Tom and I are assigned to consult Regatuna Photo Studio and Video Services in Jagna, Bohol. Before meeting with the business owner of Regatuna, I inquired a few locals I met about the studio. I was surprised that everyone knows Regatuna Studio. Turns out, it is the only Photo Studio in town.
The studio is just a minute walk away from St. Michael the archangel in Jagna. If you take a look at the Trip Advisor website for must-dos in Jagna, this Catholic church with amazing interiors comes off at the top in town.
St. Michael the archangel, Jagna
While most of our classmates went off to their businesses on Monday, Tom and I were available to roam around since the owner and photographer of Regatuna Studio, Bernardo Regatuna, had a outdoor shooting on that day. We got the chance to meet with him on Tuesday morning at 8am inside the reception area of Regatuna. Bernardo has such a perfect spanish “R” roll that when he introduced himself to us, we took some time to catch his name. Regatuna studio is purely a family business. Bernardo is the main photographer and his wife Carmen is the accountant and receptionist of Regatuna studio. While Bernardo is mainly in charge of aesthetic photos and video shootings, Carmen takes care of all the ID photos that come in as well as financial transactions. Their children occasionally help out at the studio. During busy seasons, Bernardo will occasionally ask his friends in Tagbilaran to come over for shooting.
When asked to show us the photo studio, Bernardo led us outside the small reception room and into a tiny garage-like area where he set up his photography apparatus for shooting photos. We observed a grey canvas for backdrop and behind it were a backdrop with greeneries painted. There was a small tree that was about 2 meters tall. Thinking the tree was purely for photo shooting, I quickly commented how nice it was to have a theme. He laughed and replied that the tree was real. I took a look inside the studio again and realized it was just an extension of the building beside. The natural light outside has penetrated a little into the studio room through the plastic covers at the corner.
The studio may be small but the business is thriving. Regatuna is popular among locals. It was established in 1996 with Government loans acquired by Bernardo. Back then, he could not afford a proper flash for studio. So he bought a DSLR flash, used pipe to put the flash on top and put an umbrella in front to imitate a studio flash light. Now this business possesses a proper set of flash light, five DSLR cameras, two computers and offers a wide range of services.
We talked with Bernardo for an hour until he had to go for an outdoor photoshoot. Afterwards we started questioning Carmen about the business, especially about financial statements. Bernardo rejected answering the question because he had solely left this side of the business to Carmen. After coming up with so many questions and affirming that we were here to help the business and keep all details confidential, Carmen finally showed us the little book she recorded the studio’s revenues. The last recorded month was December, 2015.
Using the computer is not an unfamiliar task in Regatuna family. Both Bernard and Carmen use Photoshop for their services. For the whole time we were there, she was either taking ID photos in the studio and communicating with customers or just on the computer. We suggested Carmen to use Excel for record keeping since she already knows how to use Excel as well. She smiled and politely replied that she prefers writing things down.
When asked if they have any challenges doing their business, Bernardo and Carmen answered differently. Bernardo expressed that he could edit photos better because compared with the photos by Tagbilaran photographers, he felt that Regatuna’s photos still need improvements. He wishes to buy a new Canon camera as well as better studio lights for his work. However, to be able to afford them, he needs capital.
Bernardo rejects the idea of getting a Government loan. He thinks the interest rate is expensive despite starting his business with a loan from the government. Carmen wishes to be able to sell photo frames directly to customers. Currently, they have to rely on the supplier from Loon to send them wooden photo frames. The studio only has a small printer for printing instant ID photos, known as rush ID locally. Any photo larger than 4”x6” are emailed to a photo printing service in Cebu and printed products are delivered back to Jagna.
Tom and I saw growth potential in the studio. But first, we felt the need to push the studio to computerize in record keeping. It would be easier for them to keep track as well as view/ search previous records. Plus, Carmen would no longer have to manually add up monthly revenues. We came up with a simple template with different sheets for record keeping and convinced her all the benefits of using Excel instead of manual recording in addition to the importance of record keeping. She listened but did not show enthusiasm until we mentioned that her children will one day inherit the studio. Her eyes glistened. We explained that with the visual charts in Excel, it can be easier to explain the studio’s revenues to her children rather than number inputs.
On a personal note, seeing her reminds me of parents’ love for their children and that motivation not always lie in money. This place is unfamiliar to us but looking closely, there are a lot of familiarities. Tom and I are looking into different ways for cost reduction and increase in revenue of Regatuna Studio, especially in promoting fun personal photo shoots since they earn a significantly larger amount than ID photos. We have less than three weeks here, we still have a lot to learn about the business. We still do not know where this path will take us but we are willing to give our best to this family business.