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Executive Voice

A Conversation With Ann Young On Building A Photo-Editing Business From Scratch

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I am the Co-founder and CEO of an online photo retouching company, Fix The Photo, which came into being in 2003. I hold eighteen years of experience as a writer and photographer.

Currently, I am based in New York and practice my other roles as a blogger, teacher, leader, and digital nomad. I am a New York University graduate who started as a freelance photographer and re-toucher at a very young age and ended up founding Fix the Photo, which today is the most counted-on online agency worldwide for these services.

What inspired you to start your business?

Three things inspired me to start my business. Firstly, my freelancing career in photo retouching services informed me about the market gap that needed to be fulfilled by photo re-touchers. There was high demand for these services while the service providers were very few back in those times to meet that demand.

Secondly, after graduation, during my internship in the same field, it dawned upon me that the common public lacked editing skills. Worse was, there was rarely any online support available to help them, so people would let it be, sighing on their old, damaged, uncleared or not-so-impressive photos. I observed the same in my family, who wanted to preserve some old photographs digitally but did not know how and where. This was the third and last reason after I knew I was surely going to fill this vast service gap myself. So, an intention to help people and resolve their issues that, of course, had a toll on their emotions, too, inspired me to start this business.

Where is your business based?

We function worldwide without any limits. We have been working with clients and photographers from all over the globe and thus, can speak in any language. However, our primary service area has been the USA, followed by Canada.

Our network of clients spreads out from one corner of the world to another. We also have a physical office in New York; you can find me there during office hours when I am not traveling.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

My partner and I shared the same vision of starting this business, and hence, found it together. We started with just two of us doing everything. For the first two years, I worked full-time from home.

Afterwards, I started investing finances into Fix the Photo myself, so the venture grew further. Our earliest steps included arranging a business website, getting my skills and software ready, conducting more market research, and starting marketing ourselves digitally to win clients.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Actively posting quality content on my business website has been the vital force behind getting more and more people to become aware of my business. I have always made sure that the content is actively posted, engaging, and relates to the audience.

Secondly, my business website has gained impressive brand awareness milestones for Fix the Photo. The website is not only where we market the brand and sell our services, but we also educate our website visitors about this industry. This way, we keep staying top of the minds of our customers, which also helps us to be referred to more potential customers.

What have been your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?

The initial challenges I had to face were related to financing. I even lacked funds for getting a business website developed for Fix the Photo, so I luckily got it done by an experienced website developer friend in exchange for my services.

Gradually, my business started growing, and soon, I started investing my own money in it. Today, I do not face any financial challenges as such; however, getting the right people on my team sometimes is quite challenging too. As we are committed to providing excellent services only, we dive deep into much consideration before hiring an employee. But I believe that every business faces the same and I am glad that we do too as eventually, we succeed to have only quality people on the team.

How do you stay focused?

I always remember where I started from that not only keeps me grounded but also motivates me never to go astray from my goals. Also, I am a firm believer in the Pomodoro Method, which helps me stay productive and focused on essential things. This method suggests having 20 minutes of the working session followed by 5 minutes of break, which should be further followed by another active session of 20 minutes. After this second working session, the break taken should be a little longer, and this is how you proceed with the rest of your working hours. Of course, you must ensure that this 20 minutes’ worth of work is intensely done without any distractions. This method kills all procrastination and demotivation and greatly helps me in prioritizing and effectively getting my tasks accomplished.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Our super affordable prices against which customers get high-quality services definitely differentiate us from the competition. What others are offering at $35, we make it available at $2 only with the same uncompromised level of service.

This is what gets us the most customers who also admit this themselves. Our turnaround time of 24 hours backed by our top-rated after-sales services lets us stay competitive too. We guarantee 100% security of your media and money and also provide revisions until you are satisfied.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Continuously engaging with our audience has been really effective in marketing the business and growing it. I put so much thought in planning what to post that not only markets us, but also stays relevant to the audience and adds some value to their life, be this value in form of entertainment, education, or self-development.

I try to be as creative as possible – verbally, visually, and in writing, so that the audience stays hooked to even the last word of a marketing message. All my roles as a writer, blogger, teacher, photographer, and editor come together to optimize my marketing strategies.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Now is the time you should start working on your dreams. I wish I could instil a sense of urgency in all the aspiring entrepreneurs and take all fears out of them. If you want to succeed, please never focus on ‘what ifs’ in a fearful way, overthinking what can go wrong. Instead, recall your ‘what ifs’ in an excited, positive way staying hopeful of great things that can happen if your business works well.

Also, do not waste too much time perfecting your plan; unless you enter this entrepreneurial arena, there is nothing such as ‘fully ready’. Experience is the real teacher in running a business.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

‘Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t’ by Jim Collin is one impactful book that has educated me a lot and opened new windows of perspective for me to grow my business.

This has given significant business lessons on setting up successful businesses and being a leader in the industry. The most impressive thing about Good to Great is that it backs all the arguments, suggestions, and learnings with research findings that prove and educate readers about what made certain companies peerless and vice versa.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I find Klaviyo software as a really good resource for my business as it facilitates Fix the Photo with an email and SMS marketing automation platform.

Using this, I have been able to market Fix the Photo to potential customers worldwide and generate a big amount of revenue coming through it. For starting entrepreneurs, it can be a smart pick as it costs nothing for a limited number of subscribers and campaigns.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Jack Ma is my business role model because of the business ethics he promotes through his actions. The way he empowers his teams and supports them to grow, I aspire to reach to the same level of leadership.

In my capacity, I already try my best to be like him and add value to the interests of my employees, customers and anyone related to me. In fact, the spirit of my business idea was based on helping people.

How do you balance work and life?

I must give credit to my teams who look after their responsibilities so efficiently and honestly that I do not have to micromanage them. This allows me to work for a few hours of the day without having to do overtime.

However, it took me around one and a half-decade to reach this level of freedom. So, I do not find that much difficulty in maintaining a work and life balance. I maintain a journal, too, in which I write about personal and professional things every day and set the plan for the next day. Due to this, I know what I need to do or achieve both personally and professionally, so I remain aware of my time.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

I turn back to my hobbies in order to decompress. Though, my favorite hobby is still related to my profession, i.e., photography. But when doing it for relaxation, I do aimless photography, capturing things as I go without worrying about any client’s given details or project. I also meditate, read and go for long walks in nature-close areas to disconnect.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

We are on a mission to expand our service grounds and offer more of Fix the Photo. Apart from offering new services, growing our digital media presence, even more, is included in our next half-yearly plan. For this, we are working on holding contests and giveaways as well as exploring more ways to encourage greater amounts of user-generated content from our customers.

How can our readers connect with you?

You can find me Linkedin or Facebook easily for instant connection. I would love to enrich my professional network and always available to help young entrepreneurs in their journey.

I am an avid traveler and loves writing. I love writing about beauty and fashion. When I am not traveling or writing, you'll find me modeling.

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