Charlotte siblings start backyard movie business during pandemic

Charlotte siblings start backyard movie business during pandemic

The brother and sister duo wanted to bring a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tough time during the pandemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There’s no doubt about it, the Coronavirus has completely the changed our every day lives. Going places comes with caution and visiting with others comes with strict restrictions.  But for two Charlotte siblings, the pandemic brought opportunity.  16-year-old Sophie Thrasher and her 14-year-old brother, Stephen, found a way to connect people and bring a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tough time. 

“We feel like the backyard movie creates more of a sense of community than going to a movie theater or just having a movie inside your home,” said Sophie.

The brother and sister team started Starlight Films, a business that helps create the movie night experience in customer’s own backyards.

“Most people don’t want to go into movie theaters and they still want to be outside because it feels great outside,” Stephen said. “We wanted to create an alternative so people can still watch movies and be outside at the same time.”

The idea for the business came about in an organic way.  When it came to Sophie’s birthday party during quarantine, the family decided a backyard movie would be the way to go.  

“We did it for my birthday party, loved it and decided we should bring this to other people,” Sophie said. “So we started doing our research and putting Starlight Films together.”

The Thrasher siblings put together a budget, shopped for all the right technology and created a website in a matter of weeks.  Sophie’s in charge of the website and Stephen handles the bookings on a Sign Up Genius page he created.  The two realized they both had very different skills to bring to the table when it came to business. 

“For me a challenge is math and budgeting our expenses,” Sophie said. “but luckily Stephen’s good at it. He’s also very strong so he does a lot of our physical set up.”

Their mom, Alicia Thrasher, agrees.

“I do think that it helps that they each have different strengths so they’ve kind of been able to use their own strengths to do what they’re really good at and then let the other one do what they’re really good at.”

Running a business is completely new to Sophie, but lucky for her, this is not Stephen’s first go round.  He ran a produce stand out of the front the yard of the family’s home for several years. They also have great support from their parents when it comes to running a business.

“Both of our parents are entrepreneurs so they are really paving the way for us,” Sophie said. “We kind of learned and saw what we need to do through them and their businesses.”

They’ve already learned some valuable lessons from their parents when it comes to operations and budgeting. 

“People pay when they book, but if the weather’s bad, they’ll have to refund that,” said Thrasher.  “So trying to make sure they know not to spend it yet because they haven’t earned it yet.” 

From her perspective, Thrasher said the business has been a huge success all around. 

“They don’t always get along perfectly, but they’ve actually gotten along really well while they’ve been doing this, so it’s been good to see them work together,” she said.

Starlight Films offers two different options when it comes to backyard movie packages.  For one price, the Thrashers will take care of the complete movie set up in a customer’s backyard. Another package allows customers to pick up all the equipment and set up the movie night on their own. 

The brother and sister duo already have big plans for any earnings they make from the business. They hope to re-invest in the company and buy a second set up that will allow for even more rentals.

“And we do like to give at least ten percent of our earnings to a charity or organizations in the community,” Sophie said.  

Starlight Films is currently booking movie nights through the fall.  You can schedule a night or find out more about the business on the Starlight Films website. 

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