Fresh Factory KC is evolving, founder India Wells-Carter shared, embracing change as she re-evaluates where and how her camera-ready venture can help shine the brightest light on Kansas City.
After a year and a half in its brick-and-mortar location at the Zona Rosa shopping center, Fresh Factory KC has uprooted and gone mobile, bringing the selfie studio experience directly to businesses and events.
“I never saw it as, ‘Oh, our doors are closing or we’re going out of business,’” Wells-Carter explained. “I never saw it as a sad occasion. But more so this is a celebration because we get to do something new and do something different. But also do something that just makes more sense.”
“That’s my encouragement to other entrepreneurs: Don’t be afraid to pivot or evolve, even if that comes to the shock or the surprise of your customer base and whoever else that might be impacted,” she shared.
Fresh Factory’s lease was up in January, Wells-Carter said, so it felt like the natural time to transition. When she opened the business in 2021 as a pop-up at Zona Rosa, the focus was on the hourly selfie studio experience. But as time went on, she realized most of her business was coming from use of Fresh Factory’s on-site event space and clients asking for the selfie stations used at the storefront to be brought to their schools, businesses, or community events.
“Never in my business plan did I include this on-the-go, taking the experience to people (option),” she continued. “Then it clicked. If people are calling and asking for this, there might be demand for this. So it’s shifted from focusing on — if you want to say B2C — just getting them in for the hourly experience, to rolling into ‘How do we cultivate clients to celebrate occasions in our space?’ to really ultimately ‘How do we just bring this experience to other people?’”
Wells-Carter is calling this the experiment discovery phase of her business.
“It’s exciting because it’s untapped territory,” she added. “For some people, it might seem a little scary, like you really don’t know how you neatly fit anymore. Because for a lot of people when they think of Fresh Factory, they’re thinking of the selfie studio in Zona Rosa. So now we’re so much broader than that. I don’t take that unclarity as a bad thing. I see it as just an opportunity to truly explore.”
Navigating a new space
With the business model shift, Wells-Carter noted, Fresh Factory is now navigating the space of experiential marketing to connect with smaller brands and businesses and help them elevate the experience they want to provide to their customers. She often uses the phrase, “It’s so much more than selfies,” she said, but with respect to branding, the sentiment rings especially true.
“We still do selfies, but create this user-generated content and this FOMO feel, like ‘Oh, you had to have been there at this product launch or at this grand opening or at this gala,’” she explained. “How do we bring more awareness to the products and services that they’re offering? We’ve been operating in this space — with those goals — without having really put a name or defined it.”
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The launch of Ruby Jean’s Juicery’s “Lightning Lemonade” at Halls Kansas City last spring was one of Fresh Factory’s first opportunities to create such an experience, Wells-Carter shared. Its custom selfie stations included a bathtub filled with lemons and yellow balls, a kids lemonade stand, a balloon arch featuring the fruits that flavor the lemonade, and a giant wooden lightning bolt with lemons-to-lemonade stories written on them from kids at Operation Breakthrough, who benefited from some of the event proceeds.
“They brought us in to create this experience for them to captivate their audience and celebrate the launch,” she added. “I think that was one of those light bulb moments, like, ‘Oh, we can do this for a lot of other businesses and a lot of other brands.’”
Fresh Factory also has created such high-profile pieces as a giant wooden star for the KC Chamber’s Small Business Superstar reception and a Global Entrepreneurship Week color wheel logo for KCSourceLink. Wells-Carter loves to partner with other small business owners — like balloon artists and wood workers — to bring her client’s vision to life, she said.
“That’s the pleasure I get out of it, too, knowing that my work is putting money in other entrepreneur’s pockets,” she added.
Fired up for the future
The innovation doesn’t stop with one pivot, Wells-Carter shared. In 2024, she’d like to take Fresh Factory truly mobile and put it on wheels.
“Gutting out some vehicle — whether it’s a trailer or any other type of fun thing you can haul — putting some selfie stations in it, pull it up at companies, and say, ‘Hey, let’s take some fun headshots’ or pulling up to schools for back to school event,” she explained. “There’s so many ideas that we can explore.”
But just because Fresh Factory is going mobile, Wells-Carter noted, doesn’t mean there won’t be another brick-and-mortar spot in the future. To do that though, she would pick a spot that is more accessible and open it for a limited time. For example, it would just be open for a season like Halloween or Christmas.
“The whole selfie studio industry is a fairly new industry,” she continued, noting the first such business in Kansas City was in 2016 or 2017. “There’s been a handful (in KC) that operated as pop ups and that after that pop-up term or after a year, year and a half, they ceased operations. Without having years and centuries of an industry, I’m wondering, is the concept of a selfie studio meant to only exist in a limited fashion? Maybe it’s not meant for Fresh Factory to have a brick-and-mortar space for five,10, 15, 20 years — whether that’s due to the constant change of social media or how we connect with people.”
Opening up the selfie studio for a limited time, she noted, also seems to motivate people to take action.
“I would love to go back to a brick-and-mortar space or some type of stationary space,” she said. “It doesn’t even have to be inside. It can be outside in a park. But I think the success of it will only be dependent upon creating a truly limited experience.”
Wherever this next phase takes her, Wells-Carter is excited for the opportunity, she said.
“I loved our brick-and-mortar space,” she shared. “But the fact that I get time back with my family, the fact that I get to reimagine the evolution of my business, that’s what continues to get me fired up about the business.”