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Halifax photo booth finds international success in a snap

The Iris Booth has come a long way since the first prototype made from craft paper and cardboard.

“I had to disrupt or be disrupted.”

Halifax-based Sue Siri was the first female news photographer in Nova Scotia, and now she is the founder and CEO of Iris Booth, the world’s first professional photo booth.

“I was a professional photographer for 25-plus years,” explains Siri. “Seeing automation and the intense social media craze and the decline of the photographic industry, it all came into sharp focus. I had to innovate what I knew best.”

The idea for a professional photo booth grew from a simple flash of inspiration three and a half years ago at the dinner table with her kids. Siri was working in corporate photography doing high-end head shots at the time.

The new portable Iris Booth taking high end head shots for $20 is proving popular with customers.

“I was looking at a request to do 2,000 grad photos, so I thought, I’ll just take all my gear, set it up and pre-record all the lines, like, ‘pretend I’m your best friend,’ and ‘lean in and smile.’ Then my kids told me, ‘You know, that’s not a bad idea.’ So I constructed the first photo booth from craft paper and cardboard in my living room.”

Now she has four employees, and contractors are constructing her latest designs in fibreglass. Her first shipment of portable booths will be arriving in Japan in April.

Siri says the challenges of running a business are present seven days a week.

“Today, I might say the challenge is manufacturing. Friday, I might say shipping. Monday, insurance, Tuesday, finding staff and keeping them. There’s an avalanche of challenges. It doesn’t let you fixate too long on any one thing.”  

One challenge she is not worried about is finding customers.

Siri recently attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where LinkedIn featured her professional photo booth on its main stage. She received interest from Microsoft and the United Nations at the LinkedIn event. Next, she is on her way to the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, with six booths.

Trade agreements like the CPTPP are encouraging for Siri. “All of my business is outside of Canada,” she says.

So where will she go next? 

“We’re already there,” says Siri. “We are expanding into six new countries, Australia and five countries across Asia and Europe. We are already in the U.S. and our client list is really, really impressive. I love that the world’s biggest and best tech companies are already on board. It is a big global endorsement.”

If you want to know the value of the international market for small business, just ask (Sue) Siri.

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