From an angel wing swing with a cloud backdrop to a mystical flower garden, the various rooms at Selfie Made Photo Studio in Logan Square allow for customers to walk in and take photos on their phone or even book an appointment to rent out the space for an event or photoshoot.
Catherine Thompson, 43, of Chicago and co-owner of Selfie Made, said they began renting the space a year ago and began construction in January. They got advice from contractors and help from friends and family, but did the design and construction work on their own. Because they both had full-time jobs, they worked on the studio on weekends. Their plan was to get the space ready for business within three months but ended up taking 10. Finally, the studio opened its doors in August.
Luckily for them, they planned that it would take a year for them to be profitable. “You do have to plan for the unexpected so thank god for the contingency plan,” said Thompson.
Thompson, who also works part time at a wine distribution company, first came up with the business model on a trip to Vegas where she visited a selfie studio and was immediately inspired to open one of her own. “We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” said co-owner Sylvia Tall, a 60-year-old Chicagoan. When she’s not at the selfie studio, she works part-time as dental hygienist.
Before opening the studio, Tall was only taking design jobs for weddings when she had spare time. Her role in the businesses so far has reignited a creative side in her that had been suppressed for a long time, she said.
Thompson said she has always been good at coming up with ideas, but struggled to picture the full vision, she knew calling Tall was the right choice. “I love the outlet I get when working with Sylvia because it kind of brings out that creative side of me, it colors it for me,” she said.
The studio’s goal is to add to the community and in purposeful and accessible way. Tall said their biggest intention is to provide a space that is fun. “We definitely kept the pricing very reasonable for that…there’s a good line between making money and just kind of abusing the community that you’re in or taking advantage of it,” Thompson said. The studio charges $40 dollars for hour-long walk-in appointment, a price point they decided would be approachable to young people.
Before the studio opened, the space was previously a law office that had since been vacant for about seven years. Nicholas Zettel, the Chief of Staff for the 1st Ward Alderman, Daniel La Spata, said “we generally hear a lot of concern about vacant storefronts, so residents are usually supportive of new businesses.
Thompson said the hardest part is that people have a hard time conceptualizing what it is they do in contrast to a traditional photo studio. The main difference being that people are allowed to take photos and selfies on their phones in a more casual manner and have access to three wall rooms rather than a traditional backdrop. And while this aspect has been difficult, she said it also excites her because it means that it’s not yet a saturated market.
To bring in business, they have since hired someone to navigate their social media accounts and reached out to billboard companies to promote their studio in way where their vision and business model can be translated more clearly to the public.
“The biggest thing is just figuring out our marketing and just making sure people know that we’re here because we know what we have is amazing,” Thompson said.