Jeff and Brooke Schnorr started a portable photo booth business, The Drifting Dreamers, in their 1963 Volkswagen van. The idea came to them from a stranger while taking their daughters out for some ice cream.
“We were at an ice cream shop and this random couple started talking to us,” said Brooke, “and I don’t even know how it came up but they were like ‘our son has a Volkswagen bus out in Hawaii and they turned it into a photo booth and they do really well.’ Once she said that, we then reached out to that company in Hawaii and they gave us some pointers and then we just started moving forward with it."
The Schnorrs’ business is one of five finalists in the Carroll County Biz Challenge, sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. The challenge, in its eighth year, has become a tradition in Carroll County, offering local entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their new business ideas, make connections, get publicity, and compete for a $5,000 cash prize and thousands of dollars worth of additional prizes and services.
The live finale is set for Thursday, Aug. 8 at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster. The other finalists are Battleground, Codeland, FishED and KnowMe.
In addition to their getting The Drifting Dreamers venture off the ground, Jeff works at Char’d BBQ for half of the week, Brooke works in sales and they both have a social marketing business. They reside in Manchester with their three daughters.
Brooke says Jeff wasn’t fully on board with the van-as-photo booth idea at first, but she says the second she heard about it, she knew they were going to do it.
Jeff has had the van since 2006. Before they could actually start the business, the VW had to undergo repairs.
“The engine died in it,” said Jeff. “It’d been sitting in our barn for about four years or so. One kid came then the next kid came and the third kid came.
“So then I put a new engine in it and redid some interior work. We got it road-worthy again and launched it way before it was ready, but that was a good thing because there’s a lot of excitement behind it.”
The couple, married since 2010, officially started their photo booth business a month ago after spending four months getting the van ready.
The name “The Drifting Dreamers” came from their lifestyle of drifting along, constantly thinking of what’s next and where they’re going.
The business isn’t just taking photos in a van, it goes much further than that.
“It’s a really good marketing tool for people to rent just the photo equipment because at the bottom of every picture is a custom banner where they can put their marketing information," said Brooke. “So, you can rent just the photo equipment, which that’s one and then the other is people can rent just the bus — people do that for engagement shots.
"The ultimate package is the photo booth is in the bus. So, it’s a ring light with an iPad that has a system that’s self-serving, so you really just touch it to use. You can’t really close out of that system and it’s preset to what we talked about with whoever is in charge of renting it.”
Patrons can also take still shots or .gifs while using custom backdrops and props they have in the van.
Jeff and Brooke’s three little helpers, also known as their three daughters, help with the business in whatever way they can. They refer to them as the director of affairs (Nora Jo), the boss (Katy May) and the baby (Vivy).
Their parents say the girls are very much involved.
“They will hand out business cards like it’s their job, I love it,” said Brooke. “We were at the BBQ Stroll and I witnessed my oldest went to hand it to a guy and I said ‘you don’t have to take it’ and he goes ‘who’s going to say no to her?’ and I go ‘yeah, that’s exactly the point.”
“Yesterday we went to the dentist and we got a sticker at the end of it,” said Jeff. "Our oldest picked out a sticker with a peace sign on it and is like, ‘I’m going to wear this next time we do a van event.’”
They have also stared a campaign called Drifting Love, in which people can pass kindness along to others.
“We basically have like these little business cards where people can do something nice for someone then pass it on and they get the card with it,” said Brooke. “They’re encouraged to then share the story socially, and then also pass on the kind act.”
Having been born and raised in Carroll County — Brooke is from Manchester and Jeff is from Westminster — they both wanted to be a part of a big local event. Once The Drifting Dreamers idea began to take shape, they applied for the Biz Challenge, which is similar to “Shark Tank,” with entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas.
“We love Carroll County,” said Brooke. “So, any form of networking and being involved in Carroll County activities, we love.”
“I really like how they give expert advice and then teaching you how to grow your business,” said Jeff, referring to the Biz Challenge. “People we’ve met already from the 47 entries just kind of having our name out there and people contacting us more now. We’re always just looking to network."
The Schnorrs are happy to have advanced to the final, but now Jeff is hoping for more.