How I found an untapped market by accident (and made some friends in the process)

A couple of months ago, after a few conversations with my friend Zach Egolf, I was very close to a new concept that I hadn’t tried yet.  Over the last 6 months as my skills and questions  grew I would often ask Zach for advice or ideas. He had been behind a Canon DSLR longer than I had, so I quickly came to value his advice and input. He, like myself, runs a photography business as a side gig while working full-time in the “real world”. I really wanted a chance to pick his brain while walking around the Inner Harbor, but thought why should it have to be only me learning?

During one of our Gchat conversations an idea of a photowalk came up. A photowalk (or photo safari by some) is exactly what it sounds like- a walk around a place that involves photography. The concept of a photowalk/photo safari isn’t a new one, in fact many classes in the Baltimore/DC area use this concept to teach on the fly. The more grandiose photo safaris even involve travel to remote places like Alaska. That presented the first mental roadblock for me. I didn’t really want to teach (especially since I still have a ton to learn), instead I wanted a much more relaxed atmosphere that other amateur/professional shutterbugs would be interested in attending. Also, I didn’t want to force people to travel long distances-I wanted it to be as cheap as possible.

After talking some ideas over with Zach (who deserves as much credit as I do for the event’s success), we decided to do a photowalk through the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. An optional event t-shirt (printed by CustomInk) was made available basically at cost to interested participants. We used a combination of  platforms to make this event possible, specifically Eventbrite (for ticket/money collection), Paypal (to store the funds to transfer), and Twitter/Facebook/WordPress/Tumblr (to promote the event).  Once all the sites were live, we linked the Eventbrite page to a custom Bit.ly link and started promoting.

The promotion lasted a couple of months- two to be exact. Zach and I worked furiously to get enough people to order shirts (even went through a redesign to keep costs low) before our leadtime date. At the same time, we were pushing just coming to the event to anyone that would listen. A group Flickr pool was set up a couple of days prior to the event and all of the attendees were invited. For my first “social media only” promoted event, we got a great turnout!

We met outside a parking garage around 11 on Sunday, introduced everyone to each other, and got to taking pictures. We stopped by the Top of the World exhibit in the World Trade Center (twice actually), the John Brown ship that was temporarily in the Inner Harbor that weekend, and wandered by Otakon on our way to Camden Yards.  During that time we stopped wherever we could to take advantage of the A/C and to rehydrate.  The entire time we were taking pictures and getting to know each other better. The level of equipment varied: from point and shoot cameras to pro bodies; kit lenses to L series equipment; and tripods to reflectors.

One of the main things than concerned me in setting up this photowalk was if anyone was interested in doing it again. We did put a lot of work into making it a success and wanted to be sure everyone enjoyed themselves as much as we had. What Zach and I found was not only did the group want to do it again, but others who either couldn’t make it or had to cancel wanted to attend an event in the future!  This is when I realized I had stumbled across an untapped part of the market- a need for exploration with a side of camaraderie. Some help with photo skills were wanted, but unlike other photowalks, that wasn’t the entire purpose of our walk. It was merely a component.

Overall the walk went very well- everyone seemed to have a blast (still collecting surveys). Zach and I plan to do more walks in the future based on the overwhelming demand for it. Please take some time to check out our Flickr Group Pool and let us know what you think. (check out Zach’s post here) Curious about joining us? Let me know in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “How I found an untapped market by accident (and made some friends in the process)

  1. Pingback: Oh Baltimore! « blog.joesterne

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