Photographer James Madelin never expected a flash of inspiration would turn him into a successful entrepreneur.
There was a lighting effect he couldn't create in his photography without using very expensive equipment. He did some research and decided to have a go at creating his own ring flash in order to get the effect.
"After a few unsuccessful attempts I built one that worked spectacularly well, but the problem was duct tape and tin foil is really not a good look."
He finally decided to buy one like he had made, but there was nothing like it on the market.
"The proverbial light bulb went off over my head. I thought, 'there must be other photographers around the world like me'."
The orbis ring flash he designed as a result proved popular with photographers. Soon after launching the product online, distributors began to call.
Madelin's flash is now sold in camera shops in more than 20 countries.
He has slowly added to enlight photo's range of products, the most recent a cable to connect a photographer's iphone and camera.
Formerly an investment banker, Madelin became a photographer because the finance industry was "rotten to the core", and it wasn't for him, he said.
His most bizarre experience since starting the business happened during a lunch in Italy with a distributor and the distributor's niece.
The niece waved a friend over from another table and Madelin was shocked to find himself meeting actor David Schwimmer, best known for his role as Ross on the television sitcom Friends.
"I never thought I'd invent anything. I never thought my life would take this exciting path, and I certainly never thought my inventions would lead me to hanging out with David Schwimmer."
But it's not all lunching in exotic countries with American celebrities. Madelin said only a small part of his time was spent living a "rock and roll lifestyle", and much more was spent at his desk in Auckland going over spreadsheets.
Enlight photo's profit margins were some of the highest of any company in NZ, said Madelin, but the exact numbers were something he kept close to his chest.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I discovered I wanted something really cool that didn't exist. I figured there were probably others like me around the world. It struck me as the one big challenge in life that I had to embrace, or I'd regret it forever.
What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?
There are so many! Make sure you think of them as challenges instead of problems and you'll find ways to overcome them and win. I often focus on the end result so I can forget how daunting the process is. You forget you're doing things that most people think are impossible. Before you know it, you've achieved your goal.
Name one thing you've learnt from while in business and from who?
My friend Duncan Ledwith (founder of Muze.com, ICEHOUSE mentor and a legendary Kiwi entrepreneur) taught me to validate an idea before you spend any money on it.
What are your business and personal goals?
My business goal: Put a little WOW! into everyone's daily life with photography. It's a massive, scary, impossible goal that I'm going to put all my efforts into achieving over the next few years.
My personal goal: Live a committed, happy, content, slow life surrounded by love. With a dose of high-speed adrenaline sports every now and then. It seems simple but it's hard to integrate your work and personal lives without letting yourself and your family down.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Find people who've succeeded, ask them to help you, take their advice, do what they suggest and you'll succeed too. It's common sense, but in the words of an original TV "Dragon" Theo Paphitis: "Common sense ain't very common!"
- © Fairfax NZ News