ABUSINESS started from a barrow in the Metrocentre in 2005 is preparing to make its first foray into the US market.
Photography for Little People was started by Jan Massey and her daughter Melanie Crow to take keepsake pictures of babies and their families.
The business, based in Stanley, started to offer franchises in the UK two years ago and now covers 14 areas from Glasgow in the North to Plymouth in the South.
And having secured trademark protection in the UK, Europe, Australia and US, Ms Massey says the time is right to take the successful business model abroad.
“As we’ve progressed, we have learned about protecting ourselves. When we launched, we had a lot of interest from abroad, but we were advised not to do it before we had trademark protection.”
The company has worked with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to look at the US market and visited franchising shows there.
The plan is now to “have a dabble” in the US market and Photography for Little People is also in talks about franchising the idea in Singapore.
In addition to images of babies, the business produces impressions of children’s feet and hands from its mobile studios. It has also branched out to cover pets after requests from owners.
Although declining to reveal the figure, Ms Massey said that turnover had tripled in the last three years since the business decided that expansion via the franchise route was the way to go.
She said: “Going forward, that seemed the obvious way to go rather than opening lots of shops. We had something we thought was unique.
“It appeals to others, especially to mums, but we do have men on board as well. They have the added cost of childcare and they want to be with their families. When people have families their priorities change.”
The idea also benefited from the recession, when franchises traditionally thrive as people are more keen to sink redundancy payments into starting a business and franchises are considered a more secure option than standalone start-ups.
“In this apparent economic downturn, a lot of people are uncertain. They want to have control and they have a chunk of money they want to invest,” said Ms Massey.
The number of franchises has grown by around 40% in the last year and Ms Massey said the market has been protected because of the current baby boom. In addition to Ms Massey and her daughter, the head office employs two staff.
We had something we thought was unique. It appeals to others, especially to mums