Elizabeth Smurlick lives and breathes the motto of "Think Green" while combining it with her passion for photography. Elizabeth juggles her life being an MBA student, marketing co-op, and business owner of an environmentally friendly photo booth company.
Name: Elizabeth Smurlick
Suitless Pursuit: Owner of Nature Booth
Nature booth is...?
Nature Booth is an open concept, environmentally friendly photo booth. You probably have seen photo booths around at things like weddings, proms, and community events, but other companies do not take a holistic eco-friendly approach like we do. Our photo booth is a high-quality product that can do what most photo booths can do, and more. Nature Booth is cost competitive so that clients can spend the same amount of money as they would on a regular booth, but have the option to make an environmental choice.
What inspired the idea?
Last year, I hosted a bridal shower for my friend at my place and I wanted to do something special for her. I used my DSLR camera and decided to put together a rudimentary photo booth for her. From there, I kept it in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a photo booth business. I also happen to be very conscious about preserving our environment for future generations. Once I realized that nobody was doing an eco-friendly photo booth within my area, I decided to align my values with the business idea to create Nature Booth.
Nature Booth is your side business, but what is your day job?
I just finished my placement, but I was a Marketing Solutions Co-op at Ricoh Canada. Originally they were known for multifunctional printers, but now they offer tons of different solutions and services to make companies more effective. I was a member of the marketing team and we helped on a number of projects including streamlining employee pricing and content writing.
How did you become so passionate about the environment?
During clubs week at my university, I met an environmental guru named Rohit. His passion was very contagious. I joined numerous groups and became more actively involved. Rohit was a big inspiration to help me get off my feet and join in numerous environmental initiatives.
How does Nature Booth benefit from your job placements and current educational studies?
The great part about working at Ricoh Canada is that I could get a lot of different perspectives and advice for direction of my company that I would not necessarily get on my own. In particular, my former boss has been a great mentor for me and helped guide my way. As for my education, my MBA and undergrad have provided me with courses on project management, which in turn have helped me when planning and organizing for events.
What are some conflicts and challenges you have faced?
One of the challenges was that I started from scratch, which means I built my booth from the ground up. All the materials I used are as environmentally friendly as possible. Unfortunately, I have limited experience in woodworking and metal making, but I've been lucky enough to have my boyfriend and father help me out. I've also been taking woodworking classes, so the next version of Nature Booth will be even better than the first. Right now my unit can do digital or printing and I’m really happy with the way it looks and works. However, version 2.0 will definitely be slimmer.
What research went behind the development of Nature Booth?
A lot of the research was primarily done online; whatever I could find on how to build booths and camera equipment. I would look at reviews at photo booths with bad reviews to see what went wrong. I also got in touch with someone who used to run an eco-friendly photo booth business in Vancouver. He was able to give me some pointers and really helped me understand the field.
How did your co-workers and family react to your business?
They love it. They always ask to see the photos and want to know when is the next time I’ll have an event open to the public. As for my parents, they are thrilled and are just happy to know I’m doing something I love. Also, my boyfriend has been so fantastic and supportive.
What is one of the coolest events you brought Nature Booth to?
One of the events I worked for was run by Hillel of Greater Toronto. It was interesting because it was a Casino Night and everything was so professional. Honestly, I've had a variety of clients ranging from kids to seniors. It’s just nice to see everyone enjoying themselves doing funny poses with props.
Do you ever get into heated debates with clients about being environmentally friendly?
Not really. However, people tend to question what makes Nature Booth eco-friendly. People usually raise the question about why I offer printing as an option. At the end of the day I do what will makes the client happy. Most people love print especially the tactile feeling of it. In order to keep eco-friendly, I selected a printer that uses 25% less energy and that doesn't use volatile organic compounds.
What are your plans for the future?
In the grand scheme of things, I want to be the go to for non-traditional photography services for events. This includes my photo booth that does both digital and traditional print and more recently I've been including animated gifs as an option. It’s actually super big in the United States and I’m hoping to make it trend in Canada. I also hope to launch Instagram printing at events. People can tweet a specific hashtag, Nature Booth will pick that up, and guests can print out their photos at events.
Do you have any advice for those starting their own business despite having a busy schedule like yourself?
There’s no time like the present. People will make excuses that there’s always something in the way. You need to go for it by balancing the time you have.
Visit their website: http://www.naturebooth.ca/
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NatureBooth
All images courtesy of Nature Booth.