Some might have thought it was a crazy idea to found a start-up in the midst of the second economic downturn in half a dozen years.
Calgary PR and communications expert Jo Williams and her colleague, sought after photographer Monique de St. Croix, went ahead anyway. No stranger to creative ideas and solutions, Williams was intrigued by a successful photo booth operation in California she’s read about which used an antique VW bus (remember them — the old Volkswagen hippy vans?). She did some research and discovered there was nothing similar in Canada. With Williams’ background in public relations, marketing and event planning, along with de St. Croix’s expertise as a photographer, they knew they were on to something.
The two formed Hip Image. They decided they wanted it to be more than a photo booth. For corporate events, Hip Image also needed to connect people, showcase an organization’s brand and promote their message. For personal gatherings, it had to dial up the fun quotient. The two sourced a vintage VW van and branded the exterior and outfitted the interior — Buttercup, the Hip Image Photo Booth was ready to hit the road.
Since then, Hip Image has added a Boler camper photo booth and an open air booth to keep up with the range of demands for their services.
More than a photo booth
Along with being the coolest photo booth in Calgary, the photo booths are also outfitted with high end software to help clients launch a new product, get noticed in the social media space and add a visual component to events.
All booths are social media enabled, allowing users to email or upload photos to their Facebook or Twitter accounts, text message or email direct from the booth —live at clients’ events
Hip Image has also implemented a hashtag printer prototype which is unique to them. Each vivid professionally printed image is branded with the corporate or event logo, event graphics and guests’ Instagram handle to expand the social reach of the event.
When COVID hit…
When COVID-19 arrived in Calgary, all events were cancelled, essentially shutting down the company’s business.
Never short of ideas, the innovative pair decided to deliver their service to people at home starting on Mother’s Day — similar to the ‘porch portraits’ which have been so popular this year. Taking to the road again, they delivered the photo booth experience from an inside out experience by shooting with an outdoor background, instead of inside the booth. They could still delivery high quality professional prints on the spot, along with digital images. This approach also worked for small outdoor gatherings, pop ups and grad events.
Clients receive a custom photo template, message, digital files and print copies to treasure.
‘Hip Image can either go propless (not topless…) and style your pics in amazing ways or we’ll work with you on keepsake props you’ll get to use and keep as your very own.’
When asked what sets them apart and how they continue survive and thrive, Williams says, “It’s the resiliency of the two of us combined. We have complementary skills, and we both excel at those. With Monique, our clients get a professional photographer which is rare or non-existent in a photo booth in Canada.”
de St. Croix adds, “Our differentiator is the end product. We always want to do something that’s different. That’s where Jo’s skills come into play as well — her PR and marketing background.”
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