Business partners split marketing and creative roles at C9 Photography

Matthew Woolsey doesn’t mind that playing the role of “hype man” for his business partner and photographer, Jacob Knapp, is a large part of being co-owner of C9 Photography & Design.

After all, he said, Knapp is the creative brains behind the company.

Yet Woolsey, who manages the business development and marketing side of C9, enjoys his role. He said the division between himself and Knapp is one of the keys to making the company work. It also helps that the two have been friends since childhood.

“I think we’re completely opposite-brain people, and we fully understand which parts of the company to give each other,” Woolsey said.

C9 Photography, which last July began working with clients in Bellingham and other areas of western Washington, offers a range of commercial photography services, including for marketing, real estate, portraits and weddings, among other purposes.

The company’s recent commercial clients include Haggen Inc. and the Zen Sushi restaurant that recently opened in Barkley Village.

Woolsey said C9’s structure allows Knapp to focus entirely on his creative efforts, rather than handle the additional business and marketing aspects of the business—a dual role common for many professional photographers.

Knapp said that as he began building a photography portfolio and sharpening his skills—he said his interest in the field developed out of a childhood passion for filmmaking—he never felt completely comfortable with the sales aspect.

“For me, I was always the creative person, but I didn’t know how to market myself,” Knapp said.

On that end, Woolsey takes over.

Woolsey said he has long held an interest in entrepreneurship and business development. He also maintains a construction cost-estimate firm that was founded by his father.

In its first few months, real-estate photography has made up about half of C9’s business. Woolsey and Knapp have also found success in marketing-related and corporate photography, securing jobs to take photos of new store openings or new products.

The two are also hoping to eventually offer regular photography classes, either on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Woolsey said C9’s range of services allows the company to maintain business throughout the year, instead of having to rely on busy wedding seasons or other seasonal-based photography opportunities.

The business strategy does present time-management challenges, and both business partners agree: It’s a lot of work to handle.

Knapp said that eventually they would like to hire additional photographers, likely as the company’s business volume expands.

Evan Marczynski, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, or

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