Although Hollywood FotoFix is experiencing phenomenal growth - the company has doubled its sales in the past year — it has only reached a small part of the market. "Most of the photo restoration market is still people doing it in-house," Long said, incredulous. "When you do it in-house, every time somebody walks in the door asking for a photo restoration, you lose money. With our system, you make money."
"Some people are control freaks," Long said. "They like to be involved with every step of the process. Others just don't do anything if they can't do it in-house. It's almost like they think they're cheating if they outsource their work."
That certainly is not the case for Tona, who has been managing Crown Camera for 13 years and outsourcing photo restorations to Hollywood FotoFix for the past four. "It's not that we couldn't do some of this stuff in-house, but the reality is we're not as good or as quick or as fast as those people," Tona said. "They do all the work and I'm not paying somebody $10-$15 an hour to do it. I'm paying them a flat fee and they'll do it as many times as necessary to get it right."
Crown Camera has been doing restorations since the days of paintbrushes and razor cutouts. Later, Tona dabbled in restoration using Adobe Photoshop. When he found out how long it took, Crown began outsourcing work to a lab in nearby Chico. It still took too long — accounting for shipments and redo's, up to six weeks for a single restoration.
"It was too timely and too costly," Tona said. "It was very easy to spend $50$100 on a restoration job, which of course you had to mark up and try to make some profit out of it. And along came Hollywood to save the day."
Before signing on with Hollywood FotoFix, Crown Camera averaged
about one or two photo restorations per month. With Hollywood
FotoFix, Crown Camera is now averaging close to sixteen
restorations a month. And, "97 percent of the time, the customer is
happy with the first-time results," Tona said. Most of the
remaining 3 percent can be attributed to unrealistic
Crown Camera submits the scanned file (in jpeg format, with a maximum size of 15 megabytes), along with specific instructions, through the handy upload interface at www.hollywoodfotofix.com. The automated web-based system notifies users when their photos have been received, allows them to track their progress and notifies them when the photos are ready for download. Faulty orders can be sent back with the click of a button. In most cases, the whole process takes less than a week.
The company's fixed pricing makes it an easier sale, and since all redo's are paid for by Hollywood FotoFix, Crown's profit margins are secure.
"You get that one customer out of 20 that's not satisfied," Schwarzbach said. "It's going to happen. You can't keep them all happy. There's more emotional attachment to the restorations, and some people's expectations are much more than you could ever do. When it happens, you just smile and think about all the money you've made on the other 19."
"If they're not happy, Hollywood FotoFix will gladly redo it," White said. "You can't ask any more than that."
Jim's Photo Lab has developed some innovative ideas to encourage word-of-mouth promotion. With every photo restoration, the customer gets a copy of the file on CD, with the before-and-after images on the jewel case label. Jim's also gives the customer four discount certificates — one for 15 percent off the customer's next restoration and three 10 percent discount certificates for their friends — each featuring the same before-and-after pictures. And, one out of every four certificates comes back with a photo restoration order.