For Adam Boster, life has been a kick.

Since the 37-year-old black belt and martial arts enthusiast opened Photo-Kicks in a garage five years ago, annual sales have soared to $2.5 million, new markets have emerged, and the local payroll has grown to nearly 50 employees. It’s a performance that recently got some ink.

Photo-Kicks was ranked No. 592 on Inc. magazine’s list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies by posting 542 percent sales growth between 2003 and 2006.

Boster describes the company, part of Boster Studios LLC, as a "quirky photography studio" that’s branched into film production, animation and Web site design. Ken Chamitoff, Boster’s friend and Photo-Kicks co-owner, covers a territory of 18 Western states out of an office in Los Angeles.

Boster and Chamitoff were on hand for the recent Inc. magazine awards ceremony in Chicago, an event Boster said was "pretty cool," with cake and pizza and a speech from former President Bill Clinton.

The company’s bread and butter is a staff of some 20 photographers who go to martial arts, gymnastics and dance schools nationwide to take customized pictures of students and instructors. The photos are then processed by graphic artists into prints, posters and even trading cards. With Boster’s experience and affinity for martial arts, pictures of students posing in karate stances or flying through the air have rung up the most sales. Karate kids also can buy trading cards with their photo on the front and personal information on the back.

Local martial-arts instructor Jeff Hockman gave Boster a shot about four years ago after Boster came to him and asked for the opportunity to photograph his students. Hockman, who owns ATA Black Belt Academy at the Broadway Marketplace and co-owns an outlet in the Broadfield Shopping Center near Hy-Vee with his brother, Jade, said Boster did quality work, and word-of-mouth spread to other regional schools. "He has a ton of enthusiasm and energy, and he’s very knowledgeable about the martial arts," Hockman said. "And he knows how the photos should look."

The company is cramped in leased space at 409 Vandiver Drive, but Boster plans to move it to a new facility planned on property he recently purchased at 1910 Business Loop 70 W.

For now, there are rooms filled with graphic artists and a main room Boster calls "the bullpen" that’s jammed with desks, clutter and employees, who process, print and ship orders. The facility includes a small kitchen area where employees come to raid the refrigerator or grab a handful of Doritos from a sack on the counter.

Raised in Poplar Bluff, Boster graduated from William Jewell College in Liberty and went to Los Angeles to work in film production. He moved to Columbia about six years ago to be near family. Boster Studios has become a family affair. Boster’s father, local musician and former Salt of the Earth Records and Skateboards owner Eddie Boster, hired on at Photo-Kicks in January.

Self-employment runs in the Boster family. Boster’s paternal grandfather owned a variety of businesses in southeast Missouri, including gas stations and motels. "We’re serial entrepreneurs," Adam Boster said.

Next on the horizon for Boster and his company is martial-arts film production. He leaves town late next month to work with Chamitoff to direct and produce "The Red Canvas," a movie starring Ernie Reyes Sr. and his son, Ernie Reyes Jr.

"It’s sort of a karate kid competing in mixed martial arts," Boster said.

Boster said one of his goals is to do film production without leaving town. "We want to build our own friggin’ Hollywood right here," he said.

Reach Kevin Coleman at (573) 815-1709 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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