A little more than four years ago, I suddenly lost the majority of my vision. I was completely blind for one month. Thanks to the amazing team in Iowa City, I now see pretty well through a tunnel with my right eye. After more than 50 eye procedures, my vision remained stable and life seemed okay. Then one day I woke up with slurred speech and discovered that I had lost the use of my left arm and leg. Did I mention my wife was a month pregnant? After a few weeks in the hospital, and nine months of rehabilitation, I learned to manage with my limitations. I had been on disability benefits for a year or so, and was grateful for the assistance, but I knew it wasn't enough money to provide for my family and give them the life I wanted them to have.
I began looking for jobs and wondered what I could do. When my prospects started to seem hopeless, I received a flyer in the mail about a seminar on employment options for Iowans with disabilities. I went to the seminar and heard a speaker named "Em." She had received a grant to help her start her own business, Em’s Coffee Company, in Independence. I was so excited to get started on my own path to self-employment I left the seminar at the lunch break! I had the idea of opening photo booth company. It was far from an original idea; there are around 20 photo booth companies in the area where I live.
For most photo booth owners, it’s a part-time weekend gig for making extra money. After looking into it more closely, I formed a plan. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to top the competition in every way. I wanted the biggest prop selection including hats, wigs, masks, and signs. I also wanted the best booths, with the friendliest staff. Add some party lights inside and outside the booths, customize the structure, and brand, brand, brand! With assistance from the Iowa Department for the Blind, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Iowa Work Incentive Planning and Assistance, I began the process of securing business start-up funds.
C & C Photo Booths opened for business in January 2013. I named the business for my sons, Carter and Cooper. We did 40 events in the first year including weddings, senior center parties, Sadie Hawkins’ Day celebrations, Christmas parties, and baby showers. A year later, we are starting the year with 40 gigs already booked! We are adding a third photo booth and it’s already booked -- three gigs in one night. Wow! We received a great deal of help from family, friends, and even strangers. We helped fundraise for Relay for Life, Make a Wish, and a number of people who have passed away, or have illnesses. We love giving back to the community that has helped our business succeed!
- Rob McKernan