Member Profile: Matt and Mike of Smilebooth & Suede Media

Matt Zahnweh introduces his business, Smilebooth, this way: “We’re an event activation company. Which is a fancy term for a photobooth.”

Smilebooth photobooths, though, aren’t your average photobooth. They’re souped-up and ready to tackle the needs of a social media world in which people want to walk away with the physical piece of media, but also want to share those images immediately, via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. For companies hiring them, customized hashtags can be created and metrics attained, seeing how many times those photos have been shared. Part of a growing, national network of Smilebooth offices, St. Louis’ version, housed at Nebula’s Colony 2, follows the wider model by “doing everything from weddings to birthday parties, one-off events, national corporate parties and everything in-between.”

Zahnweh and Mike Burch make up the St. Louis branch of Smilebooth and their work takes them all around the metro area, occasionally making trips all around Missouri and Illinois.

“Most events,” Zahnweh says, “are from Thursday-to-Sunday. We’ve got three, big Pelican cases that we wheel and deal and cart up a lot of steps. Mike’s been working for Smilebooth for the last five years and came back in September of 2014, so we’re still pretty new (in St. Louis). We’ve got a national sales and coordinators and we do trips to Kansas City or Indiana. Lots of jobs are booked by the national chain. But we still do a lot of local events and work with non-profits, doing special rates for them. We want to be a part of the community, not this outside entity that’s trying to muscle out local photographers.”

Not that they’re shy about extolling the virtues of Smilebooth.

“We’ve got more variety,” he adds. “There’s free software out there now that can print some with some customization. But we’ve got more variety.”

That includes internet sharing, automated texting and emailing capabilities and those hashtag functions.

Next for St. Louis’ office, they hope, is a high-speed camera that’ll allow the creators to shoot “15-seconds of slow-motion video, with fake props. Like money, so you can ‘make it rain.’ We’re really pushing for that in St. Louis.”

So far, Nebula’s been a perfect fit for Smilebooth’s needs, as well as those of their personal company, Suede Media Co. Zahnweh, when sitting in Nebula’s big room, points out a bookshelf and notes that the space, itself, has been used for shoots.

“We just shot something for SLU and used that bookcase,” he says. “It’s got that hip library feel, so we used that. When we need to shoot something, we can do it here; there’s all kinds of weird stuff around.

“I really like how laid-back it is here,” Zahnweh says. “We’ve got such a variety of people here. Accountants and plumbers. We do video production on the side from Smilebooth, which takes up any other time that we have, so we love the community and variety here. If I have to reach out for something, or have a questions, it can get shared on the Facebook page. People do try to help each other out. It’s nice to know that’s there.”

To see examples of Smilebooth’s work, go to:

Matt and Mike also do work through their own Suede Media Co.: