Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reflections from the Skinny Branches!

"She flies thru the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young girl on the flying trapeze."

I used to sing this song in gym class throughout 9th grade. I have no idea why this was my theme song, but every day surrounded by the sounds and smells of 50 girls changing into our light blue "onesies" I would be inspired me to sing, in a operatic trill, the theme song for circus daredevils. Well, I am singing it again today. And this time I know exactly why, I am swinging on the skinny branches of business.

We are just days away from two months of daily school photo sessions and only hours away from launching this new website. This amazing dream of an e-commerce site that makes real my dream of truly changing school photography. This website built on shoestrings and the commitment of believers who grasp the idea that kids, parents and schools want photography that reflects the eye of a photographer not just a cheap throw away ID photo.

This has not been an easy path. I have to be honest. When I decided to close my studio and move my business from the very lucrative and prestigious wedding business I had developed there were many who thought me crazy. School photography is close to the bottom rung of this industry. Just above passport and drivers license imaging I suppose. So my photographer friends thought me kooky. Business experts gave me lots of feedback. Mostly discouraging. First it was that Mugshots was only about "me" and "Marin". That it wasn't duplicate-able, that only parents in Marin County would be willing to pay a (slight) premium for higher quality school photos. That Mugshots could never survive because "game theory" says that going up against an 80% market share company like Lifetouch means price war, and in a price war the bigger wins (this war might still be ahead). But despite the naysayers I have persevered.

This dream of bringing other portrait photographers into the schools has me swinging high above... no safety net. We are launching today or tomorrow, 3 months late, our labor of love and hopes... the new MugsyClicks.com. It is like no other photography distribution site that I have seen or found (and you know I have been looking). It was built from drawings on napkins, words on the page and the vision of a team of developers all the way across this country. Over the last year we have all worked long hours crafting, visualizing and revising to bring to life a store, data management and image hosting system that didn't exist anywhere but in my imagination.

Money needed to be generated to pay for it. Debt created and reckoned with, time siphoned from production to be suffered. Budgets busted. No vacations, no extra money for meals out. Henry, our production manager, with his new hat of project manager. Jarreau, expanding his job to match his vision of recruiting new photographers and schools. Jacca, working late nights, balancing single motherhood, with her amazing design of this online community and store. Novelprojects, our new best friends from the North Carolina Golden Triangle, writing code and rewriting code, as the immense data management issues revealed themselves. Thousands of kids and parents, hundreds of schools and photographers in our present and future. One mistake has huge ramifications. And we are all charting new ground. And here we are about to launch.

I have cried everyday this week. I wish I dealt with pressure as effortlessly as the trapeze artist. Smiling, standing on the tiny platform hundreds of feet above the crowds. But I am a crier. A dramatic Leo who wants everything to be perfect and most of all everyone to be happy. This week as we move toward launch, my stomach has hurt, my mind keeps losing focus, and my nerves have run razor thin. But my hands are on the swing, my voice singing loudly that silly song from middle school, and if I don't look down, I may just swing high enough to reach the other side of the tent. And hopefully, you, our amazing customers will cheer! "Well Done!" "Good Job!" "Bravo!"

My deepest gratitude goes out to the greatest team of people I could ever have imagined. Jacqueline Domin (jaccadesign.com) Mike McTaggart (novelprojects.com), Henry "the great" Silva, Jarreau Cross, OneCal Bank , Nell Merlino and the entire M3 network (makemineamillion.org), Ellen Rohr who patiently has taught me financial literacy as well as how to wear "big girl pants" elegantly (barebonesbiz.com) and all of my friends and family who have loved me in spite of my obsession. And lastly all of wonderful customers who have supported this company over the years. Watching your children grow up before our lenses has been a blessing.

2 comments:

Terry said...

Bravo, Bravo! May your branches grow thicker and stronger as a result of your vision and hard work! The good Lord knows that the superior quality of your work, your innate desire to please, and your dedication to your customers will feed that strength. --tjb

Team Mugsy said...

Thanks Terry for reading and supporting! It means a lot.