PhotoGraphics Maui illustrates how someone can do what they love while their business model changes radically over the years. In PhotoGraphics Maui’s case, the company’s evolution started about 30 years ago when Japan was the world’s economic powerhouse.
In the ’80s, Japanese tourists were flocking to Maui, Hawaii. Arriving literally by the busloads, PhotoGraphics Maui’s owner, Renee Zaima, started shooting tour group pictures.
“We processed our own film and pumped out pictures every day. Then we would go to the airport and sell the pictures to them,” explains Zaima. “Then we got into wedding photography and videography with the Japanese. We used to send our small prints out, but the lab was closed on weekends. With the Japanese we were doing an average of 80 weddings a month and we had to get the albums to them before they left. So, if the wedding was at four o’clock that day and they were leaving the next morning at 8 we had to have the photos and the video ready for them.”
That business largely dried up in the ’90s, coinciding with Japan’s “lost decade” when markets dived and Japan’s economic growth slowed to standstill, a harbinger of things to come in the American economy in 2008.
Fortunately, PhotoGraphics Maui was able to pick up the slack by shifting its business to traditional photo lab work for photographers while still offering photography services. The next big shift came with the Internet boom and the digital age.
“When the digital world and the Internet happened, we started concentrating on fine art. We still do everything, but we print more reproductions for artists than we did before,” says Zaima. “You have to change with the times. It’s hard to catch up when you don’t stay on top of those changes. We’ve done that by going to large format inkjet printing and offering the mounting services.”
Those two differentiators are the company’s bread and butter; the bread being the large format printing and the butter the mounting services. In order to keep that business smooth and efficient, Zaima needed to supply the two Epson Stylus Pro 9800 inkjet printers with consistent products.
“We were getting everything from a variety of vendors, and sometimes the boxes weren’t even marked or the products weren’t consistent. We were wasting money because we had to keep re-doing our projects, and finally we found someone who was consistent with our customer specialist at LexJet, Sukesh Pathak,” explains Zaima. “We love the canvas and the coatings we get from LexJet [Sunset Select Matte Canvas, Sunset Satin Coating and Sunset Gloss Coating], and Sukesh has been on top of things for us. I get emails when he’s not even at work to follow up with me on products and shipping. I also have LexJet’s Sales & Application Guide book that I can show my customers, because everyone’s looking for something different.”
Those different media options for PhotoGraphics Maui include LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper and Sunset Photo Metallic Paper. The combination of different media with a range of mounting substrate options helps set PhotoGraphics Maui apart.
PhotoGraphics Maui mounts to aluminum, Masonite, bamboo and other materials, sourcing and cutting the materials themselves. The prints are typically applied edge to edge with a layer of non-glare plexiglass on top and channels on the back so the pieces “float” off the wall.
“I can’t compete with stores that offer prints terribly cheap. We stay away from that, which is why we’re so glad we found LexJet because now we can order everything we need,” says Zaima. “We go with what our customer’s needs are, so I’m constantly looking for something new that will catch their eye. I can’t make money printing 4x6s; that era is gone. With a product like Sunset Photo Metallic and our floating frame, it looks very modern and contemporary and the photographers love it; it’s probably our most popular product.”