Thomas Benincas Turns A Part-Time Venture Into a Big-Time Business
Thomas P. Benincas, Jr., founded New England Photo almost 10 years ago, photographing, producing, and distributing his own postcards, greeting cards, matted photographs, magnets, and photo pads.
Today, his product line sells in some 75 retail stores, including Barnes & Noble, in Connecticut and Nantucket.
How did this Yale business professor turn a part-time venture into a lucrative photo company that will gross $150,000 this year? Here's the story…
Fond of taking frequent trips to Boston and New York with his wife, Benincas sought a way to cover the trips' expenses. Then on one trip, he noticed scenic postcards. "It gave me the idea of selling my photographs. I sent 300 of my slides to a postcard company, figuring they might buy 10."
The company responded—not with a letter indicating what they intended to buy, but with a note that included "25 things that were wrong with those slides," laughs Benincas. "I kept the letter and referred to it as I began to photograph Boston and try again."
Building a Business
The professor cum landscape photographer started by shooting historical houses and churches. "I would split an order of 2,500 postcards with them, keeping 1,250 for myself, and giving them 1,250 to sell at their own price," he says.
Building on success, he branched out, eventually growing his line of postcards to 50 Nantucket images and more than 75 images of the Connecticut shoreline and Yale University. Benincas estimates that in the past seven or eight years, he has sold, at .40 or .50 each, approximately three million postcards.
After several bad experiences with stock companies, he starting selling his images directly to postcard companies he solicited. These days he has the cards produced through various printers. Another small obstacle cleared…
Next, he introduced a selection of greeting cards. "I have a line of eight Nantucket greeting cards and an eight-card line of Connecticut, which retail for $2.50 a piece," says Benincas. He provides display racks to about two-thirds of the stores that carry his products. He buys them from Utility Engineering Co. in Pearl River, New York.
Benincas currently has a four-design line of photo note pads and is designing eight more to expand the line, which will retail for $4 each. This past year, he sold 3,000 to 4,000 magnets at $4 apiece, from a line he introduced three years ago.
Capturing New England
All of his product images showcase the New England landscape and focus on places and landmarks people want to take with them, at angles they would not or could not get with their own cameras.
"I like to capture sunsets, sailboats, and oceans from angles people can't get on their own, like the shoreline seen from the ocean, or a local site or building that's been renovated. I like to hear people say, ‘Let me grab a few of these postcards just in case my photos don't come out as well,' or because they forgot their camera, or instead of taking photos themselves," says Benincas. It's what he feels sets his products apart.