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Owner of 35mm Co makes $2million in one year selling vintage film cameras

A business student with a keen eye for vintage photography has explained how she used just $250 to create a sustainable film camera that has raked in $2million in its first year of sales.

When Madison Stefanis, 22, tried to flog a vintage camera for $50 on Facebook Marketplace in 2019, she was inundated with offers before settling on a bid of $250.

Astounded by the demand she invested the money into more and sold 10 in the space of a week.

The budding entrepreneur, who lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, spent a year sourcing and reselling discontinued models on her website 35mm Co but in the background she was hard at work developing her own line of reusable film cameras.

The $99 Reloader launched on August 15 last year and has since made its maker upwards of $2million in sales, with four colourways now available alongside a camera bag and charms.

‘It’s been such an incredible journey. It’s so rewarding to see how far 35mm Co has come in just 12 months,’ she told FEMAIL.

When Madison Stefanis, 22, tried to flog a vintage camera for $50 on Facebook Marketplace in 2019, she was inundated with offers before settling on a bid of $250

The $99 Reloader launched on August 15 last year and has since made its maker upwards of $2million in sales, with four colourways now available alongside a camera bag and charms

'It's been such an incredible journey. It's so rewarding to see how far 35mm Co has come in just 12 months,' she told FEMAIL

The $99 Reloader launched on August 15 last year and has since made its maker upwards of $2million in sales, with four colourways now available alongside a camera bag and charms

‘We recently held an event at Chin Chin in Sydney with our nearest and dearest friends of the brand to celebrate 35mm Co’s first birthday. It was so surreal to be in a room filled with so many people that love and support the brand. 

‘We have such a wonderful community and it’s so fantastic to hear how much our customers love The Reloader. We always receive such positive feedback from customers who have converted to The Reloader after having purchased single-use film cameras for years. 

‘The past 12 months has been filled with plenty of hard work and challenges, but the outcomes we’re seeing now make it all worth it.’

On Monday the brand announced it would launch into the US market, after taking Australia by storm over the past year.

‘We’re shipping direct to consumer however there are a number of major retailers in the US that we plan to approach in the coming months to stock 35mm Co,’ Madison said.

‘We’re very focused on increasing our brand awareness in the US over the next 12 months and establishing The Reloader as a must-have product for capturing memories over spring break, throughout college and at festivals.

On Monday the brand announced it would launch into the US market, after taking Australia by storm over the past year

On Monday the brand announced it would launch into the US market, after taking Australia by storm over the past year

‘We have just released a brand new purple Reloader camera that is exclusively available at Universal Store. We are also a corporate partner of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), and for the month of October we are donating $10 from every limited edition hot pink Reloader sold to support life-changing Breast Cancer Research.’

Reflecting on her extraordinary success, the businesswoman described the interest in the first camera she sold on Facebook as a ‘lightbulb moment’ that illuminated her path to success.

Made from ABS plastic, the palm-sized camera has a 31mm lens and a focus of up to one metre, with a shutter speed of 1/120S and a built-in flash powered by a triple A battery which is brighter than what is used in traditional disposables.

Ten months in the making, the camera has a vegan leather strap and can be refilled with any brand of 35mm film.

Made from ABS plastic, the palm-sized camera has a 31mm lens and a focus of up to one metre, with a shutter speed of 1/120S and a built-in flash powered by a triple A battery which is brighter than what is used in traditional disposables

Made from ABS plastic, the palm-sized camera has a 31mm lens and a focus of up to one metre, with a shutter speed of 1/120S and a built-in flash powered by a triple A battery which is brighter than what is used in traditional disposables

Disposable cameras are cheap, retailing from $19 to $29.95 at the likes of Amazon and Officeworks, but their single-use nature creates a huge amount of plastic waste that winds up in oceans, rivers, and landfill.

Madison says her camera – which has been designed to suit beginners with zero experience in photography – is also better value for money in the long run.

‘A roll of film only costs $14.95 so it ends up being less expensive than buying single-use cameras again and again,’ she said.   

Her best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs thinking about starting a business is simple: ‘Just do it.’

‘I’m surrounded by so many people who say they want to do it, but they’re paralysed by fear. The worst thing you can do is fail,’ she said. 

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