We had the good fortune of connecting with Troy Yu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Troy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial since I was a young kid. I inherited a professional cotton candy machine from my grandparents who were concessionaires at the state fair and instead of having a lemonade stand, I would sell cotton candy out of my driveway, and later started doing it for hire at parties. Later, I worked many jobs as a young adult, but nothing stable and in most cases, the company or bosses couldn’t care less if I could feed or house myself. When I did find mutual respect, I found myself faced with difficult choices. In one retail job I loved, I was promoted multiple times for being a great employee, and one day my boss came to me and said “There’s a higher leadership opportunity for you at another store. We’d hate to lose you but I want you to have the choice, There’s no more climbing for you here, but let me warn you, the manager there is evil. Nobody works there more than a few months before being fired.” Against my instincts, I took the job and sure enough, I was fired within a few months for something extremely trivial. I’ve always regretted that decision. After frustrated with unreliable employment, I became more business minded and started exploring work where I was my own boss.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
One of the cornerstones of our business is that we don’t start by copying or following established protocol. Any service we offer, I want to make sure is created from our own ideas and methods. This is prominent in both how we do things, and also in photography technique. I’ve never had any formal training in photography. The internet has completetly changed how we learn and I self taught myself so that I can make art how I want, without others telling me that it has to be done a certain way. When it comes to services like our photo booth rental, you’ll never see another photo booth like ours because we didn’t start by going out and looking at the competition. That would force us into a box. We started by dreaming up what our photo booth service would look like and THEN researched what’s popular. We pretty much custom build and design everything for every event, including the props. We aren’t going to have the same paper signs every other photo booth company has. It’s the same with our cosplay photography. We don’t just tell our clients to put on their costume and snap random pictures in front of a random backdrop – We work with them directly to create an artistic vision, and often that includes using a green screen and creating a digital background custom to their character. Small business is never easy. Honestly, there’s hurdles and roadblocks everywhere, but finding solutions to get around them is how you survive. We had plans to rebrand to HeyPixel (previously Perfect Pixel) in January of 2020, refocus and refine. With the pandemic, that came screeching to a halt. Our photo booth business which was our primary service, obviously had to be put on hold. Now we’re focusing on non-event related photography like cosplay and commercial photography. One of the lessons I’ve learned is to go to the ends of the earth to check the use of your brand before launching. We definitely spent time researching our brand before launching several years ago, but over time, we realized other photography companies were using the same name throughout the country with no firm evidence of who was first. Clearly we didn’t go deep enough. By the time this came to light, we had already invested in a website, marketing profiles, printed marketing materials all in our brand. Instead of a legal fight we decided to rebrand in 2020 after fully researching and formally trademarking it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It definitely depends on the friend’s tastes and interests, but one of the most incredible experiences in the city proper is the Griffith Observatory. Although it’s become extremely crowded over the last few years, it is the only place that you can go and see the Hollywood sign, an incredible sunset and the Los Angeles skyline, plus a planetary museum that is basically completely FREE. The planetarium shows are cheap and entertaining too. But, be sure to take the Dash bus for 50 cents from the bottom of the hill at Los Feliz Blvd. Driving up and parking is a nightmare beyond comprehension.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family. My parents who never discouraged my exploration of business as a kid, but primarily my spouse, Ray. Entrepreneurship takes an incredible amount of support, patience and capital, and I have always had that and will be forever grateful for it.
All images by Troy Yu – HeyPixel Photography