Creator Spotlight: JP Toshiro, One Focus Photography
In recent years, the real estate industry has been forced to adapt faster than ever before. It has never been more important to produce high quality content. At Aryeo, we’re on a mission to empower real estate photographers in doing what they love. As times change and the industry adapts, we are taking the time to sit down with our customers and learn more about them and where they are today.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know Jean Paul Toshiro (JP for short) for the last couple of months while he rolled out his new company, One Focus Photography. A couple weeks ago I sat down to interview JP and talk more about his background both personally and professionally, check in on the growth of his new company, and maybe even bond over golf as well.
JP stumbled into real estate photography during the recession of 2008. At that time he was focusing mainly on portrait photography and architectural design for the casinos in Las Vegas. After the housing market crashed, a friend of a friend needed some foreclosures to be photographed. To JP's surprise, it was quite lucrative.
"In 2008 in Las Vegas, every other street had 3 or 4 foreclosures."
After 2008 - 2009, strictly through word of mouth, real estate photography became JP's #1 source of income. Not intentionally, rather strictly by demand.
In 2010, JP made the personal decision to move up to the bay area, San Francisco. He explains how he lucked out with timing. Between then and now, Bay Area real estate has exploded. It is actually busier now than it ever has been. When COVID hit, JP thought it would be a perfect time to take some down time to learn new skills and further expand on his craft. As we all know however, not only did the real estate market not slow down, but instead accelerated massively. One week later his email and phone started going crazy. At first, it was a panic to get everything shot and brought online to the new fully virtual world of March 2020. At the peak, JP was shooting 4-8 homes every day.
While JP has a decade of real estate photography experience, One Focus Photography is a new business venture, founded June 2021. JP spent years working for a different media company. He was in agreement with this company to grow their business by building out the operations on the west coast. JP was in charge of hiring new photographers, managing quality control, and dealing with the customers this company provided him. One day however, without anything formally in writing, the owners ripped the rug out from under him.
"Everything is going smoothly, dealing with customers will be handled by our customer service department and we no longer require your help"
was the message he received from the owners. While this came as a total shock to JP, he thankfully had built up a network of friends and photographers across the whole country over the last decade. He knew he had the opportunity to make something out of this misfortune, so he decided to start his own real estate photography company, One Focus Photography.
When starting his new venture, JP began by researching on Google for a real estate photography software that would combine scheduling, delivery, and an integrated solution for multiple photographers. He was in search of an online portal that clients can log in to, place an address anywhere in the country, see availability and schedule a shoot. To his surprise, finding a system like this was not an easy task.
To start for the first week, JP went with Acuity scheduling.
"It was okay, kind of clunky, it gets the job done, but is not very user friendly. You still have to deliver the content a different way. The workflow just isn't smooth."
He decided this solution would not easily allow him to scale his business across the country.
Unsatisfied with Acuity as his solution, JP decided to give Ubookr a shot. "It was a good product, but the website feels like it was one of the first websites from the early 2000s." It offered everything he needed, but getting around the dashboard was very slow. To build out his products it took a full week of painstakingly slow progress. After he had rolled the new system out, a client of his needed to make a change to a shoot. JP got the message while he was out in the field, and pulled up Ubookr on his phone to make the adjustment. To his surprise, this could not be accomplished on mobile. UBookr's response to JP's inquiry for mobile access was that the system was too complex to utilize a fully mobile experience. JP's response; "that's not going to work."
A few days later, as JP was scrolling Instagram, an Ad for Aryeo popped up. After investigating the website he was impressed with the functionality. The timing was perfect, everything JP was looking for was currently being rolled out as a part of our Aryeo summer release.
"I have never been a customer of a company, where you and your team were as flexible as you were. If something was possible that I was asking for, you guys just did it. And if it wasn't possible, you just told me. Which was very refreshing as a customer. I view your team more as friends and working partners. As the main driver of my company, which is Aryeo, to have a close working relationship is very reassuring."
As a new company trying to build a client base, other than the photos and videos, the thing clients have been most impressed with is the scheduling system. Brokers, listings coordinators, and agents are most concerned with how easy it is to book and receive their content. When JP sets up a new client, everything happens automatically, including building them a new account to make it an even easier experience for them next time they place an order. Every client receives their own log in and dashboard to view all current and past listings delivered by One Focus.
One Focus now has over 40 photographers all operating under a single order form and scheduling system. The natural question is how does someone hire 40 plus photographers? Between 2012-2016 JP was training to become a professional golfer. Traveling across the country attending qualifying tournaments, while still having a passion for cityscape and landscape photography. This led JP to connect with a huge network of photographers all across the country. While JP never did make it on any PGA tour events, he created a valuable network of friends and photographers which would later be vital to build and expand One Focus Photography.
I asked JP what it is like to single handedly manage 40+ photographers across the entire country. For him it's simple, they are all his friends.
One Focus has photographers in territories from coast to coast. How does One Focus enter a new market?
"You need to have a solid photographer first. Once you start making those calls, you need to be ready to go. Having a system in place to schedule and get that content out is key."
The decision to enter a new market is driven by having a connection with a solid photographer in that area. Once One Focus brings on a new photographer, JP jumps on a screen share and walks through Aryeo and set's them up with an account. Being able to easily add photographers to One Focus's Aryeo account makes the scaling process painless.
To finish the conversation I asked JP if he had any insights for someone trying to expand and scale their real estate photography business.
"Just be ready, have your ducks in a row! Your admin page has to be working, editing team ready, how you will receive the content from your photographer and get it to the client, everything needs to be ready! A lot of it comes unexpectedly. You will get mostly no's at first. But you will get a couple yes's and you need to able to deliver on that. When dealing with new clients and territories your first couple shoots need to be flawless."
He related the importance of the first couple of shoots in a new territory to his days chasing down the professional golf dream. "You can't have any bad shots, making a bogey on the back nine won't cut it."
More on the Aryeo Creator Spotlight Series:
We introduced our Customer Spotlight Series to highlight some of the great people and businesses we support every day. Empowerment begins with saving photographers and other content creators time and helping them make more money. Equally as important is sharing knowledge and providing top notch support. By elevating the stories of our customers and building a thriving online community we support those in the pursuit of a sustainable livelihood by helping photographers deliver content, create marketing materials, and more efficiently run their business.
Interested in being featured in our Customer Spotlight series? Contact us at [email protected].