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Tom Feist
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What does your business do?
PhotosByFeist is a photo studio that specializes in working with pets. We have 17 different themed events that celebrate holidays and seasons spread throughout the year--our themes cover everything from Valentine's Day to Christmas, spring to winter. Sets, costumes, and props are all specifically suited for decorating clients' pets for the occasion. PhotosByFeist was founded on a principle of giving back, and as such a portion of the studio's proceeds goes to local animal rescues, contributing over $17,000 since 2010. PhotosByFeist has been in business since 2004, but in 2010 we found our focus on pets. The business has had steady growth, and in 2013 began the Shelter Stock program that's the focus of this grant application. PhotosByFeist works with dogs, cats, ferrets, turtles, tortoises, exotic birds, hedgehogs, Guinea pigs, lambs, geckos, and lizards in the studio. Hopefully, though, not all at once!

How would you use the grant money?
PhotosByFeist always operates our studio to the benefit of a rescue group. We noticed that all of the rescue organizations we raise funds for also buy stock imagery of animals for use in newsletters, websites, and other communications. PhotosByFeist launched the Shelter Stock program that takes our studio to local shelters to create stock imagery of animals doing all sorts of things--from dogs climbing ladders or holding paint brushes in their mouths to kittens grooming baby bunnies. We've also captured a puppy playing in a pile of confetti; a pit bull wearing reading glasses and reading the business section; a cat playing with a (computer) mouse…these versatile, story-telling images have already turned up in local rescue publications. The Shelter Stock program is undertaken at PhotosByFeist's expense. While PhotosByFeist sells licenses for the Shelter Stock images to the public as stock photography, we share all the images with all of the host organizations free of charge. The image sales are slowly gaining, but do not yet sustain the Shelter Stock program. We use volunteers when we can; however a Shelter Stock studio day has a cost of about $80 (staff, editing time, consumables, props, etc.). Idea Café's Small Business Grant would help PhotosByFeist support and expand the Shelter Stock program by spending more days in the shelters, thereby increasing the breadth of images. A typical day can yield as many as 20 significant and salable images. As the breadth of images increases, so, too, will the stock photo sales momentum gain and contribute to the Shelter Stock program becoming self-sustaining.

What would the grant enable you to do that you can't now?
PhotosByFeist's Shelter Stock program uses resident animals in local shelters to create emotional and story-telling images those shelters (and others) can use to promote the message of animal adoption in general. We enable shelters to communicate messages with photos of animals. Is a shelter having a formal fund-raiser? How about a photo of kitten in a black tie? Involved in an internet contest? How about an image of a dog using a laptop? The Idea Café's Small Business Grant will help PhotosByFeist support and expand the Shelter Stock program by spending more days in the shelters, thereby increasing the breadth of images available in the Shelter Stock program. Right now, the costs to support PhotosByFeist's Shelter Stock program are borne by our regular studio operations, so the primary limitation is money. As the pile of stock photos gets larger, it's possible that someday the Shelter Stock program will be self-supporting by licensed sales; until then, the studio operations will continue subsidizing it. The grant would enable additional days of operation, contributing toward the "critical mass" the Shelter Stock program needs to become a self-sustaining business mechanism.

If Idea Cafe's Grant helps your biz reach greater success, how will you "pay it forward" to help others in some way?
PhotosByFeist is rooted in helping others. For one, PhotosByFeist always operates our studio to the benefit of a rescue group. Additionally, since our Shelter Stock images are shared with all of our host facilities free of charge, every additional hour we run the studio in the shelters translates into tangible benefits paid forward to ALL of our host shelters.

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