Who are you, and what do you love to do?
My name is Chris Collins, and I created BoothBook!
I live in Exeter in the UK, but spent years travelling around the world, and surfing in amazing locations. I spent 2 years on the Gold Coast in Australia where I lived in Coolangatta and surfed Snapper Rocks every day – I’ve lived in a hut in Bali, Lombok & Sumbawa, and I’ve spent 7 months in a van surfing my way through France, Spain and Portugal. I grew up in South Devon, living right by the beach, and would spend most of my time water skiing, wakeboarding and drinking ale.
How did you get here? What experiences have led you to this point in your life?
I’ve always loved technology and figuring out how things work. After school, I got a degree in 3D Computer Animation using products like Maya to create character & scenery animations for film & TV – but the bit I enjoyed most from my degree was coding my portfolio website.
So after finishing university, I started travelling, and would build websites for small businesses for a bit of extra money. When I moved back to the UK, I started a web design business and spent the next 6 or 7 years working with a huge range of businesses, small and large – working on their branding, web development and helping them reach the top of Google for organic search.
One of my web design clients was a photobooth company, and after building their website and simple booking form for them in 2012, I decided to buy a booth of my own and set it up in Devon as one of the first companies in the area. As I already had the web design company, I decided I needed some help and so I called up Ben (who I had met in Australia) and asked him to start South West Photo Booths with me.
After only 6 weeks, we flew to the top of Google rankings in our area, and the bookings started flying in. We soon realised that the admin side of the business was too manual to be able to manage it alongside our full-time jobs, and still have some sort of personal life. It started with a simple booking form, then started checking availability of our photo booths, then introduced staff, and built the base for what is now BoothBook.
When did you start working with BoothBook, and what do you do to help push the business forward?
From day one! I never planned on selling the software to anyone else, it was only ever built to handle my own business and make my life easier – but it soon became apparent that there was a need for a tool like this in industry, and so we packaged it up and started sharing it with others.
Even to this day, I am still the lead developer on the project. Why? Because I love my job! I love seeing the impact it has on small businesses, and the personal lives of the owners. When I get a selfie from a client who can take a month’s holiday in Thailand because BoothBook is handling his admin, I know I’ve built something special.
My daily job is to plan out the new features to keep the business innovating and growing. I like hearing about a problem that a business is facing and seeing how we can solve it through automation & technology.
When was the first time you used a photobooth? Why did you use it? Who were you with? What was the experience like?
I remember using the passport photo booths when going to town with friends when I was a teenager. The year before I bought my first photobooth, I used a booth at a wedding in Toronto and loved it. I like the instant gratification of the printed photo, and the entertainment value it provided to the guests.
What is the coolest / most fun / most amazing photobooth experience you have seen? Why did you like it so much?
If you haven’t seen them already, go and check out the Bosco. These guys are seriously cool and do some amazing photobooth experiences for their clients.
They have done a few activations where they have painted a treadmill green and then replace the background with animation while the guest walks on the spot. Considering my experience with 3D animation, I think I could make some really cool experiences using this technique.
What is a particular skill that you have that you think would help small business owners improve their lives?
I’ve owned multiple small businesses, and still do! I am an avid learner and aim to read a new book every week. I know first-hand how stressful, difficult and demotivating running a small business can be – but also the rewarding, satisfying and proud moments that can be achieved if you do things right. I've built multiple successful businesses (South West Photo Booths, RapidReg, TicketEase) so am fully versed in all stages of business growth. If you are burning out, constantly checking the bank account, worrying about finances, struggling to find the time to spend with your family, or just not living the life you thought you’d live as the person in charge, then there is something wrong with your business processes. You’re not the first person to be in this position, and you’re not the only person dealing with these issues. This is why I am so proud of what we have achieved with BoothBook – because it has made such a life altering impact to many parts of my own personal and business life.
Which BoothBook feature do you think is most likely to dramatically improve someones business?
The ultimate thing we all struggle with is time. Whether you want to admit it or not, we’ve all only got a tiny amount of time on this planet before we die. Do you really want to spend your precious hours writing repetitive emails, drafting contracts, or sending invoices? Or would you rather set your business admin to autopilot and spend that time having a beer with your mates, spoiling your spouse to a nice dinner out, or travelling somewhere new?
We’ve built hundreds of features that can all help you claw back that precious time. If I had to pick one feature in particular, it has got to be proposals. They can help you send a stunning, personalised mini website pitch to a client in minutes – with the likelihood that it will be the best pitch they will see, and will win you more higher paying jobs.
Which BoothBook feature do you think is the coolest / most fun / most impressive?
Proposals are very cool. The way we’ve built it is not only technically amazing, but the rewards it gives our users are incredible, as well as making our clients look amazing.
Why should people use BoothBook in their business?
There are 2 types of people who own a business. There’s those that work ON their business and those that work IN their business.
If your business can’t run without you, then you work IN your business – and you might as well just get a job and work for someone else. If you are only doing this because you love the look on guests faces when they use a photobooth – then why not get a job as an attendant for someone else and save yourself the financial hassle?
It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to scale up, or you just want a bit of extra money on the side of your main job. At some point in your life, you are going to want an easier life – and to stop spending every Friday and Saturday night working events. The only way this can happen is if you pay someone else to do those events for you, and so your business needs to be able to run without you.
I’m here to tell you that no matter how strapped for cash you might be right now – with the right processes, brand promotion, marketing strategy, sales strategy and pricing – you can have that freedom to work ON your business and not IN it.
For me, that started with automating my business processes, and spending my time on growing the business rather than just running it. The best bit of all? You can do it too with BoothBook from only £19 a month – a ridiculously cheap price to pay for the freedom and time it will give you.