CEO Fridays: Nyambura Kinyori’s company leads the way in the photo booth market
Nyambura Kinyori is a former advertising professional who took the plunge to begin her own business in 2015. The business is Picha Booth, a company that offers photo booth services at parties and events including in the corporate space, weddings and birthdays.
Tell me about yourself
My name is Nyambura Kinyori. I studied Communication at Daystar university then proceeded to the US for my masters. I am also an associate at the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Career wise, I started off in PR then veered off into advertising. I worked at Tell em PR for a year then moved to their sister company FCB East Africa, where I worked for 5 years. I resigned in January 2018 to focus on my business.
How did you start your entrepreneurship journey?
I didn’t think I had the entrepreneurship spirit in me but when I was in the US, I had a Kenyan housemate who kept insisting that we needed to start a business together back home. We toyed around with different ideas but it was hard to settle on something because we wanted something unique and that would remain trendy for a while.
When I was planning to get married, I used to do a lot of wedding research online and one day I stumbled upon a video about photo booth entrepreneurs. That was our eureka moment and I emailed my former housemate and told her about it. The business was capital intensive and we roped in a few of our friends to contribute but eventually everyone went their separate ways and I was left with the business.
So when did you set it up?
We started in March 2015 when the machine landed. Initially we were 4 partners but one dropped off in the earlier stages and we remained the 3 of us till mid 2017. I was in Kenya and the two of them were overseas. We then parted ways and I started running the business by myself in August 2017.
Tell me about the business?
Picha booth is a fully fitted sturdy machine. It’s about 6 ft high. There is a camera, LED lights, a touch screen that you use to give it prompts and a prompter. All these features are integrated. The machine comes in two parts which we set up at events. These are the base and the top which holds the lights, camera and the printer. After we have assembled the machine we then set up a prop table with a variety of props that people can use when taking their picture. We then put the back drop and people stand in front of the machine. My assistant, Sam, explains to the patrons how the machine works. The machine takes a series of photos, each 3 seconds apart and depending on the layout requested, 3-4 pictures are produced.
Initially, people are a bit shy about taking their picture taken but when they see how much fun other people are having at the photo booth, they let loose and give it a try.
What are some of the milestones in the business since you started?
There have been many but the biggest has been being recognized. I initially did a lot of cold calling but now people recognize and hire me because they saw me from a past event or saw our work on Social Media. Our client base has also grown and we are doing more events than we did on our first year. We have also been able to buy a van for the business.
The service is really popular with weddings and parties and of late corporate events like launches and office parties.
What are some of the challenges that you have encountered in this business?
The biggest challenge has been raising awareness because a photo booth is something that is so new to Kenya. It therefore makes it hard to convince someone why they need to pay to have a photo booth at an event. At least now more people are open to the the idea and clientele has diversified from well off Kenyans or Kenyans who have lived abroad.
Another challenge has been finding a work balance because when this was a side hustle. I still worked a 9-5, I’d turn down weekday bookings so it was easier to manage. Another thing is clients are not willing to pay for the social media aspect which is integrated into the experience.
The uptake of the idea is also very slow because we have to constantly educate people on this concept so we are not growing as fast as I had hoped we would.
How much does it cost for your service and how many people are in your team?
We are three. My assistant, Samuel Kiroko, Maureen Wambaire who helps with content and me, who handles operations. Sam mans the machine and deals with customer engagement and I man the props.
We do hourly billing. For 1-2 hours, it is 16,000 an hour; if you take it for 3-5 hours its 14,500 and if you take it for more than 5 hours the rate is 12,000 an hour. So the longer you take it for, the cheaper it is. But with every package you get unlimited photos and unlimited prints. The social media integration gives you the option to either print or upload directly to your Facebook, email or Twitter. So you can send the pictures to yourself. All soft copies go the host of the event and the client gets the hard copy. The package also includes unlimited number of props so I come with all the props I have depending on the theme of the event.
The middle package comes with a branded flash disk and the last package comes with a flash disk and customized messaging on the print out. We also have extras like the option of 6 backdrops so you can choose what you want and an enclosure for those who want a closed booth because our booth is open air.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
That would be lack of mentorship so you really have nowhere to go when you feel that you are stagnating and what the next step should be. There is no one to look up to especially when you are a pioneer.
What is the future like?
I would like to go regional because there is so much opportunity due to how much celebrations are ingrained in our culture. I would also like to grow to the point where I can manufacture my own photo booths.