Clive and Liz Pemble

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!


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