A Unique Family Business Looks to Capitalize on the Region’s Youth Sports Legacies
As parents of athletic children, Patrick and Natalie Lynch have purchased their share of team-related photos and chotchkes.
Our kids are all involved in sports, said Patrick. As a result, weve purchased a lot of product.
But last year, the couple started looking at things a little differently when they attended games and other events. Seeing the volume of items purchased by families to commemorate a team, a big game, or other important times in their childrens lives, they stopped viewing trophies, plaques, and fun rewards as an expense, but instead as a business opportunity.
Natalie and I talked about starting a family business for many years, said Patrick. Weve always been avid photographers, and were passionate about our childrens lives and the role sports play in them. We like the involvement because it teaches them teamwork.
Taking a cue from the same lessons their children are learning, the Lynches embarked on a new endeavor last September, designed to bring them closer as a family as well as bring new revenue to the household. The two opened a local branch of TSS Photography (formerly the Sports Section) in their hometown of Southwick, thus bringing to the region a national outfit headquartered in Atlanta that offers a wide range of unique, photo-based products geared toward families.
TSS began by offering sports memorabilia to commemorate experiences on various teams, from Little League to Mighty Mite hockey, but over the past decade it has expanded to offer other innovative packages, including the transfer of a childs original artwork onto various items such as mugs, T-shirts, mouse pads, and other memorabilia, and services for another aspect of childhood thats familiar to any parent with school-aged children: Picture Day.
We Are Family
The Lynches said their new venture is exciting not only because theyve long been immersed in the very atmosphere their products serve, but also because Western Mass., they say, is an area primed and ready for such a niche suite of offerings.
Weve been involved in our childrens school and sports lives for so long, Natalie said. In doing so, weve developed several relationships with various groups, and because of that, we wont put our name on it if its not the best we can offer. Theres a huge emphasis on quality for us, because we know these people.
In addition, the two have also come to realize just how vast the photo and sports-memorabilia industry has actually become.
When we focus on youth sports photography alone, the opportunities are endless, said Patrick. Think of the sports that kids are involved in these days: theres karate, swimming, cheerleading, golf, bowling the list goes on and on. Almost any organized youth activity takes photos of its teams and team members as a part of the experience, and theres absolutely a huge youth sports culture in Western Mass.
This volume of sports teams and leagues in the region is complemented, Lynch went on, by the vast amount of items more than 250 of them that they can offer as TSSs local affiliate.
The more-common photo plaques and framed prints are part of the mix, but so are photo balls, water bottles, magnets, photo dog tags, totes, stickers, buttons, coasters, bulletin boards, blankets, pillows, statuettes, gift tags, and much more.
Its All in a Name
One of the couples favorite items was inspired by another product with an interesting name Fatheads.
The life-size vinyl cutouts of star athletes, entertainers, cartoon characters, and others are a brand-name offering of the company that creates them (also called Fathead).
Another branded item that TSS sells, Wallpix, raises the cool factor. Wallpix use a concept similar to Fatheads to place large, removable cutouts of a childs photo next to their hero, be it Tom Brady, Big Papi, or Hannah Montana.
The idea behind all of these products is really cool it takes photos and artwork that parents want to keep, but sometimes dont know what to do with and makes something useable that is less likely to get ruined, said Patrick. When we were first introduced to these items, we were blown away by the products and services. The pictures are top-quality, and theres an extremely wide range of items everything from the individual pictures of students taken on picture day to team photos, to really unique items wed never seen before.
The Lynches take the photographs that are mounted or transferred to these products themselves, and the images are sent to TSSs headquarters in Atlanta for processing. Local clients, however, always have a contact nearby to keep tabs on orders, and that was an important part of the decision to bring the TSS model to Western Mass., they said.
Moving forward, the partners say theyre focusing on developing more relationships with leagues, teams, schools, and other entities to further grow their business in Western Mass.
This is an area we believe in, and we believe that there are opportunities waiting for us, said Natalie. We just need to make the appointments.
The couple has a specific plan in place to broaden the TSS presence in Western Mass. by focusing first on the youth sports market, and later moving into school photography and other co-curricular events.
We want to get word out there, but in the meantime, were loving it, Patrick said. The interaction with the kids is probably the most rewarding part. We make silly faces to make kids laugh, and sometimes the parents give us positive feedback its a great business.
Capturing the Moment
Plus, Patrick added, he and Natalie hope TSS Photography will grow into a business opportunity for their own children later in life.
We have three kids, plus we own a daycare, and this has turned into a tremendous opportunity to do well while doing something we enjoy, as well as a chance to grow a family business, he said. This could give our daughter summer work, a chance to earn her own money and to learn the business with us.
TSS Photography is also adding a new wrinkle to the Lynch familys involvement with sports, and their purchases of full-color memories. If nothing else, Patrick and Natalie are confident they can cull a few interesting decorating ideas for their home a Wallpix of a treasured moment, a keepsake of a childhood work of art, or a snapshot, preserved on anything from a coaster to a ballcap, of a home run.
Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at