Couple behind this popular photo booth startup share entrepreneurial ups and downs

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Do you know of other couples in the Charlotte area who run a business together? Tell us more five-question survey.

Pair: Peterson and Colette Louis
How long in relation? Married since 2016
How long have they been in business together? QC kiosks since 2016 and QC Lights since 2019

Before starting a photo booth business QC kiosks Five years ago, Peterson and Colette Louis had no experience in the event industry. The startup has now become a must-have event provider at the local level, even snagging high-profile concerts like the Charlotte Wedding 2018 of Sydel Curry-Lee, younger sister of NBA star and Charlotte native, Steph Curry.

The couple have spent over a decade in banking, but it was one of Colette’s DIY projects at their holiday party in 2015 that sparked Pete’s business idea.

“She put a red backdrop on the wall and stuck it up. It was a Goodwill frame that she spray painted, ”he said. “Everyone who came to the house that day for the party took a picture. Since then, I have been thinking of photo booths.

After finding success with QC Booths, they introduced their marquee lighting service, QC lights, in 2019 after seeing a vacuum in the Charlotte market for the wedding trend made popular in the early 2010s.

With social gathering at the heart of their activities, the Louise’s have suffered losses due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Pete lost his full-time banking position and most in-person events were canceled. However, they weathered the storm and found new opportunities as well.

In a recent interview, Pete and Colette spoke to QCity Metro about how they overcame a steep learning curve after the launch of QC Booths, how they fared as business owners in 2020 and their prospects as more and more people get vaccinated.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. How do you go from banking experience to running a photo booth business?

Colette: We arrived without experience and had to teach ourselves. We had to learn the market, even the influencers in Charlotte and where to go in Charlotte. We had to learn how to use the camera, create designs and everything. Our wedding reception was our first event. We actually took out the photo booth.

Pete: There are many Facebook groups for photo booths, so we learned from the community that already exists. I joined Facebook groups to connect with people and exchange ideas. I had to watch YouTube videos and teach myself how to use the software.

Colette: There is so much information on Instagram. You would be surprised if you just took the time to research it. It helped me a lot.

Pete: Social media has helped us learn how to put our business together, the things we need and how to market ourselves.

Q. What are the roles? Who does what?

Pete: This has changed over the years. It started when we both showed up for the photo booth events. Then we got pregnant and Colette slowed down. She started designing everyone’s border template for their photos because she is more creative.

Colette: Not only that, I was doing payroll and planning – a lot of administrative work. He did all the technical stuff with the software and he did the marketing.

Owning a business and being married to your partner is knowing your strengths. I know that being creative is what makes me happy and brings me joy. For him, having a well-established and well-built business brings him joy. Starting our business was a way for us to create our own happiness and to work for ourselves.

Q. What inspired you to start QC Lights?

Pete: I was inspired by abroad, in markets like Australia. I saw that there weren’t a lot of companies in Charlotte that were doing marquee lights and doing it right. If I could do photo booth marketing well then I knew I could do marquee light marketing well. We organized a few events and as business started to pick up the pandemic brought it to a halt.

Q. Talk about the situation of businesses before the pandemic hit?

Colette: We were at the point where he was considering quitting his job because we were doing so well.

Q. So you were still working 9 to 5 jobs?

Colette: When I had Cami [in 2018], because the business was running so well, I started working full time for QC Booths. It offset my income and allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. He was still working full time, which was a lot.

Pete: I was about a week away from my resignation.

Colette: Then we saw the news of Covid in China, but I said, ‘It’s so far.’ He said, “I feel like I should just wait a bit.”

Pete: The week after I planned to give my opinion, that’s when the entire city of Charlotte closed its doors.

Q. What have been some of the effects of Covid on you as business owners?

Pete: Throughout the year we probably organize between 100 and 130 events. So by March [2020] we’ve probably had 30 to 40 other events on the books.

Colette: You pay in advance, so a lot of people have already paid for it. Everything in April, May, June, July, everything had to be postponed. It was also entering wedding season, which was when we are at our busiest.

Pete: It was even difficult to stay engaged with our employees because they weren’t going to events. During those three to four months that Charlotte was really closed, you might talk to them once every two months just to see if they would come back once things started to open up. Even these conversations were quite difficult because you have to ask your employees if they would feel comfortable attending events where they would not know these people.

Colette: Covid has been tough on us mentally more than anything.

Q. Without in-person events, how did you fare?

Colette: I’m a thrifty person, so I was trying to figure out how I could contribute. I would buy things for $ 1 and then sell them on the Facebook Marketplace for $ 10. You try to find different ways to push yourself around. Then everyone was saying I should put Cami on Instagram. I had tons of pictures, and I had time, and that’s how it is CamiFroBabe was born.

[Related: ‘I hope I see him’: 2-year-old Charlotte influencer goes viral after visit with grandpa]

Louis-family
Colette launched CamiFroBabe, branded content featuring their baby girl, Cami. The young influencer went viral during the pandemic and drew offers from brands from companies like Nickelodeon. Photo courtesy of Colette Louis

Last year Pete lost his job, but because of it I was able to focus on CamiFroBabe. I still work for QC Booths, but he is able to focus on payroll. As our lives have changed, the roles have also changed. So he focused on that and I can stay in my creative space.

Pete: The downtime gave me time to refine the operational aspects of both companies, and even run free events with vendors we know in the industry. We were like, “Hey, when you got something, let me know.” I would bring my lights over there just for the market.

Q. When did business start to take a turn?

Pete: When the state started slowly opening last year, QC Lights started blowing up because people were having smaller events, but they still wanted that impact piece. We enjoyed 80 events between August and December. I knew from there that we wanted to stick with something. It’s one of those things where I can just set it up and go. I don’t have to be around all the time and be another person to possibly transmit a virus.

Q. What would you say to future business owners who don’t feel like they have all the tools to get started?

Colette: You don’t necessarily need a loan to start a business, but you can struggle to find a way to get the resources you need. Before starting the photo booth, Pete was arbitrating for money to buy the photo booth.

In addition, you must continue to research and learn. You need to take the time to know your market. Will you make enough money to survive doing this? Or is it something that is all the rage and will disappear next month?

Pete: Then, once you’ve done your research, always present yourself professionally in all the ways you market your brand. You always want to do your best.

Q. What’s the next step? What are you waiting for this year?

Pete: When it comes to photo booths, there is always a new trend, so we try to keep an eye out for those. We will continue to do what we are doing but also make sure we have what everyone wants.

I can have fun with my family on the weekends because often with these event type companies they take away your weekends. But I created a corporate structure where I have employees and I no longer have to work those long hours. Perfect your process to the point where the business can operate on its own.



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