If you’ve been enjoying local events in Westchester, you’ve likely come across the blue converted Volkswagen known as Skye. This fun VW Picture Bus has been making its rounds at weddings, parties, local events, and more that’s adorned with props for guests to hop in, pose, and instantly take pictures and videos.
Started by Marissa and Mike Mitchell, Marissa, who have a passion for vintage, they were inspired to buy a 1972 VW bus and create a business out of it. Skye has been off and running ever since, offering a cool, customized addition to any event. To learn more about this concept, we chatted with our latest meet a mom Marissa Mitchell. Check out more about her and her awesome business below:
Meet a Mom: Meet Marissa Mitchell
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in your town?
I’m a Jersey girl! I grew up in Monmouth County, NJ and moved to New York City for work after college. When my husband and I got married, we decided to move to the ‘burbs to raise our family. My hubby grew up in Katonah which is what brought us up to Northern Westchester County. We’ve lived in Somers for almost five years now and love it! (But Bruce Springsteen and NJ will always have my heart.)
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
When I worked in television production, I often did on-air reporting for one of our shows. I’m more comfortable behind the camera but it was a great experience!
What was your “past life” like before VW Picture Bus?
My career path has taken a few turns over the years! I began my career working in television production (where I met my husband!) and ultimately went back to school to get my Master’s in Elementary and Special Education.
For four years, I worked as a media teacher at a public school in Brooklyn – teaching digital photography, video editing, and computer animation. After moving to Westchester County and having my first son, I decided to take a part-time teaching position for a local school district and began our new venture, VW Picture Bus!
Tell us more about VW Picture Bus and how the idea came about?
My love for Volkswagens goes back to my first car (an old VW Jetta) and the VW bus my dad owned during my high school and college years. I had seen the VW bus photo booth concept done in California and the Jersey Shore, so between that and my love for all things vintage, I was inspired (and convinced my husband it was a great idea) to purchase a 1972 VW bus and go for it! We figured, “if not now, when?” We love that VW Picture Bus combines the vintage nostalgia of the bus with a trendy modern photo booth.
My and my husband’s backgrounds in television production has been very helpful in running a photo booth business. We used our expertise to customize our booth with professional-level equipment including a DSLR Canon camera, flattering lighting system, laptop, software, and printer. It has also helped us run our social media pages. From the many television shoots we’ve been on, we are attuned to the importance of an event timeline and sticking to a schedule. Teaching and television production are also very collaborative fields and we enjoy applying those skills to our new business. Our strengths are in working with the entire event team including event planners, photographers, floral designers, and of course engaged couples, to ensure a super unique and well-executed experience.
One of the fun parts about having a vintage bus is just driving it! We get so many thumbs up, peace signs, waves, and smiles. The venues are gorgeous and the people are happy – what more could one ask for in a job?! It’s wonderful to be in the business of being silly and memory-making. We have met so many interesting people and have heard many VW bus stories from “back in the day.” Also, you wouldn’t believe how many people ask us if the bus is for sale! (Sorry, Skye is part of the family!)
How are you reaching out to parents and moms in the community?
While we are reserved often for weddings, we have had the opportunity to partner with Booked Parties in Chappaqua to help us connect with parents in the community. In Somers, we have taken part in the “Celebrate Somers” street festival to connect with families in our town. We have occasionally offered specials and discounts on Somers Moms and Somers Parents Facebook pages. We’ve received a great response from parents in the Westchester community and Skye has been part of multiple mitzvahs, sweets 16’s, and kids birthday parties.
What can customers expect from the VW Picture Bus?
The VW Picture Bus experience includes grabbing a prop, stepping in, and smiling! With an ever-evolving collection of unique props and decor, the Skye becomes the life of the party. There is a touch screen inside for easy navigation. A total of 3-4 photos are taken in the session and then a 2×6 photo strip is printed out (unlimited printing so each person gets one!). Guests can also step over to the social media kiosk to email, text, or share the photos via Facebook or Instagram.
Skye is also popular for styled shoots and family photo sessions. We’ve done holiday mini-sessions the past two seasons that are very popular.
What does “balance” mean to you?
Everything in moderation. Balancing the responsibilities of my family, my business, my teaching, my social life, and all the other things I want to make time for can be overwhelming but I try to always be present in whatever I am doing, stay flexible, and not obsess over the small things. We often use the classic VW phrase, “life in the slow lane” to remind ourselves not to get caught up in the daily rat race, to slow down and enjoy the ride.
As a business owner and mom, what are some of your go-to organizational tips.
Everything goes on my Google calendar – from VW Picture Bus events to playdates and everything in between!
What are some of the challenges you are facing as a mom and business owner?
Beginning VW Picture Bus while also being a stay-at-home mom to two kiddos has made me super proud but it has certainly come with its challenges. Finding that “balance” is the toughest part! Carving out time to work before the kiddos wake up, while they’re napping, or after they’re in bed is key for me. I try to be very present when I am with my kids.
What do your kids think about your business?
James, my almost 4-year old, absolutely loves the bus! He loves pretending to drive around, playing with the photo booth props, and taking pictures. We’ve done a few events that we were able to bring him and Dylan (the baby) and they’ve been a blast. It’s great for him to see what mom and dad are up to.
What are some of your favorite me time things to do in your area?
Running is my favorite “me” activity! Just running the gorgeous winding country roads of Northern Westchester makes me happy! The trails in Ward Pound Ridge and Muscoot Farm are probably my favorite places to run.
What are some of your future visions for your business?
We just wrapped up our first full year in business. It was a whirlwind but so so wonderful and we are about half-way booked for the 2020 season. We’ve expanded the photo booth experience to include a video confessional! Guests can now leave messages and we’ll edit it all together into a video montage. It’s super fun! Beyond that, perhaps another bus?? Skye’s the limit!