Michael Grecco is an award-winning and internationally renowned celebrity photographer and TV personality. He has been regularly shooting magazine covers for various national magazines such as Time, Wired, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN, People, and others. His high-profile clients included renowned celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Patrick Dempsey, Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Robert Duvall, Martin Scorsese, Janet Jackson, Mel Brooks, Lucy Liu, Ben Stiller, Penélope Cruz, Morgan Freeman, Jet Li, Will Ferrell, Joaquin Phoenix, and many more.
Michael is also the Executive Producer and appears in the TV Show “Punk.” StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Michael to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
It all started in summer camp when I was a kid. The mystery of a black and white image coming up in the tray of a developer was mystifying. I fell in love right away. I shot all the sexy camp counselors at the free swim. I thought, what a life! At that point, I was hooked and went on to study art photography at the local college programs in Westchester, NY while in high school and photojournalism while at Boston University.
Before graduating, I started working for the Associated Press. I shot politicians during the day. And at night, I was a club kid shooting the Punk and New Wave scene in Boston.
When People Magazine then offered me a job, I made the leap from Boston to Los Angeles and switched from photojournalism to celebrity portrait photography, shooting magazine covers instead of for the pages inside.
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
I think my journey to success started when I was asked to travel the world shooting the “Entrepreneurs that Matter” for a special issue of Business Week. I had shot an artsy jewelry story for the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine and Business week saw that and asked me to replicate its artful approach for the businesspeople they wanted to shoot. That opened the door to all sorts of new opportunities in the magazine and the commercial world.
What is your main source of income?
My income is varied. It’s from assignment fees from directing and shooting still imagery. It’s from licensing imagery, infringement enforcement, a book in the works, etc. I’m also working on two businesses related to photography where I would be building technology platforms to help the industry.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
I always look for weaknesses in the market and try to turn them into opportunities where a new brand can be created. Both platforms I’m working on now are businesses where there’s a hole in the market that can be filled.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
Instagram is a natural as a photographer. I assume I have both a client base there and a fan-boy base. It’s also pretty easy to find someone there. I also like Facebook because you can tell a little more of a story to friends. I guess in this day and age you can’t really live without either.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
I’ve done it. But it isn’t my demographic. When it works, I get a lot of people looking for a low-end photographer with no budget. It’s tough to find the professionals that hire me since they move from job to job and it’s hard to get their personal emails to direct PPC to them.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
I like organic search. I think that’s when people are looking for someone like myself. And if they’re searching, they can understand the difference in visions and service.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
I think all forms of marketing have worked at one time or another. When direct physical mail was popular, that worked if you did it well. Early on, when email marketing was effective, it worked when done well. At this point, you have to engage in all of them at once. You cut the things that have no ROI and continue to do the ones that work.
How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?
I like to think my brand is known for smart imagery and a well-designed website. It sends the message that everything we do is well designed and thoughtful. The goal is to engage the viewer harmonically and from an intelligence standpoint.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
Every time I have to cut a marketing program because it has no ROI is always tough. You really have to be thoughtful in what you’re cutting. There’s also the psychological effect that you might be missing out on something in the future that you don’t know about, which makes it even harder.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
Oh, it’s always all the little business sayings you’ve heard in the past.
Use other people’s money when starting a business.
…or, Early to Fire, Late to Hire. That’s an ad agency saying to be flexible and cautious.
You can always look back at the mistakes and see them as investments you shouldn’t have made. But you didn’t know that at the time. So hopefully, you learn and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?
That your mistakes are your greatest learning opportunity. If you don’t learn from them, they’re wasted. But if you use them to your advantage as you move forward, they’re not mistakes. Appreciate them for what they are, simply something that didn’t work.
What new business would you love to start?
If I told you I would have to kill you! (laughs) I did allude to them above.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
Not piss off the people I pissed off with hubris. Be a better listener. I would have wished for all the skills I’ve had to learn as an adult. But the whole concept of a time machine is like fixing your mistakes. You need them to grow and to learn. They’re how you become a better business leader and a better human being.
Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Not really. But I’m a big fan of Ted Talk videos.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
If you want it bad enough, you will succeed.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Want it bad enough!