Developed by Raphaël Caruso (EPITA class of 2019), the Ma Box Photo project has just brilliantly reached its goals on the Ulule platform. Learn more about this box dedicated to photography amateurs from this 4th year student-entrepreneur, majoring in Telecommunications.
How long have you been interested in entrepreneurship?
Raphaël Caruso: It all began in July 2017 when my partner and girlfriend Lucile Buès and I decided to launch a project together. Lucile is a professional photographer and was looking for a more direct way to sell her photos. This is how we decided to create NewArt.ist, an Internet site where you can buy and sell artistic photographs. Although this site still exists, it hasn't been extremely successful. Nonetheless, it allowed us to become familiar with the sole proprietorship status and how to go about setting up a company. It was this experience that made us want to go further and create Ma Box Photo.
In essence, your entrepreneurial approach stemmed from a personnel need.
Exactly. Lucile needed to sell her photos, so I used the technical skills I learned at EPITA to create a platform for her. With Ma Box Photo, the challenge is even greater because the principle behind the project is even more complex: I developed the system "by hand" and built the entire infrastructure myself.
How did you come up with the idea for Ma Box Photo?
From a simple observation. Last Christmas, Lucile had hoped to receive a gift box with a photography theme. Yet, after spending hours researching this type of product on the Internet, we realized that we wouldn't find it because it doesn't exist. We were quite disappointed, so we started to develop our own concept before finally delving into this major adventure in January 2018 and launching a fund-raising campaign on Ulule in February.
Ma Box Photo offers many options including tutorials, rolls of film, a photographic study... How did you decide on these options?
In the beginning, we thought that we would offer different boxes: one containing a disposable camera the first month, and then another containing a roll of film the following month. After a lot of thought and realizing that not everyone owns a camera and that those who do wouldn't necessarily want a disposable camera, we finally changed our minds. Instead, we developed three types of boxes. The first box, called "Vintage", contains a disposable camera. The second, called "Argentique", comes with a roll of film. And the third, called "Artistique", contains the prints from a roll of film that the subscriber had sent in beforehand. Each box is an original offer. Then, each month a tutorial and a cultural retrospect of a specific photo taken by one of our partner photographers will be added, along with several goodies with a photography theme.
How do you go about entering a market that has no competitors?
Competition doesn't exist for the simple reason that other people have unsuccessfully tried to launch photo boxes in the past. Before beginning our project, we looked closely at the reasons why these past attempts failed to avoid making the same mistakes. For example, one box always sent the same roll of film to its members. We have therefore decided to use a different approach and looked into film suppliers that can diversify their offer over time. Another example is the complete absence of a film development service. Here again, we found a solution with our "Artistique" box, which also includes a little surprise reserved for our members: preferential rates on photo development and prints. And finally, all previous offers failed due to a lack of customer service. In fact, after speaking with a number of former subscribers, we realized that they were often very frustrated with paying for a service that offered no follow-up, as well as the additional costs related to developing rolls of film which were not included in the initial fees. With Ma Box Photo, we will maintain communication with our subscribers and provide assistance and follow-up.
The Ulule crowd funding campaign successfully ended on April 9, even exceeding its target with 35 subscribers instead of 30, which was the initial goal. Why did you choose Ulule?
Ulule better corresponds to our project as it is a platform with a more artistic dimension. Yet, beyond the choice of platform, using a participatory campaign was an initial test for us. We were able to enjoy a certain visibility, directly receive support - with or without subscription requests - from people and see if our project was able to win over our target audience. In addition to this, the level system offers the possibility of thanking our contributors with goodies, such as a tote bag to carry their equipment.
As a future engineer, what has this project brought to you?
After my first internship in a company, I told myself that I would never work again in the field of customer relations. This was even the guiding principle in my choice of studies and internships. However, this project led me to rethink my position on the issue. I have found that there are benefits to working in this manner and now plan to work in the field of consulting with customer relations and business relations, while before I had wanted to work with administration systems alone.
EPITA, a springboard for entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurial guidance has been part of the schools' DNA since the time it was founded. EPITA aims at optimizing relations between students and businesses through numerous exercises and projects, creating a breeding ground for creativity and innovation to simulate a professional environment. This support for entrepreneurship comes in different forms to best adapt to the needs of students: exercises on skill acquisition, with tests and scores as well as real life activities when the student is an entrepreneur, so that he or she may be evaluated in-situ.