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What the Heck is a People-Centric Brand? Meet Adam Hendershott & Will Harper

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Unlike your average photographers, Adam Hendershott and Will Harper work out of a bright magenta truck that trundles around the streets of LA offering actors a chance to get their headshots taken. They told us how they developed a unique brand, found a crew that personified their brand, and weathered some unexpected legal challenges.

 

Read on to see what they learned from their first year of business and where they'll be moving next! 

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Name: Adam Hendershott and Will Harper

Occupation: The Headshot Truck

Started: 2014

 

Q: What were you doing before The Headshot Truck?

 

Will: After I got my MFA in film, I went to an ad agency to make commercials, and my job somehow slowly morphed into a business-oriented position where I was helping client agencies launch new startups. I spent a couple years consulting, creating new ideas, and getting businesses past their early hurdles. I had a pretty interesting career path - I actually got my undergraduate degree in Ancient Greek.

As for Adam, he was a photographer for 8 years, doing primarily actors' headshots, kids' fashion, and celebrity portraits, like Emma Roberts and Kanye West. He was also a professional actor for 26 years, so he's basically been on every TV show.

 

Q: What was the inspiration for The Headshot Truck? How did you guys get started?

 

Will: I wanted to become a professional actor, so I moved in with my best friend  in LA. One day her fiance got a headshot from Adam, and he mentioned that Adam had this crazy idea to take headshots on a truck. At first I thought it was really dumb, but it grew on me. We ended up meeting at Starbucks and talking about it, and now here we are.

 

Adam: What's different about our studio is that as soon as a shot's taken, a client can see it on a huge monitor and know exactly what they want to change for the next shot. We've also got wifi in the truck, so we upload images where managers can see it instantly. Clients leave knowing they got the photo they want.

 

Q: What did your branding process look like? How did you decide what kind of image you wanted to put out there?

 

Will: Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to visually demonstrate what The Headshot Truck is all about. We were creating something that had never been done before. I'd worked a lot with branding before, so I instantly knew a designer who could create a cool logo. We had two wine bottles, which had colors we really liked. We sent the designer the two bottles and told him to incorporate the colors in a logo with a truck and a camera somewhere on it. He nailed it on his first try. 

 

As for our customer-centric image and friendly persona, that stemmed from Adam's mission to help actors. For us it wasn't just a job; we built the company all around the idea that actors shouldn't have to spend a ton for a headshot. It's a cyclical pattern: you can't get a job without a headshot, but you can't pay for a headshot without a job. 

 

Adam: I used to pay $800 for a headshot. Actors coming to LA to start their careers have to wait tables to survive, and I wanted to give them the chance because they're my people. I want to give back to them.

 

Q: What was most unexpected? How did you deal with it?

 

Will: This country is so rapidly embracing mobile businesses. While that's great, even simple things like applying for a permit haven't been figured out. We're mobile, but we're not a food truck. That's not a business our local authorities are familiar with regulating, so we're all working through that together.

 

Adam: You have to do your research. I'm the creative person, not the businessperson, so when I brought up the idea to Will, he told me to get proof of concept. And I was like, "What's that?" I've also learned I can't be so impulsive about business - if we're going to do it, we're going to do it right by testing the market and doing research. Figuring out how to be a good partner has been a struggle as well. It's a learning process the whole way.

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Q: What are the most important qualities you look for in a new team?

 

Adam: Their energy. They have to go through a period of training so they're on brand. They bring our idea to life. It's important that they have that energy and irreverence that we as a brand have worked so hard to create. Most important is that it isn't an act, they live it. It has to be an authentic part of who they are.

 

Will: I get lots of emails. Consistently customers rave about staff because they make the experience so worthwhile. That's something you can't teach, and that's what we look for when we interview prospective employees. 

 

Giving back to this community is also really important to us. As a company, we spend time photographing animals in adoption shelters to help them find homes. We're also always looking for opportunities to support local small business growth. All this has been ingrained into how we hire and train the staff.

 

Q: Who drives?

 

Adam: Our photographers drive the truck! I take them through a rigorous training progress and make sure it's safe.

 

Q: How do you figure out what your next goal is? What's your process for thinking about where your business will move next?

 

Will: In my previous work, I saw businesspeople who thought they knew what clients wanted better than the clients did. We listen closely to what the client is calling for, which is really just stepping back and looking at the market as a whole. That's our main guiding force. For example, we've been hearing feedback asking that we bring The Headshot Truck to New York, and we're actually looking into launching there. 

 

Q: What's the most important lesson you've learned so far?

 

Adam: One of the biggest lifts for me was how important finding a business partner is and learning how they bring the best and worst out of you. A partnership is like relationship. I call Will my work wife because whether it's at home or at work, we still have our ups and downs. 

We've also run into certain problems with the truck's construction, so we're figuring out how we can upgrade to the next truck. 

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Adam & Will's Takeaways:

 

1) Do your research thoroughly.

2) Listen to what the market's trying to tell you. Customer demand drives you where you need to go.

3) Adapt, once you know how the market's changing.

4) Hire staff who resonate with the brand.

 

 

1 Comment
Highlighted
Level 7

What the Heck is a People-Centric Brand? Meet Adam Hendershott & Will Harper

I have recently brought on a friend/business partner in one of my businesses and it's been so nice to be able to get support, bounce ideas off of her and share the workload. In one of my other endeavors, I have had a friend/business partner since day one and that has been incredibly motivating and necessary. I'd love to hear your experiences with a business partner...whether it's good, bad or ugly! :smileytongue:

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