Love Storage

By Liao Danlin Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-13 19:18:01

Jessie Shao, founder of Love Storage Photo: Courtesy of Shao


"There are some people who think love is sex and marriage and six o'clock-kisses and children, and perhaps it is, Miss Lester. But do you know what I think? I think love is a touch and yet not a touch," wrote JD Salinger in The Heart of a Broken Story.

It is always a pleasure to think about those exquisite feelings and unforgettable moments in a love story like the ones Salinger and many other great writers have described. However, when it comes to specific matters such as marriage and wedding plans, things tend to get a little bit more hectic and chaotic.

Of the many questions that need to be answered before a wedding is whether to photograph the event or video tape it. Enterprising wedding entrepreneur Jessie Shao (Shao Jingzhu), however, has found another way for couples to share their love with the world.

Originally from Beijing, the 26-year-old Shao and her 2-year-old wedding cinematography studio Love Storage have become one of the top search results on Google UK when it comes to marriage videography and one of the top 50 wedding videography companies selected by Cosmo Bride magazine last year.

Shao's latest move has been to enter the Chinese market, where, since 2009, over 10 million couples get married each year.

For Shao, her new goal is to become a "rule breaker" back home.

A tough start

In the winter of 2010 when the recession hit the European economy, Shao was a postgraduate student studying Arts Management and Cultural policy at the University of Manchester.

Like many graduates in the UK that year, Shao faced a tough employment market. Knowing this, Shao began planning for her future while working on her dissertation.

An idea hit her. "Maybe I could be an entrepreneur," she thought.

"Instead of being selected and judged by big companies during an interview and struggling to position myself in a foreign land, I thought it might be easier to work for myself," Shao told the Global Times in an e-mail interview.  

Shao's mother runs a wedding photography studio in China which might have been the source of her initial inspiration.

Two months before her student visa expired, she registered a business account and company named Love Storage in England.

Filming weddings wasn't exactly a new idea, so Shao came up with the original idea to shoot short films based on people's true love stories.

Having no official working experience in the UK and knowing next to nothing about business or marketing, her first approach was to hire actors for her first video.

She put posters in telephone booths and school toilets during the middle of the night, posted cheesy adverts in Chinese student forums and gave out flyers on the street asking passers-by and young couples if anyone would like to film their story. 

 "I was very lost during the first few months. You live in a foreign city, you walk on the street, you talk to people, but you can't get them involved in your business," she remarked, adding that her only methodology at the time was to never give up.

Getting attention

"It took me six months to realize this idea was very hard to implement in England. English people don't like being photographed or filmed without drinking first," she said.

Over the next year, Shao kept an eye out for changes in the market and projects she could take to build up her experience.

In the beginning of 2013 she took a chance by investing in advertisement on Google and search engine optimization aimed at her website. She also optimized her website and built backlinks. After a few days of silence, the phone finally rang.

"That was a nervous January. It felt like gambling, but we won. We did 80 weddings last year; 16 weddings were in August alone," she said.

One thing that helped build up Love Storage's reputation was the decision to integrate each couple's love story with their wedding day footage. This strategy soon attracted some celebrities such as models and theater actors.

"I never gave up on doing love stories, but I found a better way to do them," she said.

Now the Love Storage team has 14 staff members from the UK, China, Italy and Spain that cover all sorts of weddings from different cultural backgrounds such as Scottish, Greek, Jamaican, Nigerian, Indian and Muslin weddings.

Shao recalled one of her favorite experiences came when filming a homosexual couple's wedding. "Ziggy is an American light designer and Sophie a British woman who works in theater. Their wedding was like a dream beyond any standard. It was also very interesting to see how American culture sparks with English culture."

Love, the universal language 

Forbes published an article named Wedding Bells, And Cash Registers, Ring In China last year to comment on the fast-growing industry in China.

There have always been news stories about how expensive it is to get married in big cities in China and how the wedding market has shown huge potential over the past few years.

According to an estimate made by the Wedding Industry Research and Statistics Center in 2009 the total amount of money spent annually on getting married in China was 600 billion yuan ($97 billion).

From pre-wedding photos and videos to wedding dress and car rentals, the procedure of "getting married" in China is sometimes much more complicated than in the UK or the US.

Many young couples coming from different provinces now choose to hold several different styled weddings in different cities.

As a result, a lot of Chinese companies have established a full service formula covering every conceivable angle to attract any customer they can.

Love Storage's strategy in Beijing is totally different. They first interview couples to find people they want to work with. So far fashion designers, graphic designers, scriptwriters, and vintage shop owners have all had their stories put to film.

When starting the team always sits down with couples to have a few drinks and talk about love. "It's a bit Woody Allen; in a relaxed way. Forget about buying flats and cars in Beijing, let's talk about love!" said Shao. 

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