Photo booth franchisee taps into northern Nevada market
Tim Atwell, a long-time Reno resident and experienced entrepreneur, was looking for a new adventure.
Atwell was intrigued by the photo booth rental industry and during his research, he came across TapSnap, a Canadian-born franchise based out of Vancouver, British Columbia.
“I was looking for something different to do, and I found (TapSnap) online,” Atwell said. “I think there’s about 180 franchises and I’m the first one in the northern Nevada area.”
TapSnap franchises are located all over the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Atwell was impressed with TapSnap because he felt it offered a myriad of features from the average photo booth technology that is appealing to special events.
“That’s what’s unique about the product is that it took the traditional photo booth and brought it to the digital world,” Atwell said.
The TapSnap technology creates a few hundred digital props, backgrounds and themes that enhance ordinary photo booth images.
“If they want to have themselves being eaten by a dinosaur or jumping out of a burning helicopter, or standing by the Eiffel Tower, we can do that,” Atwell said.
Among the other features include adding customized graphics, event information and logos to images. The technology also has the ability to write personal messages to images.
“They also can email themselves the pictures, that’s what makes our kiosk a little more social interactive,” Atwell said. “Once they get the picture, they have the ability to share it on social media.”
When Atwell got started with the TapSnap concept, he contacted Rod Jorgensen, director of counseling at the University of Nevada, Reno, to hammer out a business plan. Jorgensen had previously consulted Atwell on other business ventures.
Jorgensen recommended he apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan to finance his latest venture.
Atwell launched the business in June of 2015 and tried it out on a variety of smaller events. The first major event he secured was the American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament that July in Lake Tahoe.
“I just did some research and contacted them,” Atwell said. “I told them we had an interesting product and discussed how much it would cost and two weeks later, we were there.”
To become a franchise owner, Atwell had to pay a franchise fee and purchase at least two of TapSnap’s photo kiosks.
He currently owns the territorial rights to northern Nevada from Lake Tahoe to Elko. He is allowed to venture outside of his jurisdiction when called upon by the parent company.
One time, TapSnap’s corporate office contacted Atwell and asked if he could assist with the groundbreaking ceremony at a college in Modesto, Calif. So he loaded up his equipment and co-worked the event with another franchise owner based out of Elk Grove, Calif.
For every event, Atwell is required to pay a small franchise fee that goes directly back to the parent company. Some clients ask Atwell why doesn’t he just open his own photo booth so he can keep the proceeds for himself?
“I look at (being a franchise owner) as a good thing because it goes back to the parent company that is always coming up with new ideas,” Atwell said. “They take the money from what all the franchisees give and they put it back into research and design, and are constantly trying to offer more services that we can provide.
Some of the services I don’t use, but they offer services such as answer my phone or they’d run my calendar. The franchise could take care of the majority of the work and allow me to be more hands on with the clients.”
Atwell said another bonus of being a franchise owner is that he able to bounce around new ideas with other franchise owners or discuss ideas that have been successful in the past.
“We have a website that shares ideas such as a Great Gatsby-themed party,” he said. “Other franchisees have done it, so I can reach out to them and see what they did.”
Atwell usually will use one kiosk for events, but if an event has more than 500 attendees, he will bring in a second kiosk. His wife, Nathalie, helps out for larger events and he has a staff of six other part-time employees he can summon when needed.
He said his peak business so far has been around the Christmas holiday season. The majority of his clientele is nonprofits, but he has serviced corporate and private events, mostly in the Reno-Sparks and Lake Tahoe area.
Atwell estimates he booked 52 events his first year, and just about doubled that figure in the second.
He mentioned other franchise owners have been taking advantage of the huge wedding market, something Atwell is eager to grasp for himself.
Atwell, who has a background in hospitality, touches base with his contacts in the industry as well as working with local catering companies to market TapSnap for events.
“There’s a lot of events that we can do, so there’s plenty of growth left,” Atwell said. “If we can increase the amount of events we do by 50 percent this year, I’d be pretty happy.”
For more information on TapSnap, Atwell can be contacted by phone at 775-453-4720, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the website: http://www.tapsnap1156.com. (The 1156 indicates Atwell is the 156th Tap Snap franchise owner.)
The unanimous approvals Wednesday came despite state leaders promising to tighten up requirements for Nevada’s tax abatements and incentives for future companies.