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Noelle Federico has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of business management, finance and development as well as media relations, sales, branding and marketing. Noelle is the Business Manager and CFO of Dreamstime.com, LLC which is the third largest international online microstock photography company. Noelle has been with Dreamstime since its inception and has helped to develop its presence in the US. She handles all financial and business matters for the company.
Dreamstime is a distinguished leader in stock photography, a major supplier of high quality digital images to the world’s largest advertising agencies, national and international magazines, and film and television production companies. Almost 5 million users have access to 14 million images and illustrations, contributed by the agency’s 130,000 photographers.
MO: Can you talk about how you started Dreamstime? Did you solicit investors or raise the capital you needed in some other way?
Noelle: Dreamstime grew out of an idea that Serban and Dragos (our founders) had about people being able to sell their travel photos online. At that time Serban and Dragos had a successful web design company and they had compiled a good collection of photos for use in design. They decided to put that collection up on the web and then everything grew out of that. In the beginning it was just an experiment of sorts, we had no idea that eventually we would be one of the top agencies in the world. Serban and Dragos were doing what they loved to do and it was just fun to help them put some structure under it. It was sort of a side project for all of us and now it has become our main focus. We never solicited investors and we still haven’t. Dreamstime started with no capital infusion, we grew the company as we went. As we made money we put it back into growing the business and we caught momentum.
MO: How has the company evolved since you first started in 2004?
Noelle: Wow, when I look back I am continually amazed at how far we have come, I don’t think any of us expected back then that we would have grown like we have. When we first started our customer service center consisted of one person and the phone only rang sometimes, now we have a call center and the phone rings every two minutes! We have expanded our US office twice now and our community base just keeps getting bigger and bigger, we have almost 5 million users now and 14 million images! I can remember Serban and Dragos talking about the idea and I remember the day I filed the corporate paperwork and opened our bank account. We have come such a long way since 2004 and we really are an incredible example of how an idea can be made into a successful business. Our Executive team has stayed the same and we have learned many things over the years, I am most proud of the fact that we have no debt and have never taken out a loan. To me that speaks volumes about what we have accomplished together.
MO: Can you tell us about any stock photography trends you’re seeing emerge for 2012?
Noelle: As the stock photography industry grows competition becomes fiercer and that means quality of service, price and differentiation in the marketplace will all be important factors in 2012. We believe that diverse and unique subject focused content will be sought after this year more so than just general images. 2012 will also be a year where success in the industry is directly linked to sales volume selling more images at lower prices rather than selling fewer images at higher price points. With so many choices in the marketplace, exemplary customer experience will also be a key factor for success in 2012 from an agency perspective.
MO: What have been the main challenges in attracting a customer base and getting photographers to submit their work?
Noelle: One of our big challenges has been getting our name into the United States as an option when people are looking for stock photography. Many people here in the States have yet to hear of us. We have found that once people find us they are hooked both as customer and contributor. We offer a better experience for our community members than many of our competitors do. We have a pretty strict review process for submissions and although that is excellent for quality control it can sometimes make contributors feel that we are too picky so that is a challenge as well.
MO: What promotional or marketing strategies are being used to spread the word about Dreamstime? How have you increased the visibility and presence of the company in the US market?
Noelle: We believe in involving people in our business for instance, last year we did a large Ipad promotion nationally where we gave away ten Ipad 2’s. We are constantly engaging our community with contests and other participatory events; we use Facebook and Twitter to interact with people as well. The internet is a main component in our marketing strategy; we also have an affiliate program that is quite successful. As we continue to grow we will explore new ways in which to market the Dreamstime experience. In 2011 we hired Lewis Global PR to help us elevate our public profile in the United States as well as worldwide and we have entered into 2012 with some exciting ideas on how to accomplish that.
MO: How is Dreamstime managing to thrive and expand during a recession?
Noelle: Dreamstime continues to thrive because we have stayed lean and efficient, we have kept our expenses down and we have never taken on any loans. Serban and Dragos have always been very focused on using innovative processes to accomplish results, this strategy has enabled us to move and adapt quickly depending on market trends. We have also utilized a global strategy which enables us to have revenues streams from many different countries; this has proven to be a large factor in our growth and continued success.