By Nancy Dahlberg
The Miami Herald.
Katelyn Barclay started Teenography, a photography service run by teens, about two years ago with one employee. At her first event, she ran out of business cards. The Weston teen knew she was on to something — she just didn’t know how big.
“If you said I might have 19 Teenographers, videographers and a photo book service in two years, I would have said ‘Are you OK?’ ” said Barclay, who won the Business Plan Challenge High School Track for her company that was already pulling in revenue at the time of her win.
Teenography’s core business is children’s birthday parties; a differentiator for Teenography is that its teen photographers can join the kids on the slide to get the perfect shot. But since winning the Challenge, Teenography has expanded the business geographically to Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, added video and photo book services, and now offers Teenographers for all kinds of events — family celebrations, small Bar Mitzvahs, even a recent 85th birthday party. It has also been hired for corporate headshots and product shoots for small businesses.
“It’s definitely been a year of expansion,” said Barclay, now a senior at The University School in Fort Lauderdale. “We opened in Miami-Dade, thanks to our Miami Herald win. It’s really cool how it has all worked out.”
Learning to manage other teens has been a challenge for Barclay, who is an AP honors student and also is a competitive volleyball player. “I’ve had to hire and train them and, most importantly, I have learned how to respond when they aren’t doing their jobs in the manner we need and expect,” she said. Finding teens with a professional work ethic has also been a challenge.
Barclay also learned another important lesson: She can’t do it all. “The business can only run smoothly if I accept that there are people out there that are better at certain things than I am,” Barclay said. “Because of this, I ended up forming a teen team of directors who help to manage our finances, social media, charity portion and human resources.”
This teen team also gives her Teenographers experience running portions of a business, such as balancing the books, running social media campaigns and building community relations.
Teenography’s main source of marketing has been word-of-mouth, thanks in large part to parents in the community: “Lately, a lot of the teens have found us instead of us finding them. They see other kids who are working as Teenographers; their interest is piqued, and they really want to try it out.”
The charity arm of her business is growing, too: “I love to give back because the community has been so good to me, and I’ve found that a lot of our photographers like to give back, too. We have donated over 300 community service hours.”
Going forward, Barclay is looking into strategies to grow faster and reach more people. At the Miami Herald luncheon for winners in June, many of the judges, all successful business people, brought up strategies for expansion. Particularly helpful was Mike Tomás, who recommended she read the book Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) by Salim Ismail — which she did. “[Tomás] was amazing. Currently, we are considering expanding into an online platform.”
As for college, Barclay is deciding between 13 institutions, and she wants to study business and entrepreneurship.
Teenography’s advice for Challenge contestants: “I would definitely recommend testing the viability of your concept in the real world simply by talking to who your target market would be and see if there is truly a need for your business. Also, I would strongly highlight what makes your business unique in comparison to your competition,” Barclay said.