The year was 2007. It had been five months since I had closed my photo store Blue Photo. After 32 years of faithful service and being in business for over 80 years in my family, it was time. I closed down the shop and spent a wonderful summer being a family man and spending time with the two children remaining at home. We camped, hiked, and shot lots of photos. I also spent the summer trying to keep up with the domestic duties, but according to my wife Pam, I was not doing the best job. As the summer came to a close, I was getting a little restless and decided that it was time to figure out what I would be doing in my second life. Pam assured me I would not make a good chef and also not to consider trying out for Dancing with the Stars. Yes, indeed it was really time to look elsewhere.
As I sat at the computer late one evening cruising around on my new favorite website, Monster.com, I saw an ad to become a local real estate and virtual tour photographer to operate what seemed to be a virtual tour franchise of some sorts. The details of the job seemed to be right up my alley since I am well versed in running a business and have over 35 years of professional photography experience.
The virtual tour company that placed the ad was called OBEO. They were an out-of-town company looking to establish virtual tours in Traverse City. I nodded to myself, filled out the online application, clicked submit and retired to bed. Just before I nodded off that evening, I felt excitement at the thought of embracing the next generation of photography.
The next day I awoke and it dawned on me that I would have to call my long-time friend Jason LaVanture and see what was going on with his company RTV – Real Tour Vision. They made virtual tour software for real estate photographers around the world since 1999. Jason and I had been friends and had a business relationship for almost nine years. I still remember the very first day that he and his business partner came into my store to test out cameras. It was then that they told me they were looking to support a local business by finding one good supplier for all their hardware needs. They said they were starting up what would be one day a worldwide virtual tour company.
I showed them my lineup of cameras, let them take a few for a test drive, and they ended up making a purchase a day or two later. I don’t recall if I ever expected much to come out of it but what I do remember is the energy and excitement those two had in my shop that day. That’s something you just can’t forget.
About a year from that very day, Blue Photo of Traverse City was selling more cameras, tripods, leveler heads, and accessories to RTV than I had ever imagined. In fact, I’ll never forget the day my Bogen rep called me and said, “Jim, congratulations are in order to you. You’re the number one reseller in the entire nation for the Bogen 329 RC 4 two-way leveler head! What the heck is going on up there? You know you’re pushing out 40-60 of these each month?” I chuckled and told him to send me a 329 RC 4 shirt so I could give it to Jason sometime.
Anyway, I called up Jason to find out how things were going with real estate photography and the virtual tour industry overall. I really didn’t know much about their business model other than they sold virtual tour software to real estate agents to do 360 home tours.
When I explained to Jason that I saw an ad in the paper and was considering starting up a real estate photography and virtual tour company he instantly said to me, “Did you see my ad in the paper Jim? Are you putting me on here?” Apparently, at that exact time, Jason was setting things up to have a local real estate photography and virtual tour business in Traverse City. The previous Traverse City Real Tour Vision provider had become accepted an opportunity of a lifetime and got her real estate license to partner up with another local real estate agent. The Traverse City virtual tour market was wide open.
When Jason finally realized that I was being straight with him and was not referring to his ad in the paper he quickly invited me over the a local pub for a burger and a beer so he could explain the Real Tour Vision model in more detail to me and what his plans were for his local providership. Within minutes of sitting down we both knew that some greater power was at work here. Something had brought us together at that very right time. In fact, Jason told me that night over dinner that he was making an offer to another person the very next day! Neither of us could believe the timing, it seemed to work out so perfectly. Not to mention the fact that Jason liked my last name, Blue, when added to LaVa and he instantly put a full halt on moving forward with his current name TheLaVaWorks.
Over one dinner BlueLaVaMedia was formed and plans were swept into action. To date I must say that I could not be associated with a more knowledgeable or skillful individual in the field. With Jason’s business and virtual tour company setup expertise and my photography experience, we make an unstoppable team. Oh yeah, I did hear from that other virtual tour company about a month later. I told them that they should take their cameras and so called “opportunity” and just go home; there’s a new show in town.
Virtual Tour Coordinator / Manager
Traverse City Real Estate Photography & Virtual Tours
Contact Us – 231-946-1360