Sarah Pearce: how one holiday photo inspired a global business

May 19, 2016

When we came home and he sent us the photos, we were blown away by the images

The holiday photo that started it all; Sarah and Grant Pearce

A holiday to New York in 2012 changed Sarah and Grant Pearce’s life and was the catalyst for a business idea that has now gone global.

“It was our first time there,” says Sarah, a Brisbane gal in her early 30s.  “A friend of mine moved over there from Australia and he was doing a photography business in New York, and we spent an hour with him shooting photos for his new website,” Sarah explains.

“When we came home and he sent us the photos just to make sure we were okay with them being on his website, we were blown away by the images,” she says.

“We travelled a lot and all of our photos are selfies or with one of us missing, so when I got these photos I realised it could be something that would appeal to other people.”

Making the idea a reality

Girlfriends captured by Travelshoot in Paris
Sassy holiday photos captured by Travelshoot in Paris

Thus, Travelshoot was born to connect professional photographers around the world with people taking trips of a lifetime, and looking for more than selfies or other amateur images to remember the experience.

Excited by the idea, Sarah started working part-time to focus her energies on seeing where it might lead. After 10 years contracting in the Change and Communications space for large scale technology transformation projects she took a giant leap into entrepreneurialism.

“When I think about our original network  – the first person in each city that I reached out to, I mean we didn’t even have a website, it was me over emails trying to explain what it was and to try and beg them to have a skype discussion with me,” she admitted.

“It was absolutely a hard sell at the beginning.”

Shark Tank and the Flight Centre

Sarah’s idea shot to success after it was showcased on Channel Ten’s Shark Tank program last year. The ‘Sharks’ loved the concept and in April, Travelshoot announced a partnership with global travel giant Flight Centre, also based here in Brisbane.

“We pitched to the buying team and it was just a very fitting product for them with their business and we were just really excited that not only did they want to roll it out for one of their brands, but they saw it as a fit for all of their brands globally!” Sarah says.

“We’re just over the 100 mark of photographers and I think recently some of the media exposure we’ve been getting means we’ve been inundated with photographers, particularly locally in Australia,” she says.

“But we’ve had a lot more interest overseas as well. We’re finding that our ability to recruit has gained a lot of momentum.”

Giving back

A Bali Travelshoot
A Bali Travelshoot capturing a girlfriends holiday

Sarah sees amazing opportunities for rapid growth, but it’s not all about profits or expansion. Where some companies see donating to charities as a tax write-off, Travelshoot sees it as part of their business model.

“Ten dollars from any shoot goes back to Youngcare,” she revealed. “I pretty much stalked them to support them! I saw David Conry who started Youngcare years ago and ever since I knew that if I was ever in a position to support a charity that would be it.

“I’m also acutely aware of what a privilege it is to travel and ‘have holidays’ when so many are less fortunate – so it’s part of our mission to give back in the process with a donation from every Travelshoot.”

A product that captures a moment in time

Sarah says the feedback from customers has also been pretty awesome.

“Customers book a Travelshoot for a multitude of reasons, but I know for me, when I look at my own New York photos they remind me of that moment in time and how awesome that trip to the big apple was.”

“We’ve had clients and it’s their bucket list holiday or their family reunion holidays where it is a pivotal life moment for them,” she says.

“So particularly on those kind of shoots when we get the positive feedback, it’s really lovely. We’ve sold them a product … but it’s more than that.”

Living in Brisbane, operating globally

Sarah says modern technology makes it reasonably easy for her to operate from Brisbane.

A moment of romance captured in New York
A moment of romance captured in New York

“I get thrown bottle necks every week to do with technology and people saying no, but we haven’t really had a big blocker for the business, it’s just been lots of momentum,” she says.

“I have a developer in Melbourne, I have a tech consultant that helps us out in Sydney, so I have guys all around Australia that are directly involved in the business and then the majority of our network is overseas.

“So it comes down to skype interviews and sharing documents via cloud storage so modern technology makes it really easy to do business anywhere.”

If you’ve got an idea, now’s the time to see if it could be the next startup. What have you got to lose?

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Christen Hill
Christen Hill is a Brisbane local who loves to celebrate local success stories!

A former television and radio journalist, she is fascinated by what drives people to achieve their goals, no matter how audacious.

Join her as she chats to some of the city’s most interesting women. Their stories might inspire you to chase a dream too.