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SPOA Board members share mission, vision and more at SPAC

Claudia Dencer, CEO, Leonard's Phorography - Governing Board and Founder, SPOA

At the School and Sports Photographers Annual Conference (SPAC) last week, SPOA board members shared an overview of the association's activities to serve the entire industry at a packed and freewheeling Q&A session.

The speakers included Claudia Dencer, CEO of Leonard's Photography -Governing Board/ Founder; Mike Strawbridge, CEO of Strawbridge Studios -Governing Board/ Founder; Mark Hommerding, President of - Executive Board; Chris Garcia, CEO and owner, GSP Studio - Executive Board, and David Crandall, executive director, SPOA.

Crandall began by emphasizing that SPOA is a non-profit membership organization that supports the entire school photography industry.


Strawbridge talked about the origins of SPOA, which began in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The founders came together to advocate for school photography to be determined as an “essential service,” ensuring the continuation of the business. After that was accomplished, Strawbridge said the group realized there were many other issues the association could address.


“It’s much easier to be a healthy company in a healthy industry than it is to be a healthy company in an unhealthy industry,” he said. “That’s why I love the SPOA mission.”


Hommerding added standards is one area an association can play a vital role. Years ago, SPOA’s predecessor PSPA established the yearbook photo guidelines. Today, he says SPOA is taking a leadership position in AI and other standards. “We can make sure the industry is ahead of the curve, working proactively,” he said.


“It’s about what we can do together,” said Dencer. “How can we protect what we do, what we love, and what we give to our communities every day? Now we have to carry on.”


As an association, SPOA can work to bring partners together to work on behalf of the industry as a whole. For example, SPOA has partnered with Fotomerchant to create a national industry research report.


“Fotomerchant helped us develop the report,” said Crandall. “That's awesome we have strategic partners that come and work on something that helps the whole industry.”


“The industry report is a perfect example of how our sponsors can help the whole industry,” added Dencer. “It's been invaluable. From the feedback we got from the SPOA conference, it’s been valuable to a lot of people. And the more people who take part, the more data we are going to be able to assess.”


On a practical basis, Hommerding shared how he used the industry report data in a presentation to school administrators. Another example of a partnership is Sony’s work with SPOA for a national photo contest. Garcia explained how the Sony+SPOA photo contest, which offers thousands of dollars worth of camera gear as prizes, is a valuable way to connect with the next generation of photographers. He uses the contest as a way to connect with instructors and students, who can end up working in his studio.

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