Whenever we get a chance to talk to a customer here at Groove, we take it.
So when Josh Pather of Photo Booth International dropped this line in a conversation with Erika from our support team…
We knew we had to reach out.
We thought we’d talk to Josh about Groove and maybe write up a customer case study if it made sense to do so.
But then we got him on a call.
Ten minutes later, we were in awe of the story we were hearing:
Josh is one of many e-commerce owners using Groove to support customers.
In this article, we’ll share his story of entrepreneurship with you—including how he got into e-commerce in the first place.
That time in high school when Josh got sued by Nike
Josh has always been an entrepreneur.
There’s a framed letter hanging on the wall of Josh’s office.
It’s a letter he received when he was a teenager from an attorney based on Oregon.
It was addressed to him on behalf of Nike, announcing their intention to sue him for $50,000 for copyright infringement.
Josh was born in South Africa, but his family moved to Dallas, Texas, when he was nine years old.
“My dad had a pretty nice job back in South Africa, and he had to leave that and come here and start over,” Josh told us. “I always remembered that—that he made that sacrifice to come here for a better life for us.”
As a teenager, he discovered he could order knock-off Nike shoes from a website in China. Even with shipping, the cost was a fraction of what he’d pay for an authentic pair from the local shoe store.
“It was late one night, and I ended up on Alibaba.com,” Josh said. “And they had Jordans on there for $30, so I thought, ‘Why am I paying $200 at Foot Locker when I could get them here?”
Josh ordered a pair for himself first.
Then he ordered more and started selling them to students at his high school.
“I had a catalog printed out, so I would go to class, pass the catalog around, and take $20 deposits,” Josh said. “I was making a few hundred dollars a week while I was in high school, and it was pretty great.”
How Nike found him
It wasn’t long before Josh set up a website—hoping to reach a broader market in the U.S. and expand his business.
That’s when Nike found out.
“I came home from school one day and there was the letter in the mailbox,” Josh said. “It was from a lawyer about a $50,000 trademark lawsuit they’d filed against me in court: Nike corporation vs. Josh Pather”
Josh’s name was on his website. And it was also on a website owned by a vendor in China Josh had developed a strong relationship with.
“That’s how they really found me,” Josh said. “They had screenshots of his website with my name on it and everything.”
Josh’s dad stepped in and helped him navigate the situation, eventually settling the case for a few thousand dollars.
“He helped me settle the case and he just kind of gave me a pat on the head,” Josh said. “And that was pretty much it.”
He didn’t realize it at the time, but in high school Josh was doing something that was about to become a major business trend.
“I look back on that now and think: Oh, I was actually drop shipping back then. I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing.”
Starting a DJ business
It’s been over a decade since Josh received that letter from Nike.
The experience put his entrepreneurial pursuits on hold for a while, but not forever.
After graduation, Josh worked a “normal” job for a few years—working in a call center for a large financial institution.
But even there, when the chance to do a side project came his way, he didn’t hesitate.
A coworker was a DJ for weddings and other events, and he asked Josh if he wanted to help him at an upcoming event.
That turned into a regular weekend project, which eventually evolved into Josh running his own DJ business.
“One weekend, he was double booked, so he did one event, and I did the other,” Josh told us. “And after that, I started doing them on my own.”
Josh’s first photo booth
At many weddings, Josh noticed the couple would hire a photo booth operator.
“Being a DJ is a lot of work,” Josh said. “I had to get there, set up, and then I would meet with the bride and groom, make sure everything’s perfect, what they want for the first dance, any of the walkouts. It was a lot.”
“But I kept noticing these photo booths,” he added.
It seemed to Josh like a photo booth rental business might be a less stressful way to run a business.
He had another friend who noticed the same thing.
“I had a friend who called me and said he’d gone to an event and there was a photo booth there,” Josh said. “He said we should make one for ourselves.”
The two went to Home Depot and spent around $500 buying wood and other supplies. Then they built their first photo booth using older electronics and equipment they already had.
That was November of 2012, and they booked their first event on December 6.
Within weeks, he had a series of events lined up for his new business venture—including weddings but also corporate events like conventions.
“It just kind of took off,” Josh said. “Back then, there weren’t a lot of people doing what we were doing, and there wasn’t much competition.”
And then he got laid off
All along, Josh had still been working full-time for the financial services company.
But he got a major shove into full-time entrepreneurship when he found out his position was about to be eliminated.
“In January 2013, they called us all into a meeting and told us they were moving all our jobs to a place in Costa Rica,” Josh said. “I had the option of staying on with them and taking some other entry-level position, or I could take a severance.”
In that moment, he knew his new photo booth business was about to go from side hustle to full-time business.
“That’s when it was like: ‘Okay, I guess this is a sign’,” Josh told us. “If there’s ever a time to take a shot on this, it’s going to be right now.”
As it happened, the timing was perfect.
Josh ended his time with the financial services company in June of 2013, and he’s never looked back.
From service business to e-commerce
Josh and his friend did over six figures in revenue that first year renting the photo booth for weddings and corporate events.
Pretty soon, Josh and his friend went different ways, and Josh took over the business full time.
As he did more and more events, people would ask him how he built his booth in the first place.
“A lot of people would see what we were doing and think it was really interesting,” Josh said. “We’d be at an event and people would come up to us and ask: ‘Where can we buy a photo booth?’”
At that point, Josh realized there might be a market to teach other people how to start and build the kind of business he was running.
That’s how Photo Booth International was born.
After successfully running a photo booth event business, Josh transitioned his company into one that built and sold photo booths to other entrepreneurs looking to start or grow the same kind of business.
For Josh, this was a very natural transition.
“We started building new booths and listing them on eBay,” Josh said. “Once we started selling a few booths, we realized that this could be its own business.”
Things grew from there, and it wasn’t long before Josh was selling photo booths and creating training materials for other entrepreneurs full time.
Today, Photo Booth International now operates out of a showroom outside of Dallas.
The company sells photo booths that range from $3,000 to $10,000. Josh sells most of his photo booths to people across the U.S., shipping them from his showroom to their location.
The business grew quickly once Josh made the transition to e-commerce. Last year it was recognized by Inc magazine as one of Texas’s fastest-growing businesses.
Josh’s marketing strategy and the impact of the pandemic
Photo Booth International uses content marketing to attract people looking to start a side business, then introduces photo booths as an option.
Josh uses a variety of channels to attract new prospects, including YouTube, Facebook, Facebook Groups, and email.
In doing so, he’s built a community for people all over the world who are running photo booth businesses—something that’s become all the more important with everything that’s happened in 2020.
“It has slowed things down for us,” Josh said when we asked about the impact of the pandemic on his business.
“At the same time, people aren’t going to stop getting married,” he said.
In addition, Josh has seen an increase in the number of people looking to side gigs as a way to protect themselves in a time of economic uncertainty.
“There’s a lot of unemployment happening right now, and that can happen to anyone,” Josh said. “I went to work one day and they pulled us all into a conference room and told us our jobs were moving overseas.”
“I think a lot of people are realizing that having a job might not be enough anymore,” he added. “When you have a business, you actually start to control your own destiny more.”
The tools Josh relies on
Josh recently switched his website to Shopify, which is making it easier to organize the products he sells on his website.
Photo Booth International was also an early user of Groove, although—based on the advice of a business consultant—Josh tried a couple of other customer support solutions along the way, including Freshdesk and Zendesk.
“Groove is just really simple to use,” Josh said. “We tried a couple of other solutions but they were just really difficult to understand.”
“We were losing business and customers were upset, so I just decided to go back to Groove so we could keep things simple,” he added.
Josh’s advice for others looking to start a business
Toward the end of our interview, we asked Josh for his advice for others looking to grow their businesses. Here’s what he said:
1. Remember that nothing lasts forever
Considering the current economic climate, I think it’s extremely important to remember that nothing lasts forever. This includes the good and the bad—everything comes in seasons.
With that in mind, I recommend taking advantage of good opportunities, finding the right mentors and living below your means to save money for a future rainy season.
2. Find good partners (CPA, attorneys, etc.)
As you begin to hire business professionals such as CPAs, attorneys or other partners, really take your time to research who you are partnering up with.
I have made the mistake of not doing my homework on them and gotten burned, so that’s my biggest tip—protect yourself and your business!
“You don’t have to know everything about accounting, for example, but I suggest you know enough to make sure the job is getting done properly.”
3. Don’t wait!
Lastly, get started as soon as possible.
Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis—all of the great businesses you see today started at the bottom. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s end.