A few weeks ago, we tried out a new photography studio in Richmond called The Selfie Room, which shares a space with Trapped Vancouver. The concept is simple – it’s you and your friends in a white room with a tripod, a professional camera, and a remote clicker for self-timed shots. Throw in some background changes and props, and it makes for a fun, but static photos that don’t require a photographer. We had a chat with Carbo Ngai, the founder of this company after our selfie session, and even took some photos with her. Thanks for having us there!
MTI: Tell me about your background.
C: I was born in Hong Kong, and I moved to Canada when I was in elementary school. I always go back to Asia, because my family is still there. Now my brother actually works in Asia for good, so every year I go back twice to visit him.
MTI: Where did you get the idea for the Selfie Room?
C: It was during my travels back to Asia, when I was visiting my brother and my mom. We were all there, so I was like, “We should take family photos together.” I was telling him to hunt down a photographer to take some family photos, but they’re really hard to make an appointment with, and we didn’t know who was good, so my brother wanted to try this new thing. We stumbled upon this studio, and it was really simple. It’s more like you do it yourself, and I tried it and I really like it, so I thought I should just bring it back here. That’s where this whole idea came from. We just added more props and backgrounds and music just to make it more fun.
MTI: How is it different from other photography studios?
C: You don’t have the photographer. Everything is do-it-yourself. You really have that privacy and time slot and you get comfortable. Most of the times when you have a photographer, you get stiff and you don’t know how to smile and you don’t know how to react the way you’re supposed to react.
MTI: What have been the challenges of starting your own business?
C: We started this whole thing a year ago. The challenge would really be: if you want to save money, you really have to do everything yourself. We as the three partners still have our own full-time thing outside of this. I’m still a student, and I tutor English. For my other partner, he’s a realtor full-time. The other one works a government job at TransLink. For us to do everything ourselves, it really took a chunk of our time. The other challenge would really be trying to have a good management system – so how to schedule people, how to make sure everything runs smoothly. And I think customer service is a main thing that we’re good for. I want every customer to feel like they want to be here and that it’s a really fun place.
MTI: What’s the best thing about what you do?
C: I would just say it’s really fun. It’s really entertaining. I love being here, and the staff loves being here because of the environment. We always have different kinds of entertainment coming up. People get to try the games and try the rooms.
MTI: What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start up their own business?
C: Don’t think too much. Don’t hesitate. If you believe that it’s gonna work, just go for it. There’s gonna be risk, but sometimes when you work really hard, it’s gonna be more than the risk you put it. It’s gonna be worth it for sure.
Photos by: The Selfie Room