Fergus and his wife Sian are the Photo Sensory licensees for 19 territories, and together they run Photo Sensory licenses across many parts of the South East of the UK.
They had been working with Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense for a number of years, and signed up for their first 12 licenses when Photo Sensory began in 2018. By the end of the year, they had acquired 7 more, and are hoping to almost double that amount by 2020.
We interviewed Fergus to find out how he first discovered Photo Sensory, how he has built his business and his plans for the future.
How did you first find out about Photo Sensory?
We had been working with Baby Sensory for a good number of years before Photo Sensory came in. To be perfectly honest, we were a little worried about how the Photo Sensory licensing would affect our business, but it has only helped us grow faster, and we love the relationship we now have with the Wow World Group. We have gone from working with twelve Franchisees to nineteen in a very short space of time.
What is the most challenging part of being a successful photographer?
Without a doubt the hardest part of the whole process is delivering a fast but personable service. On the day you will always have technical issues, and so keeping parents and babies happy and relaxed whilst dealing with the pressure to fix things on the road is always the biggest challenge when photographing Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense classes.
When did you start your first Photo Sensory license?
Our first Baby Sensory photography day was with lovely Lindsey and Vikki in Beckenham, way back in 2014. They very kindly recommended us to Hayley in Bromley, and it all spring boarded from there. I believe we were probably one of the first teams to take up the Photo Sensory Licences when they were introduced in 2018.
How Many Baby Sensory classes do you attend in one term?
Haha – classes or days?! We visit each territory once a term. This Spring Term we have done 38 days, with a total of 121 classes…we know the songs pretty well now!
We understand you have licenses for more than one Baby Sensory territory, how did this opportunity arise?
We had grown organically for a few years, based on recommendations between Franchisees and approaching Practitioners independently ourselves. By the time that Photo Sensory came in we were already working with about 8 Franchisees. Photo Sensory really gave Franchisees and Franchisors an insight into how a photo offering could be delivered to parents, and I think it caused a lot of chatter between franchise owners of both Baby and Toddler Sense. All of a sudden, we were being approached by Franchisees and Franchisors asking for us to consider purchasing more licenses, which was wonderful and we snapped up every one we could! We were aware that expanding too quickly would dilute our offering, so at the time we had to turn some down so we could work on building up our teams.
How do you see your Photo Sensory licensing business growing over the next 2 years?
We were, and are, very aware that we don’t want to grow too fast. We now have three full time employees with us – James, Heidi and Emily, along with several freelance photographers that have been working with us for a couple of years now, and of course Sian and myself. Our team all do a fantastic job of running days and meeting all our lovely leaders, parents, babies and toddlers. Our goal is to purchase a further 20 or so licenses, so that we may have three teams out pretty much every day. The Photo Sensory model works so well for us, because it is the holy grail for photographers – weekday work, that is around term time. Ask anyone else in the business and all our work is usually weekends and holidays – family shoots and weddings rarely happen on a Wednesday!
What has been your most successful strategy for selling to customers attending classes?
The whole process is important. First and foremost the most important thing you have to be aware of is that the parents are there for a Sensory Class. We adore the programs that Baby Sensory deliver, and see ourselves as an addition to that term’s plan. We always love working closely with Practitioners and Franchisees, and the more you understand each other, the better the job becomes. You need to be patient and caring with the new parents, you need to be efficient enough to get a good range of photos for them to see, yet gentle enough to not make them feel rushed or pressured – it truly is a balancing act.
It is then vital that their photos are there and ready to see immediately. The quicker and more slick your operation, the easier it is for mums and dads to make their choices, and every step or break in that process gets in the way of your final sales. We have worked tirelessly to get a robust, efficient system that allows a photo to be taken, downloaded, saved and shared across 3 or more viewing screens within 5 seconds – all automatically. It has been a long slog, but we have it down now, and so we can focus on looking after the parents and babies, rather than the technicalities of copying files and other boring admin.
What do you enjoy most about running your Photo Sensory License business?
The easiest answer – it’s the people. We love seeing our Franchise owners and their Practitioners each term, and over the years we have forged truly great friendships with them all.
We also enjoy meeting all the mums and dads, and of course the little ones! You cannot be in this game if you are not a people person, and we are so lucky to meet so many people, day in day out. It is always a pleasure to witness the bond between babies and their new mums and dads, then to see their personalities develop as they become toddlers, and to capture those moments and know they will cherish the photos for a life time is deeply gratifying.
What has been the greatest challenge you have had to overcome when setting up your Photo Sensory License business?
Without a doubt it is the scheduling. Christmas is always particularly hard! But we now have enough people in the team to cover everything, and our big push this year is to grow our teams with more training and investment so we can ease this burden as we take on more licenses in the future.
How has working with Baby Sensory impacted on your existing photography business?
It has changed our lives - as I mentioned earlier, finding term time, weekday gigs is so rare for a photographer. Being able to look at the diary at the beginning of the year and know you already have 150 days booked is simply amazing. Of course, we cannot possibly do all of the days ourselves on top of all our other commitments, and so we have slowly grown the team, teaching them everything they need to know and making sure they fully understand our ethos and approach. It is such a joy to know that Sian and I are being represented so well by our teams, and they help push us with new ideas and suggestions. My role is now a lot more admin based – doing wage runs, national insurance, employment manuals and the like; but I am thoroughly enjoying the new challenge and cannot wait for our little family business to grow even further.
How many photographs do you typically sell in a session/visit/day/week/term etc.?
Without getting too much into the details, we expect to sell about 30-35 photos a class. You of course get peaks and troughs on this, but our average sale is 34.9 photos per class. Last term we sold over 4200 prints – our little printers are definitely due a service soon!
Manuela from Baby Sensory Wokingham said…
We have been working with Fergus and Sian for a few years now and have seen their team expand, which is fantastic. We love working with them as well as James and Jess, both from a professional and personal point of view. They are always on time, friendly and enthusiastic, they are extremely professional at putting parents at ease, making babies smile and provide a speedy service.
And they often bring biscuits…who could ask for more!