What I learned this week was that working in an office outside of my house is exhausting. But, I got my first week down. Hopefully, even more things will click into place next week and I can rock it.
This week I also learned that the same guy who co-founded WD-40 also founded the Fotomat.
Now, I’m sure after that statement that you have many questions.
What is the identity of this wonderful man who created one of the three items that must be found in every tool kit?
What are the other two items?*
How the f*** did you discover this?
One at a time, please.
So, I had been thinking about Fotomats.
Let me back up.
I had a dream a year or more ago (yes, I remember dreams long term. I used to keep a diary of them. For more on that, click here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2012/11/01/dreams-part-one-dream-journal/) where a boy I had a crush on in school was poor and homeless and living in a Fotomat in a nearby parking lot. This was weird for many reasons. The first being that I don’t think we even had any Fotomat overnight film developing booths in our area. Second, Fotomat’s went out of business in the late 1980s when every drug store installed a one hour photo machine. And last but not least, said crush lives in a very beautiful house that is much nicer than mine with his wife and kids.
But the dream deeply upset me, seeing anyone in that circumstance. I was reminded of that dream this morning when I yet again dream about the same boy from school. This time he was making me tacos. Yum. Then he took off his shirt. I am sure my subconscious did a bit of a photo-shop on his 40 year old body, but who am I to argue with my subconscious.
So then I looked up Fotomats. They were founded by Preston Fleet in 1965, who just two years earlier co-founded WD-40, our favorite lubricant. Well, maybe second favorite… At its height around 1980, there were over 4,000 locations across the country.
Did you know that Fotomat was one of the first companies to offer movie rental–ON VIDEO CASSETTE TAPES?! I know, right? It was like the stone ages or something. They started the service in 1979. Customers picked a title out of a catalog (almost exclusively Paramount titles), then the customer would return the next day to pick up the movie, pay $12 (!!!), and return it five days later. When local video rental locations started popping up providing movies quicker and cheaper, the service was discontinued.
When I think of starting a business, I think of great businesses that have run for over a hundred years like A&P and Coca-Cola. A&P is defunct now (I worked at Borders. I know who ran A&P, then came came over to run Borders further down the toilet. Just sayin’.) In my head, I just assume you have to have a successful company that makes the same product that will never become outdated. But Fotomat was popular enough to be on the stock exchange. Fotomat was acquired by Konica in 1982. It served a very needed purpose of its time. Sure, film developing and VHS rental are foreign terms to a lot of young people these days. But maybe the key isn’t to predict the next big thing. Maybe it is to learn how to meet the needs faster and cheaper that consumers struggle with today. Afterall, that is how Fotomat ended up replaced.
Hmmm… Now I must be off to my thinking seat to come up with a great business idea.
And now I’m hungry for tacos >:-)
* A good tool kit needs only three items: A hammer, duct tape, and WD-40.
Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug – AVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It – NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016!
It’s funny because at the store recently I saw that you could turn in your film and the prints would be back in 2 weeks! I thought wtf? But I guess when 99.9% of the population has gone digital, the store doesn’t really cater to the minority with 1 hour photo processing anymore!
It’s true. But back in the day, people cared about the quality of the printed photograph. I think some of that gets lost in a one-hour environment.