Cathie Anderson: Kiosk photo business taking off

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 - 7:46 am

Picture yourself winning a jackpot at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Alexander Lowe is certain you'll want to capture this moment.

The statistics from his 2-year-old Sacramento company back up the supposition. Lowe, a co-founder of iSnap Social, has ripped the curtain off the photo booth to create a sleek upright kiosk. Revelers stand, say cheese and then share the pic via email or social media websites.

iSnap has sold more than 130 of its kiosks, priced at $3,850, to casinos, bars, yogurt shops and other businesses nationwide. Two kiosks stand at the Palms, where Erin Levzow is director of e-commerce and interactive marketing.

"People can quickly do a virtual postcard and get it out to all their friends and family within seconds through Facebook, Twitter and email," Levzow said, "and we've seen over 1.5 million impressions on Facebook in the last four months. That's over 1,000 Facebook posts a month."

These figures measure whether consumers are helping to sell a brand. Impressions gauge how many people click that "like" button, comment on something, become followers or share information.

iSnap's kiosk allows consumers to do all that and more, catching them before the fun is over and they're back home.

Launched two years ago, iSnap reported today that its kiosks have taken half a million photos and secured 100 million impressions. It's not all talk. Companies report coupons from the iSnap kiosks are being used. One video arcade saw a 30 percent redemption rate.

iSnap is not the 29-year-old Lowe's first startup. He helped found WebRaiser Technologies Inc., a software maker for self-service kiosks. It sold to Flextronics International Ltd. for an undisclosed sum in 2007.

So, when Lowe founded iSnap, clients believed he could deliver the technology, and angel investors wanted in. He's now seeking a first round of venture capital.

Cleaning up detergent

Kristin Ward and Amanda Wucher-Aller are putting their own spin on laundry detergent and other products with their Antelope-based company,

Wucher-Aller's husband is a military man whose uniforms couldn't be washed in many detergents because they contain optical brighteners that would make him glow in the dark. Their youngest daughter had especially sensitive skin.

Ward's husband, a sous chef at The Kitchen, came home "covered in chef-ness." Their son was in cloth diapers, and Ward needed a detergent that wouldn't let ammonia build up.

They did their research and realized that many detergents contained chemicals they didn't want rubbing into their skin or going down the drain. They created an eco-friendly formula that West Sacramento's Sierra Chemical Co. mixes for them.

"We spent all last year really testing and trying different recipes and putting everything together, and then we launched in January, and we've been busy from Day One," Ward said.

Ninety percent of their sales are made outside California – Texas, Kentucky, Germany, Guam, for instance. The cost of shipping was the greatest challenge to sales, so they pioneered the flat $5 shipping fee.

"We get into our own world where we're just this little Sacramento company," Wucher-Aller said. "We don't think about it until we look at our competition. Within a week of our price changes and our shipping changes, across the board they'd all changed theirs."

In almost all cases, the competition also raised product prices. A Happy Green Life did not.

The two friends, both Sacramento State grads who met as managers at Nordstrom, have sold roughly 1,500 units of their detergent. Prices are $5 or $10, depending on size. It breaks down to 20 cents a load for regular washers, 10 cents for high-efficiency ones.

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