Lensbaby History – Part 3

Craig Strong, Lensbaby Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder, reflects on the story behind the very first Lensbaby lens. Craig’s creative, outside-the-box approach to photography has resulted in unique tools for photographers all over the world.

This post is part 3 of a story that Craig Strong originally posted in the Lensbaby Unplugged Facebook Group. If you’d like a recap, part 1 and part 2 are also on our blog.

In December of 2003, after getting that first return of a very DIY Lensbaby (see my previous post), I had less than two months to make a product worthy of selling to professional photographers at the WPPI tradeshow in Las Vegas.

The first matter of business was the flexible tubing. The aftermarket Shop-Vac hose (as seen in the beta-Original Lensbaby on the left of the photo below) I was buying at Home Depot disappeared from their shelves.
Original Lensbaby lens photo lens homemade experimental tilting lens Craig Strong Lensbaby History Part 3

On my first call to Rigid, the brand who had supplied the hose to Home Depot, I learned:
1. this product was discontinued
2. they outsourced the tubing to another manufacturer
3. there was no way they would share with me the name or contact information of their manufacturer
4. the only way I could get this hose (which was much more flexible and compressible than real Shop-Vac hose) was to buy a complete Rigid vacuum and throw away the vacuum (I did the math and actually considered it)

On about my fifth (twelfth?) call to Rigid, the brand who had supplied the hose to Home Depot, I learned:
1. the name of the tubing manufacturer that made Rigid’s vacuum cleaner hose
2. that persistence (and not losing my $#[email protected]) occasionally pays off

I called the main number for the company that makes nearly all vacuum cleaner hose for nearly every vacuum manufacturer on the planet, asked for someone in charge and was transferred to voicemail.

My message went something like “…I’m making a camera lens that needs your vacuum cleaner hose to work… I need it asap… call me!”

I did not expect a call back. Thirty minutes later, I get a call back from the General Manager at Flexaust who asked with a heavy tone of incredulity if I called about vacuum cleaner hose for my camera lens.

I was so excited to get his call I said, “YES!” then launch into what I thought I needed and how I needed to see different options and the different stiffnesses of each option and…

Mr. General Manager, once I finally finished, said something to the effect of, “Okay, but first I want to tell you about the meeting I just came from.”

…seemed odd but he hadn’t said “no”…

“I just got out of a meeting with my sales staff where we brainstormed what other markets we could get our products into.”

“One of our associates suggested the photography market.”

“We all had a good laugh.”

“Your voicemail was waiting for me when I got back to my desk.”

“I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to get you what you need.”

I had a dozen vacuum cleaner hose samples on my desk the next day. This was the first point where I knew this was going to happen, and it was going to be great.

To be continued.

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