Snap Wagon: Photo booth business developing fast

Two QC women bring photo trailer to area events

Rachel Stahle, left, and Kelsey Watson are the owners of the new Snap Wagon mobile photo booth business. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Charmaine Sibley put on a tiara and grabbed a pink telephone prop. She was ready to have her photograph taken.

The Davenport woman and two friends grabbed several props – including a cowboy hat and a paper fan – as they had their photos taken in a new photo booth on wheels called the Snap Wagon.

“I like it. It’s a creative way to get your picture taken,” Ms. Sibley said after her photo session last week in the Snap Wagon. “You don’t have to wonder ‘Is this my good side?’ You just look at the screen and see what your good side is.”

The Snap Wagon Mobile Photo Booth is a new business recently started by two Quad Cities women – Kelsey Watson of Rock Island and Rachel Stahle of Davenport. 

Ms. Sibley and many other people got a look at the photo-based business on Thursday, May 16, as Snap Wagon’s owners held a launch party at the Swirl Wine Bar in The Plex area of northern Bettendorf.

Their business is all about bringing more fun to events – such as weddings, fundraising gatherings and business meetings – by offering a new twist on the old-fashioned photo booth. However, instead of a photo booth that delivers a small paper strip of photos, the Snap Wagon delivers an unlimited number of digital photos that can be sent by email or text.

“We can add a little flair to events. …. We’ve been able to meet a lot of people with this,” said Ms. Stahle.

The new business, which got its start a few months ago, actually has three parts:

  • The Snap Wagon photo booth is a trailer measuring seven feet wide, seven feet tall and 11 feet long. It’s white with a green neon sign that reads “Photos” on the outside. Inside the trailer, up to six people at a time can fit into it to have their digital photos taken. They may grab a few props – like a tiara or cowboy hat – face a small digital screen, follow a few instructions and have an unlimited number of photos taken. Those photos can be sent by email, text or AirDrop. There’s no paper copies of photos. 

“We are very eco-friendly that way,” said Ms. Watson. There is no fee for people to have their photos taken. The fees are paid by the company or group that hires the Snap Wagon for events. (Go here to find out more about having Snap Wagon come to an event.) The Snap Wagon – which the two owners have named “Dorothea” – also features a wall for backdrops, a couple of benches and the photo booth digital machinery mounted on a wall.

  • In addition to the photo trailer, the women also offer an open-air photo booth called the Snap Pack. This can be set up in addition to (or instead) of the trailer in case an event is held in a small space where there is no room for the trailer. The open-air photo booth has many of the same features of the Snap Wagon – such as props, lighting and a camera – but without the larger trailer. 

During the launch party Thursday night, the booth was set up inside the Swirl Bar. The main feature of the open-air setup is what appears to be an old-fashioned box camera set up on a tripod. However that camera is just a prop that houses a high-tech digital camera. It’s the same style of digital camera housed in the trailer that takes unlimited digital photos and sends them via email, text or AirDrop.

  • The third part of the business is an audio guestbook service that sends unlimited voicemails to people. This feature has become popular in recent years at wedding parties where party guests will send messages to the bride and groom, said Ms. Watson.

 “An audio guestbook offers a unique and memorable way to capture the essence of an event, fostering emotional connections and creating cherished memories that last a lifetime,” according to the company’s website.

“Rachel, my business partner, and I have worked tirelessly to create a unique and memorable experience for all types of events, and we can’t wait to share it with the community,” Ms. Watson said in a news release ahead of the launch party.

The planning for the business got its start last October when Ms. Stahle went to a wedding in Dallas, Texas. During the wedding reception, she noticed a camper photo booth business had been hired to take photos of the party guests. That sparked her interest.

“I came back from the wedding and asked ‘Do we have something like that in the Quad Cities?’” she recalled.

From that moment, the business idea started to blossom and the wheels began to turn. The two women quickly got to work putting together a new business. 

They both initially invested $1,000, went online and bought a red trailer in Dubuque, Iowa, that they fixed up and painted to turn it into the Snap Wagon. By December, they were in business and taking fun photos of people.

“We’re capturing spontaneous and candid moments that may not be captured by your photographer. These behind-the-scenes moments often make for some of the most cherished photos,” according to information from the company.

Ms. Watson said one of the keys to getting the business started so fast is: “We like to divide and conquer all the work.”

Initially, the two women thought the Snap Wagon would be used exclusively for wedding parties. But it became apparent there was a need for their photo services at many events in the community. The Snap Wagon has been at auto shows, wedding expos, company meetings, fundraising events and many other gatherings.  (The Snap Wagon also is scheduled to be at the upcoming QCBJ Women of Influence event from 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center in downtown Bettendorf.)

Currently, the co-owners are putting in a few hours a week into their new business but are not ready to give up their day jobs. (Ms. Stahle is a sales coordinator at Royal Neighbors of America, and Ms. Watson works in marketing at Solutions Management Group.)

But they definitely have big plans for the future. Some of those plans include: doing more corporate-related events; expanding into the Iowa City market; getting more Snap Wagon trailers; and eventually hiring employees. Right now, the business is a two-person show with help from friends and family.

“There’s just so much potential for this in the future. … It’s really exciting,” said Ms. Stahle.

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