STYLEGUIDE gets a close-up shot of OneThreeOneFour to find out how one of the leading platforms for wedding photographers got started.
STYLEGUIDE: What is the inspiration behind OneThreeOneFour?
Eve: It started when Scott & I were planning for our pre-wedding photoshoot in Bali. The bridal shop packages were not ideal as they only offer specific dates and the shooting session had to be divided between several couples. So, we decided to book a session with a local photographer but the searching process was unexpectedly long and inefficient. We had to email many photographers for quotes and all the shooting preparations (makeup, gowns etc) have to be arranged on their own. This tiresome process took out all the fun and excitement from our photoshoot but some good did come out of it! It marked the start of OneThreeOneFour as we want to make destination photoshoots hassle-free and enjoyable for all couples by being a one-stop platform where everything is laid out for them.
Eve & Scott’s pre-wedding photoshoot in Bali
STYLEGUIDE: Share with us the journey as a team thus far?
Scott: Our team chemistry is amazing because of how long we have known each other. Eve and Xiang Rui have known each other for 2 decades and we were all school mates in SMU. We are such great friends with each other that it makes even the most mundane work enjoyable. Besides, we each have our own specialties, which allows us to complement each other when working and make up for one another’s shortcomings.
We launched our humble business in late 2015 with just 3 destinations and offering only pre-wedding photoshoots. Today, we serve more than 30 different destinations. Our website also attract 70,000 visitors each month from all over the world. Our services also expanded to encompass documenting destination wedding celebrations, surprise proposals, honeymoons and anniversaries.
OneThreeOneFour - Destination photoshoot marketplace
STYLEGUIDE: What were some of the biggest challenges?
Xiang Rui: We initially adopted a business model like that of Airbnb’s, where our clients communicate directly with the photographers for their bookings. However, that didn’t work out very well for us because most of our photographers were not very adept at closing deals.
This was understandable as they are often out in the field shooting. Besides, their schedules can get quite packed. All in all, the handling of enquiries and bookings was slow.
Also, since we have destination shoots all over the world, there are many local photographers who are not proficient in English, which hindered the communication even further.
To tackle this problem, we brought in our own concierge team. They handled all enquiries from our clients and liaised with our photographers.
Looking back, this was a great move as we were able to provide a better experience (prompt replies, local expertise, personalised service) for our customers. Through this process, we also understood our customers betters. It was definitely a win-win situation for all three parties!
Scott: We now serve couples from all parts of the world. From the far west, United States, Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands to countries that are closer to home like Indonesia and Thailand.
It isn’t easy to convince couples who are outside of Singapore, to entrust one of the most important part of their wedding to you and on top of that, ask them to pay up a sum of money.
The solution is rather simple. Serve your customers with excellent service so that they leave our hands, fully satisfied. With this, we have garnered a lot of referral from past customers as well as positive reviews. That is how we earn and build up our reputation as a trusted service provider.
STYLEGUIDE: What were some of the most interesting moments?
Xiang Rui: Our very first booking. We got our first enquiry from a Singaporean bride only a few days after launching our platform. There were only a few weeks left to her wedding in Bali and she had everything ready except for a photographer. We managed to get plan out and arrange our photography in time for her wedding and the photoshoot turned out well. She was very satisfied with our service and it gave us the confidence to move forward!
Destination wedding of our very first client, Linda, in Bali
Eve: Another interesting thing since starting OneThreeOneFour is that we are always surprised by the clients that we serve. While we are a global platform, meeting clients from places like Sudan and Panama still amazes us. Sometimes, we even have to search the map to find out where those places are! It is really heartwarming to know that we have progressed so much and our reach extends far beyond us.
Honeymoon photoshoot of our Sudanese client, Sarah & Motasim
STYLEGUIDE: What would be one main takeaway throughout this journey?
Eve: The entrepreneur journey is not a straight path and there is no one-size-fit-all solution. It is through trial and errors that we discover what is best for our company and carve out our own road.
Xiang Rui: Try and try harder. It may seem like there are many successful companies out there but that is only a fraction all the start-ups. The journey to maintaining a start-up is arduous and at times, unbearable, but with perseverance, we will always pull through.
Scott: Nothing beats a good team. Having a team who shares the same vision and mentality is extremely important. Things are going to get rough and you will hit the slumps one too many times. A good team will support you and stay with you through it all.
Our team (L-R), Scott Ng, Eve Law & Lee Xiang Rui
STYLEGUIDE: What is the one thing you would have done differently for OneThreeOneFour if you could go back in time?
Scott: At the beginning, we were too focused on covering more destinations. At one point in time, we had 60 destinations and more than 500 photographers but that did more harm that good. We only briefly touched on each destination in our websites and could not garner confidence from our clients. We learned from our lesson and we now put in much more effort to build up the portfolio of one destination before we move on to the next. Hopefully one day, we can work with the photographers that we bid goodbye to before and really help them out this time.
STYLEGUIDE: Could you share about people who have played an instrumental role in making OneThreeOneFour what it is today?
Xiang Rui: Our mentor, Crystal was a tremendous help to OneThreeOneFour. She used to be a senior executive at Ascendas Funds Management and is familiar with the field of real estate. As such, she could advise us when negotiating with investors and landlords. She also gives us other business advice based on her experiences in the corporate world. We are really grateful for her help and she has definitely helped us grow as a team.
Our ex co-founder, Wei Tian, who had to leave us to focus on his family business. We still treat him as one of us and he is always welcomed when he drops by to help out with whatever he can.
Our parents who supported us endlessly since the beginning of our start-up journey. Building a start-up is not your conventional everyday job. It comes with extremely high risks and our incomes fluctuate with the seasons. Nevertheless, our parents had confidence in us and let us chase our dreams and we are always thankful for that.
STYLEGUIDE: What advice would you have for aspiring photographers and entrepreneurs?
Scott: For budding photographers, always be humble and accept deals even if they may not be profitable. We have witnessed our photographers who started out working freelance, grow into the established and professional photographers they are today. Work on building up a good and extensive portfolio and half the battle is won.
For entrepreneurs, do not be afraid to fail. In fact, you are bound to fail at some point but cliche as it is, you always get back stronger. Our first start up failed terribly too but we didn’t let that daunt us. We got back up on our feet and we kept working. Look where we are today!
STYLEGUIDE: What are your dreams for OneThreeOneFour for the future?
Eve: We are going to continue working to make OneThreeOneFour the biggest and most popular wedding company in Singapore, hopefully in the next three years.