Ten years. They say time flies, and it surely does. In ten years, I have had built a wonderful marriage to a man I could not be more grateful for, have had two sweet little girls, practiced Physical Therapy and started my own business. I honestly shake my head when I look back through the years and can only say “to God be the glory”…He has had his hand on all things through these ten years. (Psalm 139:1-6)
My photography journey started in 2005 and even a little earlier (though I didn’t realize it). I have always enjoyed scrapbooking and my sweet husband made a special scrapbooking room for me in our basement and I enjoyed my evenings of scrapbooking and being creative. (this was well before children, the thought of having evenings free to scrapbook is a lofty dream now) It was during this time of scrapbooking, I started to learn the craft more in magazines and books and realized one thing….to have a better scrapbook page, one must have better photos. So…I started to play around with photography and it was just this time that digital point and shoot cameras were becoming more popular in the consumer market. I decided to take the leap in 2005 to buy my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel. I worked six extra Saturdays of overtime at the hospital to be able to purchase this camera. I was so excited when it arrived and realized as I opened the box and looked it over…”I have no idea how to work this thing”. So I signed up for a photography class to learn the basic settings and began to fall in love with photography. During this class, I was quite pregnant with our first daughter, Norah. I remember going to this class each week excited to learn about photography so I can soon practice my new skills on my sweet baby girl.
In 2007, I decided to pursue photography as a part time job. With a new baby, we decided for me to not go back to my Physical Therapy job full time, so I started working part time in home health care and then started to do photography on the side, mainly weddings. In this first year of business, I describe it as truly “by the grace of God”….I look and think how did I do that? However, I hope it encourages others as they start they own businesses to know that we all start somewhere and as Dave Ramsey says to be successful means “you are standing on top of your failures, not under them.”
In 2008, I discovered a whole level of photography when I attended a workshop here in Kalamazoo. It was my first “professional photography” workshop and I learned about workflow, shooting, editing and befriended the instructor, Holly Henderson. She has become a true friend and was a mentor to me and a cheerleader for me as I have progressed in my business. I am so grateful for her kindness when I truly needed it most right there in the beginning. Little did I know then I was just starting to “climb the mountain”.
2008 and 2009 were huge years in my business for pursuing high quality and very specific education to develop my skills. I learned my craft from some of the very best photographers in the industry and even to this day am still learning and growing. In 2009, we took the huge leap of faith and opened up my downtown Kalamazoo studio in the historical Rose Street Market building. After opening that studio, my portrait business really began to grow and grow to the point where I was able to walk away from my physical therapy job all together to make this my new career. What started out to be a side gig has now turned into a full time (but I set the hours 😉 ) career. I was determined to make this work and the way I did so was through education from only those truly succeeding at it and hard work. Lots of hard work.
I was able to stay at my Rose Street Market Studio through 2016, it was then that the building was sold and we tenants were all asked to leave. It was a stressful time, but I had complete peace knowing that God was walking ahead of me and would guide me to my new studio….and He did. If you would like to read more about the new studio and how we renovated it please click here for that fun story.
It is now January 2017, I mark this month as my ten year business anniversary. It was ten years ago, I went to the Kalamazoo County Clerk office to get my DBA to become Gregersen Photography. Little did I know what was in restore the next ten years. I do remember feeling very determined to make it work….even though I had very basic skills, no business experience; however I was willing to work and give it my best shot. There is a quote that I just love to repeat often from my favorite TV show, “WHEN CALLS THE HEART“……”Never underestimate hard work set to a dream”. I had a dream and God gave me this gift….a gift I never even asked for, but one He knew I would love. He knew how it would delight me and allow me to serve Him through it. I am so grateful God opened this door for me. A door that led to this new career, one that I work so very hard at every day, but one that I love and cherish and now can not even imagine doing anything else.
One of the most memorable parts of my job is the people I meet and service. It’s so fun to wake up in the morning knowing I get to snuggle a 5 day old baby in between shutter clicks, or capture memories of families playing and laughing together, or document the best day of two people’s life at their wedding. I love to delight my clients with gorgeous wall portraits that will be displayed in their homes for a lifetime. It truly is the best job for me, and I look forward to the next ten years to see what they will bring.
I wanted to end this blog post with some tips and wisdom that I have learned along the journey….so if you are starting a business, I suggest you read these. They have been very helpful to me!
- Run your business debt free. I know I go against the grain with a lot of other businesses out there on this point. However, I am telling you what works for me, and this point is #1 for a reason. Running a business is hard enough, I can not even imagine adding the stress of debt on top of it.
- Invest in education. Your photography skills and even more importantly your business skills. Be ethical, be legal…..pay your taxes…and to do so means you need business skills or hire someone to do it for you.
- Be strict with your time. Being a mommy of two little girls and a full time business owner means I AM BUSY. So I have always been strict about my studio days vs. my home days. That doesn’t mean I don’t work from home when need be, but value your time…it will help prevent burn out.
- Price for profit. Period. You can not stay in business if your prices do not allow you to. I agree with the saying of “I love my job so much I would do it for free”….that is true I do love it that much but I can NOT do it for free. If I did, I would have to go back into my health care job. This is my career…and I treat it as that.
- Market yourself by delighting your clients. We are human and can not please everyone, but making it a goal and priority to please and delight your clients will bring in the business….don’t just rely on social media. It’s all about word of mouth referrals and that means you have to work hard to make your clients happy, and in turn they reward you by telling everyone else.
- Set goals. I will do a blog post later on goals because I truly believe they have gotten me where I am today and not just in business.
- Give back. Use your skills to bless and serve others with nothing in return. Its an amazing feeling to bless a family with the gift of photography. I am not a good cook, so I would much rather give the gift of photography then make them a casserole that I know isn’t all that good anyway. 😉
Talking about goals, I recently accomplished a BIG one for my business and that is this new website I am debuting. It took me almost two years to get to this point where I was ready to take the step and make it my own and to reflect me and my business. So please leave a comment below to let me know you read this post. I would love to hear from you. I hope it was encouraging for you. Also, stay tuned! I have a really amazing giveaway coming up very soon to celebrate my ten year anniversary, and instead of me getting a gift….one of you will be getting one!
Until then, remember be a “goal getter” and keep this quote close to your heart …. “Never underestimate hard work set to a dream”.