Alabama News Startup Profiles

Photography… the Final Frontier?

Photography Photography… the Final Frontier?Could there be a more unlikely path to creating a startup than from the International Space Station to pre-school photography? Probably not, but don’t tell Melissa Tash.

After earning a degree from Auburn University and following stints with the U.S. Army and Nike, Tash helped keep the ISS orbiting Earth while working as an industrial engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She occasionally even coached astronauts on the ISS on how to perform key tasks.

Tash’s knack for photography led her friends to ask her to take keepsake snapshots of their children. When Tash found out that a pre-school’s photographer-for-hire was retiring, she asked for and was given the contract. A hobby was becoming a startup and before long Tash left her position with NASA.

Tash soon founded Spoiled Rotten Photography. Leveraging her background as an industrial engineer, Tash designed the software needed to automate the ordering and processing of school photos. This gives her a big edge over other photographers who lack her programming expertise and thus must rely on crude, off-the-shelf enterprise management programs.

The other key to Tash’s business is the creation of attractive backgrounds. Rather than the infamously boring blue screens that are traditionally used for school photos, Tash creates a new upscale set each season to make kids look great while bringing out their personalities.

Spoiled Rotten recently began offering franchises. Tash operates the Huntsville territory while three franchisees operate in cities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. She hopes to have 50 franchises within 5 years.

Tash recently attended her first trade show and received more than 100 leads. Potential franchisees are drawn to her strong business model, the modest startup costs of $30 to 35,000, and the prospect of taking summers off while schools are closed.