Hi! Nicole here, founder of Flytographer. 👋
Have you ever had a startup idea? 💡
One that you couldn’t stop thinking about?
Flytographer started on the streets of Paris … ten years ago this month. 🇲🇫
Here’s my story on how the idea originated, how I finally decided to take action, and the first steps I took.
It was October 2011.
By some miracle, I was chosen to go to Paris for a work project. 🙌
My best friend, Erika, flew down from Copenhagen to meet up with me for the weekend. 👯
We were having a marvelous time, strolling the cobblestones in Le Marais, savouring our coffees, laughing and catching up as we soaked up Paris together. Living on two separate continents means Erika and I don’t see each other very often, and I didn’t want to forget this precious day, ever. Memories have always been so important to me … are you the same? I wanted to capture this moment, this story of our perfect day together in Paris.
Try as we might, we just couldn’t get a decent selfie / stranger-taken photo to save our lives. I mean, we’ve all been there, right? The results displayed seven chins, heads cut off, weird angles, bad lighting … and too embarrassed to ask the kind stranger to re-take the photo. 😂
Luckily, on that foggy October day in Paris, we had brunch with a local ex-pat friend of Erika’s named Anita.
Afterward, I passed her my iPhone and asked if she would snap a few shots from a wide-angled distance as Erika and I walked through the pretty streets. All I wanted was one decent photo of us with the gorgeous Parisian architecture in the backdrop so I would be able to relive the memory when I was back in Canada, far away from this moment.
Twenty minutes later, when I got my phone back, I scrolled through the camera roll … and shivered with goosebumps. It was there. Anita captured our story. The spirit of the trip. The beauty of Paris. In a photo.
Nicole & her best friend, Erika met up in Paris in 2011. This photo sparked the idea for Flytographer.
It was the best souvenir I brought home from that trip.
I wondered how I would capture a photo like this on a future trip? This was the ONLY souvenir I wanted to bring back home.
The idea for Flytographer entered my brain.
Every day for 9 months, I thought about this idea. Yet all that time, I did nothing.
I had all the reasons: I was too busy with kids, work, life. Too scared. I felt too old.
A 40th birthday on the horizon
As my 40th birthday approached, I realized something life-changing: My greatest fear was actually not all the excuses I had told myself, but that I might get to age 80 and be left wondering, “What if I had had the courage to try that crazy idea at 40 — what could have it become?” And then experiencing deep regret that I never even tried.
I decided to either take action on this idea before my 40th birthday, which was at this time only a few months away … or put it to rest forever.
Nicole & her best friend, Erika on a trip to Italy the day she decided to begin building Flytographer.
So in the summer of 2012, I came up with a name, bought the URL, and started testing a few things. 👩💻
My first step was recruiting my first photographer off Craigslist.
I asked Gonçalo to shoot a friend who was travelling to Paris. (Fun fact: this same friend, Michelle, has been working for Flytographer for 8 years and is our wonderful Creative Director!)
Photo: Goncalo S. in Lisbon (taken in Paris). Test shot from one of the first Flytographer shoots in Paris.
I learned a lot from that test. I took the lessons and repeated the process with groups of friends who were travelling so I could see if this was a problem people actually would pay to solve, if photographers found it valuable, work out the kinks, iterate, and gather enough insight/data to decide if I should officially “GO FOR IT.”
The rest is history. I officially soft-launched Flytographer in March 2013 with 18 cities.
Today, we have over 380 cities globally, have captured over 4 million photos and created a community of 600 hand-picked, incredibly talented and kind photographers. 🌍💕
Photo: Natalie in Honolulu for Flytographer (taken in Santorini). Group shots from 2019 at the 5th Global Flytographer Meetup in Santorini.
The first three “Flytographers” I tested the concept with are still with us today! 📸
Amelia in Buenos Aires, who shot my friends LD and Scott.
Emiliano, who photographed my friends Natalie and Bruce in London is now a Flytographer in Helsinki.
And the OG Flytographer, Gonçalo, was our busiest photographer in Paris for many years, and has since moved back home to Lisbon and now shoots for us there. He has gone on to an incredible career photographing top fashion shows, models and celebrities.
Nicole and Gonçalo in Paris after being the first hired Flytographer.
So that’s how the idea began, how I tested it before starting, and some of the people who helped bring it to life.
The pandemic has caused many of us to reconsider how we want to live our lives and what success means to us.
If you have an idea rolling around rent-free in your brain — maybe now is the time to take that first step?
One of our core values centres around celebration, so our HQ team (which currently spans from Honolulu, across Canada, and all the way to Paris) will be marking the 10th anniversary of the Flytographer idea with a Zoom lunch party this month! 🎉
p.s. If you’re curious how we navigated the pandemic (we tell this story in GIFS!), find it here, or eight lessons I’ve learned scaling this business from idea to over $19 million dollars in photo shoot sales, read here.
Thank you for trusting us to capture your memories all these years. It’s truly an honour.