This website and the DVDs we have for sale were produced by Rick Smith and Kim Miller of Panorama Studios.
We live in coastal California in a small, idyllic spot a mile from the ocean. Before we started our own business, Rick ran a successful video publishing department at California Polytechnic State University called Visual Education Productions. (More about that to follow) We’ve run our own video production business since 1998 and have operated ecommerce sites and been in internet marketing since 2005. We also do corporate video work. Today though, we cherry pick our best video clients (Rick still loves the shooting side of video and Kim enjoys editing) and run our various internet businesses. We live with our cat Dominic and Rick has taken up the guitar again.
How We Got Started In This Business
(Rick) I began in media production and publishing before the invention of the VCR. Working for a unique quasi-commercial university department, Visual Education Productions (VEP) at California Polytechnic State University, that specialized in producing educational materials, we were producing and selling filmstrips and slides and books. As my career and the industry changed and grew, so did VEP. Under my direction, we moved into video production, then CD-ROMs, software and other formats. I am proud to say not only did we have many award winning productions and a few programs aired on PBS and the History Channel, we also won awards for our direct mail marketing efforts, including two “Best In Catalogs” awards.We literally sold millions of dollars worth of educational videos and other media all over the world. All of this before the heady days of the internet. It was a great opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of marketing.
In 1997, the university went in a new direction and sold my division to another company (note: that company, CEV, had its roots and inspiration in VEP). I decided at that point to go on my own. I had always had a dream of producing and selling my own videos on my own terms.
(Kim) I met Rick when he was the director of VEP. On the tail end of completing my photography degree and feeling stifled in my job in human resources for the university, I approached him with my portfolio in the hopes that he would hire me. Well, he didn’t hire me but I did end up working with him anyway – as his spouse! (Much better benefits I might add! 😉
In 2000, Joe Clokey with San Luis Video Pulbishing hired us to produce a new educational video on soil. Rick was so busy with a large client load that I decided to take a shot at starting it. I had never done anything besides a very lame little video for a photography class before. But I had very recent experience doing photography projects (Kudos to Cal Poly’s learn-by-doing focus!) and I decided to approach it as a class assignment. I researched, storyboarded, wrote a rough script, contracted with an advisor who helped me refine the script, and directed, shot, and edited it. Needless to say, I was hooked. And the fact that video is still out there and selling strongly for Joe excites me no end. It also won a Telly Award. Not a bad first project! At the time I was tickled with a big check upon completion but after seeing how well it is doing, I have changed my thinking.
Enter The Internet
Prior to 2004, the bulk of our income came from corporate and client work, and Kim was still tethered to her stable, good paying job at the local university. But that all changed for us In 2004.
(Rick) It all started with a video I made of my dad…
In 2005 we completed a video I made called Patrick Smith’s: A Sense of Place. For years my dad, a well-known Florida writer and lecturer, known for his hugely popular book A Land Remembered, told me that if I made a videotape of the talk he gave throughout Florida, that I would sell thousands. It was a project I seemed to keep putting off due to my client work and the very real fact that I live in California and my dad lives in Florida. But then my dad was diagnosed with cancer and on a visit back there, he graciously sat down with me on his back porch and I taped him. Over the next few years through numerous trips back home, I taped B-roll and researched photo archives to illustrate his story. I turned that little story into a video that won several awards and was shown at film festivals. In fact, the Tupelo Film Festival invited me to attend, where I won the Founder’s Award prize.
Winning all those awards felt great but I had also put a lot of time and money into this film and felt my dad was right; I could actually sell this thing. However my market was in Florida and I lived in California and my dad, due to his health problems, was no longer able to do the lecture circuit and sell them to his fans. So that left the internet.
Now as I have said, I had been in direct mail marketing of media projects for 30 years but never sold anything on the internet except some video equipment on eBay. I could see the potential of selling on the internet and decided to build a web page. This video was a perfect product for me to get started.
I was told that my market, older Floridians, probably wouldn’t buy over the internet. As of today, my dad proved to be right and I have sold over 5,000 DVDs…and I am still getting orders for it from all over the U.S. I was thrilled to see that I could mix my desire to start a business on the internet with doing what I loved. As a result of this experiencee, Kim and I share a new way of life. She no longer works in human resources at the university and is a full time partner in this business with me.
Great Background Story, But So What?
What’s important to you is that we are video publishers and we make money from it. The best way to demonstrate this is for you to see our 2008 year end sales we reported to the IRS.
We really only do the internet sales thing part time. We’ll go for weeks sometimes without doing any kind of promotion at all, and while we’re certainly not ready to retire on this yet, our business is on a steady upward path. Our sales in July, typically our slowest month, were over $2,500. We usually make twice that or more during the months of October through December. Better than that, we have not only survived this recession, but we’ve grown. We’ve even “dumped” some great clients to focus on our business. This is because not only we’ve become better at what we do but because we have added more to our product line. We’re excited to see what we can do when we finally have the time to focus on our internet sales.
I’m being honest with my figures and hope you are not discouraged that we’re not regaling you with stories of how we are making millions overnight and living on our yacht while working just a couple hours a week while sailing the globe. I think most of those get rich quick stories are B.S. and I’m not going to feed you a line like that. However, we are not kidding when say we are making this much PART TIME, and often without putting any time at all into our established websites, other than shipping packages and counting our receipts. Once we have a product finished and a website in place, it can be pulling in $1,000 – $4,000 per month for us, basically on autopilot. Now we are starting to make our videos available as digital downloads or online videos so that we don’t even have to ship anything and the customer gets access to the information immediately. Our goal is to get many such sites working for us and that is the approach I suggest to you. Create multiple streams of sales that all feed into one big river of income.
Working in this business part time is our choice. If you do it full time just imagine what you can do. Rick has former students he has mentored who now run very successful high six figure businesses doing this as well. One, in fact, runs his company part time with a staff, and that business brings in $500,000 a year without doing much marketing beyond sending out a catalog once or twice a year.
If this sounds good to you, then I encourage you to read all of the information on this website, read the blog entries, sign up for our newsletter and try our DVDs, located here. We are here to help you and others with similar dreams. Yes, you can do it and and if you follow the information in my DVDs and in the upcoming membership site, you will build your business faster and more efficiently that I did because you will have the benefit of my experience.
There really is no limit to what you can do in this business. I like to say that there is no “Someday” on the calendar, so get started now.