Fly­tog­ra­pher boss Ni­cole Smith turned hol­i­day snap­shots into a global en­ter­prise

BC Business Magazine - - Quality Time - by Lucy Hys­lop

Global En­try, which can be in­cluded with Nexus trusted-trav­eller ap­pli­ca­tion or re­newal, in­cludes TSA pre-check at U.S. air­ports for stream­lined se­cu­rity clear­ance.

Like all en­trepreneurs, Ni­cole Smith is at the front line of seek­ing funds for her busi­ness. We’re meet­ing in Van­cou­ver be­tween her ap­peal at the Fo­rum for Women En­trepreneurs’ Pitch for the Purse com­pe­ti­tion (af­ter skip­ping break­fast with a “ner­vous stom­ach,” she’s mak­ing up this lunchtime) and meet­ing po­ten­tial in­vestors in Fly­tog­ra­pher. In 2013, two years af­ter be­ing re­united with a close friend in Paris and ask­ing another friend to take pic­tures of them, Smith set up the com­pany, which con­nects world trav­ellers with trusted lo­cal pho­tog­ra­phers.

This much I know… “The worst feel­ing in the

world is pity—it to­tally fu­els me. There was a time just when I quit Mi­crosoft and was work­ing on Fly­tog­ra­pher full-time—and watch­ing my bank ac­count dwin­dling on my mort­gage and my two young kids dur­ing the fall’s tough­est months for sales—that I had to sell my lovely BMW X5. My dad lent me an old beater, so I had trans­porta­tion, but I re­mem­ber think­ing that ev­ery­one else was as­cend­ing fi­nan­cially. I knew it would’ve been dif­fer­ent if I had stayed con­sult­ing—yet I woke the next day re­al­iz­ing that I would sell my house next; I be­lieved in it so much, I was like a train that couldn’t be stopped. So you ab­so­lutely have to get back to brass tacks when you’re liv­ing through a startup.”

“It was hard in those early

days in 2013 be­cause we had no brand pres­ence—now peo­ple can see the cal­i­bre of the work our pho­tog­ra­phers de­liver. The world is trou­bled, and we’re in the busi­ness of love and joy where peo­ple can book from 400 pho­tog­ra­phers—all vet­ted by our full-time re­cruiter— on ev­ery con­ti­nent ex­cept Antarc­tica for their spe­cial trips abroad. We all have great cam­eras on our iphones, but just be­cause you have the tools doesn’t mean you’re an amaz­ing photographer. There’s an art to it where peo­ple train for years. Be­sides, we all have kitchens, but isn’t it lovely to have a meal out where you can fo­cus on each other? We’ve seen 7,000-per­cent growth since then, with just over $3 mil­lion in sales, and now we want to dou­ble down on Face­book paid cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion as well as in­vest­ing in Pin­ter­est and In­sta­gram in­flu­encers. I project we will hit $100 mil­lion in sales within five years.”

“I also re­al­ize that life of­ten

comes full cir­cle. My late grand­fa­ther, Harry Hol­land, ran a realty com­pany near my home in Vic­to­ria and was an avid trav­eller—to the point he would take off for up to two years all around the world with his family. He’d show me his slideshows—say­ing, ‘Let’s look at Morocco to­day’—but he would tell me in the end, there is no bet­ter place in the world than right here. Now I’ve lived abroad in South Korea, Mex­ico and the U.S., I’ve been ev­ery­where through my job, and as a trav­eller, I re­ally un­der­stand him and wish that he could see what I built. He would have loved it.”

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