For Port Moody-based business partners Chris Chong and Gina Chong, the evolution of their shared hobby into a part-time, home-based business and then into a full-time venture happened very naturally over the last ten years.
Gina originally founded the business as a photography and web design company called Butter Media in 2004, and eventually teamed up with Chris in 2007 to focus the business exclusively on photography.
“We made it our goal to turn our hobby, something we’re passionate about, into a thriving business that we could make a living with,” says Chris. “And it’s great to be your own boss – we both knew at an early age that we would want to run our own business one day.”
Passion Becomes Profit
When they started out, Chris and Gina were well-aware of the challenges of launching a photography business today, as well as of the competition they’d face in that market. Nonetheless, they were up to the task. “Photography was a hobby that we both loved, and even in a saturated market, we knew we could overcome this challenge given that we were so passionate about it,” says Chris.
Luckily, Chris and Gina knew to take advantage of local resources early on to help get their business off the ground, such as networking opportunities through the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce and the seminars at Small Business BC.
After years of hard work, Butter Studios has become well-known for its wedding and event photography. Today, their team now also offers additional services including boudoir, portrait and commercial photography. What’s more, the two have further expanded their business’ service offerings to also provide photo booth rentals and videography services.
Receiving Accolades and Giving Back
Despite the competition they face in their industry, Gina and Chris have managed to consistently grow their revenue every year, and were able to expand their photo booth services overseas to Hong Kong and Singapore. They also recently opened a new 2000 square foot studio in Port Moody.
And as their business has grown, others have taken notice of Chris and Gina’s work. Butter Studios has been the preferred vendor for companies such as HSBC Bank Canada, Bosa Properties, Ernst & Young, the City of New Westminster, TELUS Mobility and Bell Mobility – just to name a few.
As far as formal recognition goes, Butter Studios has also been nominated as a finalist for Best Wedding Detail Photography and Best Live Wedding Entertainment for their photo booth at the BC Wedding Awards.
And just recently, Butter Studios received the 2013 Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award. Their work has also been featured in multiple wedding blogs and bridal magazines over the years.
But with all their success, Chris and Gina believe that none of it would matter if they couldn’t share it with the people in their community, so they do what they can to give back by sponsoring many charitable, non-profit, university, entrepreneurial, and community events.
A Bright (and Busy) Future
The future looks bright for Butter Studios. Chris and Gina have plans to continue to expand their services nationally and internationally, and they hope to gain international recognition as small business leaders in the process.
They also plan to continue exploring new photography-related technologies so they may further grow their event entertainment service offerings, and of course their revenue as well.
But Chris knows that fancy new gadgets won’t be enough in-and-of themselves to achieve their business goals: “We run on a ‘get better everyday’ mentality to ensure we provide excellent service and products, but in order to run a successful business we know it’s important to keep up our marketing and brand awareness using both traditional advertising along with online advertising and social media.”
And his final words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Focus on perfecting your product or service and put customer service on top of your business priority list,” says Chris. “Build a strong and unique brand, and don’t be afraid to let everyone know who you are and what you company is about – in other words, do not underestimate the power of marketing and networking.”