To keep up with demand for its virtual photo and video shoot services, Minneapolis-born Soona has leased 13,000 square feet of real estate in the Twin Cities for a digital fulfillment studio.
The company, founded in 2019 by Liz Giorgi and Hayley Anderson, recently finalized its lease agreement to take up space in the Fisk Building on East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. After retrofitting its new digs, the company will open the studio in August, Giorgi said.
Soona last month announced it had secured $10.2 million in a Series A round of funding to support the expansion. The round was led by New York-based Union Square Ventures, and included follow-on investments from Matchstick Ventures in Minneapolis, Chicago's Starting Line Ventures, 2048 Ventures, also in New York, and Denver-based Range Ventures.
The fresh capital will also be used to hire at least 60 additional employees in Minneapolis, and adding staff to its growing Denver and Austin teams. In addition to hiring, the money will be applied to further development of the company's camera-to-cloud software and other new services.
Soona will use the digital fulfillment studio for customer intake and to stage and create content for various brands. Brands ship their products to Soona's locations to be photographed or filmed for marketing and e-commerce sales. Parts of the new Minneapolis studio will be built to resemble bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, "spaces that help e-commerce brands tell the stories of what their product does and how it fits into people's lives," said Giorgi, the company's chief executive.
Clients are invited to join the photo and video shoots in real time via a web browser, where they can give feedback in real time. Soona makes these images and videos ready for purchase in 24 hours, and each photo costs $39, while each video clip costs $93. With its a la carte model, Soona lets clients buy only the photos or videos they want.
People can also use Soona's studios for personal headshots.
The 60 new positions in Minneapolis will be a variety of creative roles, namely designers, photographers and videographers, but also entry level roles for recent college grads hoping to enter the creative industry, Giorgi said. The company will also add some technical staff to support day-to-day production at the studio.
New hires for its Denver unit will largely center around business operations, given that the company's finance director is there, Giorgi said. By the end of 2021, Soona could have about 90 workers combined in the three cities.
Last summer, Soona, which now has 4,000 customers, launched its pro services marketplace, which serves as a model directory. Through the marketplace, brands can add models to photo shoots "with the click of a button," said Giorgi, who said the marketplace is one of the new services it will invest in. The company has so far onboarded more than 400 models, which include hand models and even dogs.
Soona's customer base grew 350% in 2020, while its top-line revenue grew 400%, Giorgi said. Similar growth is expected for 2021. The boom in sales was a result of capturing a broad range of new clients that needed to beef up their e-commerce sales during the pandemic, she said, mostly because consumers were forced to shop online as stores were closed during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Soona's same-day virtual content delivery platform gives the company an advantage over traditional photo studios during the pandemic, Giorgi said. "A lot of traditional marketers and a lot of traditional creatives maybe had it in their heads that having a massive photo shoot in a studio environment that they rented all day was the only way to do things," she said.
Nick Williams • 612-673-4021