First, it was Greek Yearbook in September 1999, then came Nations Photo Lab in 2005. In 2010, he unveiled one of the hottest products, Artsy Couture's Gallery Blocks™ at PhotoPlus and this year, he followed it up with the launch of Sweet Frames and Cube Décor. It is any wonder, then, that Ernst & Young named Ryan Millman, President and Founder of Nation's Lab and Artsy Couture, Maryland's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010.
"First and foremost, we at Artsy Couture see ourselves as a photography innovation company," said Millman. "We want to bring exciting, unique and high quality products to the photo industry for both photographers and partner labs alike."
At PhotoPlus 2010, tons of buzz surrounded Artsy's Gallery Blocks™. Available in single formats and "floating block" configurations, Gallery Blocks incorporate both photography and personalization, creating completely customized wall art. Gallery Blocks also offer a number of free, professionally designed templates or the option to create a customized design.
With the holidays just around the corner, Artsy followed up Gallery Blocks with the addition of Sweet Frames and Cube Décor, launched this past October at PhotoPlus 2011. Millman prints both the Blocks and Cubes on KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Metallic VC Digital Paper, which he considers integral to the success of the product lines. Millman not only offers these products to photographers, but also offers them to professional labs, functioning as a fulfillment partner. Professional labs can easily and efficiently begin offering these unique products to their customers without a capital expenditure.
Ask Millman why these products have struck such a chord; he cites creativity, personalization and price points.
"Gallery Blocks lend so many customization options to celebrate the season or as personalized gift items," said Millman. "Additionally, Sweet Frames and Cube Décor are both very economically priced and fitting for gifts, décor for the home, or as add-on items to photographer's packages."
"As a company, it is important for us to have products priced across the spectrum. We offer more elaborate, high-end pieces with a higher price point, but we also launched a line of "Mini Gallery Blocks" that lend the same look and feel, but at 50% of the cost. Cube Décor and Sweet Frames are also at a very economical price point. With this diverse product and price mix, we really carry something that fits any budget."
Millman believes that Artsy, at its core, is more about creativity and lifestyle than simply photography products. As a company, Millman challenges his team to come up with relevant offerings for the market. At the same time, Millman recognizes the value that comes from engaging with Artsy's customer base, through a variety of channels to collectively elevate Artsy's offerings.
"Our customers inspire us to continue to innovate and hold ourselves to a higher standard," said Millman. "We've also seen some incredibly creative and unique designs come from our customers themselves, including Ashe Design, PhotoDuds, and Jen's Fabulous Stuff."
Millman and Artsy create close ties with their customers through a variety of ways. In just a few months after launching the Gallery Blocks, Artsy nabbed over 40K fans on FACEBOOK and acquired 45+ professional reseller lab partners. Millman sees social media as a great way to get to a broad audience in a short amount of time, an opportunity to to build meaningful relationships with clients and start a proactive dialogue.
"Social networks provide a platform for customers to share creative ideas with one another," said Millman. "We have essentially created an Artsy Couture community that is a platform for sharing ideas and lending consistent support."
Millman complements his social media activities with in-person programming, including trades shows and conventions. These activities remain critical to Millman, who values the one-to-one interactions with his customers and clients.
"We have conversations about the trends they are seeing when it comes to in-studio sales," said Millman. "We know many of our customers personally and feel the relationship goes much deeper than a vendor/customer interaction."
As part of that strong relationship, Millman works with his customers to help them best showcase their expertise and offerings, in a way that drives higher sales among consumers. For example, Millman offers sample discounts to his customers, to ensure they have a hard copy of the products to show their customers.
"Due to the craftsmanship and uniqueness of all of our product lines, we highly recommend that our photographer customers have a physical sample to show their clients and then use the digital copy as a tool to show the full catalog of capabilities," said Millman. "The digital copy is intriguing, but the wow factor really comes with seeing the impact of the product in person. We offer studio sample discounts to help encourage this soft copy approach."