Name: Shari Seshadri
Children: Christopher, 7 and Kensington, 5
New Jersey Family: Tell us about your business and what makes it unique?
Shari Seshadri: Being married to your co-founder is unique in itself. My amazing husband Chris has been instrumental in the growth of PhotoSesh and most importantly, is incredibly supportive of me and the ideas and goals for the company.
We are proud to be able to say that PhotoSesh is the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to book a photographer in the United States. There are almost 10,000 pre-vetted pro photographers across the country available between $30 to $95/hour. We pride ourselves on an easy to use iOS mobile app and web booking platform which can take you through the entire booking process from start to finish in under 60 seconds. Customers can browse portfolios, bios and select only who you like the best.
NJF: When did you launch the business, and what was your biggest inspiration to get it off the ground?
SS: The early stage idea phase began in 2014, followed by the launch of our iOS App two years later. In 2019, we launched our web booking platform as well as PhotoSesh for enterprise. Initially, we were looking for a simple way to eliminate the old school back-and-forth method of ‘manually’ searching for a photographer. We had experienced these pain points first hand when we were looking to hire a few photographers for a charity event. After quickly realizing that there was a real problem that needed solving, we put a plan into motion. One of our goals from the beginning was to donate photographers to at least one charity event per week. So we’re proud to have been able to do so, and it is a huge piece of our company culture.
NJF: In this unprecedented time of COVID-19, small businesses are being hit really hard. How has this affected your business?
SS: Although there are still jobs being completed on our platform nationwide, we’re certainly feeling the pain like everyone else. We’re encouraging rescheduling indoor shoots and of course waiving any cancellation fees. For those that choose to continue their PhotoSesh gigs, we’re offering best practices and suggestions like avoiding indoor shoots, following local guidelines, keeping a safe distance, enjoying our cashless payment system and referring to the CDC website for proper precautions. We’re keeping our employees on payroll and finding ways to use our downtime productively with charitable efforts to fight COVID-19.
NJF: How have you pivoted your business to adapt to this stressful and uncertain time?
SS: During this time where everything seems uncertain, many of us are transitioning from worrying about what we’re missing—vacations, weddings, kids’ birthday parties—to being thankful for what we have: our lives, our health, and more quality time with our families.
We realized that many families want to capture their new normal (and many photographers need whatever gigs they can get). So in March, we proudly launched PhotoSesh Por(ch)traits. Families can request a PhotoSesh just as you normally would, and your pro will photograph your family outdoors only, completely distanced. And all of our company’s earnings from any PhotoSesh por(ch)rait will go to a COVID-19-fighting charity of the customer’s choice, while we continue to pay local photographers for their work.
NJF: How are you and your business giving back through this period?
SS: In addition to donating earnings from por(ch)rait sessions, PhotoSesh has partnered with criticalsuppliers.org by donating some of our development resources and technology in order to help them efficiently source masks and other PPE for hospitals. While our charity team is helping them with donations, we’re also letting them leverage our experience in creating a two-sided marketplace for approved hospitals and vetted suppliers only.
NJF: What will be the first thing you do as a business when this is behind us?
SS: We really just look forward to continuing to be a reliable solution for all sorts of different types of events that take place across the US. Whether it’s a baby shower, anniversary party, company meeting or photos of your family while on vacation, we’re excited for everyone to be able to enjoy those special moments again. And we’ll be available and ready to assist our enterprise customers with their scalable photography needs as soon as they are ready for us.
NJF: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever gotten that you want to share with others?
SS: I recently heard a talk by a panel of successful women in business, and Beth Comstock, former vice chair at GE, was asked to give her best advice to the audience. What she said really resonated with me: ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to be embarrassed.’ I loved this and although it’s not easy, I think it’s very true and an important reminder not to take yourself too seriously, and that true growth lies outside of our comfort zone.