As a group of women working towards common goals for STYLE Canada’s brand and business, we understand the value of peer support in the workplace. We decided to bring like-minded women in business together and feature them in an ongoing series: #LeadingLadies. Learn more about #LeadingLady Catalina Bloch, founder of MDRN Photobooth Co. below.
AH: If you were introducing yourself to someone for the first time, what would you tell them?
CB: I am an introverted, extrovert. I love being around people but I also need a good balance of my own time which generally means doing something creative, whether it’s designing the next shoot, getting lost in cinematic, finding photography inspirations on Pinterest, or redesigning some part of my house… In my free time you’ll find me hanging out with my family, watching Hallmark movies.
AH: You said that your business model has changed due to the pandemic, are there any aspects that you see yourself keeping once covid-19 is gone? For example, virtual events?
CB: Our business model changed a lot. We started doing virtual events as well as augmented reality, 3D modeling and social filters. All are aspects we will keep in the future as our business model continues to evolve. I feel like we are now able to offer a well-rounded variety of services so that our clients will always have something new to experience when they come back to us for their next event.
AH: What do you love most about the work you do?
CB: Being creative with technology. I LOVE it when our clients come to us with crazy ideas, then ask us to figure it out. When given enough lead time we can do pretty much anything. There is no better feeling than being able to pull off something that hasn’t been done before or bending current systems to do unique things, all while making it look perfectly styled. I get so much joy from seeing it come to life.
AH: Who or what has influenced your love for photography?
CB: My father was a photographer and had the most amazing cameras, I still have them all and use them. I feel like I really got a good grasp on what style I liked to shoot, when I discovered a few photographers like Jose Villa, Grey Malin, Yousuf Karsh and pretty much anything in a National Geographic magazine.
AH: MDRN is currently located in three cities: Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary. What city would you like to expand to next?
CB: I would love to have an office in Vancouver. I love that city and we work out that way enough that its probably worth exploring, once events come back. It will give me more of an excuse to visit. I feel like that would be a great lineup of headquarters, which would allow us to service across Canada much easier. Right now, we usually have to transport all of our equipment with us which can get expensive sometimes.
AH: Who has been your biggest supporter?
CB: I feel like everyone I know has been a big supporter, but mostly my husband and my parents. They have never told me that I’m crazy for wanting to start my own company and have done nothing but support me. When I saw my first photobooth at a trade show, I was soooooo broke and this machine was $9,800 USD, which at the time was almost 13K Canadian dollars not including duty and taxes. I called my husband so excited, and he just said buy it, you have a feeling so run with it and well, the rest is history.
AH: MDRN has come such a long way since beginning in 2014. If you could go back in time, what words of encouragement would you tell yourself?
CB: A lot of things:
- Always say yes.
- Follow your gut.
- If it scares you, then do it.
- It will all be worth it (I still need to tell myself this one constantly)
AH: What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today?
CB: I feel like anyone that runs their own business has had to overcome many obstacles and will continue to do so for as long as they live. You learn by failing and I have definitely had to fail a lot to get to where I am today. If I had to pick just one, then I would say that financially it was not easy. I took a big risk buying my first photobooth and since then have had to boot strap my business for years. Sometimes not even taking home a paycheck, so that I could put everything back into the business. I had never been able to get a loan to grow my business and quite frankly most people don’t take a photobooth business seriously. They think we are a novelty business.
AH: Do you have any favourite or memorable events?
CB: I have a few. I got to photograph William Shatner for a celebrity photo opportunity. I grew up watching him on Star Trek, so that was a special moment.
Growing up I always loved National Geographic and used to tell myself that one day I would have one of my pictures on the cover… Well one day, National Geographic called and asked if we could do a photobooth where people were on the cover of the magazine. Ha! Now I can say that I have shot hundreds of magazines covers for National Geographic, and Alex Trebek was there too!
I feel like every time I go to an event though I say, “This event is so cool,” because we get to work with some of the country’s greatest planners and creative groups.
AH: Can you describe your favourite photobooth set-up?
CB: My favorite photobooth set up has to be the giant installation we did for Bayshore Mall. We created a 2D black and white world that was 200 feet long. While we had various interactive elements along the wall, the photobooth was a beautiful mid-century modern sleek, black and white enclosed booth. It was the most beautiful photobooth enclosure I have ever seen. It was surrounded by a black and white paper doll background, so it blended in perfectly. The photobooth experience itself allowed people to dress themselves using paper doll style props. It was the highlight of my career so far, to be able to create that experience.
AH: What advice would you give someone who is starting their own business?
CB: Never stop learning, if it scares you, do it. Automate as much as you can and network like your life depends on it.
AH: What are your hopes for the future of MDRN?
CB: To be the leading photo and video experience company in Canada. Whether it’s a photo booth for a wedding or a crazy interactive AR video experience for some big experiential marketing event, I want people to think of us first before anyone else. Not just because we can do cool stuff, but because of how we treat our clients.
Last modified: July 7, 2021