Ever wonder how you can take your business from good to great? In this week's episode, Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society is joined by Beate Chelette. She shares her remarkable journey from Elle Magazine photo editor to distinguished business owner. Listen as Chelette explains how she skillfully navigated the changing landscape of the photography market, identifying early signs of commoditization and adapting her business strategy accordingly. Today, she is also the host of the Business Growth Architect podcast.
Chelette offers us a first-hand account of her transition to business ownership, and the challenges she encountered along the way. Among these were the inherent issues with subscription models that led to copyright disputes and the complexities of selling her business. She enlightens us with her negotiations with industry giants like Corbis and Jupiter Images.
She also discusses the crucial task of aligning offerings with market needs. With real-life examples from my own journey of rebranding and retooling my program, Airtide Avatar, we discuss the importance of understanding the customer's mindset. Plus, we dive into creative marketing strategies and how to position your products to create valuable moments for customers.
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Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning
Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, gary Peugeot. The Dead Pixel Society podcast is brought to you by MediaClip, advertek Printing and IP Labs.Gary Pageau:
Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Peugeot, and today we're joined by Viante Chilette, who's a former photographer and business owner, who sold her business and is now a growth architect and consultant. Hi Viante, how are you today?Beate Chelette:
I'm excited to be here, Gary, especially talking about. What are we going to be talking about? Something I'm super passionate about anything around images, photography, printing, making the world better by giving people something beautiful to look at.Gary Pageau:
So tell me first your story, because I think that in itself, leading up to this point is kind of fascinating. I don't want to preempt you by telling your story before you do so. Why don't you start?Beate Chelette:
Yes, so I'm originally from Germany. I am, by trade, a photographer, so I did go to photo school in Munich, the Institute of Photo Design. Okay, Unfortunately, I found out unfortunately, I found out pretty quickly that in order to be a really good photographer, it would take time, money, effort and probably a lot of hardship. Because I understood that in order to have a style, you really needed to work on that and I just was naturally really good at the business side of things. So it was very easy for me to understood what needed to be done on the business side to make the photography work. And so ultimately I choose relatively quickly that I was going to go into that route and became a photo editor, ended up a photo editor at Elle Magazine when I was 23 years old and ran the photo department, which isn't everybody's book. a great job. It unfortunately bored me to tears.Gary Pageau:
We're doing all that beauty all day. It's very depressing, I'm sure.Beate Chelette:
Gary, it's really kind of like what people say about the fashion industry and the women in the fashion industry, and, sadly, a lot of it at that time certainly was true, and I found it not a compelling place to be, and so my dad got fired. I realized that I had a lot of the traits that he had and I was not a very nice person, that people would do everything for me because of the job that I was in but not of the person I was. And then I, at 23, decided was going to immigrate to the United States and become a person that I liked Wow. So where did he relocate? To Los Angeles, of all places. So first I went to Key West. I was on a houseboat without water and electricity, just to learn how to deal with my own Uh crap and uh be you know off all this other nonsense and settle. And then I moved to Los Angeles and started working as a photographer rep. So what happened is then I went and started a production company for this other organization and Levi Strauss was my first client as a producer in LA and I asked him how did you find me? And they said somebody says call Beate in Los Angeles and I'm like if you can find me in a city of 13 million people just because somebody says, call Beate. I must put this in my business name, and that's how Beate works, as a name was was born Cause. Then I was laid off and I got into business by myself. I was overcoming a lot of adversity in 10 years fires, floods, riots, earthquakes, a tsunami that had one of my key vendors, the photographer Bernando Fangocia, vanished in the tsunami. Oh no, and that was absolutely horrible. My father died and I found myself 135,000 dead. With a great idea how to run a business the stock photography syndication specialist in architecture, interior photography and celebrity at home stories and then I had to crack the code and figure out how I'm going to make it work.Gary Pageau:
Right. So kind of the timeframe, what was the timeframe around this? Because for a while there, stock photography was like a super hot area, kind of in the transition from. You know, I remember looking through books and CDs and slide books. I mean that's how old I am. So what was the timeframe around then?Beate Chelette:
Yeah, so I sold my business in 2006, which was literally the last wave of acquisitions in stock photography. I think after I sold my business, the market imploded six months later when photography, due to the digital revolutions how we called it back then which you know ages me obviously as well had completely devalued the images you know and be, and then became commodities. But we did see this coming, we knew this was coming, it was inevitable, and so, if we go back for that, so it was 10 years prior to that. So it was from 1996 to 2006, where I really went through a lot of trial and error and trying to figure out how does it work. And what I find important to point out is that from me being a photographer to then becoming an artist representative, to going into production, to then really aging out of production, and I lost my production business in September 11 and one day, one day, I lost a half a million dollars. And then, you know, going into an equity based business, going into stock photography, building that up to a seven figure business, and then finding out that photography is going to be commoditized and then figuring out what do we need to do to exit as quickly as possible while the market hasn't caught on to that yet, and then the whole thing imploded. And then what do you do afterwards? So that's really the journey.Gary Pageau:
So what were the signs that you saw in the market then that indicated to you it was going to implode? So I'm sure that you know there were a lot of people in that space who were, you know, trying to figure out. And of course, you know I remember when this was going on and there was sort of this idea that you know, yeah, there'll be some cheap digital stuff available, but you know, people will still pay for the high quality stock stuff, the unique look and all that, and clearly there are some of that, but it wasn't, wasn't enough to sustain the market as it was.Beate Chelette:
Subscription models. To answer that it was a subscription models once. Once getty rolled out their subscription models, we knew it was over. I mean, look, we heard about people that would sit, that were hired to download as many images as possible randomly on a subscription at some of these corporations, just to create their internal database. Then we found out that they were building internal digital databases based on the 10s of thousands of images that they were downloading, basically utilizing our stuff that they now had legally downloaded within their subscription period but had not used it, and they would sit there. And then I'm thinking to myself this is a copyright nightmare. I mean, how is anybody in their own right mind putting this out? And then the same image is in 60 different databases, right. And so how can it be anything other than a price erosion? Because if I can get it at Chutterfly for for this much, if I can get it at non stock for that, if I get it at Getty for this, if I get it at Corpus for that, what I would go with the lowest provider of course is the same image.Gary Pageau:
Tell me a little bit about the sale of your business. I mean, how did you go about finding a buyer for the Ate?Beate Chelette:
So what we did is we had a high end, selective image collection and we had a distributor, so getting images. That took me a long time to get that distribution deal, but they were just distributing our high images. We had a division that was doing celebrity homes, which was doing extremely well, great business model. You get Madonna's house, francis Ford Coppola, simon Baker, julian Moore, seal, you have that house. You sell that house 30, 40, 50 times, sometimes over a period, and people don't even care that celebrities still lives there because there's secondary markets and tertiary markets and so forth. And then we realized that we had a lot of images we couldn't use and we built a stock photography, a royalty free brand called Inside Outpicks. And at that point I already knew what was happening and so we put the money in, we built the Inside Outpicks brand, we launched it, we threw a party at the CPIC conference, you know, to get people interested in what we were doing. So they knew we were a serious player in this particular market and at that time I was having conversations and saying I'm putting myself up for acquisition. And so at that time we had Jupiter images, which made me an offer. That was just shit. And then and and get the images declined. And Corbis made me a very good offer, because the celebrity aspect of it was what they were trying to to grow their outline brand with, because outline was a high touch high touch brand, which really wasn't the Corbis model. It was a smaller agency model, and so we were the literally the only brand out there that could help them to move the needle in that respect at all.Gary Pageau:
And so you got something you needed. Did they, did that work for them as far as what Corbis wanted out of it?Beate Chelette:
Yeah. So Corbis thought that this would be growing the outline brand, which ultimately didn't do, because the business model of outline and Corbis just did not gel together because it's a high touch celebrity brand with publicists, temperamental celebrities that at that time wanted to get paid for having their house featured in an editorial. I remember a very unpleasant conversation with Cindy Crawford, who I disliked to this day for that, but that's a personal note. And what the thing was that Corbis did not want is the thing that made them the money ultimately, which was our high-end images of interior and architectural images. I had calculated that their ROI would be three years and their ROI was exactly three years. They did make that money back. That was important to me.Gary Pageau:
Good, good. So then after the sale, what do you do? You've kind of spent a lot of time in the photography business. You know a little bit in front of the camera, most of it behind it. You know building businesses doing different things. Now you've made it, you know you've exited. What is your thought process then?Beate Chelette:
Let's go shopping, let's spend spend obscene amounts of money on unnecessary stuff. That lasted like an hour and I'm remembering I mean whatever Barney's or Neiman Marcus, some crazy story. And I'm looking at T-shirt at Gary and it's like $200. And I'm going, like you know, I never bought a $200 T-shirt then and I don't think I'm going to need a $200 T-shirt now. So I'm like, okay, well, that is a fail. So what do I do now? And so, very quickly I went into consulting and coaching. First I did work as a photo biz coach for a number of years but realized that the entire industry was imploding further and further and further and further. And then I, you know, expanded it to more creatives. But creatives have such a hard time investing in their own business skill. They rather want to buy the computer or the camera or the equipment, god forbid. we learn how to run a business and make more money that way. It's always the equipment that's at that.Gary Pageau:
That's the one thing. Seeing this Photoshop action, I'm going to make a bundle off this right.Beate Chelette:
There you go Exactly right, and so ultimately then I went into just general business consulting as the growth architect, helping people to really develop strategies and systems and build the authority when they're ready and they realize they've tried everything else and maybe it is time to have a strategy.Gary Pageau:
Now, when all this was going on with the sale of your business, it was a recessionary period, much like we're in now. Was that a concern for you in terms of saying, well, maybe I need to wait this out, or maybe this isn't the time? What was your thought then?Beate Chelette:
I have a great philosophy about that and it's a very simple question that I'll just ask your audience. If all your competitors are going to stop to advertise and promote, what do you think you should be doing the opposite? Yeah, exactly. So when I found that people are occupied with believing the own chatter in their head, so technically, we're not even in a recession, like by the definition of a reset, we're not even in it, but even though we try to talk ourselves into it with the media over and over and over again. But I come from media, so I know exactly what media is doing. So I'm listening to this, I'm looking at all the filler words and all the fear-based crap and AI generated news. I'm going like I'm not believing any of this, because when I go in the Apple store, I see people buying watches and phones, and when I go to Costco, the line is just as long as it has always been. So clearly people are spending money. So the question is not are people spending money? They are. The question is what are they spending money on? Right? That means, whatever your services or products are, you now have to adjust them so that it is irrelevant for where the market is at right now. So, the first thing I'm just giving you an example of the first thing that we did is we looked at things that we are publishing, like. I have a program, like a $7 program, called the Airtide Avatar, where I teach people how to do a customer profile and to understand how to have a method on how to crawl into someone's mind, right. That's the first thing we did. We went back and we said is the language that we're using relevant to what's going on right now? Is the $7 product that we offering relevant to what's going on right now? And so we had to revamp it, rebrand it, rewrite it, write a different book and put it out in the market. Then we have a free quiz, the growth blocker quiz, for people to find out what their number one growth blocker is. So we first tried a headline and said do you want to find an opportunity in this market which we thought was a great headline Right. Then resonate when we change the headline to do you feel stuck? Do you want to be unstuck? Suddenly, there's traction, right. So, that's really what I think is important right now, and what was important then is that you need to look at what the market is actually doing, get out of your own way, stop believing everything you think and take a look at the numbers and the data and what is happening, and then you need to adjust what you're doing to suit the need now, in the language that they're speaking, Because there's a lot of belief that photography I'm using kind of a I'm doing the air quotes thing you know, as recession proof, right, in the sense that there's always events people will take pictures of and there's always gift giving opportunities.Gary Pageau:
Now, in the film days, that was fine because you could make money on the capture side by selling and film and processing film and make money off that. That's clearly gone away for the most part. And then there's and then the output side. You know you had to print your pictures, your film pictures, just to see them, right, you don't have to do that anymore, but there's still the belief that you know gift giving and wall decor and all those are still great opportunities, do you have an insight into that, as sort of you know what numbers people should be looking for in terms of the categories that they're offering, and might give them some insight.Beate Chelette:
Well, number one, you need to look at what is important to people right now. What's important right now is happiness, purpose, passion. A lot of Gen Z is refusing to be in this rat race that we have created for businesses. So if I think about the mindset of someone and then I see them going home, what is it that I can offer to them that I feel will make their life better, happier, more purpose driven? So that means I would want to give them probably a co-creation opportunity to say if everybody's a creator, that's a message that immediately resonates. It feels good when I say that out loud. So, if I give somebody an opportunity to co-create which is why Canvas so popular, because it allows everybody to be a great designer with absolutely no background and I can say I did it and I can be in the illusion that I actually created this, which I did based on other people's templates.Gary Pageau:
So what can I give people, and they have a lot of help from the tools that they provide.Beate Chelette:
Well, of course they're getting better and better and better now, especially with AI. So I would give people a co-creation opportunity. Then I would give them an idea to say do people want more or do people want less? And the answer to that people want less but better stuff. So then I would get rid of the chachkis like the cheap stuff and I would say here is the thing that has value and here's why it has value.Gary Pageau:
And so I reverse engineer that. I always think about this when you crawl into the minds of someone. So the exercise is very simple. So think about it this way this woman wakes up, she's 36, she has two kids, wakes up, one of the kids has fever. She has to find somebody who takes care of her kid mother-in-law that she doesn't even like. She goes to work, she's late she has throw up on her blouse, the boss calls her in. You know that jerk that he was golfing with, that you didn't even know about, because you had a birthday party for your baby, made up some rumor about you that you have to defend yourself against that. You didn't even know. So you're miserable mood. You go in your office, the phone rings, it's you. What do you have to say to this person so that they say I'm so glad you called and not, oh, a marketer?Gary Pageau:
Thank you for calling. Right.Beate Chelette:
And then just let it rip on you. So if you understand the mindset of the person, so this is then a mother of two right. So she's completely stressed out. So what can I give her that gets her in a better mindset? Well, I wanna remind her that it is her two children that she puts up with all this nonsense. So how can I put these two beautiful children in front of her? You know, would she want that on a calendar? Would she want that on a phone? Would she want that in a phone case? Would she want that as little VIP buttons to give out? I mean, whatever that might be. So that's how you need to start thinking. How can I help people to get what they believe in in front of more people, to get them in a state of mind that they need to be in?Gary Pageau:
Right, because I think traditionally, like for most of the segment for this audience the photo lab, the printer things they tend to be very production-orientated. Right, we can now make this on this surface and it's great, people will want it. But they really don't know, right? No, I mean because they don't. I mean I think a lot of stuff is great that people make, right, I mean the printing on bamboo and ceramic and metal and canvas. This is all great stuff. No one's ever asked for that. No, no one's ever said I want this. What are some of the ways that someone may test out some of these ideas? When they come up with maybe a new process, they say, no, this might be a new hot thing. How can they kind of test it out there? Even if they're not even national, I'll tell you they're in a local market where they want to try it out.Beate Chelette:
Yeah, Well, the way you do it is you have to think about this in three categories, Right? The one category is that the problem that they're having. The second thing is what you are offering and the third thing is the outcome. And then you have to talk about that the problem that they're having and the outcome that they want, and then make your product the vehicle.Gary Pageau:
But you can't talk about your product.Gary Pageau:
You have to say that a woman like this, just to say within the example, she does not believe in the traditional former Walmart target photo studio, mall photo studios, regular family portraits where everybody wears a white shirt and blue jeans.Gary Pageau:
That doesn't go any longer with that, but she's not.Beate Chelette:
This particular one, no, but other people, of course, do so. Now, thinking along the line is what would be a creative way for her to get involved? Well, have you ever thought about that? There are other things other than a photo. What do you mean? Well, we are now doing pieces that look a lot more artistic, that are now at the I'm riffing here the intersection of fine art and photography. Right, and now we can take photos of your children or family photos, and we can incorporate this in this cutting edge, beautiful process, award winning, that's flying off the shelves. That doesn't look like a regular photo. That just looks like an art piece.Gary Pageau:
You know, is it something we can show you what that would look like? Would you like to try that out? Have you thought? You know? The other thing is in the gift giving, especially with you know, whatever the gift giving season ahead of us, to say do I need another purse? No, do I want another red sweater? No. Do I need another cashmere sweater? No, Do I need another wallet keychain?Gary Pageau:
Ordered our t-shirt.Beate Chelette:
Why don't you give something that preserves a moment in time, that is has a high value or is perceived as a high value? So that's what I would do is I would really think about I always think about my buyer. What is their problem? Right? Where are they at? What can I give them that makes their lives better? That's what you need to think about.Gary Pageau:
Because I think you're right. I mean, I think people, you know, when things become economically constrained, you know whether you believe what's in the press or not people will spend money, continue to spend money on things that are, you know, meaningful to them personally, right, I mean, they may decide, you know, shoot, I don't need this, I don't, you know, to save six or seven bucks a month. I don't need this streaming service because I hardly watched it. I don't need to have that. Right, it's no big deal.Beate Chelette:
But they certainly will, I guess Disney just found out yeah exactly, Exactly.Gary Pageau:
Yeah, streaming services are an optional purchase. Maybe that you know wall tile display of your child growing up over the years is not, because that's something that maybe that young mom needs to see every day at the office to get her through it.Beate Chelette:
Because she's putting up with this nonsense.Gary Pageau:
Right, exactly.Beate Chelette:
She has to stay where she's at, so she can leave at five o'clock and so she's reminded what she's doing it for. So that's, I think, where I would be. You know, I'm actually have I'm talking to somebody who's doing wall printing, where you can print directly on the wall, which is kind of like a super cool, super cool technology. So then I would go and I would take that and I would say you don't want to buy the decal, you want to be creative, but your brushstrokes a little shaky, right. We help you to create a design, right, maybe with your children together, with the family together, and then we'll print it directly on the wall and it's all yours.Gary Pageau:
What about, you know? Have you thought about creating, you know, in the dining area, a more, more lively scenario? I mean, there's lots of different things, but I always you know it always goes back down to is like what is this person? What are they envisioning?Gary Pageau:
So, if I had a wall wall printer right now and I would target families with kids, you know it's interesting, you said because there's so many people who feel creatively inhibited, right, because it used to be back in the days of film photography. People would always say if something went wrong with a picture, right, they got their film back and they got the prints. They looked at them and they weren't very good. They always blame themselves. It wasn't the fact, maybe the camera didn't work right or they didn't load the thing right, whatever. And now? But now there's more and more tools that are available that can bring up people's artistic capabilities and kind of, I think, overcome a lot of that.Beate Chelette:
Well, I mean, if you look at now, another trend. So what we're hearing in corporations is that people say you need to be creative and think innovative.Gary Pageau:
Wait, did you just not tell me that you were beating this out of everybody over the last couple of years to be creative and to hunker down and get stuff done? And now?Erin Manning:
you want them to be what?Beate Chelette:
Creative and innovative, right? What does that even mean, right? So now, wait, we just had another idea. So can you take this to an organization and said are you telling people to be creative but you don't explain to them how that works? Right, because creativity is a muscle that you have to train. Why don't you let me come in and do a, you know, do a creative program and we create something together and then they'll get the print on the wood so they can hang it on the wall and we teach people the concept of creativity and the confidence that goes into into what it takes to be creative, and we teach them design thinking or whatever other things. They are Right, so there's another idea. So that's that's how I always think like, how can I package and present this right now in this market? What do we need to say right now to get people's attention?Gary Pageau:
Now this sounds like it's a very long and involved process, but is it really, or is this part of an ongoing practice that someone should be doing in their business?Beate Chelette:
Well, I mean, I'm definitely a little bit of an information junkie, I, you know, we do look at Google Trends and we do look at keyword searches and we do look what's trending on YouTube and we do look what is working right now and what is not working right now, I can tell you that high ticket sales for marketers are not doing as well as they did. Why? Because people used all their company's money to buy all the stuff when they were paid for it and now they're sitting on tens of thousands of hours of undone education. Now they need somebody to do it for them, right that? people have less spending money. So now they need to figure out I'm going to maximize the money that I have and make myself look really good without doing that. So this information is all available. You just have to have some basic curiosity and read what's going on? in the market. So, instead of going to whatever Foxy and MSNBC or whatever you're listening to, just take the time and look at trends and look at what the data says and then look at if what you are offering is relevant in relationship to that. I mean you have a podcast.Gary Pageau:
Is this some of the things you share in your podcast?Beate Chelette:
Yes, so the business growth architect chose my podcast and we talk on the podcast a lot about strategies, lots about mindset, also swimming against the stream here a little bit to say how do we get ourselves in control over our own destiny? How do I? What strategies and systems and authority building measures are out there that I can use today? So that's what the show is about.Gary Pageau:
That's cool. So where can people go? Obviously, they can look up the podcast, but where can they get to more information about the programming that you offer?Beate Chelette:
Well, before I send them there, I want them to go to your show, gary, and I want them to go to wherever you are listening to this podcast and please give Gary a five star review plus a comment and the comments are really, really critical because it shows the algorithm, engagement, and then he can reach more people and bring this information to an industry that let's just face it, all People is a little bit in distress. So we can help. We can help more people. So help Gary out and then share this episode with one other person who needs to hear what we talked about today. Now, where you can find me is you go to a podcast, you go to check out the quiz. Go to growthblockerquizcom and find out what is your number one business growth blocker. It's free and then you get a report where I'll tell you exactly what to do about it and then, if you choose to, we can have a conversation about it and I'll always hear to help. Make sure you mentioned Gary's podcast so that we can give you priority treatment. I'm all over social media. Follow me on Instagram, reach out, ask a question. I'm here to help.Gary Pageau:
Great, oh, listen. Great to meet you. I think you have some great comments and advice for folks and looking forward to connect you with you in the future. Thank you for having me.Erin Manning:
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at wwwthedpixelssocietycom.