I grew up on Palm Island, Miami Beach, Florida, as the 4th son of parents who left a Philadelphia ghetto, and my father sold a fur coat that was a wedding gift to my mother to launch a glass contracting business which inevitably built the Fontainebleau Hotel and other grand hotels of the ’40s, 50’s and ’60s.
Palm Island remains a well-to-do neighborhood, and frankly, we did not fit in. 😀My parents taught us to take note of anyone who exploited their role of authority, and we did then and do now, sometimes to our detriment.
I have worked since age 15, when, due to being underage, I illegally procured employment at a restaurant as a dishwasher. From there, the couple who owned the establishment was convinced that a sandwich delivery service would be a good idea.
When delivering lunch to a group at a nearby office that installed elevator music around the city, a manager there generously told me that I seemed like a hard-working person and that if I ever wanted a job installing elevator music in corporate buildings around the city, to come to see him.
The next day I appeared, and 3 weeks later, even though the man knew I had no experience with soldering, wiring, etc., I guess I should have told him I was 15. When people said no work could be found, it inspired me to prove them otherwise.
I live with my wife, noted photographer Jill Enfield, in the Hudson Valley of N.Y. State, after raising our daughters in NYC. The link, https://upstatehouse.com/flash-bang-history-making-a-home-in-a-former-gunpowder-factory/, will access a story about the 192-year-old home/office where we currently reside.
She has traveled the country nationwide with her traveling exhibition that launched in 2017 at Ellis Island and has traveled the country, nationwide. Other background information about why we are who we are can be accessed through the 9-minute video about the Leica Camera Foundation, which enabled Jill’s father and grandparents to leave Germany during WWII and open a camera store in 1939.
When our youngest daughter was in high school 11 years ago, she traveled to her paternal ancestral home and made a video, accessible via the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBkAVnWi6FE.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
It is impossible to build something if you are the only one who thinks it can work while all others say it won’t work.
If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey and give yourself one tip, what would it be?
Take advice from my father. Ignore my father-in-law’s insistence that we should not research his old letters and photos from when he was a photographer on Okinawa during the close of WWII.
What we discovered after he passed would have been a bonding element for him and his entire family. (There are now 2 documentary films tracing his life; photographs taken while Japanese civilians were coming out of the caves where they had been in hiding. Kurt Enfield never spoke of his life in the military or as a teenager leaving Germany 4 years earlier, but looking back, it must have haunted him relentlessly.)
What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?
I embrace my endeavors and only do what I enjoy doing, no matter what downside might exist.
Think of the relentless soccer player running across a muddy field in the pouring rain with a painful gash on his knee while the referee is cheating for the other side.
Yet the player wants to keep playing! I approach my business endeavors with the same passion. If I am facing high odds, I will still do it if you truly believe in it.
What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?
Keep a detailed to-do list. Always follow up as you promised. Don’t walk away from anybody who is/was truly in your support, no matter what happens to them or you. If their situation becomes irrelevant, remain in touch anyway. Always take their calls.
If you want to discontinue a relationship with an anonymous salesperson, politely wish them well but tell them you will not be returning future efforts to make contact, so they should stop trying.
Don’t commit to any action which you have no intention of following through on.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
Jim Malcolm, then of Sony, wanted a means of developing consumer interest for the fairly recently launched Sony cameras that emanated from the purchase of the intellectual property of Minolta Cameras.
Against all odds, Jim signed off on launching Sony Digital Days; a ” circus comes to town” concept with a team of photo experts traveling to 18 destinations per year, one weekend at a hotel conference stadium per destination.
A year or two later, Richard Campbell was then running the newly launched U.S. camera division of Panasonic and decided he wanted a marketing strategy to help get enhanced retail distribution.
Rather than single large gatherings with many people, photographers were procured to lead small workshops every week in each market where they lived and had retailer connections, access to out-of-the-way photo ops, and local hero status amongst photo enthusiasts. (This was around the time I had open-heart triple bypass surgery before 50 years old.)
In both cases, we collaborated on strategies and came up with what some viewed as unorthodox methods.
For the Sony program, Sony Digital Days, I was employed at a large company and was known as reckless, but my boss, John Miller, always authorized ideas if I swore I would make them happen, and he passed the Sony deal through the corporate structure in spite of objections from other departments. (I have always felt bad because I think it was me that gave John an eternally upset stomach, not that he ever complained once!)
For Panasonic, they essentially financed the launch of Digital Photo Academy as an LLC, a separate entity from the company for which I had been employed for decades.
There was also help from an insightful and quite brilliant smaller sponsor, Sam Pardue, now running a successful portable storm window concept, Indow (https://indowwindows.com/).
Where do you see your business in five years?
You mean if I had not dropped dead from my third heart attack before that? I see the current markets rolling out to many other markets worldwide and growing more popular amongst the senior citizen market, including my legacy to launch a nonprofit, “Celebrating Senior Shutterbugs.”
Seniors in this country, and perhaps elsewhere, are undervalued. Even as a teenage Hellian, somehow, I always had time and inspiration to listen to the stories of my elders, who could tell me about the world before I was in it. My paternal grandfather and I connected.
My grandmother too. Listening to people significantly older than me remains my go-to in a room full of people of various age brackets.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?
My blunt personality
Talk to us about your biggest success story so far.
- Being part of the success of helping our children to self-actualize and the world-renown accomplishments of my wife, Jill Enfield,
- As for the business side, the launch of Digital PhotoAcademy was made possible by finding and collaborating with 60 photographers on short notice, most of whom are still with Digital Photo Academy today. And having managers like John Miller and Donna Kalagian, who believed in me and supported me, as well as clients like Richard Campbell and Jim Malcolm,
- Developing a successful photography workshop concept to enhance communication skills for people with dementia and those on the autism spectrum
- Digital photography is providing income for professional photographers around the country who are no longer working in a guaranteed high-income career category that existed before digital photography.
How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?
For workshop participants, we are found on the internet; Facebook (Digital Photo Academy with 107,000 followers, Digital Photo Academy Community with 11,600 members), and Instagram (with 8200 followers).
As for sponsors, in today’s digital connection age, I am clueless.
Am I much of a salesperson myself? I will let you decide simply by reading how I answered your questions.
What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?
If you believe in what you are doing, then keep trying, even in the face of great doubt by those around you. Don’t be angry, disappointed, or discouraged when people scoff at the idea. They don’t mean to stop you but are only sharing their instincts. You will probably learn something if you take them seriously, maybe some pitfall that needs to be tended to with an action plan.
And finally, what do you hope the future brings for both you personally and your business?
The celebration of senior citizens through “Celebrating Senior Shutterbugs.”