- Premises Based
- B2B, B2C
With nearly 40 years experience on the UK high street and 120-plus stores nationwide, Snappy Snaps are at the forefront of the photography and digital imaging market.
Although Snappy Snaps started primarily as a photographic development lab, a service still offered today, the franchise has built its operation to include a host of commercial, interior and personalised printing services, catering for professional photographers, businesses and individual consumers with a full click & collect offering.
The introduction of varying revenue streams and the opportunity to target different sectors has helped in the successful ongoing expansion of the brand.
The retail and photographic world is fast-paced and ever-changing and, as a result, very exciting. Snappy Snaps stays one step ahead by carrying out extensive research into its marketplace and personalised art trends. Each store offers a diverse range of unique and personalised products and services in a professional and friendly environment.
We have established a list of areas that our research shows has the right criteria for us to have successful stores, and we are keen to find the right people to match these areas.
A 10-day training programme covers:
On completion of the training course you will be given the opportunity to get hands on experience under the expert tutelage of an experienced franchise partner. Thereafter, when you take over your brand new store you will be supported in those early days by your Franchise Support Manager and the wider management team of Snappy Snaps.
We are predominately a retail business with a strong click & collect model that requires our franchise partners to lead the business from the shop floor. Due to the diverse nature of our business and service portfolio your day will be varied. You will be engaging with customers on a one-to-one basis and potentially B2B basis, producing personalised products, and working with your area team to drive the business forward.
A truly mixed role for those that love diversity.
Clive Pemble, who owns and runs Snappy Snaps in Islington with his wife Liz, shares their story:
We signed the franchise agreement with Snappy Snaps in 1993 then actually opened the Islington store in 1994.
We’d looked at a few other areas as well, like St Albans, before deciding on Islington and finding the right premises. At the time we were living in Edgware. Funnily enough we now live in St Albans, but the great location makes up for the commute. We tend just to start out a bit early or a bit late to avoid the traffic.
We set up the store from scratch, which was fine. We received quite a lot of help from head office but did all the shopfitting ourselves with the help of friends and relatives.
When we took on the franchise I was working for Lloyds Bank, in their IT department. Liz used to work in IT for a different bank but she wasn’t working at the time. The children were at school by then and Liz’s mum was living with us, which was a great help – otherwise it would have been a lot more challenging.
We try to split our time in the store so we don’t spend too much time there together, although we do chop and change a bit. One of our sons now works for us full time as well. Both our sons used to come and help out part time while they were at school and the older one decided he wanted to stay on.
Coming into retail from working in an office environment I came to the conclusion that everyone should spend some time working in a shop, dealing with the public. It really brought the children out of themselves. It also helped them understand that the people coming into the shop were the ones paying our wages and that it was this that enabled us to have what we had outside. I think it was very good for them.
The whole experience has been better than we were expecting when we took on the franchise. We just wanted something to give us a decent living, but actually we’ve done much better than we imagined.
We knew there would be a lot of hard work involved, but it being the pair of us makes it slightly easier. Knowing your partner understands exactly the challenges you’re facing at work and having someone else to relate to is really helpful.
We rely a lot on the marketing support head office provides, which makes our lives easier too. The general support they offer has been great when we’ve needed it, but we certainly don’t pester them every day!
Every now and then I’ve rung up one of the other franchisees for help – obviously a lot more in the early days. Years ago we had a problem with one of our machines. A chap that Liz did some of her training with didn’t open at weekends and we did. He gave us the keys to his shop so we could take the relevant parts out of his machine, put them in our machine and run it over the weekend. We then put the parts back in his machine on Sunday night, locked up the shop and returned the keys to him. Absolutely brilliant! It’s so nice to have support like that. After that I went out a few times to other people’s shops to help them with their machines. I don’t know whether I could fix one now though – they’re a bit more complicated these days!
Had we not taken on the franchise I would probably still have been languishing in IT. When I worked for Lloyds I always felt like a small cog in a very big machine and the chances of ever being a big cog were very limited.
Speaking for both myself and Liz, we get a lot of satisfaction from what we do, although we’re still working just has hard as when we set up the store. The market has changed so much over the last ten years – these days people need a reason to get photos printed – so we’ve had to keep adapting.
I was thrilled to hear on The Gadget Show the other day that the only sure-fire way to keep your photos safe is printing them, because any digital media will eventually corrupt or wear out over time. Hopefully that will help our cause!
John Fitzgerald, who owns the Snappy Snaps store in Chiswick, tells his story:
I started out as the manager of Snappy Snaps Chiswick. I’m still here 24 years later but now I own it and employ a manager myself and have opened and run three other branches along the way.
I’d always been interested in the photographic business and went into it straight from school. For a time I worked for a company called One Hour Photo in Ireland while doing freelance photography on the side. I realised that neither of these was right for me, so I went on to work in a pro lab for a period of time and got a great insight into that side of the industry. But sitting in a darkroom all day with a red light on wasn’t really what I envisioned my life being either, so I decided to cast my net further afield.
At that time the opportunities in the photographic market in Ireland were limited, while in London there were things like Joe’s basement, which was open 24 hours a day. You could shoot a roll of slide film at one o’clock in the morning and go in and get your slides developed while you waited. It was a very vibrant and interesting market to be in.
I came across from Ireland in December 1987 to do a number of interviews – one of them at Snappy Snaps. At the time Helen was opening a new store in Chiswick and she asked whether I would be interested in managing it.
I started working here before the shop opened in May 1988 and really enjoyed helping to set it up from the bare bones – it was a very exciting time.
Three years later I decided that I wanted to take on a franchise myself. As it turned out, Helen was looking to move out to Marlow, so we came to an agreement. You could say the timing was perfect, however it was the year of Black Monday, so it was an interesting challenge!
Because I was there from the beginning I knew the business inside out and knew the customers. I’m now dealing with the sons and daughters of early customers, printing just-born photos of the next generation. We’ve just been processing GCSE Photography images for a little girl who’s no longer little, and I can remember the day her parents came in with photos of her birth to be developed.
At the time when I started people saw a Snappy Snaps franchise as a business you bought and matured to a certain level then you sold up and moved on to something else. I never imagined that I would still be running the same store more than 20 years later!
In the meantime I’ve opened other Snappy Snaps stores and sold them on. I opened branches in Shepherd’s Bush and Acton with fellow franchisees. I then opened the High Wycombe store with a view to moving out to the country with my family. In the end it didn’t work out because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave Chiswick. It’s funny because when I first came to London I never intended on staying. I thought I’d be here for six months or a year before moving on, probably to Australia.
One thing I’ve discovered over the years is that this is a constantly changing industry. When I started we were hand-developing reels of black and white film. Now we’re dealing with laser machines and completely digital interfaces. At each stage I had to recheck what my business was about and recalibrate.
Thankfully Snappy Snaps offers an environment in which experimentation is encouraged. Although I’m only running the Chiswick store now I also have an online business called Outlab, supplying photographic work to other Snappy Snaps stores as well as non-Snappy Snaps customers. This enables them to offer services that they can’t provide in-house because they don’t have the relevant equipment.
My brother-in-law Anthony has been managing the shop for the last ten years. He does a lot of the customer facing work, which frees me up to do the online stuff and more bespoke projects that can take up to three months to complete.
I like trying new things, whether that’s mounting onto MDF or glass, printing on acrylics, bookmaking or lenticular printing. We’re lucky to have a big base of artistic customers in Chiswick. They come to us with ideas and I’m happy to help develop those ideas and run with them. For me these longer brew projects are very satisfying.
One of the biggest things I get from being part of the franchise is the advice and support from head office and also the other franchisees, who act as a sounding board. Even when I’m helping another franchisee with their problems, I always learn something valuable.
I can see the franchise here operating well until the point when I’m ready to retire, but whether it will continue in the same guise as it is now, I couldn’t say. The store is completely different to how it was 20 years ago and even the product mix is completely different. We still process images that people have taken, but that’s probably the only part that’s the same. Everything else has moved with time.
This is one of the more interesting industries to get involved in and there are ample areas where you can develop a niche. But do your research and go in knowing what you’re taking on. It’s not like selling coffee where in five years’ time you’re still going to be selling coffee. You’re probably going to be doing something radically different, but that’s part of the joy of it!
Raja Beirouti, who owns and runs the Snappy Snaps stores in Oxford and Cheltenham, tells his story:
After coming to the UK from Lebanon in 1985 I worked in the City for 15 years. When my area, currency options, started moving towards electronic trading I was given the opportunity to transfer to a different desk. However I was getting to 40 and you don’t want to grow old working in the City. Also I wanted my independence and to enjoy life a bit more.
I decided to take on a franchise because I wanted a proven business model with a good track record and to avoid setting up from scratch. I looked into various franchise options, including food, but the problem with food is the smell – especially fast food. Photo processing offers a nicer environment. Plus I’ve always liked photography. It’s interesting, it’s fun and it’s clean.
I joined Snappy Snaps in 2000 and in 2001 took on the Hampstead store, which was already up and running. Originally I wanted Oxford, because that’s where I live, but another new franchisee had already claimed that patch. In the end the property he wanted fell through and he went on to open a store somewhere else. So a year and a half after I took over the Hampstead store I opened the Oxford branch.
I also had my name on the waiting list for Cheltenham, because I knew that would be easily commutable from Oxford. I had one or two properties fall through but eventually I found one and opened the store in 2004. For a while, before I sold the Hampstead branch in 2005, I was running three stores. While the money was nice I realised it wasn’t manageable in the long term.
Being a Snappy Snaps franchisee offers all the benefits of being self-employed and a bit more, because of the safety net of the Snappy Snaps head office team and brand and the other franchisees. We call each other all the time if we encounter a problem. It’s a network of support that wouldn’t exist if I was on my own.
Snappy Snaps’ marketing support can help you through the tough times. A lot of the campaigns are mainly aimed at the London area, so regional stores can claim some of their marketing budget back if they’re not interested in taking part. I can then invest that money in advertising in local magazines or sponsoring local charities or sports teams. If I need help creating an advertisement, I just call head office and tell them what I need.
Being part of Snappy Snaps has given me much more personal time and my worries are now my own. When I used to work in the City my worries were all about what other people would think and do.
Although it’s probably harder work, in terms of hours worked, they’re my own to control. The flexibility of working hours and working methods – where you’re in charge of everything you do – is worth a lot. And in good times you can make a lot of money.
It’s great when customers write to you to say thanks. There aren’t many photo processors left on the high street and people are often pleasantly surprised by the services we offer. For example we’re graphic designers as well. I designed and printed election campaign posters for a candidate standing in Southern Sudan, who was living in Oxford at the time. He originally came in because he wanted to reproduce some old family photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries. We got chatting and before long he’d commissioned us to create his posters.
I’m currently funding my children’s private education but, once they’ve all left school, I think I might take on a manager to help me run the stores. I can’t justify the expense at this stage in my life and, to be honest, I like the control. When I’m a bit older I’ll take more of a back seat.
At the moment I can take a last-minute four-day break – which I’m doing tomorrow actually! Eventually I’d like to get to the point where I can take a four-month break to achieve one of my ambitions of driving to central Asia. I think I’d still call in each day though, to check how things are going.
I would recommend running a Snappy Snaps franchise to other people, but you have to be prepared to work hard. Anyone who expects an easy ride, thinking they’re just buying themselves a job, will be in for a shock. Head office is there to provide support, but they won’t run your business for you.