The business model is simple enough: get the customer’s shoebox of hundreds or thousands of prints; scan them at high speed; download a high-resolution image to a CD; return the CD (each holds about 500 300-dpi images) and old prints to the customer with same-day turnaround; charge a flat fee of $49.95 for the first 1,000 prints; and hopefully generate additional revenue with index prints, multiple CDs, and new prints made from the scans.
One last detail: since the business model only makes sense if we can bring in lots of shoeboxes full of prints, it’s not practical to rely solely on the local community for the action. Mitch set up the website shoeboxreprints.com.
The economics of the service are eye-opening. Mitch had previously sold a scan of a single print for $5—not unusual at retail. With the shoebox program he was selling 1,000 prints for $49.95, or roughly 5 cents a print. But when you are dealing with a machine that scans so quickly, it’s easy.
30 Minute Photos Etc. kicked off the service in November. Mitch stimulated some local publicity, and the story that described the shoebox concept was picked up by the Chicago Tribune. That opened up the market nationally.
Mitch said the average order runs about 1,500 prints and he wouldn’t reveal any more details other than to say he gets “quite a few orders every day.”
In addition to the $49.95 scan revenue, Mitch offers a 5x7 index print of 25 images, valuable to the consumer for identifying and archiving, for $2.49 each. A thousand-print scan order represents 40 index prints, or another $100 in revenue. Mitch claims that most customers go that route. Additional CDs for $9.95 each.
One new twist has been added to the whole shoebox equation. With the help of BulkLoader software, a new product from Photogize, Mitch will upload via email a thumbnail set of the entire scan for $48.95. Since it has reference numbers, the consumer can order additional prints or forward the thumbnails to friends or relatives for them to order prints at 20 cents each. Mitch said the customer cannot make prints from the emailed thumbnails.
When a “shoebox” worth of prints comes in to Irvine, Mitch sends an email verifying receipt. Usually the scan is done right away, and the customer receives another email within minutes that the order is completed. A third email is sent when the order has been turned over to the post office to be shipped via priority mail and to forward a tracking number ($14.95 for S&H).
For larger orders Mitch will include in the return package a box of mints, some cookies, Jelly Bellys, or a Starbucks gift card. If you’re wondering how his customers feel about the services of 30 Minute Photos Etc., log on to their website and look over the pages of testimonials.
Mitch is so pleased with the success of his shoebox program that he has become an evangelist of sorts for the Kodak system. He made two presentations to large audiences at last month’s PMA, discussing in considerable detail the elements of the activity. Was he representing Kodak? “Definitely not. I feel strongly that other dealers should know about this program in the hopes that they will incorporate it and help their business not only survive, but grow.”
It’s difficult to write a story about Mitch without it sounding like a commercial for Kodak. He feels as though his decision to affiliate with Kodak was a breakthrough for his business. He’s on a first-name basis with the entire Kodak hierarchy and seems to have access to everyone in the organization. His intensity must surely generate some groans among the hallowed halls when he decides to disagree with something they do.
This doesn’t mean that he is always on the same page with Kodak. He openly acknowledges his differences of opinion along with the kudos. He felt that the Phogenix venture of a few years ago was ill-fated even before it started. Yet he takes the strong position that as goes Kodak, so goes the photo industry.
Grabbing at Opportunities As They Present Themselves
What Mitch does with 30 Minute Photos Etc. is no magic potion. With his strong entrepreneurial skills, he just keeps coming up with new ideas—some that work, some that don’t work. But he keeps grabbing at opportunities as they present themselves. As a former lab owner myself, I look at what Mitch and Carl are doing and say, “I could have done that.” I just never thought of it.” What they are doing to transform this business is using tools that are available to every owner who could easily replicate the model.
Mitch is a very strong supporter of PMA and the industry. He feels that it is vital for the future of the business that ideas be shared. “Our industry needs open architecture.”