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Portrait Studio in a Box
Two franchises offer insight into what it takes to buy in—and whether you even should.


Clix Portait Studio logo
Grins2Go logo
aerial view of Clix counter
aerial view of Clix
Grins2Go counter
Grins2Go fleet

CLIX: Three-in-One Franchise With an Emphasis on Fun

One of the hallmarks of the Atlanta-based CLIX Portrait Studios, launched in 1999, is that franchisees get three separate revenue streams for one fee. "We have our portrait studio, event photography, and digital design center," says president and CEO David Asarnow. "At CLIX we don't just let you open up a studio—we really see a synergistic relationship between all our concepts. People visit CLIX because we have a great concept and a great product combined with outstanding service that's aimed at the masses."

The CLIX portrait studio aims to please customers on both an aesthetic and customer-service level. "What we offer is high-quality, boutique-style portraits that are competitively priced and available right away," says Asarnow. "We live in an instant-gratification society. People want what they want, when they want it. We offer minor to major retouching and special-effects images that customers can go home with that day. We offer that instant photographic gratification. People will say, 'CLIX is better than Botox, but a whole lot cheaper!' I guess you could say CLIX is a disruptive marketing force—we look for opportunities within our industry that aren't being served well and find a way to deliver a competitive advantage."

Having fun is at the top of the list for CLIX franchises as well. "We have that 'wow' factor that differentiates us from other studios—we're different from what people are used to," says Asarnow. "We really believe it should be a fun experience. We're probably the only franchise in America that teaches people how to make balloon animals the first day of training!"

So what would someone looking to buy a CLIX franchise need to have? "We look for personality and the 'sparkle factor,' says Asarnow. "More important than a franchisee's background is a positive, can-do attitude." And here's some sound advice that can apply to retailers looking to buy into a franchise or do it independently: "We look to see that they're going to treat their employees well, and that they understand that employees are a valuable resource versus just an expense," continues Asarnow. "If your employees feel valued, they're going to do a good job for you—your business is in their hands."

Being a photographer or retailer would perhaps give a franchisee an advantage, and they'd be able to pick up the CLIX system more quickly than someone who doesn't have photography experience, but to date, none of the CLIX franchisees have a photography background, according to Asarnow. "What makes us different is we have a great system," he says. "We're not just photography—we're sales, marketing, training, and developing. We teach people all aspects of business operation, including the photography."

CLIX, a member of PMA, has, in fact, had a few recent inquiries from people within the photo industry who want help with coaching, developing, support, marketing, advertising, and driving business. "That's where we can help," says Asarnow. "And I've received really positive feedback from photo industry professionals. They like our focus and how we're different from the run-of-the-mill portrait studio you see out there."

Not everyone, photo industry experience or not, would be cut out to own a CLIX franchise, however. "Not everyone is a good fit for being a franchise or being a business owner," says Asarnow. "If they are strong in certain areas and need help in others, we can guide and coach them toward success. We also look to see if they are able to follow a system. There are some people that are just too entrepreneurial and they wouldn't be happy in a franchise. Or some people just don't like dealing with people. They wouldn't do well in such a high-touch customer business as ours. Plus, are they comfortable with local marketing, since we are a community-based business? Do they have a strong work ethic? That's why we don't go out of our way looking for people who are experienced photographers, because there are certain skills we can teach, or we just hire people with those skill sets."

The CLIX training system is a four-week minimum program. "We teach owners and their whole team how to professionally preserve moments, and we do this through a proven and unique training process," says Asarnow. "Week One is focused on getting started; we start with location (we actually have a national real estate firm work with our franchisees), and then we go onto hiring, staffing, business development, goal setting, outside event sales, and on-location event execution. Week Two is studio operation, boutique-style photography, and technical software training. Week Three is customized to each franchise's needs—it's essentially a boot camp where we do one-on-one training. Week Four is an onsite boot camp on-location in their studio before they open to reinforce what they learned at the training center and to assist them in training their staff."

Additional training and support is available as needed, including unlimited telephone support, daily and weekly business telephone coaching calls, and trainers that visit locations for additional support. "We're only successful if our franchises are," says Asarnow. "We are really focused on bottom-line, store-level economics, making sure they're profitable and making money."

The CLIX experience hits the road with its event photography. "We take our high-quality product and experience and bring it on-location as well," says Asarnow. "We photograph preschool, daycare, kids' sports leagues—children go home with their images that day. We also do proms and deliver the pictures on the Monday after the prom. On Monday morning, the couple is likely still together, and the pictures are part of the morning buzz. Then we get the reorders because Dad doesn't fully know what he spent on the prom yet!"

The CLIX digital design center has become a gathering spot of sorts at its different locations. "A few years ago I saw some scrapbooking companies starting to display at PMA, and because of this we developed our digital design center, which is really a photo lounge or spa," says Asarnow. "People can scrapbook without the scrap—we do it all digitally. They can use our predesigned templates, create their own pages, or give all their images to us and say, 'Here, create a scrapbook for me.' We have digital scrapbooking parties and classes, and we also offer video scrapbooks. We've even had scrapbooking birthday parties for teens. If people want 4x6s, they can drop off their media cards or discs—we'll even take out the red eye and color-correct; or, if they want to play with their images themselves, they can do that, too. If they want DVD slideshows, we can make that for them as well."

Overall, CLIX (which was recently listed in the top 100 franchises launched since the year 2000 in Franchise Market magazine) wants to be a major player in the photo industry and for its customers. "Most important is our commitment to innovation, to being leaders, and to creating a world-class portrait studio and franchise business operation unlike any other out there," says Asarnow.

Grins 2 Go: White-Glove Treatment at Grins 2 Go

Grins 2 Go is another portrait-studio franchise trying to set itself apart from more cookie-cutter-style portrait studios.

Established in 2004 by the Babla family, Grins 2 Go integrates three business concepts into its experience: portrait photography, digital photo prints, and custom framing. "Coming from a background in printing/franchising, we were searching for an industry that was fragmented, was in flux due to emerging technology, and where customer service value could be brought to the market," says president Harish Babla. "The photography industry fit the bill in all ways. We created two concepts: our retail studio and our home-based/mobile on-location franchise."

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