This is part of a series about Missouri entrepreneurs, their products and their retrospective advice for others who dream of launching their own startup businesses.
Cate DePrisco’s husband, John DePrisco, was a wedding photographer in 2011 when he decided he needed to find a way to stand out from his competition.
Melding a passion for photography and a family history with vintage vehicles, John created what would soon be known as The Photo Bus in Kansas City.
The second time he brought his photo-booth-on-wheels to an event, he also met Cate — sparking a relationship that soon would turn into not only a marriage but a business partnership.
“I know this can be more than just a fun add-on to your wedding-photographer services,” Cate recalled saying to him around the time they met.
Soon, the couple started booking The Photo Bus together, and they founded the company around it in 2012. They both went full-time with the company in 2016. Right now they have one intern, one part-time employee and seven “booth pros,” or contractors, who run the photo booths at events.
Initially, Cate and John bootstrapped the entire operation with their own funds, but Cate said they are searching for outside financial partners.
Photo Bus customers may choose from five different photo booths and three buses at varying price points. The company offers a licensing program that began five years ago, which has enabled people to open Photo Bus locations in 11 cities or markets, including Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and El Paso in Texas; Denver, Colorado; Oahu, Hawaii; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Destin, Florida, in addition to Kansas City and St. Louis.
People participating in the license program pay a monthly fee and are provided with business directions, email templates and the logo, along with help creating a website and other tools to run a successful company.
“We are starting year seven. It has been amazing the feedback we get. I think my favorite thing is hearing people rattling off events they have seen us at over the years,” Cate said.
Cate said she and her husband now are creating a photo booth experience for bigger clients — such as corporations. She mentioned a recent event in which The Photo Bus was transformed into a giant Big Mac for McDonald’s.
“It took 10 hours of graphic design work to make sure that the client was happy,” she said of the larger-than-life iconic burger.
My biggest mistake: “So the biggest mistake was not thinking that this was going to be something that was going to be a little more than an add-on to our other [wedding photography] services. We didn’t see the big picture, so we didn’t take steps to protect ourselves. Trademarking was something we should have done before our first event. We just wish we would have seen the big picture and approached it as a big business rather than just a service.
[Now] I’d say dream big and take the proper business steps to do so. Make sure to work with an accountant and bookkeeper from the beginning. You have to show that you are making money to get money.”