Digital Lens Rental offer a wide variety of equipment for rent as well as hands on help to make people feel more comfortable with new equipment.
Name: Digital Lens Rental
Product / Service Offering: Photography Rental Equipment
Co-founder Interviewed: Nick Sutton
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I think the biggest motivation is to be successful. That’s a very broad answer but it’s the truth. Not only do I want to have a company that makes money but I also want a company that helps the community. I want to be able to build this company to a level in which I can give back to the community on many different levels, that is what I consider success and that is what motivates me. There is no better feeling than impacting people’s lives and making a positive difference in a community.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
I started this business in early 2016 but the idea actually started in late 2015. The idea was pretty simple, the Hampton Roads area needed this type of business and I simply filled the void. It was long overdue and I understand why. It is a huge financial investment and risk to lend out expensive camera equipment!
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
I have quite a wide range of customers. Both hobbyists and professionals have times when they are looking for photography equipment to use. Maybe someone cannot afford to spend $2,000 on a piece of equipment or maybe they realize it isn’t worth buying when they will only need that specific item a few times. We offer a wide variety of equipment for rent as well as hands on help to make people feel more comfortable with new equipment.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
We’re local. Renting equipment from businesses outside of Hampton Roads is expensive. You could spend $25-$50 on getting equipment shipped to your house. If you add in the time it takes to actually arrive and the time you spend taking it back to the shipping store, it can be a real pain. Being local is huge for those last minute, spur of the moment needs. Many times a month I get a last minute phone call or email asking about equipment. Deep down inside, we all procrastinate and can relate to those last minute “oh crap I need this equipment now” moments.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was funding the business, as well as building the website, and just making sure everything was good enough to launch.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
I really believe Hatch has been one of the best investments for myself and my company. Zack, Paul, Dave and everyone else there have been influential in some way to my business. Networking is huge and I try to take full advantage of that offering from Hatch. Hatch was also the first place I publicly presented my business. I had never done this, ever. Startup night was a great platform and really opened my eyes. I always attend startup night now just to hear new ideas and concepts happening locally. I highly recommend people check this type of event out.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
Honestly, I am still in the stage of figuring out how to fund this company. At this point in time, it’s either been directly out of my own pocket or money made from rentals that has purchased new equipment. I am really looking into expanding the business over the winter. I have been looking at the idea of investors as well as just getting a small business loan to build up inventory.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
I really never knew much about investors, advisors, and all of the other savvy business lingo when starting a business. Again, Hatch has really educated me. It is one of those things that you can obtain a degree in, but real world experience is actually the best method to learn about a process. I think I will always have questions about the business side of things, but as long as I have good resources, the answer should not be hard to find.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Scheduling, inventory management, and growth are all challenges. I really find myself in a tough spot when I try to figure out a good way to manage my inventory and rental schedules. It’s tough to do as a single person. I am definitely looking for new methods to make things easier in the long run. This is where growth comes in. I have a tough time giving up control of anything. Call me a control freak because that is what I am. Trust is a big deal and finding the right person who has as much faith and desire to make Digital Lens Rental grow is a hard thing to find.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
I think the best tip is to be patient. Simply, be patient. As much as I would love to drop $100k into a business, I’ve learned that I would much rather build slowly and address all my issues on a smaller scale rather than trying to solve hundreds of potentially small issues while having a huge inventory.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
I’d like to say that Digital Lens Rental has amazing things planned for the future, and I am truly excited to have this business in Hampton Roads. I love hearing photographer’s stories and I love seeing the reactions when people tell their stories. I’m glad that I can be here for those last minute needs. I really hope this company grows in a manner in which everyone keeps their business local! As always, my business is an open door and anyone is welcome to come ping ideas or chat with me about photography.