We had the good fortune of connecting with Iliana + Leo Chea and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Iliana + Leo, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
We have always been creative people and interested in working for ourselves, and we wanted to find a way to bring our natural skills together and use them to do something new and exciting that would bring joy to others. For years we always had so many ideas and would just talk about them in a dreamy way, and I guess one day we realized that we needed to go for it and there was something inside of us that wasn’t convinced the daily 8-5 grind was the way to live. We feel so inspired by the world around us and want to have as many experiences as we can, and pursuing our business idea fell in line with that, and there’s a different type of fulfillment that comes from owning + running your own business. We have each worked many different types of jobs, and we actually continue to work full time as we run our photo booth business, but we wanted to build something that was ours. When you build a business, every action you take comes back to you and has an impact that you are constantly seeing and it’s a completely different feeling than being in the daily grind. There are pros and cons to both, but we absolutely love having our own business. Even on the hardest days of being an entrepreneur, we have this motivation from deep within to keep moving forward. Starting a business has been one of our greatest adventures of all, and we have grown so much through all of the challenges and accomplishments. In the beginning, it was just a wild idea– and then it slowly became something and we started to take each step towards making it real. In the beginning we didn’t even necessarily go through a complex thought process, we just had this big idea and decided– let’s do it!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
We are a photo booth and adventure company based out of our orange 1973 VW bus that we have lovingly renovated. We found our bus over 5 years ago and then spent a year renovating it and getting our business started. I (Iliana) have been a photographer for over 10 years and was already very familiar with the wedding industry, so when we were brainstorming what kind of business to start we realized (pretty much at the same time) that a photo booth would be perfect! But we didn’t want just any photo booth, and that’s when we decided to turn the bus into one. We decided that we wanted to use the bus for both travel + business, so we designed it in a way that allows us to take everything in and out and switch between being on the road and at events. Our VW bus is a campmobile, meaning it was built for adventure and meant to roam in. The bench folds down into a bed, there’s a table that pops up, and many more awesome little things that make it perfect for traveling in. At weddings, guests are always very surprised and excited to find out that we also travel in the bus—you wouldn’t believe it when you see everything set up and the photo booth running! Something that sets us our business apart from other is how we are bringing together all the things we love into one place–and that’s what makes it “The Wanderbus Story”. We have the photo booth side and the adventure side, and it all runs together. We are getting our blog up and running and will be bringing more stories your way that detail how we renovated our bus, started our business, and all the other adventures along the way, including sailing in Colorado! Something we are proud and excited about is that fact that we have done all of the work on our bus + business ourselves. Leo is a talented mechanic and he completed a Subaru engine swap on the bus and got us roadworthy, and I figured everything out with the photography and technical aspects of the photo booth. Our business is also unique in that it is the two of us that work every event, so we get to meet you in person and ensure that everything is running smoothly the entire time–and yes, we will share a few VW stories if you want 🙂 Nothing has been easy, but we have always believed in our dream and that has kept us going even in the difficult times. We’ve overcome challenges by leaning on each other and keeping one foot in front of the other, no matter what. In the middle of working on our engine, before our business was up and running, we had a terrible night in the garage and thought we had ruined all the work we had put in. We fell into bed close to 2am (with a full workday ahead at our day jobs), in tears and feeling like everything was falling apart, but even in that moment we still had each other and sometimes that is all you have to hold onto when everything is crazy! Until the next morning when you can have a cup of coffee and make a new plan of action to overcome the challenge. One of the biggest lessons we have learned along the way is to take one thing at a time because even though the tiny steps can sometimes feel insignificant, they are vital in getting to the end goal. Something we want the world to know about us is that we are truly passionate about what we do and understand how much the details matter. We are proud to be a small, Colorado business and strive to make your experience with us amazing. And if you aren’t looking for photo booth services, we hope you subscribe to the blog and join the adventure!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We are based out of Greeley, Colorado and it’s a town that has changed a lot in the past 10 years and continues to grow. There are several hidden gems in Greely and we enjoy the downtown scene and also travel a lot on weekends to get out in nature and enjoy the mountains. Some of our favorite local spots include: The Kress Cinema & Lounge for great cocktails and movies, Glenmere Park for getting outside, Margie’s Java Joint for a relaxing afternoon with coffee, Lucky Fins Seafood Grill for dinner, and the Poudre River Trail for walking and fishing. If someone was visiting we would definitely take them to those spots and also hit some local breweries and check out all the art in downtown.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We would love to dedicate our shoutout to our closest friends + family who have been along for the ride from the start and our biggest fans/cheerleaders–you know who you are! When you have a big dream not everyone believes in it or supports you, but there are a always a few who do and they keep you going along the way. We are thankful for our community and the outpouring of love and support we have received.
Facebook: The Wanderbus Story
The Wanderbus Story Taylor Nicole Photography