Flytographer Turns 3 | Top 10 Moments in our Startup Journey

In front of the wall outside our office. I am greeted everyday with beautiful images from our customers around the world.

In front of the wall outside our office. I am greeted everyday with beautiful images from our customers around the world.

Three years ago today, I launched Flytographer's first website. I was so excited; I told everyone I knew and shared a message on Facebook. Moments after I hit "send," I started getting messages from friends: "YOUR SITE IS DOWN!"

Crap.

I looked up and saw it was intermittently crashing. I was so embarrassed. Our hosting company was having issues, and after hours of emails, calls and pleading, I switched providers the very next morning. Not the most auspicious start. Looking back, I learned bumps like this are par for the course when running a startup. Lots of highs, lows and surprises around every corner.

In honour of our 3rd birthday, I wanted to share a little peek into our startup story with the top 10 moments so far. It's been fun for me to reflect on our journey, and dream about what's coming next. 

xo
Nicole, Founder & CEO


1. The IDea BeGINS in Paris

Read the story about how a trip to Paris with my best friend in October 2011 sparked the idea that set the wheels in my head in motion.

Good things happen when dreaming on bridges in Paris.


2. Test Shoots in Paris, London, Buenos Aires 

In the fall of 2012, I tapped travelling friends to help me test the concept. Would anyone care? How would the shoot work? Could I find good photographers? I got great feedback from these test shoots that gave me the confidence to keep going.

Paris test shoot with Gonçalo

Paris test shoot with Gonçalo

London test shoot with Emiliano

London test shoot with Emiliano


3. Our First Customer!!!

The website officially launched March 20, 2013, and the first "non-friend/family/coworker, actual-stranger-off-the-internet" customer books a shoot in early April. 

Our first "real" customer ever! Captured by Gonçalo in Paris

Our first "real" customer ever! Captured by Gonçalo in Paris


4. Holy cow - on The Homepage of Today.com!

In early May 2013, I was at a walk-in clinic with my son (he had an ear infection). While waiting, I got a message from a writer from Today.com asking to talk to me right away about a feature story, going live in 2 days. I arranged to call her back two hours later. When the story hit, our site exploded with photographer applications, website hits, and bookings. It was thrilling.

No big deal, just hanging out on Today.com with Prince Harry and Angelina Jolie!

No big deal, just hanging out on Today.com with Prince Harry and Angelina Jolie!


5. I QUIT THE DAY JOB. GULP.

Sales were picking up. Customer feedback was strong. Was it time to jump? Life was crazy unbalanced between consulting full-time at Microsoft and working full-time nights and weekends on Flytographer. Early in 2014, I realized it was finally time go all in. Concerned parents and friends thought I was crazy, but my gut told me to go for it. I was willing to bet the farm - or at least my house. Yep, crazy! Along with Jen, our Shoot Concierge, and Michelle, our recruiter (then part-time), we prepared to kick some ass.

In our "office" (aka my living room), converted for a Huffington Post feature on Flytographer. Hey, Sara Blakely did it for Spanx when Oprah's team interviewed her!

In our "office" (aka my living room), converted for a Huffington Post feature on Flytographer. Hey, Sara Blakely did it for Spanx when Oprah's team interviewed her!


6. we MADE FRIENDS

With renewed focus, sales grew 600% that year. We signed a partnership agreement with Fairmont Hotels, and after that, a global partnership with Context Travel.  


7. INVESTMENT, AN OFFICE, A TEAM

We closed a seed round in late 2014 with local BC-based investors who truly believed in our vision. For the first time, it wasn't my life savings funding the business, and we now had a budget to hire more team members, invest in marketing, and rent a small office (that wasn't my living room).

Michelle tracing our logo on the white brick wall, right before painting it on. We heart our office.

Michelle tracing our logo on the white brick wall, right before painting it on. We heart our office.

Every Friday, we prosecco. Cheers! From left: Michelle, Danica, Tedi, Jen, Hayden, Nicole, Tara

We also hosted our first "Global Flytographer Meetup" for our photographers in Paris in spring of 2015. Flytographers from around the globe joined us for 3 days of connections, workshops, photo tours, and of course, fabulous wine and cheese! We currently have 350 Flytographers in our family, and they are all amazing human beings. We are excited to see many of them again this spring for our second Global Meetup in Barcelona.

Cute little notebooks for the team.

Cute little notebooks for the team.

Collage by Flytographer Mankica in Llubljana.

Collage by Flytographer Mankica in Llubljana.

 


8. Dragons' Den comes calling 

In May 2015, we got a call from Dragons' Den inviting us to fly to Toronto and pitch on the show  - in a week! We hadn't even auditioned, so this call was totally out of the blue. Read how it went down here.

Harrison, my son, handed out packages to the Dragons. It was a great experience and fun for him to understand more about the business that keeps his mom so busy. Work/life integration!

Harrison, my son, handed out packages to the Dragons. It was a great experience and fun for him to understand more about the business that keeps his mom so busy. Work/life integration!

Fairmont Empress threw us a viewing party at their gorgeous Crystal Ballroom in October.

Fairmont Empress threw us a viewing party at their gorgeous Crystal Ballroom in October.

We served prosecco, popcorn, and had some Flytographer kids run the "Candy Bar."

We served prosecco, popcorn, and had some Flytographer kids run the "Candy Bar."


9. Press, Press, Press ... & GROWTH!

Word started to really spread in 2015. Conde Nast Traveler called us "The Future of Travel Photography," Forbes called us "The #1 Gift for Travelers," and we were featured in amazing media such as: New York Times, Buzzfeed, Martha Stewart, Elle, Yahoo, Town & Country, TripAdvisor, The Guardian ... and just last week, Oprah.com! We also tripled our sales again and went to our first big industry trade show in Cannes. The word was happily spreading like wildfire!

Our very first trade show in Vancouver, pre-launch in 2013.

Our very first trade show in Vancouver, pre-launch in 2013.

"Francois," our brand new trade show booth, was introduced to the world in Cannes in December 2015.

"Francois," our brand new trade show booth, was introduced to the world in Cannes in December 2015.


10. Connections All Over The World

The best part of this job is that every day, through our amazing photographers' eyes, we get to see our customers in beautiful locations from all around the world. The love between people, their stories, the connections: it drives everything we do as a team. We are so proud and gratified that we have built this incredible community of travellers and photographers who have made lasting connections. Because when all is said and done, it's the people you meet and the memories you make along the way that count.

Flytographer Honza in Prague with customers Jennifer & Scott in December.

Flytographer Honza in Prague with customers Jennifer & Scott in December.

Flytographer Peter in Budapest (on far right) raising a glass with his customers after the shoot.

Flytographer Peter in Budapest (on far right) raising a glass with his customers after the shoot.

Travelling Flytographer Gusmank in Bali met NYC Flytographer Johnny for his own shoot in the Big Apple.

Travelling Flytographer Gusmank in Bali met NYC Flytographer Johnny for his own shoot in the Big Apple.

After shooting a Flytographer video, Francisco (centre) & Arturo (at back, right) in Madrid tucked in for a group shot.

After shooting a Flytographer video, Francisco (centre) & Arturo (at back, right) in Madrid tucked in for a group shot.

Flytographer Chelsea (far right) shot honeymoon photos in Kauai for Shoot Concierge Tedi and her new husband Bogdan. 

Flytographer Chelsea (far right) shot honeymoon photos in Kauai for Shoot Concierge Tedi and her new husband Bogdan. 

Krystal and Ciprian get together over a cup of tea in Paris.

Krystal and Ciprian get together over a cup of tea in Paris.

Another rendezvous in Paris with Flytographer Krystal (left) & Mary (right).

Another rendezvous in Paris with Flytographer Krystal (left) & Mary (right).

Trevor in Honolulu (right) met Izumi (centre) & Waki (not shown) for a fun photowalk around Tokyo.

Trevor in Honolulu (right) met Izumi (centre) & Waki (not shown) for a fun photowalk around Tokyo.

Big smiles post-shoot with Lonette and Flytographer Ufuk in Istanbul.

Big smiles post-shoot with Lonette and Flytographer Ufuk in Istanbul.

Tara, our Creative Director, and her husband (centre) enjoyed time with Bayu & Vony in Bali.

Tara, our Creative Director, and her husband (centre) enjoyed time with Bayu & Vony in Bali.

Krystal in Paris gives the thumbs-up after a fun shoot with Henry and his family.

Krystal in Paris gives the thumbs-up after a fun shoot with Henry and his family.

Emma in Florence (right) met Serena in Venice (left) and snapped a fun selfie.

Emma in Florence (right) met Serena in Venice (left) and snapped a fun selfie.

Mónica in Cancun (centre) had a fabulous time shooting Manali in SF (left, behind) and her family on holiday.

Mónica in Cancun (centre) had a fabulous time shooting Manali in SF (left, behind) and her family on holiday.

Nicole (far right) meeting up for a night on the town with NYC Flytographers (left to right): Lauren, Johnny, Kirsten, Josephine, Kate.

Nicole (far right) meeting up for a night on the town with NYC Flytographers (left to right): Lauren, Johnny, Kirsten, Josephine, Kate.

Thank you so much to all our customers, photographers, partners, friends, and family who have helped us reach this dream. We are so thrilled to be on this incredible journey with each and every one of you!