Business

My Biz: Cedar Rapids woman helps customers preserve their photos

Shari O’Rourke scans photos to create digital files for a client of her business, That Photo Book Girl, at her home office in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 3, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Shari O’Rourke scans photos to create digital files for a client of her business, That Photo Book Girl, at her home office in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 3, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Shari O’Rourke always has loved photos. In the past several years, in fact, her interest in creating keepsake photo books grew to the extent that people started referring to her as “that photo book girl.”

“I’ve always been a photo fanatic,” said O’Rourke. “Friends would see the photo books I did for our family and request that I do one for them, too.”

About a year ago, O’Rourke decided to take her love of working with photos and created a business plan. She tested out her business idea with more friends, “and as I tested the waters they really helped me evolve my business,” she said.

O’Rourke, who has worked previously in marketing, training and development and consulting, suddenly found herself with a new business on her hands, aptly called That Photo Book Girl.

And the business idea had morphed from just creating keepsake photo books — such as for family vacations, weddings or year-in-review books — to adding more services such as helping to remove and save thousands of photos from clients’ phones so they aren’t lost and using a professional scanner to convert treasured print pictures into digital versions.

“If you are like me, I don’t have digital photos of my kids when they were babies because I didn’t have a digital camera when they were little,” she explained. “So I invested in a professional scanner to be able to digitize those images. And scanning has really become the biggest part of my business today.”

O’Rourke, who works from her home office in Cedar Rapids, also uses software to restore and enhance an image that has faded over time.

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“I am very passionate about taking an old photo and restoring it so it can be preserved and shared with generations to come. If we don’t take care of these photos they will dissolve and be gone,” she said.

“So to take something as special as a faded photographic memory and bring it back to life is amazing. It’s like connecting generations together and that’s what strikes my passion. It’s like restoring history.”

One client with whom she was working, O’Rourke noted, was serving as the historic photo keeper for her extended family.

“She was anxious about being responsible for all those photos,” O’Rourke said, “so I scanned them all in and created a keepsake photo book that we then gave to all her family members to take that burden off of her.”

And she appreciates being able to be a time-saver for her clients. “I love when we can share the photos we have. If they are stuck on our phones our children can never see them,” she said. “We take so many photos and we don’t know what to do with them all and don’t have time to go through all of them. I think that is part of the draw of my business is that people fear that they might lose the photos.”

Online storage solutions and organization of photos is just another service offered through That Photo Book Girl.

A pretty skilled time manager herself, O’Rourke said she works between about 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day so she can go back to her role as wife and mother when the children get out of school.

“I try to make sure I don’t overbook myself as my family is my priority,” she said.

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But she’s grateful for the relationships she’s developed with clients through her growing business. “I just really enjoy meeting with my clients and interacting with them,” she said.

“When I do a photo book, I like to be able to see my client’s home because it tells about their style and personality and what style of photo book they might like me to design, whether it be more whimsical or black and white,” she added.

O’Rourke said staying organized is a key component of her work. She also has to operate both a Mac and PC computer to meet the needs of all her clients, as well as staying up to speed with online photo tools like Snapfish and Shutterfly so she can work with her clients’ preferences.

Working with a SCORE mentor, O’Rourke also said she continues to refine her business model. And she invests a fair amount of time focusing on education, mainly through webinars, to make sure she is staying up to speed on the latest professional software, especially for photos restoration.

“I want my customers to know that I am about personal service and that I have a vested interest in making sure their photos are taken care of.”

AT A GLANCE

Owner: Shari O’Rourke

Business: That Photo Book Girl

Website: http://thatphotobookgirl.com/

l Know a small business in operation for at least year we should feature in “My Biz”? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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