Picture this: It’s late 1994.
You’ve got a big job inside a respected local company. Good pay and great benefits. But, you and a colleague decide it’s time to create something new.
That’s what Scott Knutson and Rick Peters did when they left Deluxe Corporation. Together they created InsideOut Studios to provide professional photography and videography to advertising agencies and corporate clients.
Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) sat down with Scott Knutson to learn more about this Eden Prairie business’s history and its focus on 2021 and beyond.
EPLN: You were Creative Director for Advertising at Deluxe. Why did you leave and how did your departure play out?
Knutson: Rick and I read the writing on the wall. We wondered, “How many people will keep writing checks?” People thought we were nuts. People happily spent their entire careers there. But we felt we’d be better off moving from the inside out, which is how we chose our name: InsideOut Studios.
EPLN: What was your first step?
Knutson: We approached Deluxe, told them our plan and offered to buy their studio equipment. They agreed! And they became our first customer at the same time.
EPLN: That’s great. How did you get your second customer? And pay the bills in the meanwhile?
Knutson: We agreed not to pay ourselves anything for the first six months. Then we targeted NordicTrack as our first big prospect. They were based in Chanhassen. We loved their products. We knew they used local talent. So we put together some spec work to show them: black and white pictures of their products, dramatically lighted.
We were able to get a meeting and they asked to keep the pictures to show them around internally. Later they called to say their CEO loved them. He bought them for his office! That soon led to us winning their still photography business for their advertising.
EPLN: What initiative – you made something happen. How did you structure and position your business after that?
Knutson: We came to learn early on the value of specialization – and we’re very glad we did. Agencies and big corporate marketing groups want specialists. They ask, “Who’s your food guy? Who’s your product photographer, your videographer? Who does your architectural shoots?”
I focus on food, people and video. Rick does our architectural and industrial photo and video work, which increasingly involves drones. And Pat Barry, our third colleague, specializes in product and set photography as well as video work.
EPLN: How did you land in Eden Prairie?
Knutson: We spent our first six years in Fridley in a studio just seven minutes from Deluxe, which let us be highly responsive to them. But we needed more space as we grew. We wanted to be close to our homes. I live in Bloomington. Rick lives in Eden Prairie.
And we wanted to be somewhere close to a lot of potential customers. Our customers have since included SuperValu, Spartan Nash, Cargill, 3M, Ryan Companies, Kemps, Schwan, Holiday Station Stores, Medtronic, Boston Scientific. Eden Prairie’s location lets us serve them all easily.
EPLN: How much of your work is with local firms and agencies?
Knutson: Corporate clients are about 70% of our business and agencies are about 30%. I’d say 85% of our work is local. Rick is a pilot and often flies to customer sites, especially for agricultural work. During drones early days, you needed a pilot’s license to operate a drone.
EPLN: How do you get customers?
Knutson: Five or six times a year we mail promotional material and samples of our work to customers and prospects. There is something valuable in the tactile experience hardcopy images deliver, even in this highly digital era. But it is a relationship business, too. It always is.
EPLN: How do you distinguish yourself from competitors?
Knutson: The range of our respective specialties. Our experience in different industries. Our ability to do high quality work in less time than our competitors. And fundamentally, our ability to capture and express an idea with composition and lighting. To make a product desirable requires much more than just having an expensive camera.
EPLN: How does 2021 look?
Knutson: First, we feel blessed to have been able to work through the pandemic, as suppliers to essential services. So that was very fortunate. We expect big growth in 2021 from pent-up corporate demand, much of it from delayed product launches of industrial and healthcare products.
New packaging in food will also be big, specifically ready-made meal kits. And video will continue to grow as a chosen medium, including lots of drone-captured video.
EPLN: How else do you interact with the community?
Knutson: We have high school and college students intern with us. We’d be happy to have some EPHS interns. Hennepin Tech in Eden Prairie has sent us interns. So has MCTC (Minneapolis Community and Technical College, now called Minneapolis College).
We do pro bono work for Flashes of Hope, taking pictures of young patients at Children’s Hospital. And we do pro bono videos and photos for the MN chapter of Honor Flight Network. They take veterans to Washington DC to visit memorials and museums. We help them capture the experience with a DVD of the trip and individual photo books. It’s not all just about selling a product.