Fred Lerner, Founder & CEO of MailPix and 1 Hour Photo, was interviewed on the Mission Matters Innovation Podcast.
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In this interview with Adam Torres, Fred Lerner talks about how the 1 Hour Photo app helps people preserve their memories simply and seamlessly.
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What mission matters to you?
1 Hour Photo offers people opportunities to preserve and share their pictures and the stories they hold—a straightforward mission Fred Lerner says he was happy to take on, given his lifelong love of photography. With everyone carrying digital photos around on their phones, there’s still a need to hold onto something tangible, and that’s where 1 Hour Photo comes in, with on-demand printing with a few swipes of a screen.
How did you get into photography?
Lerner says photography piqued his interest when he was 13 years old, eyeing Eagle Scout merit badges when he landed on the one for photography. He collected money through odd jobs and bought a used camera. He enjoyed the process of processing photos, and soon got his first real paying job as a photography counselor at a summer camp. Ever since, he’s been working inside the photo industry, and he currently serves on the board of the United Nations International Photographic Council, which promotes peace through photography.
Tell us about 1 Hour Photo.
“Our photo albums are memories that are priceless – it’s a remembrance of your family history and ancestors,” Lerner says. “The 1 Hour Photo app is one of the quickest ways to keep them safe.”
He explains how he started a web-based business, mailpix.com, where people can upload their images to be printed and returned by mail. Over time, he acquired several competitors, including the classic photo development brand, 1 Hour Photo.
“We proposed the concept of uploading images from the 1 Hour Photo app and making those prints available to customers in one hour to the largest chains in the United States, including CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade and Walmart,” he says. “We tied up with about 18,000 retail stores in the country and to make the transaction easy, we asked the stores to collect the money so that the customer would not have to put in a credit card.”
“While the journey wasn’t easy, we kept on going with persistence and determination,” he says, “and five years later, we have printed more than 10 million photos.”
What makes 1 Hour Photo unique?
Lerner explains that 1 Hour Photo is the only app that allows users to choose their retailer(s) of choice, whether it’s CVS, Walmart Duane Reade, or Walgreens.
“You select your images from your phone and can choose to develop them into prints, photo books, photo cubes, bamboo prints, wall hangings, or holiday cards,” he says. “All you have to do is put them into the cart, and you’re done. No credit card is required; go to your nearest retail store, and you get your photos.”
He says it’s a win-win for all the parties involved, noting, “Businesses love the model because we’re driving customers to their stores, who make additional purchases while visiting the store. Our first-time users become lifelong customers because they realize it’s convenient, quick, and cost-effective.”
What’s next for 1 Hour Photo?
“We’re now in the process of expanding our marketing campaigns to acquire customers, and let people know we built a technology and infrastructure to keep their photos secure for future generations,” Lerner says.