The first time Jacqueline Verdier (PolSci’05) saw a selfie stick, last year while visiting a friend in Asia, she laughed.
“My second reaction,” she says, “was, ‘I have to have one.’”
Then Verdier and friend turned Hong Kong upside down looking for one of the extendible arms, which aid photography with cell phones and other small cameras.
They struck out. But a few months later, the friend, Dominic Suszanski, brought one to her in the U.S., and by July, the pair was in business.
“We live in New York,” says Verdier, CEO of Selfie On A Stick, the firm she and Suszanski founded. “We see a lot of things here. Nobody had seen it yet,” despite the sticks’ popularity in Asia and Europe.
To her, that smelled like opportunity.
Within six months, demand was sufficiently robust that Verdier, who has been featured in The New York Post, on Good Morning America and on NPR’s website, left her job in real estate development to run the company full-time.
“There’s risk, but there’s risk in everything you do,” she says. “The harder you work, the luckier you are.”
Selfie sticks are available through several companies and under various brand names, but they’re not welcome everywhere. Some museums, racetracks and live-music venues have banned them, arguing that they invade others’ space in tight quarters. The devices have also been criticized for encouraging narcissism.
Verdier acknowledges the critics and agrees that some places may be less appropriate for selfie sticks than others.
“People have a very emotional reaction to the Selfie On A Stick,” she says.
But the fact is, she says, they’re useful — and make a lot of people happy.
“It’s not just for taking selfies,” she says. “You can take great panoramic shots, get over the crowd at a concert, get a whole group of people in it. There’s more uses for the product than just taking pictures of yourself.”
On a spring day at CU-Boulder, a visiting news reporter delivered his report into his phone — which he held before him on a selfie stick.
Indeed, consumers seem to outnumber cultural critics: In its brief existence, Selfie On A Stick has been able to strike up partnerships with Nordstrom and QVC. Selfie On A Stick also sells online directly to consumers — of all ages, but especially 20-somethings (“millennials”). Last spring sales were growing month-over-month, says Verdier.
Selfie On A Stick’s products come in three versions — classic, a strictly mechanical device; BlueTooth, which allows for remote control of the camera; and Wired, which allows for a remote control of the camera without Bluetooth.
Made of aluminum and silicon, they weigh less than 6 ounces and extend up to 42 inches and collapse to 9, depending on the model. At retail they cost $19.99 and $29.99 and come in several colors.
Verdier sees a bright future for her company, given human nature: “I don’t think the act of taking a selfie or of taking a photo is going anywhere.”
Her one regret from that trip to Hong Kong is that she and Suszanski didn’t have a device for taking pictures of the two of them together.
“Dominic has a long arm,” she says, “but not nearly as long as a Selfie On A Stick.”
Photography by Cassie Castellaw