Unique photography studio expands and recruits more staff

Andrew Wood

A Manchester-based body confidence photography firm started by a toothpaste engineer in his garage 10 years ago is expanding.

Andrew Wood Photography, which is set to hit £1.7m in turnover in 2021, has relocated from its Chorlton site to a 4,000 sq ft studio on Ashton Old Road, near Manchester city centre, which is double the size of its former premises.

This has led to the recruitment of nine staff, taking the total workforce up to 27, which includes a photographer, two make-up artists, marketing, telesales, and customer services staff.

The firm was founded by Andrew in 2011, who left his job as UK director for engineering at Colgate, when the factory was relocating to Poland, to pursue his passion of photography.

With a turnover of £75,000 a decade ago, Andrew is now at the helm of what he describes as the only photography firm in the UK focusing solely on “specialist confidence boosting photography”.

The firm offers a range of experiences, including ‘glow’ makeovers, and boudoir and burlesque to help women struggling with body confidence.

Andrew said: “As a young boy, my father paid me two compliments – one of them was that I could take a decent picture.

“I always wanted to work for myself, so when Colgate moved the factory, it was the right time. I started doing family photography, taking photos myself in my garage.

“The company has now evolved into something very different, and over the last few years we’ve focused solely on body confidence photography for women. There is nobody else in the country who is doing just that.”

He added: “I’m really proud of how we’ve grown – 40% every year for the last nine years, with only last year, due to COVID, being the exception.”

Just before the pandemic hit, the firm welcomed its 10,000th customer and then was forced to close its doors.

Furlough helped Andrew to retain all his staff and use the time to focus on the new office move and expansion. He also received help from GC Business Growth Hub which helped him to network with other businesses, train the management team, and implement new ideas.

He said: “Despite the difficult last year, we’re in a good place now – a bigger, better more modern studio and we’re confident of hitting £1.7m.

“We’re targeting £4.6m turnover in three years with a view to expanding nationally and opening more studios across the country.”

The new premises incorporates four modern studio rooms, and all the back-office telesales and marketing functions.

The company has welcomed women from across the country, including those battling eating disorders and life-changing surgery.

Andrew said: “People travel for miles to come to us because of what we do. Our focus is to grow confidence, strength and courage for every woman.

“The feedback we get from them and hearing the difference we have made to their lives makes it all worthwhile.”

In 2016, Alton Towers crash victim, Vicky Balch, who had to have her right leg amputated, posed for a shoot on her friend’s recommendation and described the experience as “amazing”.