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Member Spotlight: Chris Garcia, GSP Studio Inc.

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Family, tradition, and innovation drive Chris Garcia, owner of GSP Studio Inc., in Lemoore, Calif. A second-generation business, GSP is continuously improving and changing processes to build a better volume photography company.

Like many in the volume photography industry, Garcia is carrying on the family tradition. His father, Jesus, was a Marine in Operation Desert Storm when he picked up a camera, sparking his love of photography. Upon his return to the states, he was stationed in Lemoore and began working part-time for a local photographer, Tom Newman.

Chris Garcia grew up in the business, helping out when he could.

“One of my first jobs was, when we would go to the wedding, we would develop all the pictures [at a one-hour lab] that my parents would take, and my job was to cut these pictures, put them in keychains to sell them at the reception for $5 to $10 bucks each,” he said. Eventually, he learned all aspects of the business.

“I was learning at a young age about posing and those little things,” he said. “As I got older, I would start going out to like the high school shoots and the special events.”

Upon retiring from the Marines, Jesus Garcia immediately opened his own business.

“He retired from the Marines on July 2, 1999, at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m. that same day, he had the grand opening for the portrait studio,” says Garcia. His father was able to purchase the studio from Newman.

Chris Garcia was active in photography in high school, capturing events and sports. But a high school class changed his trajectory.

“In my senior year of high school, I was in an entrepreneurship class,” he recalls. “I told myself, ‘My parents are successful, I'm going to do my own thing and I'm not going to ride on their coattails. So after high school, I didn't touch a camera for two or three years, you know, because I was determined to be successful to make it on my own.”

Garcia worked at a number of different jobs, including providing communication services for the hearing impaired and framing pictures at Michaels. But it was experience selling hats at Lids that changed his life.

“I'll never forget,” he said. “I was working at Lids and my high-school entrepreneurship teacher saw me at the mall. He says, ‘Hey, how are you doing today? How are sales?’ I said I sold like $2,000 in hats already.

“He asked, ‘How much are you going make today your salary?’

“This was like, $12.50 an hour back in the day, so I probably get in the neighborhood of $80 bucks a day.

Lighting the fire

“He says, ‘That's cool. So how does it feel there's a guy out there playing golf, knowing he just made $1,900 off of you busting your butt on a Sunday. Your parents have a business that they literally print money and you're here selling hats and some other dude almost two grand off of it.’”

“That moment lit the fire,” said Garcia. “I was blessed. My parents were starting to get busy. They were doing 400 500 seniors a year. My parents said, ‘if you want to come back, we'll take you back.’”

Chris Garcia wasn’t finding his groove, however, shooting senior portraits but, in September, when the time came to shoot school portraits, it clicked.

“From that moment, I wanted to be doing volume,” he said. “I told my dad I wanted to start a volume company and he believed in me. We started looking for classes and we found Jeff Gump. I learned the sports side and it went really great.”

All the fire and energy in the world, however, didn’t change the fact the sales cycle for volume photography takes a while to build up.

“It took me I literally 24 ‘nos’ before I got my first ‘yes.’” says Garcia. “That’s sales. I booked only four leagues that the first year but I was super pumped. We lost money but luckily we were still doing well on the portraiture side. But the volume side really starting to pick up over the next six-seven years. Volume became the main focus for us.”

In July 2019, Chris bought the business after his dad chose to retire. Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting the new owner into scramble mode.

In recent months, Garcia has expanded further by adding remote staffing services to the industry. Inspired by the ongoing problem of finding skilled workers, he offers a service where users can find trained outsource labor for specific skilled tasks in the volume photography business.

GSP Studio has multiple employees, including two full-time photographers and three designers. Printing is outsourced to Richmond Pro Lab. Garcia “grew up in the darkroom,” but now knows the ability to outsource gives his business the flexibility to focus on the client relationships that make the company excel.

As a small but growing company, Garcia sees involvement in industry organizations like SPAC and, in particular, SPOA as important tools to be competitive. Attending last December’s leadership meeting, for example, brought Garcia up to speed on key copyright issues affecting his state.

“If I want to grow and be one of the big boys, I have learn to be like a big boy, right?,” says Garcia. “I have put in my time. SPOA gives you the opportunity to sit down with someone doing 30,000 kids a day and he's willing to tell you. Because if you're at SPOA, you're invested in not only yourself but the industry.“

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