Starting a business heavily influenced by travel, during Covid times… How As Happy as a Quokka® was born.
2019, seems so long ago now, but oh, what memories of that time we have! That was the year that I quit my ‘normal’ job and hit the road to drive around Australia for the adventure of a lifetime. There wasn’t much of a plan. All I aimed to do was go to a few key spots and figure out the rest as I went. Along the way, I was able to enjoy my own company and my own thoughts. I could reflect on what had been, and what I wanted to have ahead of me. That’s when As Happy as a Quokka® was born.
The context to As Happy as a Quokka®, and the forming of my business mind centred around the capturing of the “cutest quokka photo of all time” in 2017. At the time, I knew nothing really of the business world, or what a photo could possibly be worth. I didn’t know how to market my work or negotiate a suitable rate. A company must have recognised this, and so offered me $1,000 AUD for the copyright of my image. It was the blurriest photo I had ever taken, so had no comprehension of what it could possibly be worth, or what it would become. I didn’t even know that I should have chatted to some experts in the field and work out what licensing agreements were, instead of pure copyright. I suppose you don’t learn these things in school or during a Sports Science degree. Maybe they teach it in business classes, but I wasn’t privy to this information, and so made a silly decision. I had just finished University and had applied for over 100 jobs to that stage, without getting a new position. I was still working three casual jobs, so a bit of extra cash for a blurry photo seemed like a good deal to me. I handed over the image and received the compensation in return. What this image became, was beyond my imagination, and I think beyond most people’s.
Anyway, time went on with this image going viral. Blog posts, newspaper articles, TV news programs, social media, and whatever other platforms there are, and they were sharing this image, and I wasn’t benefiting from it anymore. But hey, sometimes these companies needed supporting images for their work, or they needed to hear how the image came about, so they would reach out and chat to me about it. Again, with my limited knowledge of the business world, but with the sense that I deserved something for it, I started charging $20.00 AUD for supporting images to be used in these articles and such. At least it was something!
This got me thinking. And what do you do when you need to learn something quick? Turn to YouTube of course. I watched a bunch of people’s videos on YouTube to learn “how do you make money online” and how photographers can make money online. I started with selling post cards of other Quokka images I had taken to souvenir shops. That taught me about communication with potential buyers, ordering cheap and selling a bit higher to make a margin of profit and fulfillment of items. Let’s be honest though. There wasn’t much money in that at all. I just treated it like every batch of post cards I sold covered dinner out with my mates. So, for example, if I ordered 200 post cards to be printed, it would cost me approximately 25-30 cents per post card, and I would attempt to sell the post cards for 50c each, assuming the store would sell the post cards to the customer for $1.00. But it would take a bit of time to sell these 200 post cards, hence the limited money in this option. And I also realised that I was doing the hard yards, while the stores were making a greater percentage of profit than I was. What was next? Well, I was now working full time, and earning more money per hour than I possibly could selling post cards, so the Quokka photography business was pushed to the side while I tried to think of other options going forward.
Long story short, I met an awesome dude at the place I worked, who was very business savvy. He owned several houses and had run his own businesses in the past, so he helped me think of things differently. He also introduced me to another awesome dude who was starting his own business that was similar to the model that he thought I would be able to apply to my situation. We all chatted, bounced ideas off each other, and that was the forming of As Happy as a Quokka®, although I didn’t have a name for it yet.
Down the track, I quit my job and hit the road (early 2019). This trip was my own adventure, but I thought I could capture a lot of photographs and video content for this future business that was yet to be formalised. Landscape and wildlife photography was the main game, but I managed to score a couple of basic sponsorships. One was for $1,500 AUD worth of camping gear in return for content this company could use to promote their brand. The other was a bunch of free clothes and $1,000 AUD a month, again in return for taking a heap of photos for their marketing purposes.
These helped cover my expenses for the trip, but it didn’t unlock the business model that could justify not going back to earning a wage in a regular job again. Spoiler for the next blog posts ahead… I still haven’t unlocked that business model thanks to Covid, but I’ve learnt a hell of a lot, so feel free to come along for the ride and hear about all the mistakes I made, the lessons I’ve learnt, what I would now do differently, and what’s in store for As Happy as a Quokka®.