When you grow up in Kansas, you have plenty of time to dream — and dream big. Carol Ann Zuk, who for years struggled with her self-image, had long imagined helping women and girls feel better about themselves. In May 2010, she turned the idea into a reality by launching a vintage photography company called Bombshell Pin-Up Productions.
Zuk says she is determined to capture every client’s beauty in a picture, so each one can “physically see her own beauty and realize her uniqueness.”
We recently chatted with Zuk about how she started the company, how she promotes the business to her target market, and what challenges she’s overcome along the way.
John Gladman, our photographer, had thought about doing pin-up photos, but knew that he’d also need a hairstylist, a prop manager, a studio, a makeup artist, and a wardrobe person. Once I convinced him that I could do all this, we launched the company.
Who comes to you and what do they want?
John considers himself a portrait artist, so he works hard to give you a big image for your wall. Women are our target audience, and the age is usually between 30 and 50. Most people get an individual pin-up portrait that’s styled like a 1940s calendar. We idolize Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren, who created images similar to Marilyn Monroe standing over the sidewalk grates in The Seven Year Itch. I coach the customers from behind the camera and help bring out the shy girls’ personalities. After the first photo shoot, they’re usually planning their next one.
How do you promote your business?
We’ve had great luck with Facebook. We first thought that Bombshell would be something fun that we did on the side. But after the first day on Facebook, we had more than 100 fans. After that, we built our website. We also get a lot of business from word-of-mouth referrals.
How is business?
We worked with about 200 girls the first year, and we’re fortunate now to have a backlog. We created the “Bombshell” concept — and our client base — out of thin air. Our “Bombshells” are everyday women who want to look sexy and beautiful, like themselves, but kicked up a couple of notches. We want to impact women of all ages to feel good about themselves, love themselves unconditionally, and bring both the inner and outer beauty of each Bombshell Pin-Up to paper so each girl can physically see her own beauty to realize her uniqueness.
How far do clients travel to have you take their photos?
They come from as far away as Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, Arkansas, and Iowa, but most are from Kansas.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is finding enough hours in the day to capture every client’s image. We help each one create her own scene, but it requires a lot of time between makeup, hair styling, planning the scene, and combining the client’s wardrobe with ours.
How did you overcome this?
We give it our all and don’t ever hold back. Our photographer really makes it happen on an individual basis. For each girl’s photo, he uses digital enhancements for what looks like airbrushing to get that vintage look. He also hand-paints the backgrounds, cars, and other props.
What do you like most about GoPayment?
It always swipes the first time on my iPad, and the app is very easy to use. It lets me show a receipt to a client in person or email a receipt. It’s a great service with terrific customer support.