Madi Stefanis, a successful business owner changing the film camera scene by ditching the single- use cameras and launching her own reusable film camera brand, 35mm Co.
In one sentence, who are you?
I’m a 22 year-old business owner and my company is named 35mm Co.
You have built an amazing reusable film camera company, what sparked your passion to start 35mm Co?
Thank you! Funnily enough I don’t come from a background in photography. I used to shoot film for fun and it’s trendy and super popular (again). I had an old film camera at home and decided to list it for sale on Facebook. It was a clunky old SLR and I had no idea how to use it. It ended up selling for 5x the amount I had listed it for and that was my lightbulb moment, so I started flipping vintage cameras. I always say to people that I come from a business background rather than photography - I came across the right niche and decided to roll with it.
I did this for several months but ran into supply issues pretty quickly. Vintage cam’s are in low supply and high demand, which commands a steep price point.
I started building an Instagram following for 35mm Co and working on the development of our own camera at the same time. I kept running into supply issues and couldn’t keep the vintage cameras in stock - they were constantly selling out.
The idea behind The Reloader was to create a product that was small and compact like a disposable camera, but completely reusable. Customers were seeking a beginner friendly camera at a much lower price point, so I took the very informal market research I had and invested all of my savings into our first stock shipment of The Reloader.
Who inspires you?
My mum, for sure. She’s incredibly supportive of me. Australia also has such an abundance of clever and successful entrepreneurs so I also love listening to podcasts and founder stories.
What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner so far?
Work-life balance is so hard. I started 35mm Co during lockdown so I was working on the business all hours of the day. I remember having a hard time adjusting to post-lockdown life because I was so used to spending all of my time working on the company. There’s always room for improvement in every aspect of the business so it’s hard to step away and take time for myself.
What has been your most memorable moment for 35mm Co?
Our first birthday party in Sydney was definitely a stand out moment. We held an event with our nearest and dearest friends of the brand at Chin Chin and celebrated 12 months of 35mm Co. It was so surreal being in a room filled with so many people that love and support the brand. The community we’ve built is incredible.
What do you think has been the biggest factor in the enormous growth of your business so far?
Honestly just consistency. Small actions compound into big changes. We sell a product that speaks for itself - our customers take the most beautiful film photos so being able to see tangible results has really contributed towards our growth.
Tell us about a time you were proud of yourself?
I’m naturally very introverted and I think there’s been lots of moments over the past 12 months where I’ve been proud of myself. The business has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and really prioritise my personal growth. Doing a speech at our first birthday event was a big deal for me - a year ago you wouldn’t catch me public speaking in front of a crowd haha!
Your favourite Malakai piece?
The Kauai Sun Hoops! So beautiful.