?
I am my own worst critic. I have a lot to be thankful for and have achieved a lot during the past seven years but I am not one to ever settle. I never think that what we have accomplished is enough. Three years ago I had a revenue goal and I told myself that would be the day I knew we were successful in operating and growing a business. Once we hit that goal I doubled it and feel that I’ll always be do that. At what point will it truly be success?
My strength is that I am very determined to succeed and won’t give up. You have to keep trying and trying no matter how difficult it will become. You do this until you have exhausted all resources and find that your time is better spent elsewhere. We recently had to call kibosh on one of our sales channels that we have had for the past seven years. It was hard to let go but it’s going to lead to something great down the road.
What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from that?
Thankfully I haven’t made too many mistakes in business that I didn’t recover from. Hiring the right people is always key to a happy workplace. Unrelated to employees, I’d say that I now know who to trust and who not to trust. Never give your secret sauce to those who will jump at a chance to bottle it up for themselves.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I will continue to grow Custom Photo Props into a profitable and sellable company. Hopefully, we will still have the same incredible girls working for us during this journey.
We hoped you enjoyed getting to know Kerri a little bit better – check out the website and Facebook page for products and specials! Also take the time to sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the website home page to keep yourself in the loop on specials and new product announcements!