Hello! Last time, I had the pleasure of introducing one of my entrepreneurial colleagues, Avi, whose story I hope has shed some light on entrepreneurship, as well as the decision to pursue hospitality. Today, I would like to feature another one of my colleagues from the postgraduate program who also embodies a blend of entrepreneurial spirit and hotelier gentility: our class delegate Pierre Morillon.
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: After high school in France, I moved to US for one year, which I spent living with a host family. Being in a foreign country, I became independent and grew to love new challenges and discovering new things.
I obtained my bachelor’s in Marketing and Sales in both France and US. My studies in marketing and sales helped me tremendously in developing my business in Mexico and was the start of me becoming an entrepreneur, even if I did not know it at the time.
Q: How did you get started in your business?
A: It was…an accident. In December 2009, I was working at a modeling agency in Mexico, in charge of managing and recruiting all of the models during our events. I met a photographer asking me if I could help her to organize a catalog shooting. I thought she only meant the catalog as a one-time project, but she actually meant to start a photography business with me. Once I realized my misunderstanding, I thought it would be a fun challenge anyway, and decided to work with her.
Q: What was a typical day like in your work?
A: Our operations were well organized and evenly distributed. The photographer would handle the photography service, and I would manage all of the marketing, sales, public relations, and organization of events such as catalog shootings. Based in Puerto Vallarta, a beach town in Mexico, most of our revenue came from American brides coming to get married in our town. My daily tasks included contacting prospects via email and phone calls. The key in being successful is quick and efficient communications, whilst also being available to help them with other things unrelated to photography, so that the client begins to see me as a friend rather than their hired photographer.
I would build relationships with wedding coordinators in Puerto Vallarta and pitch our business to new coordinators to increase our exposure to brides and prospects. Finally, I worked on the marketing side of the business, such as promoting the website and asking the brides to post reviews about our services on famous destination weddings blogs.
Thanks to all this hard work at the early stage of our business, I have built a strong name for our company in Puerto Vallarta and today brides find us without much marketing efforts from our part anymore. From doing 15 weddings our first year, we are now doing approximately 100 weddings a year. The success of the business allowed us to hire 2 new photographers and a graphic designer as well as develop the business in Europe where we now shoot catalogs and weddings in the summer.
Q: What was your proudest accomplishment?
A: There are two main things I am proud of in my business. The first one is that most of our clients, who are mainly brides, see me as a friend by the time their wedding comes, rather than as a salesperson or photographer. I have kept in touch with quite a few of them. The other thing I am very proud of is that I was able to develop the business in such a way that we could hire 3 people to work with us, and this allowed me to come and study in Switzerland while working at the same time.
Q: What was your most difficult moment?
A: The hardest part for me is working with artists. It’s interesting because the photographers I work with are very talented in their area of expertise, but they have their own way of thinking and are not the most organized people. Working with 3 photographers is sometimes like having three kids and having to plan everything for them. But they are good-natured people and that is why I still enjoy working with them.
Q: What advice would you give to the aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
A: Work hard at the beginning and you will be able to reap the rewards after a while. Delayed gratification is a necessary skill for any entrepreneur. Do something you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices. And finally, hire my company Photoshoot Vallarta for your wedding photoshoots.
Q: Why did you decide to leave your business to pursue hospitality?
A: Seeing that my business was doing very well, and that I had accomplished all of the objectives I had set for myself, I decided it was time for me to look for new challenges. So, I returned to my first love, hospitality, to achieve my long term objective of opening and operating my own hotel one day and still retain my entrepreneurial persona.
Q: How did you choose Les Roches?
A: I chose Les Roches because it is one of the best hospitality schools in the world, and I knew I would learn a lot while in school. I knew also that I would be presented with many opportunities in the hospitality industry through the school’s vast network. I also enjoy its diversity; there are more than 95% of its population from 90 nationalities, which means I can meet people from all over the world and learn about their cultures and ways of working.
Q: What are you looking to get out of your hospitality education?
A: I have previously worked in front desk and have also worked with many hotels while still with my business in Mexico, so I already have a basic understanding of the industry. I thought coming to Les Roches would allow me to develop further knowledge in areas such as food & beverage. I also want to explore different areas so by the time I start my career, I have narrowed down my general interest in hospitality to a specific area.
Thanks to the teachers at Les Roches for the interview opportunities that I found via CDIP (Career Development & Industry Placement), I now have a much clearer idea of my future path.
Q: How do you see yourself combining your passions in entrepreneurship and hospitality?
A: My long-term goal is to open my own hotel. It will take some time before I have acquired the knowledge to do so, but I believe that with hard work and patience, I will be able to achieve my goal very soon!
Pierre Morillon is currently the marketing and sales liaison for Photoshoot Vallarta, conducting most of his business via email communications with American clients. You can view his company portfolio at http://www.photoshootsvallarta.mx/