First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: Our family is doing well. We are spending much more time together as a family as we have MUCH more time on our hands.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Aperina Studios
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: In High School, we had to do something called a senior project (this is a project of all projects you’ve ever done at school). Well, I decided to start a wedding videography company with my uncle and brother. It was a roller coaster. We had many ups and downs, but most of all, I learned that I had a passion for wedding cinematography, and I wanted to create the best wedding films for every couple. This was when Aperina Studios was born. I took a huge risk, not having any money, and simply started booking couples to film their wedding day. I didn’t even have gear yet. I simply knew I had to book enough weddings and find some money somewhere to buy all the required gear before my first event. I think I had like 6 months. To my surprise, I booked enough weddings (into the future) that the first payments helped me purchase the amazing gear and launch the company into success in 2010. We’ve been steadily growing our company and enjoying creating wedding films that last for generations to come.
How does Aperina Studios innovate?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: Our company has a very interesting approach to wedding cinematography. I call it “all-in.” We are taught everywhere to make as much money as possible by charging the client for every single add-on and everything you do. We wanted to create amazing wedding films for couples, and that concept made it really hard to the full of. So we changed the approach and simply made sure that when a couple booked us, we did everything in our power to deliver the best film. It cut into profits, but over time, the quality stood out, and we started seeing much higher paying couples who wanted to have a masterpiece wedding film for their wedding. This innovation was not easy to implement, but it paid off quite well in the long term. We still have this approach today and hope that it will continue to push us forward.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: The pandemic affected us greatly. We have about 70% less business this year than in 2019. Many couples simply moved their wedding dates to later times (into 2021), creating a void for this year. This means that the revenue for 2020 dropped significantly, putting a lot of pressure on the fixed business expenses and simply taking a paycheck from the business. With all the time on our hands, we adapted to working on our social media presence, YouTube channel, and other avenues to position us better when things improve. So far, we’ve seen great improvements in those efforts and are excited to see what is in store in 2021.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: I think the most difficult choices were left to the couple to make (to move the date or not to move the date). We were the consequences of those choices. The lesson we learned is that we are very dependent on wedding videography and photography, so we started to explore options to have secondary revenue streams.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Aperina Studios in the future?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: Initially, I was really stressed about the pandemic and concerned about the company’s future and even my family’s financial situation. However, when things went from bad to worst to terrible and finally to disastrous, I simply understood that I couldn’t do much to change anything. I actually started exploring another business avenue that will completely help my business and clients soon, so that took up a lot of my time and helped me continue moving forward instead of being stuck and stressed.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: My competitors are other wedding videographers and photographers. I plan on simply continuing with the amazing job on every single wedding. That seems to work the best as our couples love what we create for them, which helps keep us in the game.
Your final thoughts?
Vitaliy Lyubezhanin: The pandemic really put a lot of things into perspective. It made me realize how fragile our life is (in the first place) and how fragile our careers can be. So I really appreciate my family’s support and the couples who worked with us to reschedule into future available dates.
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