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Founder Friday with Madison Stefanis: making film photography fun – and sustainable

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Founder Friday with Madison Stefanis: making film photography fun – and sustainable

It’s always an interesting story when entrepreneurs find their successful business idea in areas they would never have expected. For 22-year-old Madison Stefanis, it was in photography.

Specifically, from a “clunky old SLR film camera” that she didn’t know how to use.

“I don’t come from a background in photography,” she admitted. “I used to shoot film for fun – it’s trendy and very popular (again) so I used to carry a disposable camera with me on weekends. Then one day, I decided to list the old film camera at home for sale on Facebook.”

Madison, a marketing and entrepreneurship major at RMIT University, knew she had stumbled into something good when the camera ended up selling for five times the amount she had listed it for.

“I always say to people that I come from a business background rather than photography. I came across the right niche and decided to give it a go,” she added. “Vintage film cameras are in low supply and high demand, which commands a high price point.”

However, it wasn’t long before 35mmCo, her vintage camera business, ran into supply issues from constantly running out.

The dilemma inspired The Reloader camera: small and compact like a disposable camera, but completely reusable.

“Customers were seeking a beginner-friendly camera at a lower price point, so I invested all of my savings ($50,000) into my first stock shipment of The Reloader at age 20. It took us 12 months to launch. I spent a lot of time focusing on the packaging design and how I could market shooting film as something easy and fun,” Madison explained.

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For today’s iPhone generation, the product was an instant hit.

“We’re more forgiving of film photos because there’s usually only one image from a particular moment, rather than scrolling through hundreds of images on an iPhone in pursuit of the perfect photo,” she explained. “Plus, the developing process is exciting: you often forget what photos were taken on the camera so it’s super fun to receive your film and relive those memories.”

Source: supplied

Building a sustainable business

Coming from a generation that is “very aware of the climate emergency we’re facing in the world”, Madison knew early on The Reloader was addressing the important issue of single-use plastic waste.

Not only was it reusable, it simplified the photography and developing process by only needing one AAA battery. After finishing the film roll (24 photos), customers could drop off or mail in the roll to a film developing lab.

“You can select whether you would prefer to receive the images as digital scans, physical prints, or both,” she explained. “Processing usually takes between one to three business days, depending on the independent lab. Digital copies of the images will be emailed or texted to your phone, and physical prints can be collected in-store or mailed to your address.”

Customer feedback so far, she says, has been fantastic.

“People love that the product is reusable so they don’t have to worry about purchasing single-use cameras once they have completed their roll of film. It’s a great product for beginners that want to learn about film photography.”

In the next year, she intends to lean more into sustainability at 35mmCo. Currently, its fulfillment centre partners with Ecologi to plant trees around Australia for every order sent from the warehouse. 

They are also a corporate partner of the National Breast Cancer Foundation this October and will be donating $10 from every camera sold to help fund breast cancer research. 

Madison observed, “Consumers expect businesses to implement sustainable practices. It’s no longer considered a good-will practice to operate sustainably – it’s an expectation for all organisations.”

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READ MORE: Founder Friday with Sarah Neill: creating an online fashion community for women

Photo by Ruby Ryan. Source: supplied

Finding success as a young entrepreneur

In developing her own product at the age of 20 while her friends were “being young adults and experiencing the freedom that it brings”, Madison’s the first to admit that entrepreneurship has its isolating moments.

“The first 6 months in business were really lonely. I think all entrepreneurs experience this feeling at some stage, especially at my age,” she admitted. “Nobody in my family comes from a business background and I didn’t have anyone in my inner circle that could relate.”

She also launched 35mmCo during Melbourne’s lockdown, working all hours of the day on the business, and found it difficult to adjust when restrictions lifted.

“I was so used to spending all of my time working on the company! It’s hard to switch off when you’re always thinking about work,” she added.

Nevertheless, she eventually found her stride. In its first six months, 35mmCo turned over a million dollars in revenue and stayed on track to turn $2 million by the end of its first year.

Madison credits role models like her supportive mum, along with podcasts and inspirational founder stories, for continuing to fuel her passion for business.

“Australia has such an abundance of clever and successful entrepreneurs. There’s so much knowledge and value in learning from other people’s experiences and lessons,” she smiled.

Photo by Ruby Ryan. Source: supplied

Celebrating milestones

She got to observe firsthand the incredible community 35mmCo has created at their first birthday event in Sydney this week, marking one year in business.

“It was surreal to see a room filled with so many people that love and support the brand. The community we’ve built is incredible,” she described. “I’m lucky to be the same age as our customers – it allows us to really foster a strong connection with them and understand their needs and wants.”

The main focus for the next few years is on a range of new camera colours, fun accessories to accompany the camera, and moving the business into overseas markets.

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“There are a number of major retailers where I love to see The Reloader stocked. We’re focusing on expanding our product range and transitioning into the lifestyle space. Shooting film encourages living in the moment and reliving your memories later – we would love to hold more events and activations to connect with our community.”

Any advice for other young entrepreneurs keen to start their own business?

“Be resilient and confident,” Madison affirmed. “Follow your ideas through to execution and don’t be discouraged by rejection. No dream is ever too big – if you believe in it, you can achieve it.”

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READ MORE: Founder Friday with Jacqui Bull: transforming Australia’s staffing market

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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