Mark360 Virtual Tours: A brand-new 360° virtual tour business launches in North Wales thanks to support from the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service.
With no previous business experience, Mark Schorah decided to take the plunge into part-time self-employment. He approached Business Wales for help and has since launched his own business: Mark360. The venture is not merely a way of supplementing his income, but also something he is passionate about.
Introduction to Business
Launched by Mark Schorah in Llanrwst, Mark360 provides 360° virtual tours to the property market, hospitality industry and any business that wants to show off their space in a more immersive way.
Why Did You Decide to Set up Your Own Business?
“I’ve always had a passion for photography. As a child, I remember commandeering my father’s garden shed and converting it into a photographic darkroom, where I would process and print my own black and white photographs.
“From 2007 until 2011, I studied photography and design at Coleg Llandrillo and Wrexham Glyndŵr University. Still, I could not develop any ideas on how to turn my qualifications into a business enterprise.
“More recently, I revived my love of scuba diving in the Red Sea in Egypt. I began documenting my dives with a Go-Pro camera and, after viewing a plethora of YouTube videos, I discovered 360° photography.
I discovered that virtual tours had not caught on in North Wales. It was also apparent to me that, in general, the standards of photography in the property industry were relatively poor even for high-end properties. The idea for Mark360 was born at that moment.”
Creating A Portfolio of Work
“I needed to show examples of my work to potential clients. My first virtual tour was of my own home as I had recently refurbished it to quite a high standard. Through networking, I was able to build up my portfolio to include a holiday cottage, a fitness centre, hotel rooms (The Imperial Hotel, Llandudno) and office space.”
Self-belief and anxiety issues: “When Covid-19 arrived, my anxiety levels went through the roof. I had hoped my first paid job would be a small-to-medium-sized property – it turned out to be a £1.25m mansion! The scale of the property intimidated me. My nerves were so bad on the day of the shoot, I unscrewed my monopod the wrong way and it fell apart. I ended up getting lost in the house and photographing several of the rooms twice. However, once I started receiving complimentary feedback and five-star reviews from customers, my confidence started to grow.”
A More Efficient Workflow
“The virtual tour of my property took three weeks to complete. Admittedly, one week was just tidying up my home! The most time-consuming part of virtual tour photography is in post-production or the editing process. I needed to find a way of whittling three weeks down to three hours! Many hours of YouTube and LinkedIn tutorials later, topped with a lot of practice, I’ve developed a more efficient way of working.”
Being found online and getting businesses to engage with me was a problem. “Earlier in the year, I began an email marketing campaign targeting estate agents and hotels, guest houses and holiday cottages). The response was disappointing, leading to only a handful of bookings. I quickly realised that I needed a website and a Facebook business page if people were to take me seriously. It took me about a fortnight to build a website I could be proud of.”
“After the first lockdown, hotels had no budget to spend on marketing or they were booked up for months. This meant I wouldn’t have access to photograph their properties.
A breakthrough occurred after completing a free-of-charge virtual tour for St Grwst’s church in Llanrwst. It had just had a £1.25m facelift and the Business Development Officer, Jon Richmond, was keen to show it off. Within a few days of publishing the tour on my Facebook page, I had reached 2,757 people with 563 engagements. My likes and followers also rocketed.”
Business Wales Support
Having attended several Business Wales workshops on starting up, tax and bookkeeping and marketing, Mark received support from Sian E Jones, a Business Wales start-up adviser. Sian assisted with setting up a business, including business planning, marketing and website creation. Sian also supported Mark through periods of self-doubt. She gave him the knowledge, practical skills and confidence to take the plunge into self-employment.
Mark is now working with a business mentor, Jane Stokes, who is guiding him with ongoing issues and queries. Additionally, Superfast Business Wales are providing support with Mark’s website.
“Business Wales have been an incredible source of information and support – all absolutely free! I got on well with Sian the moment we met. Not only because she laughed at my jokes, but also because she is so approachable and knowledgeable. Whenever I reached an impasse, she always had a suggestion close at hand. Perhaps, most importantly, she believed in me and my abilities.”
Plans and Ambitions
“Mark360 is still very much a fledgling business. I can take on more virtual tour work alongside my part-time job. Ultimately, I would like to grow the business to where it could support me financially full-time. Shortly, I will be launching a new service for businesses called Google Maps Street View. This will allow me to integrate a client’s virtual tour into Google Street View and their Google My Business listing. This integration has the potential to increase my client base to include restaurants, bars, cafés and shops.”
Find Mark’s website at mark360virtualtours.com
If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales/@_busnescymru on Twitter.
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